Tim Roger (23) was working as a telemarketer in Oslo when he saw a job advertisement online. The job was at a call centre for an international company. Tim read with interest. Then he winced; the job was located in Riga, Latvia. The closest he had ever been to Latvia was on a family trip to Romania several years earlier. “So you can say that I didn’t have a clue. I didn’t have any expectations”, is how he describes his own starting point. Still he had made up his mind. He had to get that job in Riga.
“The first thing I saw at the airport was a commercial for Möller Auto. And I was thinking “shit, I’ve landed in Tromsø!”. Tim and the other Scandinavians were picked up by a taxi and taken to the hotel where the company offered to put them up. Four days later, however, Tim and Aleksander, whom he had met at the interview in Norway, had found their own place to stay. They chose cheap and a good standard over location. They soon learned from taxi drivers that their apartment used to be a strip bar. Even though Tim calls this part of the city ‘the ghetto’ he has never felt particularly unsafe in his neighbourhood.
Tim takes us to his apartment while telling us about the Russian bars he avoids and that one easily gets used to the sound of sirens. Inside he mumbles something about not recalling the apartment being so messy when he left this morning. He tells us to sit down. “You came at a very convenient time, as we actually have some clean glasses” he says while serving soda water. Tim has visited Norway three times since he moved to Riga. For the first time in his life, Tim spent Christmas away from his family. He wanted to see how he would cope. After work on Christmas Eve, all the Scandinavians there went to visit the colleague with the biggest apartment; they made Christmas dishes and celebrated with Scandinavian traditions. “It was very nice. I got my Mom to send me some Mack Christmas beer”.
Tim is in regular contact with his family in Tromsø. He speaks with his mother every other day. “My mom is really wonderful, she has supported me all the way”. Tim is trying his best, but has not yet managed to get by only on his Latvian salary. His mother urges him to explore the world. Tim’s grandmother was, on the other hand, more sceptical of him moving to Riga. As a friend of his said: “what the hell are you going to Riga for?”. Most of his acquaintances are curious when he is back in Tromsø, asking him “so, how are things in Riga? Are there any women for you there?”
A typical day for Tim starts with him getting up around 11 am, taking a shower and grabbing a Granola bar before catching the bus. His working hours go until 9.30 pm. His colleagues are mostly young Scandinavians. There are about 20-25 people ‘on call’ at the same time in the open-plan office. “Mostly there are nine to ten Swedes, two Finns, four Norwegians and four or five Danes”. Tim thinks it is funny how they speak English when they understand each other perfectly well in their mother tongues. After work Tim is usually in bed around 2 am. Or later, it depends. He could be grabbing a couple of beers at Monkeys or Funny Fox, or be watching a game of basketball.
Tim prefers to spend his spare time on his hobby, basketball, which he has played since he was ten years old. He is therefore thrilled that basketball is such a popular sport in Latvia, as VEF Riga play in a much higher division than any team in Norway. “I really enjoy watching them. Sometimes the crowd goes crazy!”. Playing basketball is what he misses the most from Norway, and he wants to join a team in Riga.
Tim does not yet feel very connected to Latvian culture. He is just starting to differentiate the Latvian language from Russian. Nevertheless, he enjoys living in Riga and would like to stay. “It’s like, as I used to say, that ‘home’ is wherever your key fits”. He also would not mind being transferred to another city by his company. He sees his experiences in Riga as a stepping stone to whatever life has to offer. He does, however have some Norwegian necessities. In addition to Stratos chocolate and snus, Tim’s fridge is packed with his grandmother’s fish cakes.