While he still lived in Latvia, Roberts spent 10 years managing a department of the police, and coming to work every day in a jacket. At one point, he started feeling a need for change – at work he often seemed to get stuck in the process, never seeing results. He had never lived outside Latvia and thought it would be an interesting experience. Starting with the countries he didn’t want to live in, Roberts created a shortlist of potential destinations – Canada, New Zealand or Scandinavia. Nature was a decisive factor – Roberts knew he wanted to live somewhere beautiful. At that time – in 2009 – an ex-colleague of his was already working in Norway as a postman, and invited Roberts to join him – there was a job waiting, and Norway was a comfortable, pleasant place to live. Now, having spent five years in the south of Norway, Roberts agrees – once you get to know the system, life here is comfortable. Norwegians themselves are nice, if a little reserved – very polite people who respect each other and spend a lot of time in nature. Distinct northerners by mentality – just like Latvians. During his first year here, it did take some Keep reading →
Ieva takes us to see a newly built high school in Oslo, for which she designed the invisible but critically important underground utilities – the water and sewerage system. Ieva is an environmental and water management engineer. Having acquired this profession at the Latvia University of Agriculture, since 2010 she has been working in Norway.
Until she arrived in Norway, the Scandinavian countries had never been of much interest to her – they seemed boring and cold. But that’s how it worked out – the Danish engineering firm she was working for in Riga let a lot of employees go during the economic crisis, including Ieva. A short time later she received an offer from the same company – to spend three months working at their office in Oslo. Keep reading →
We find Inita thanks to a Norwegian acquaintance, who tells us she knows a great Latvian who used to own one of the cosiest and trendiest bars in Oslo’s Tøyen district. Inita’s bar is now closed, but she invites us to another, popular meeting place. There, enjoying a beer from an independent brewery and Swedish snus tobacco, Inita greets some friends at the neighbouring table and in her usual direct manner, tells the story of how she came to Norway.
n the 1990s and early 2000s, Inita held a series of responsible and creative jobs in Riga – at the first Latvian advertising agencies, producing TV shows and as head of marketing for Latvian National Television. After a divorce in 2004, she decided Keep reading →
“People say it’s luck, you know. Well, you could be lucky for one year, maybe two, but not for ten years. No, that is competence and skills”. These words belong to the millionaire that never finished high school. Jan Petter (46) grew up on a farm in Eastern Norway. He was the fidgety one of four siblings. He describes his childhood in the following way: “I was no teacher’s pet, that’s for sure. But I handled the practical stuff well”. He became a carpenter’s apprentice in his youth and some years later travelled to Riga with an acquaintance to help fit out Rimi stores. One year suddenly became two and then three. He started his own business. After he met the love of his life there was definitely no turning back.
Today Jan Petter and his wife Inese have an eight-year-old son and a one-year-old daughter. The family lives in pleasant surroundings on the outskirts of Riga, where the children are able to play outside freely. A gardener takes care of their beautiful garden, and the pond is used for bathing in summer and skating in winter. Jan Petter’s son practices on his BMX three times a week in the woods nearby. Jan Petter is at peace outside the busy city. On his way home from work he listens to Keep reading →
Jørgen (38) is no Average Joe. In 2005, he found himself living with his parents in Trondheim, working part time to save up money for his world travels. His friends were busy establishing homes and careers. Jørgen has bachelor’s degrees in computer science and social economics, but they had not landed him any interesting jobs. Then his mother came across a position she knew would suit her adventurous son: teaching Norwegian in Riga.
There was nothing to prevent the 28-year-old from packing his bag. His previous flights had never had Eastern Europe as their final destination. Jørgen admits that seeing Latvia for the first time gave him some apprehension. “My first impression was the stereotype of the Soviet Union: depressing and with shabby, grey housing blocks everywhere”. The high school was located ten minutes from the airport, so Jørgen did not even catch a glimpse of the beautiful Old Town, any buildings of modern architecture or Riga’s other tourist attractions. Nobody seemed to utter a word of English. A grumpy gatekeeper at school showed him to his new home: a shabby apartment. Keep reading →
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. Keep reading →
We have arranged to meet Mārtiņš in the very centre of Bergen, in the Festplassen square. It is the middle of May and the cherry trees by the Lille lungegårdsvannet pond are in full blossom. The square is full of people who have come out to enjoy the very rare sunny day and Martiņš emerges from this throng. Carrying a small wooden bike, he is on the way to pick up his three-year-old son Edvards from kindergarten. Later, the little boy will be recklessly plunging down Bergen’s steep streets on it, requiring Mārtiņš’s complete attention right to the doorstep of their house.
I came to Norway in the summer 2001, so I’ve already been stuck here for 14 years” says Mārtiņš. After graduating from secondary school, Mārtiņš immediately went to southern Norway and enrolled at a folkehøgskole (folk school) near Kristiansand, only later moving to Bergen. At the time Mārtiņš left, moving to another country wasn’t as common as it is today. Mārtiņš remembers that, in the beginning, he tried to get in touch Keep reading →
Tysnes island is a kommune (municipality) south of Bergen, in the Hordaland administrative region. Before our arrival, Vilhelms asks how we are planning to get there, as it impossible to travel around the island without a car. It takes Vilhelms half an hour to get to his job at the fish factory each day. Although Vilhelms has several cars, he finds his electric Nissan Leaf the most economical for daily travel, given the government subsidies, tax relief and range of privileges the owners of such cars receive.
Vilhelms moved to Norway eleven years ago with the help of his sister. At that time, she lived on Sotra island, north of Bergen and Vilhelms moved in with her. Keep reading →
Norway is often mentioned as a main destination for Latvian nurses that have decided to move abroad. When we begin to look for one in Bergen, local Latvians recommend we contact Agnese, who has worked there for more than three years. She is described as a friendly and active person who would be interested in participating in the project. And that’s what happens. Agnese agrees to pick us up in central Bergen and invites us to her home on the city outskirts. She lives together with her boyfriend Mārtiņš and, as they are expecting their first baby in September, they have just moved into a new, slightly bigger flat.
Soon after completing her nursing studies at the Red Cross College, Agnese begun to consider the possibilities of working in Norway. “Norway has attracted me for a long time. Of course, having to work at three jobs simultaneously to live well in Latvia was kind of a push, but that wasn’t the main reason. Mainly, I wanted to do something Keep reading →
We enter Snorre’s apartment, on the top floor of an old building in central Riga. We are not the first to arrive. From inside the apartment we can already hear voices and laughter. Snorre greets us at the door and we go into the living room. Five of his friends are already there and chatting together. Snorre has moved most of his furniture aside for the occasion and instead placed as many chairs as possible along the walls of the room. Above the piano, you could read the words of a classic Latvian Jāņi song projected on the wall. Tonight is one of Snorre’s popular singing events and we are among a large number of his friends and friends’ friends who are all ready for a long evening of singing songs, talking and eating the food that people have brought with them.
More guests arrive and we all sit in a circle and introduce ourselves to each other. The languages spoken in the room are many. We hear Norwegian, Latvian, Estonian and Russian. The multiplicity of languages is by no means accidental. Snorre and many of his friends have a strong interest in languages. Snorre has a Ph.D. in linguistics and works as a translator. Keep reading →
Sanita (36) first went to Norway in 2004 to visit her sister who was studying there. Soon after, she returned to Norway, this time with a one-way ticket, but with no concrete aims or plans. She had had a well-paid, but very stressful job, which took up all of her time and energy. She often had difficulty sleeping. In addition, her family had suffered a misfortune. Sanita realised she needed a break, it was time for change.
Shortly after her arrival in Stavanger, Sanita found a job at a pizzeria, but this was a very short experience. The pizzeria owner turned out to be a real fraudster. He said to her: “Give me your passport and I’ll fix things for you!” “The fact that I need a job doesn’t make me a total idiot!” Sanita laughs. The next job opportunity came through one of her sister’s friends, who, in addition to her studies, was working as a home cleaner. In no time, Sanita was in charge of eight houses. She loved that job: “I go there, nobody is home, it is so quiet. I clean everything, put on music, have a cup of coffee and a banana. And that’s it, my work is done. It was so relaxing!” Keep reading →
On Friday night, we arrive at Alta’s small airport. At the luggage belt we are met by a girl with a beaming smile – it is Ieva (26). She has spent the last five summers in Norway’s north, in Honningsvåg, a small town above the Arctic Circle, not far from the legendary North Cape. She has been working as an administrator at the North Cape campus, yet the diversity of her tasks, as well as her own initiatives, don’t allow her to be described simply as an administrator. For example, she loves to take photographs, especially of northern nature. She has even created her own series of postcards. Also, with one of her employers, she has developed a tradition of collecting the stories of the travellers visiting the campus. This ‘remote periphery’, as Ieva calls it, attracts many extraordinary people. Thus participation in our project is a very special experience for Ieva, since this time someone is interested in her story, rather than the other way around. Keep reading →
When we asked Marit about which places in Riga mean something special to her and which parts of the city she wanted to show us, the answer had to include some sort of physical activity, in one way or another. Marit is a really active girl; as well as being in her second year of medical studies in Riga, she has also started up a football team – Riga United – and is the team’s captain. And as if that were not enough, she has just started CrossFit training as well, but a bit of illness this winter has prevented her being as active on that front as she would have liked. Keep reading →
Ivar, from Hosnavåg outside of Ålesund, pioneered the establishment of a Norwegian industrial park in Latvia’s small city of Saldus. The park’s companies supply a range of products for the international oil, maritime and fish-farming industries, and originate from the area of Sunnmøre on Norway’s western coast of. In 1994, fresh from completing his engineering studies, Ivar left a blossoming entrepreneurial career at home to try his luck in the new market of Latvia, only recently out of its Soviet era. Keep reading →
“I guess I should soon start to figure out what to do when I grow up” (Riga-Bjørn, 50)
Bjørn, better known as Riga-Bjørn, first came to Riga in 1995. He had been working in a mountain-resort hotel in Hemsedal for several years and was becoming tired of drunken Norwegians and Swedes. A friend who worked in business development called him about a job in the Baltics . Seven days later he was in Riga, working on establishing Keep reading →
“My name is Emilie – I’m twelve years old and come from Norway”. This is how Emilie introduced herself when we came to visit. She has grown up in Riga’s Kipsala neighborhood. Since the age of two, she has been attending the International School of Riga. We first met her in costume, playing the part of a flower seller in her school’s production of the musical Olivia, a humorous concoction of classic tales. Expecting a humble school production, we were blown away by the complexity and professionalism of the performance. Emilie and the others had worked for almost a year, with rehearsals evolving from the boredom of repetition into a wonderful hobby that occupied most of Keep reading →
Guntars first came to Norway in 2006. Even though Latvia’s so-called ‘years of plenty’ were by then already approaching their decline, the construction sector was doing quite well. Thus the opportunity to make some extra money in Norway during the summer was seen more as an adventure. For the first two years he moonlighted – worked without a contract, and his wages did not differ much from those in Latvia’s construction sector at that time. Apart from the typical challenges related to working in another country without knowing the system and language, he also faced problems such as being paid irregularly. In 2007, Guntars returned to Latvia for a while, but as soon as 2008 he had returned, this time feeling his hand had been forced. The situation in Latvia had become dramatic. “I was just scraping along, it was not living, but I wanted to live”, he remembers. Since 2009, Guntars has lived in Norway permanently. Keep reading →
We met Fredrik outside the Stockmann building in central Riga. “Are you ready to come with me and buy some vegetables?” he asks. We answer that we are and walk together towards the large market. We had asked him earlier if he could show us some places in Riga that are special to him. Fredrik decided quite quickly to take us to the market. “I often come here when I want to buy food because it is half the price compared to grocery stores and the vegetables, fish and meat are often fresher. Our professors often encourage us to go here to buy food. It is a fun experience to walk around here instead of just going to a standard supermarket.” As he guides us through the market, we meet a great variety of people and sounds, not to mention smells. Fredrik shows Keep reading →