I moved here over 10 years ago from Dublin, by way of London, by way of New York, by way of Charlottesville, Virginia, where I attended University. My good friend Sølvi Rolland introduced me to Bergen. I attended weddings, baptisms, 17 Mays, nachspiels, etc. and decided that this beautiful, moody, crazy town was where I wanted to build a life, a family, a career. At the age of 35 it was time to settle down and it just so happened that Bergen was where I landed when I came to that realization.
I love Bergen. It felt cinematic when I first moved here and on a cloudy day like today, with the hint of rain in the air (despite yr.no predicting sun) and a slight breeze, and clouds draped over the mountains, it still does. There´s just something palpable in the air here, you can taste it, feel it, smell it. I remember that first step off the airplane and breathing in the air and thinking ah, this is what oxygen tastes like.
I have no time for bitching about the weather or people bitching about the weather around me. Do me a favor and either 1) complain about the weather to somebody else or 2) just move already.
What´s strange about Bergen — about Norway in general — to an American from the South where we pride ourselves on our manners is the shocking lack of them at certain times here — or at least in situations where we think manners are nice, are in fact socially required. For example: you are walking down the street. Somebody is walking the other direction. You look each other in the eye. You smile and say “god dag.” The other person not only does not smile but he does not say a word. He in fact holds your eye for one second longer than is socially comfortable to an American (it feels aggressive or arrogant) and then looks away and keeps on walking. Bump into that same person up in the mountains on your skis of course and he gives you a merry greeting.
I do deeply appreciate the respect for privacy, for personal space, for quietude here. When I return home to my beloved country and hop on an elevator and this overly friendly over the top American couple just strikes up a conversation without introduction, hello or any warning and between floors 1 and 10 I have somehow learned their entire life story, good and bad(or been forced to talk about my own) then I hop off the elevator and scuttle away exhausted, frazzled. Things now can seem loud and in my face back home.
But not saying a simple hello? Cmon.
But as I say: I love Bergen. There´s something crisper and colder and more formal to Oslo. I relax in Bergen.
I enjoy T Michael´s new store, lunch at Smakverket, dinner at Lysverket, comedy at Ole Bull Scene, a stroll up to Fløien with my children and sipping coffee at the top while they run around the playground. Up and down Ulriken. Up and down Løvstakken. I am thankful for Frank Nes and Bergenfest, Nattjazz, Festspillene. I recently watched Brann spank Sandefjord 5–0 with my 6 year old son, Philip and his friend from Kirkevoll Skole, Peder Olai. We spend time at VilVite, Kode, the Aquarium and Litteraturhuset. A good chunk of our monthly takehome pay goes to Godt Brød and Colonialen, and that´s fine by me. Family walks through Hordnesskogen. Picnics in Milde Arboretum. I did the Fjellmaraton last year but missed it this year unfortunately. I played golf early this morning at Fana with my friend Andreas Helland and his son, Birk, and later today my family and I will be eating pølse and drinking saft at “bli kjent” in Fanahammeren. My DIY svigerfar has already put up a shelf in the kitchen and is out painting the side of the house while inside I look after our newborn daughter, Fiona, and her older sister, Annabelle.
Annabelle celebrates two years tomorrow with family, which means lots of coffee and cake. We invite people over for “coffee and cake” all the time it seems. And people actually show up. And people sit around our table and eat cake and say mmmmmmmmmmmmmm this is such good cake. When I first moved to Norway every visit felt like a visit to Grandma´s house.
Professionally I´m in heaven. I just keep bumping into amazing entrepreneurs and find myself in cahoots. When I first moved here 10 years ago, the only entrepreneurs I knew were the itslearning crowd; now it seems everybody I know (literally) is starting something new. I am working with BTO (the best kept secret in Bergen) and the NCE Media team to establish a startup incubator program, Mediakuben, in Media City Bergen. I work with the Vimond team (Bergen´s next Vizrt) to land new customers. I work with Kloss Hold on testing new digital marketing platforms and techniques.
Norwegians and drinking, now there´s an interesting phenomenon. A good friend of mine, a prominent businessman on the national stage, told me once at a Julebord that Norwegians won´t really trust me / like me / do real business with me until they get good and drunk with me at a party. For one, you want to see how I handle myself, and for two, you only really let your hair down and become open when you have a few pints in you. Just last night I was at a local party with people I´ve known for years, and yes, we had a few — one guy, whom I already considered a good friend put his arm around me around 2 am and leaned in and said “you know what, you´re actually a good guy” as if only then was our friendship cemented. I think I am very much labeled as The American Who Just Moved Into Fanahammeren (nearly 3 years ago).
My wife, Birte, and I gave the US a try. Twice in fact over the past 10 years. Once with our son Philip in New York for almost 3 years. And then last year in my hometown of Pensacola, FL for almost 5 months (my father was ailing and died). But we chose Bergen. And this was a pre Trump decision. Because and despite everything above, we chose Bergen.