Hello, friends! In my comeback post, I mentioned I’d write a little bit about how I found myself moving to Norway. This may be a long post so buckle up!
I’ll start with what brought me to Norway in the first place – my love of Scandinavia! I was lucky enough to study in Århus, Denmark in 2009, where I made a ton of amazing memories with wonderful people in a very cozy place. When I first found out the program I was going to participate in was in Denmark, I’m pretty sure I’d never met a Dane, ever heard the language, or knew anything at all about the country. I was worried my study abroad experience would not be as glamorous as my friends’ who were in the south of France or Spain. But when I got there, I immediately loved the culture of coziness and having fun times with your friends in a peaceful place – something about Scandinavian culture just resonated with me. So I traveled back to Denmark and went to Sweden a few years later and felt all those same cozy feelings. I belonged here! These were my people! So when, in 2014, Norwegian Airlines started offering dirt-cheap fares to Oslo in Norway, I figured I’d add another Scandinavian country to my passport! I didn’t really know anyone there, and had no idea what to do for 10 days by myself, but I figured it would be beautiful and hyggelig enough that I’d enjoy myself.
My company has an office in Oslo, so my lovely friend and coworker Kathy reached out to them on my behalf to see if I could drop in and say hello. The CEO there said of course I could, and asked a CCed guy named Bendik if he could make sure I was taken care of. Bendik said it would be no problem, and to stop in anytime! So I arrived in Norway, enjoyed my first $35 cheeseburger and a $12 pint of crappy beer, spent a day walking around the city, acquainting myself with adorable Oslo. The next day, I went to the office and very nervously rang the doorbell at Inkognitogate 37. Everyone excitedly greeted me! They were all so cute and bubbly! And well-dressed! I felt so sweaty and underdressed, in a tank top and jeans. But they were sooooo nice – especially Bendik, who had an infectious laugh and immediately made me feel welcome and comfortable. We all talked for what seemed like hours over coffee on the balcony overlooking the street, and when it was time to go back to work, Bendik said it would be fun if I wanted to join him and some friends for dinner and drinks that night. I said sure, and we exchanged phone numbers. I then headed back to my hotel and immediately passed out – jet lag was literally killing my soul and I considered not going out when Bendik texted me where to meet up. It took literally ALL of my emotional energy to say “see you there!” and actually shower and get ready – but I knew this was my best chance to meet some fun, friendly Norwegians!
We all met up at, funnily enough, an American diner, and I ate my second $35 cheeseburger of the trip while trying to pry my eyelids open. Bendik was so good at involving me in the conversation! He could probably tell I’m a little socially awkward and it’s in his nature to make sure everyone in a room feels comfortable. We headed to a bar, where he bought me a beer, which didn’t seem like a huge deal to me at the time, but in retrospect it was like $16 for an 8oz glass, so I like to think that he had already fallen in love with me at that point.
(Bendik and Ann Cathrin at Crowbar, one of the first places we ever hung out!)
The first day I met Bendik ended around 4am, after a long night of talking and laughing and comparing life in SF to Oslo. We decided to hang out the next day, and said goodnight. I had a hard time sleeping, even though I was running on fumes – everyone was just so nice, I felt so comfortable, and Bendik was so… cute!!!!! I immediately had a crush, and couldn’t wait to hang out with him again the next day.
We ended up hanging out every day I was in Oslo, going to different bars, an all-day music festival, out to dinner. And when I left for a few days for Bergen, I texted him pictures of snowy mountains and beautiful farm fields from my train window seat, and tried to think of any excuse I could find to just.. keep talking to him. I’ve gone back and read our first texts to each other and they’re so insanely wholesome and bursting with energy – we obviously liked each other but didn’t want to say it. So instead, I sent him pictures of sheep on my mountain hikes in Flåm, commented on how expensive beer was, and told him how quaint Bergen was. I couldn’t wait to get back to Oslo to see him.
I finally returned from my trip across the country, and we immediately made plans to meet up again. We went out drinking my last night in Norway, and I had so many mixed emotions – it was so fun being with him and his amazing friends, but I knew I was just going to go home alone, thousands of miles away. We stayed out again until 4am, and he walked me to my budget hotel. We stood outside the entrance for probably a half an hour, unable to find a good way to end the conversation. A drunk guy walked past us and shouted KISS HER, MAN! which made us even more nervous!!! We ultimately parted ways without a kiss – but decided to make plans to meet up in the morning for coffee before I left for the airport. I think I slept for like, an hour, the night before our first coffee date.
We met up around noon at Tim Wendelboe, which I had discovered was the BEST COFFEE EVER!, and talked about nothing in particular for an hour. But then it was time for me to leave, and all we could say was how fun hanging out had been, and hopefully he would maybe visit America on vacation someday! Or if I ever went back to Denmark, maybe I could make a pit stop in Oslo. Walking away was so really difficult – I hadn’t gotten a kiss! Did he even like me?! Or is he just super friendly?!? Had I misread this entire situation!!? I let those panicky thoughts invade my mind for the entire 18-hour journey home.
The first thing I did when I landed in Oakland was turn off airplane mode and message him that I had made it home. And from there, we talked every single day, from the moment each other woke up, to the moment we fell asleep. I would stay up until 4am just to message with him about nothing in particular. He was so funny and sweet, but I couldn’t tell if he actually liked me, or if this is how all Norwegians are and I’m just a dumb emotional American. But after a month of constant back and forth, he told me he was wondering if he could maybe come out to SF to visit me! I was so excited – could we be a thing? Could we make something work? Would he be willing to fly across the world to hang out with dumb ol’ me? He booked his tickets for November, and we excitedly talked about all the things we could do together in America. I offered to let him stay with me, but he decided to get a hotel – one of the grossest and cheapest in town. Again, I was like – does he not like me?! Why would he fly to America if he doesn’t like me?!
Time passed, and we were getting excited for his visit. And then, one early morning, I woke up to a message from him saying he had lost his sister. There had been a car accident, and she didn’t survive. Her daughter, his niece, was okay, but his entire world had come unraveled in that moment. I wished I could have been there to hold him and comfort him, but all I could do was message him that I cared about him and was there to talk. The next few weeks were so hard for him and his family – picking up all the pieces left behind, having to come to terms with this new reality. Bendik tried to be brave, but was hurting so badly. I checked in everyday to see how that day had gone – not to probe his feelings and make him sad, but as a way to let him process. This was an important, tragic and life-changing event for him, and all I wanted in the world was to be there to comfort him.
I assumed his trip to America was canceled, but didn’t want to ask as I thought it would make him sad to think about it. Bendik was in a bad place already, and I wasn’t sure a trip to America at that time was going to be doable emotionally. But a couple of weeks before the flight, he told me he wanted to come – and that it might cheer him up. I was so happy to hear that he was feeling up for it, and assured him we would only do whatever he was feeling up for.
I remember how nervous I was waiting for him to land in Oakland – my friend and coworker Elizabeth and I parked nearby the airport and listened to the radio while I waited for a text from him to say he was out front. Would he still like me when he saw me? Would he be comfortable with me? But when we pulled up to him at the curb, we had the best hug of all time. I squeezed him tight, hoping it would let him know I would take care of him this trip, and he didn’t need to worry about anything.
(Bendik’s first meal in America was obviously In n Out!)
We spent an amazing week together – eating burritos (his first!), wine tasting in Yountville, walking around the city and just relaxing at home. It took us a day to realize we obviously liked each other, but when we did, it was the best feeling in the whole world. I felt like a 13-year-old when I held his hand and cuddled on the couch with him. I hadn’t felt that giddy in a long time. I knew I wanted this to work. He came to my family’s Thanksgiving – and survived the gauntlet! My grandpa hugged him and whispered in his ear “look out for this one – she’s trouble.” Thanks, grandpa!
(A picture from a walk we took to Crissy Field, and one of my favorite pictures of us together!)
Saying goodbye was bittersweet – we had an amazing time together, and I think he was able to relax and feel some small scrap of happiness after the trauma of his sister’s passing. We didn’t know when we’d see each other again – but I was happy to get a kiss goodbye this time.
WOW! That was a wall of text! I promise the rest of my entries won’t be like this. But this is part 1 of the journey to now, and it’ll be much more brief in part 2 :) Hope you enjoyed learning how we met and eventually got together! Part 2 will cover my first time meeting his family in Norway, our long distance dating life, and him moving to America (spoiler alert). Just had to stretch the ol’ writing muscles! Bye!