Have you ever wondered what’s it like being a Jamaican living in Norway? In our “Jamaicans to the World” Facebook Live show, Jamaicans.com founder, Xavier Murphy spoke with Terri Senior. She is a Jamaican living in Norway.
Xavier: What is it like being a Jamaican in Norway? I’m Xavier Murphy, the founder of Jamaicans.com and today on this episode of Jamaicans to the World, we’re going to talk to Terri Senior who lives in Norway, and has been there for a while. So welcome Terri, how are you?
Terri: I am fine. Thank you so much for having me Xavier.
Xavier: Oh no, we are here to learn about Norway and your experience and tell your story. So we are so honored to have you here. My first question is this, which paat a Jamaica yuh come from? (which part of Jamaica are you from?)
Terri: Kingston mi (my) dear. Kingston, bawn (born) and bred.
Xavier: Which high school, because you know, we’re passionate about our high schools. Which High School you went to in Kingston?
Terri: A proud St. Andrew High School. As you said earlier, not old girl, but former student.
Xavier: That’s my sister school there so. We’re brothers and sisters my dear.
Terri: Perfect star for this interview.
Xavier: So my first question is this, how did you end up in Norway?
Terri: Oh my goodness. It started out in a country even further north than this, actually. I left Jamaica, and started working and was in a relationship with an Icelander, actually and moved from Iceland to Norway with him in 1995.
Xavier: Wow. Iceland. So you’ve got me curious. Now, how long you said you were in Iceland?
Terri: Two and a half years.
Xavier: And what was that experience like?
Terri: It was indescribable. It’s just something out of this world, I mean, Norway’s obviously very exotic as well, but Iceland was just a whole other dimension. The fascinating thing about it is that in terms of the weather and the culture and all of that, you couldn’t be further away from Jamaica. It’s just not possible. On the other hand, Icelanders also had a kind of island mentality. It’s really fascinating and that’s in contrast to Norwegians. The Icelanders were more open. There were some similarities to Jamaicans in spite of everything.
Xavier: And eeh (it) cold.
Terri: Yep. No doubt about it.
Xavier: What do you like about Norway? Or love? What do you love about Norway?
Terri: There’s lots to love, I have to admit. Of course, the darkness six months of the year is not among my favorite things, but then after those six months is like pretty much six months of light, you know, daylight practically all day long. So I love that. You know what Xavier, I love the safety. I love having kids who I don’t have to worry about constantly. I love the idea that Norwegians practice day by day the idea that the more equal people are, the more stable a society you have and that’s their mantra. That’s their real heartfelt belief and they practice it in every level of society. So I think that is my absolute favorite thing.
Xavier: It’s funny you say that, because I have my youngest daughter always brings up these European countries that she likes, you know, how, I guess the policies of, you know, these European countries, and Norway is always at the top of her list and I’m thinking one day she’s going to pick up. She’s not gone to college yet, she’s not, you know, she’s getting ready. I think one of these days, in the next couple months, she’s a senior, I’m thinking I’m going to hear, you know, I’m going to Norway to college.
Terri: Please let her come. There’s an International College not far from here. So if she does come, I’ll be able to hook up with her. So just send her.
Xavier: So I think you already answered what was my next question, which is the thing you like the least and it’s the six months.
Terri: You know what, in 1995 when I came here and obviously in Iceland, it was even more extreme but you know, in your youth, to tell you the truth, I didn’t even register it. The cold, you know, the constant cold, these long months of darkness, honestly, it’s like I was so busy enjoying the adventure that I didn’t really register it at all. So it’s actually know that I’m approaching a certain age that it has become an issue, but it’s exotic as well. I mean, there are positive things to having seasons as well and if the winter is a nice, stable winter, then that’s nice as well. I can deal.
Xavier: Good. So tell us about the interaction of culture and people, a little bit about the Norwegians. You did say some of the government type policies, but you know, the people you know, what is it like? What are they like?
Terri: For us, it’s going to be unavoidable to kind of have a feeling that they are reserved. They are more reserved, I mean, it’s not like; I usually use this picture, I usually say that when Jamaicans get on a bus, they will probably want to go and sit beside someone to be able to strike up a conversation. Whereas, in Norway, the opposite is true. Each person is beside the window looking out and nobody’s kind of really interested to go and run and sit beside each other to have a chat. It has nothing to do though, in my experience with the hostility or being skeptical or anything like that.
Norwegians are actually worried that they will encroach on your space. So it’s a reservation that you have to get used to but once you do get to know Norwegian people, they hardly small talk. They are not superficial. So you don’t get this, Oh, nice to see you and hope to see you again unless they really mean it, and if they say, let’s keep in touch or I’ll get in touch, then they do. It’s not just something they say. So it’s not a small talking nation which for me, you know, we are Jamaicans, we talk about everything at any time to anyone. It takes some getting used to, but I actually have learned to really appreciate that.
Xavier: Good. Now, you mentioned something, we’re Jamaicans. So what’s the reaction? You’re kind of outside of a big city. You’re in a smaller town to an extent. What’s the reaction when someone learns, you know, meets Terry and says, Terry is a Jamaican? What’s the reaction? Or what’s the funniest reaction you may have gotten?
Terri: You know what, luckily, mostly positive. People associate Jamaica with mostly positive things. It has been really surprising to know. This is a small nation as well. Norway is a small country. They excel, when you think about their size, they excel in winter sports. They have produced some extremely well known winter sportsmen and they are sports crazy. So it has been such a positive thing to experience that, oh Jamaica!, it’s a positive thing and they know like 10 different sports people. Not only in track and field, but they know about Jamaican sportspeople and John Barnes and whatever. So they know all of that. And then when you meet the older generation of Norwegians, you will always come across people who have been on some Norwegian Cruise Ship, somewhere in Jamaica at some point. So everybody knows Ocho Rios and guaranteed that everybody knows the chorus of at least two Harry Belafonte songs when you meet that generation. So mostly it has been truly positive really.
Xavier: Well that is good to know. That’s great to know. We know as you said, Norway and the ice sports is really a big thing and it kind of leads me to a question for you. Have you gotten into the ice sports? Have you gotten into the skiing and all of that stuff? Have you gotten into any of that?
Terri: I’ve had no choice. We actually have our own version of the Alps in the area where I live in. So it’s a renowned ski area with many tourists, even people coming here from the real Alps, Austria, Italy, so skiing is big here. My partner is a big skiing freak. The kids are totally into it. So I have had no choice and I actually enjoy it. I have some level of competence. I’m not going to try to pretend that I am an expert but the kids have given me more and more compliments of late so I’m not that bad.
Xavier: Well, better you than me. I tried it once, it’s a lot of work.
Terri: Yes, sure is, but I think, and again, you know, it has been in all areas when I’ve come here. People appreciate when you’re trying to learn the language. They are like cheering you on, oh that’s so good that you want to do this and it’s the same with if they see you attempting something that you’re obviously not good at or obviously not used to. They are like cheering you on, so trust me I have not been on the mountains without falling over constantly in the first few times but it’s getting there
Xavier: I have a question about food now. Is there a Norwegian or a food that you like, that is uniquely from Norway? Tell us about it. What you love? The food.
Terri: I love food and in contrast to when I was a kid because my mom said that we didn’t eat anything when we were kids and now I am pretty much open to everything and eat everything. There are exotic things here like brown cheese and traditionally you can get served like a sheep’s head with all the trimmings. The really exotic things.
Xavier: A sheep’s head?
Terri: A sheep’s head with the eyeballs and all intact, if you are in the right place.
Xavier: Okay, so it’s almost like, we have our Manish Water, they have the sheep’s head.
Terri: Exactly, so in the middle of all of this exotic experience, every once in a while you’re like, oh yeah, but wait, we do that too. So it’s like, the food originally is very bland compared to what we are used to. Obviously they have loads of fish, I mean, that’s the second highest export commodities from Norway after oil, so lots of fresh fish and everything. The first time people saw me currying a catfish they were like, what! So lots of good food, lots of excellent seafood here, which I really love.
Terri: In Iceland, it was definitely more exotic than even here. They were eating shark that was fermented and yeah.
Terri: You don’t want to hear all the details Xavier. Trust me.
Xavier: So your curry now, you’re probably the talk of the neighbors.
Xavier: When you’re currying, they’re coming over or asking when are you currying again?
Terri: But it’s true and I actually have had Jamaican cooking classes here.
Xavier: Oh, that’s fascinating.
Terri: Oh, yah (yes) man. Suddenly, you will buck (meet) up people roun’ di (around the) area who is like, yeah, rice and peas and chicken. Oh, yeah.
Xavier: So you’re Jamaicanizing that small town.
Terri: Listen, person by person, you have to get it in there. They have to have the Jamaican experience somewhere or the other, whether willingly or by force.
Xavier: So what do you miss the most about Jamaica?
Terri: As I said, in the early years here, I wouldn’t have answered warmth or light, but now I do. Now I am really like, oh my goodness, you know, I would just love to more often be able to just throw on a T-shirt and take a nice walk around the lake here or something. That is something I’m starting to miss, both the light and the warmth and what can I say, who can replace Jamaican people. The humor and the things we are taken up with and, I mean, Jamaicans are just a unique bunch. So obviously, Jamaican people and as you have been asking, some food things as well. It’s not like I have a Ackee Tree here.
Xavier: So yuh (you) see my Ackee back over here?
Terri: It was Ackee? Oh, yes. Now I site (see) it up, alright. Okay. Yes.
Xavier: So what’s your favorite Jamaican dish?
Terri: Oh, gosh, no. We don’t have the time.
Terri: I don’t have a favorite. I haven’t been to Jamaica for quite a while actually because my mom now lives in Barbados, but when I’m at home, mi (I) want everything; Stew Peas, Run Down, Curry Chicken, Curry Shrimp, Ackee and Saltfish, Callaloo, the whole works. I miss it all.
Xavier: Your children, you know, how are they, in terms of the Jamaican culture here; the Norwegian culture here and the Jamaican culture, are they identified? Is there kind of like a battle? Tell me a little bit about that.
Terri: That’s an interesting question. My son, he just turned a teenager. So now, he’s kind of actually digging his Jamaican roots. He’s listening to Jamaican music now and seemingly wants to identify more with the Jamaican side right now. My daughter is younger, she’s the perfect 50/50. It’s like, one half of the day she will be talking Jamaican and sounding like she never did anything else and then the other half is like, oh, her skiing and her winter thing, but my son is now in the state where the whole Jamaican experience is so cool and that’s what he’s identifying with right now.
Xavier: That’s what I was going to say. I think when we have that second generation, they go through a phase and then they get to a phase where it is so cool to be Jamaican.
Xavier: And it tends to stick with them when they get to that phase. It tends to move and stick with them.
Terri: Yeah, for sure. So now, he’s like, informing me; so like, oh mommy, did you know that Patrick Ewing is a Jamaican? Did you know that John Barnes is, I’m like, wait, wait, wait, wait, wait, you’re not telling me anything I didn’t know but for him is like, whoa! you know. He’s googling all these famous Jamaicans. Yeah, it’s really big right now. So I’m very pleased with that. Very pleased.
Xavier: Good. Now, if I was coming over or any Jamaican or anybody was coming to Norway, what would be the one thing? It could be attraction, it could be a place, and it could be something interesting. I know, for example, you know, I know that with this light and dark and 6 months there’s some interesting colors that happen because, you know, so again, what would you say would be the thing that if somebody was coming over, you would say, hey, see this or try to see this?
Terri: People are not going to be blown away. I mean, if you’re on LA urbanite kind of like looking for the best nightclub experience kind of thing, probably not but as you pointed out, I mean, the nature here, it is spectacular. I mean, I know lots of countries profess to have exciting nature and whatever, but here it is like mind blowingly. It is kind of like, it’s like, oh my God! is it possible, you know, the air is so clean, and the water is so pure and so definitely going up north, much further north than here, to see the Northern Lights for example, or the midnight sun. That is just like, wow! people who experienced that never forget it, and as I said, because most of Norway is mountainous, but not everywhere. So again, if you are around the capital looking for that more urban experience, it’s beautiful too, but you don’t get these breathtaking mountains that we have in our region. It has to be experienced. The glaciers, there are so many glaciers in our area. So yeah.
Terri: So much to see.
Xavier: Your biggest adjustment. What would you say was your biggest adjustment apart from the night and day? The biggest adjustment you’d say? And I want to wrap it up in another question in terms of, if a Jamaican is moving there, or someone is moving there, you know, what do you see as big adjustments from that perspective?
Terri: There aren’t many Jamaicans living here and I’m thinking that, that is not just because of immigration issues. I’m thinking that people who are, I mean, Jamaicans are social people, right?
Terri: Jamaicans are accustomed to, you know, as we were talking about earlier, getting in there, and getting to know people. It’s like not having to break down barriers to get to know people and stuff like that. I definitely believe that, that would be the biggest challenge for an average Jamaican coming here; getting used to this kind of like, oh yeah, is wah wrang wid dem people? (what is wrong with these people?) I mean, I know this person for two months now and I not getting anywhere, you know. So that’s a big adjustment. I would say that, that is probably the biggest thing. Getting to kind of like, crack that code. What makes these people tick? And how can I make them relate to me? But as I said to you, when you get there, is like people who you caan (can) call in di (the) middle a di (the) night and dem (they) come and help you. So that’s just the way it is.
Xavier: So my last question is this, because you haven’t been to Jamaica in a little bit. What’s the first thing you’re going to do when the plane land? Don’t tell me about the food now. We can talk about the food. When the plane land what’s the first thing you doing?
Terri: You know what, I think because I haven’t been home for such a long time. I’m thinking that the first thing I do when I land is totally confused. I am thinking that the place has changed. So that whole area, Norman Manley International Airport has probably changed so much that I wouldn’t even recognize. I would probably just have to get in a car and somebody take me on a tour through Kingston. Honestly, I’m thinking people are now telling me that, oh, yeah, when you drive down there and there, and I’m like, Heh? What? We don’t think we had that. So straight from the airport, straight into a car on some kind of tour to find out.
Xavier: Okay. Alright, a tour.
Terri: Yeah, a tour. Real tourists.
Xavier: So I’m going to give you the last word. Any final thoughts on Norway that you want to share with our audience. Any final thoughts?
Terri: One thing that has kind of fascinated me, probably is the fact that there has also apparently been some kind of, I have to investigate this further but I think there has been some kind of political connection as well. Norway has very established and very strong roots in democratic socialism and as far as I’m discovering now, had a very close relationship to democratic socialists in Jamaica as well, long before I came here. This is going to be a whole research project for me as well, but there are little snippets here and there, of people, politicians from here having visited Jamaica and people who have been cooperating between the two governments on specific projects. So we have been friends at some point, and I think they’re still friendly relations.
Xavier: Well Terri, it was great having you. Thank you for sharing your story with us and we will talk. We will keep in touch with you, and your son, maybe we see him representing Jamaica, maybe we see him representing Norway, but we will hear from you. This story continues.
Terri: For sure. Thank you so much Xavier. I’m just digging what you are doing. This is such an excellent concept. So good luck to you as well.
Xavier: Thank you very much Terry. Thank you and you have a good evening dear
Terri: You too.
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