ITEM goes abroad!

By Alain Starke & Mats de Ronde - 22 March 2023

Two former intermate members, Alain Starke, and Mats de Ronde, tell about their international study and working experiences. Both are part of ITEM, the alumni association of all innovation science studies.

You take time off work when the sun shines

Alain starke

An academic is expected to be ‘mobile’. For me, this meant going to a different university after obtaining my PhD in Eindhoven. I applied for a Niels Stensen Fellowship to work at the University of Bergen as a postdoctoral researcher for 12 months, starting in September 2019. 

Bergen is situated on Norway’s west coast. It is a Hanseatic city (NL: Hanzestad) with roughly the same population as Eindhoven, boasting colorful wooden warehouses (NOR: Bryggen), alongside other traditional architecture. The city is surrounded by ‘de syv fjell’ (Nynorsk for ‘the seven mountains’), which makes for a pretty view but also a lot of rain when the moist ocean air collides with them. 

This touches upon the biggest cultural difference about working in Norway. Because sunshine and good weather are sparse, you take time off work when the sun shines. Norwegians love hiking (‘friluftsliv’), so a sunny Tuesday afternoon would lead to crowded mountainsides. 

Norwegians are very friendly, yet a bit introverted. The Dutch spontaneous chitchat with strangers is not socially acceptable in Norway. This made it hard to fit in with the locals, who tend to have a small group of close friends and a lot of ‘loose contacts’ (also sexually). There is also a thing called the (non-sexual) Norwegian one-night stand: you go to a bar with Norwegians, spend a fortune on alcohol, and have a good time, but get ignored by them in the morning.  

The social goofs are easily forgotten by the scenic views. The salary is not bad either, which is one of the reasons why I still work there one day a week, but remotely from Eindhoven. When you do go to Norway, perhaps bring along some friends and alcohol.