The humor column is assigned to Chi Ton, a producer at the “Comedy Box”. Chi gives the comedians of Stavanger an opportunity to speak their mind, sometimes in English, sometimes in Norwegian. This colum is written by comedian Florencia Lopez. She is the a sales & marketing coordinator, and a comedian in progress, at “The Comedy Box”.
I moved from my hometown, Buenos Aires in Argentina, to Stavanger seven years ago. I still remember arriving at Våland after being picked up at the airport and getting my first cultural shock when driving past a washing machine repair shop: «How come the machines are left outside during the night and no one steals them?» I asked. This was definitely a weird thing to ask for the Norwegians in the car, but for me it was the first of many random questions that were going to pop in my head during the process of adapting to my new home.
Countries don’t come with an instruction manual that teaches us foreigners about the dos and don’ts, and that’s part of the fun. Soon I discovered that what all my life I thought was «common sense» was only «Argentinean common sense». I found myself adapting to new habits that were unthinkable before, like going for a walk in the rain, taking off my shoes when coming to a party, and having dinner at the time we eat lunch back home. According to my father I am now «too Norwegian», which in his vocabulary means that I became more organized, more punctual and don’t yell and gesticulate as much when I speak.
Norwegians may seem reserved at first, but building a network and making friends in Stavanger is not as difficult as it initially looks. I was early impressed by the big range of options that Stavanger has for volunteering and the variety of cultural events and arenas to meet new people. Norwegians are very active in their free time and often socialize through common activities and interests, such as sports and hobbies. It was through the search for a new hobby that I ended up discovering «The Comedy Box» and started this crazy project of becoming a stand-up comedian.
«The Comedy Box» runs regular stand up shows in Stavanger, both in English and Norwegian, with established comedians from Norway and abroad. Those who want to try doing stand-up for the first time can join «Stand Up UnCut», an open mic for the brave souls out there who want to kill it (or die!) on stage. On that stage is where it all started for me. Suddenly I had a space to ramble about Norway, Argentina and everything in between. Only that this time it wasn’t at home, surrounded by my Norwegian family, but on stage, surrounded by total strangers.
The path to integration doesn’t have a unique formula. My personal advice would be: be curious, ask questions, speak as much bad Norwegian as you can until you master it. Respectfully challenge the new culture and be challenged by it, find an activity that you like and that gives you a sense of belonging. Maybe stand up is also something for you? Just drop me a line!