Saturday, 21 June 2014

A LITTLE PIECE OF NORWAY


Sjømannskirken in Sydney is like a little piece of Norway. You come in and the first thing you see is childrens bunad (Norwegian national costume), followed by a nice selection of Norwegian food and snacks. Nothing says Norway like Toro risengrynsgrøt (rice porridge) and Melkesjokolade (milk chocolate). And of course, the portrait of King Harald and Queen Sonja is well positioned above the fireplace.





With a big bowl of porridge and fresh warm waffles infront of me, life was good.

Since we're coming into the middle of the winter, there weren't THAT many people there today (about 20-25 people), but in the summer they normally get up 150-160 people swing by on the weekends.

The church in Sydney, just north of city centre itself. - Source: Sjomannskirken.no
"So what is Sjømannskirken?" you may wonder. Founded in 1864, Sjømannskirken - the Norwegian Church Abroad - was established to secure the moral and religious education of Scandinavian seafarers, but also to give them a space where one could meet a fellow countryman. Today, the churches and their staff represent a home away from home for all Norwegians travelling internationally.

Even though I'm not a Christian, Sjømannskirken is so much more than that. It serves as a community centre, social club and extended support network. Like they say on their website; "Velkommen hjem" (Welcome home). It's like a little piece of Norway. They are also a gathering place in holidays like Christmas and Norway's National Independence Day. People also get married in the churches.

In addition, if there is no Norwegian embassy or consulate nearby, the church can facilitate with such needs as well. It even has a 24/7 emergency phone for Norwegian citizens travelling and/or living abroad.

Picture from today's gathering - Source: Sjømannskirken in Sydney Facebook page
Students, travellers, expats and partners of Norwegians; it's room for everyone. The beauty of coming from a small country is that chances are you've got mutual relations with someone. After the second helping of waffles, I started talking to Kari, an expat who emigrated to Australia in the 1960s. She's travelled all over the world and done some crazy things, for example skydiving in New Zealand in her 70s. Naturally conversation turned to Norway and I told her where I grew up and lived. Turns out she's got family and friends in both Hokksund AND Åros (the two places I grew up). What are the odds of that? She reminded me a bit of momo (my great-grandmother). Charismatic, adventurous and full of life.

So if you're Norwegian, got Norwegian blood in you or just fancy a bit of traditional Norwegian food or snacks, check if the destination you're going to have a church near you. Welcome home.