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Observations in Grønland, Oslo

On Thursday 15.6.17, we went to Grønland, an area with a lot of diversity and a high immigrant population. Everything feels so alive, like the entire neighborhood is pulsing with energy. There are new sights, sounds, and smells- ones that I feel aren’t nearly as present in the other parts of Oslo I have explored so far. Our task is simple- to walk around and observe the area, taking note of the neighborhood using all of our senses. My main focus is on how the people interact with each other. Due to the high number of immigrants congregating there, it makes it significantly more diverse than most other parts of Oslo. I was excited about this assignment, the opportunity to observe a multicultural area in a foreign country sounded fantastic! I put my sunglasses on, took out my phone (to take notes) and got to work.

The first thing that I noticed- it’s very loud. Having gotten accustomed to other areas of Oslo and their quiet conversations, coming to Grønland is like a sensory overload. There are dozens of conversations taking place all around me, spoken loudly, in numerous different languages. It’s hard to follow just one interaction. The picture above, taken in the Grønland market, illustrates the volume of people walking around the area I was in. To be completely honest I don’t know exactly what I expected, but I was expecting more “street haggling” like one would expect at a Middle Eastern bazaar. If anything, I learned to go into this type of fieldwork without any preconceived notions of what to expect. All of the conversations I heard (none of which I could understand) appeared to be between friends walking around the main market area. As I have mentioned previously, the conversations were loud, but were in very good spirits with lots of friendly back-slapping and laughing. I didn’t hear much music, besides what I suspect is Pakistani pop music.

The second biggest thing I noticed was the smells. Every other store we passed is a different ethnicity’s food. Pakistani, Punjabi, kebab shops. Predominantly Middle Eastern food. There seems to be a large market for burgers in this area as well. After a tour of the Intercultural Museum, Dr. van Riemsdijk showed myself and a couple of other students a grocery store that sold delicious bread, filled with spinach and feta. These, I later learned, are called “börek”. Not only were they good, but they were a pittance, and were a new experience for me. I actually went back the next day and bought three more to save on cash for meals. I explored the store more in depth and was taken aback by how inexpensive everything is. I could get all sorts of spices and sauces in large quantities for a fraction of the cost in the US. I immediately fell in love with Grønland.

Overall I learned a great deal about this great city of Oslo, and about myself. I realized I too went into this with preconceived notions, which are almost never accurate. I had gone into Grønland with the idea that it was a more dangerous area of town thanks to some locals and the Internet, but I was very wrong. Every area has its own struggles, which is completely normal, however I never felt in danger or uncomfortable. Being put into this situation where I am out of my comfort zone and having to observe a completely different set of cultures was interesting, entertaining, and reiterated to me the age-old advice to never assume you know what it is you are about to observe. Let the evidence speak for itself, and always be open to whatever you may find.

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