Annually, in Kenya I receive less than 5 letters addressed to me, unlike in Norway where receiving letters is order of the day. I have so many letters addressed to me including the monthly bills. So this time round I received a letter with a beautiful envelope and guessed that the content was beautiful too.
I go through the letter and realise it is a letter is signed by the Kristiansand Mayor, Per Sigurd Sorensen. Impressive, it is a letter to welcome me to Kristiansand, how ironic, after I have been here long enough almost heading back home and now I feel like a Norwegian faking an African.
The letter says “We are one of the cities in Norway that is experiencing the largest addition of new residents, and I really appreciate that you have chosen to move to Kristiansand, an exciting place to live. I hope you feel that we are greeting you in a positive manner and that Kristiansand soon will feel like home to you”.
This was really interesting, I agree with him that Kristiansand is really an exciting place to live. Beautiful houses, beautiful scenery, very clean surroundings, clean beaches, serene, few people who are warm and friendly and of course I need to correct the last sentence so as to have it read…….Kristiansand is already home to you. I have travelled different cities in Norway and after a few hours, not even days, I miss Kristiansand. Oslo, reminds me of Nairobi, it is not so different, tall buildings, the hustles of people waking up and down, traffic flowing left, right, center, noisy residents, police sirens, congested city with many foreigners, that is definitely not the life in Kristiansand.
A friend from Oslo was visiting me last weekend and says… “Oh this place can be so boring, where are rest of the people? Too quite for me.” My response was “mmmhh, I like it that way, too peaceful for me”. My letter from the mayor continues “I would like to use this opportunity to invite you and your household to a gathering at the city hall, Thursday February 3rd. Here your will be given information about our municipality and you will receive a welcoming gift.” Very impressive, I have never heard of such a welcoming note, a gathering to give me information about my area of residence. Honestly, Norwegians have their own style. I now realise why I had to go through a long process during my registration as a resident. From one office to another, to the police, hospital, tax offices, immigration, it was such a long boring process.
“Your welcoming gift includes ticket to the Zoo Dyreparken, Kr.Sand Swimming pool, Kr.Sand Symphony Orchestra, 3 weeks free delivery of the regional newspaper, Nettbus ticket which is the company bus in the city, 4 people Color Line ticket by the ferry boat going to Denmark, Fonix Kino-the Cinemax and a gift card from Hennig-Olsen the typical Norwegian Ice cream” which I am told is very delicious. That was really a great gift pack for any foreigner and a great impression, automatically this meant I was looking forward to attend the meeting which was ideally going to take one hour though it only took 40 minutes.
“At the get-together you will also be served with Ice cream, coffee and soda. Our hope is that after this welcome meeting you will know more about our municipality. I sincerely hope that you will be content living in Kristiansand, welcome to our city.” With that, came to the end of my letter from the Mayor.
This was a great gesture, it gave me a sense of belonging and of course I am so content living in Kristiansand. It always feels home, I do not want to visit people in different cities instead I want people to visit me here. At 6pm last Thursday, together with my housemate we make it to the City Hall, 10 minutes away and we are warmly received and served as promised. Other new residents like us are here, I count to about 80 people and we all head upstairs for the meeting. The Mayor is here to welcome us.
It seems City Halls have a similar design regardless of the country, conference rooms, portraits of former mayors and heads of state hanged all over, reminds me of Mombasa and Nairobi City Halls. My Ugandan housemate remarks that those in Uganda look similar too. I am still in the process of learning the language but not able to follow a long speech, so when we look lost because most of us cannot follow the proceedings, the mayor notices the confusion and apologies for that.
“I can tell not everyone understands Norwegian, my apologies, do not worry, you will have all this information translated to you on the projectors, so you can read it for yourself. Of course we have enough reading materials so you can read that as well.” And he switches back to Norsk.
So we stay glued on the projectors for about 40 minutes and before we know it, we are done. We take the last few minutes to get to know each other and on our way out, we are handed a gift pack. A big envelope with all the gifts as promised in the invitation letter.
On my way home, I am just reflecting……. oh what a great way to welcome the new residents. What if the same was applied in Kenya? Of course I am better informed about Kristiansand, and since I had an official invitation from the Mayor, you too are welcome to Kristiansand, feel free to pop by and visit me anytime!
FACTS ABOUT KRISTIANSAND MUNICIPALITY:
- Mayor: Per Sigurd Sorensen (Conservative Party)
- Deputy Mayor: Mette Gundersen (Labour Party)
- Population : 80,000 (as of Jan 2009).
- Total area : 277 km squared of which 36 km squared is populated.
- Communication: Direct flights to Oslo, Stavanger, Bergen, Copenhagen and Amsterdam.
- Most important Industries : Oil and Gas, Energy, Process Industry, Shipping, Construction and Building, Tourism and Travel.