Integrating in Norway: Why you should join a volunteer board

One of the fastest ways to integrate yourself in society here is to join a volunteer board.

I didn’t say it was one of the easiest – why?

Because you have to participate at meetings. You can’t just sit there and not say anything. Well, you can but you’ll feel pretty silly doing so time after time. You have to contribute by at the very least giving your opinion about the different matters you’re discussing.

Good leader luck

If you’re lucky, you’ll get with a group whose director (or ‘leader’, directly translated from ‘leder’) asks your opinion. So, Karin, what do you think about that? And there you’ll be with the spotlight on you – how will you reply? It doesn’t matter how, the fact that you’re responding after having been included in the group discussion is enough (though do try to say something vaguely sensible).

Bad leader luck

Or you might be unlucky and not have someone in charge inviting your opinion. What to do then? Charge right in. Don’t let your natural desire to be polite and wait your turn hold you back – believe me, you might just remain silent for the entire session.

Instead, jump into the conversation with a, ‘Ja, men (Yes, but…) and see how everyone around the table suddenly stops and looks at you with – actually, if not respect, at least mild curiosity. They’re wondering what you as fellow board member have to contribute to the ongoing conversation.

Language skill insecurity? No excuse

What will that be? Of course, it’s up to you – just don’t let thoughts of how your language skills aren’t perfect stop you at this point. Say something, say anything. Do your best to get your point across. ‘Just build it, and they will come’; just say something, and they will listen (and if that’s too difficult, just ask a relevant question).

There may be a pause after you’re finished. Or maybe you won’t even get that far, as someone will interrupt you mid-sentence.

But who cares? You’re there in the middle of it, not sitting at home wondering how in the world you’re going to feel like more of a part of what’s going on in your new world.

In the end, there’s nothing better than knowing you’ve made a smart starting move in the integration game.

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