Locals Abroad - Living in the land of the vikingsTasman Bay kid turned Norway-based businessman Greg Deaker discusses his fjord-filled Scandinavian adventures with WildTomato's wandering writer, Craig Sisterson
Kitchen by kitchen, bathroom by bathroom, deck by deck – halfway around the world the town of Stavanger in southern Norway is slowly gaining a Top of The South touch as Motueka High School old boy Greg Deaker renovates houses for the descendants of Vikings.
With beach-edged coastlines and snow-capped mountains, Stavanger may be thousands of miles away but Deaker finds the scenery comfortingly familiar. “It’s exactly on the other side of the world but honestly looks the same as home. There are beaches all up and down the coastline… but they’re a bit damned cold having the North Sea crashing on them! It looks similar to Nelson, yet also looks a lot like Fiordland.”
The familiar landscapes eased Deaker’s Norwegian transition, but he still experienced culture shock. “It’s a really beautiful place but the people take some getting used to, for sure.”
While New Zealanders are known for their immediate friendliness, Norwegians take more time to warm. “They’re harder to meet and to get to know… a little closed off. But once you get closer to them, you find they’re really great people.”
For Kiwis travelling to Norway for the first time, “the difference you notice straight away is that when you’re walking down the street, people don’t look at you or smile… they’re a bit robotic, I suppose you could say”.
But that’s the beauty of the big OE… shifting yourself from everyday comfort zones to challenging new situations. As Deaker says, travelling from the Top of The South to far-flung places “makes you grow as a person. It shows you what sort of person you are and can be… it really does make you stronger.”
While Deaker is loving Scandinavian life – enjoying being his own boss, spending time with (now warmed) Norwegian friends and indulging his Nelson-grown passion for the outdoors with activities such as mountain biking and paintball – the Top of The South region “is, and always will be, home for me”.
With fond memories of summer days at Kaiteriteri beach, small-bore shooting and spending time with good friends, he recalls that “so many things were really great about Nelson and the people there”. Coupled with his visit home last Christmas (his first in two years), it solidified his realisation that “we come from a beautiful place with a really good lifestyle”.
And like so many Kiwis overseas, Deaker misses the food we take for granted at home, “especially Guyton’s Fish ’n’ Chips, jet planes, lime milk, L&P, Dad’s venison, Burger Rings, Raro, salt-and-vinegar and green-onion chips, Flakes, Mac’s Gold, Picnic bars… the list goes on and on”.
The flipside benefit of the big OE is sharing touches of our Kiwi home with those we meet. Recently, Deaker was able to tell a couple of Stavanger locals wanting to travel to New Zealand all about the Top of The South. “It doesn’t matter if you’re an indoors or an outdoors person… they thought it was amazing that there was so much and so many different things to do in such a small area.”