Norway Featured (icon)

Tanya, our representative for Norway, shares the inside scoop on the country she calls home.

How to say hello:

Hei

How to say goodbye:

Ha det bra

How to say thank you:

Takk

Currency used:

Norwegian crowns (kroner) or NOK

Favorite national foods:

Voted #1 in the nation is Fårikål (lamb and cabbage, with peppercorn seasoning). I prefer Norwegian seafood, which is the best in the world!

Norway 3photo credit: Jerrold via photopin cc


Best month(s) to visit:

July and August are best as the days are long and warm with the midnight sun.

Best way to get around:

Nationally: train and Hurtigrute, which is a coastal cruise ship. In cities: bicycle, bus, tram, and subway.

Local customs:

Friends koser each other: press right cheeks together in an embrace. Some kiss each other’s cheeks. When meeting new people we often shake hands, but usually avoid other bodily contact like hugs. Older Norwegians are fairly reserved.

A novel to read, film to watch, or song to listen to learn more about Norway:

For kids, watching the Disney movie “Frozen” or hilarious “Trollhunter” and reading any Grimm fairy tales will give them a good introduction.

For adults: “Blind,” “Kautokeino Rebellion” or “Troubled Water” are good movies. The modern books “Shame” by Bergljot Hobæk Haff and any books by Jo Nesbø about the detective Harry Hole are recommended, or read classics by Sigrid Undset, Camilla Collett, Henrik Ibsen, and Knut Hamsun.

Music: Classical compositions by Grieg or rock by Big Bang (there are many good Norwegian bands but most don’t sing in English. For laughs check out anything by Ylvis on YouTube (especially “The Cabin” which describes Norwegian cabin culture perfectly).

Norway 2photo credit: Today is a good day via photopin cc


Local websites for discounts:

Groupon.no, LetsDeal.no, and The Opera.

The best kept secret about Norway:

There are thousands of kilometers of completely free, prepared, well-lit cross-country tracks around the country, with warming huts supplying food, drink and saunas!

The most unique thing about Norway:

The nature, especially fjords where the mountains meet the ocean.

Norway 4photo credit: The-Dan via photopin cc


Common misconceptions about Norway:

Foreigners think Norwegians are cold and distant, but the key is to smile and say “Hi” even if some people just look at you and don’t answer. Some are friendlier than others. There is an outdated unspoken rule that you don’t greet people you don’t know, but Norwegians like to help tourists! Norway has a reputation for having bad, expensive food but this has changed and good food is everywhere now.

The best free activities:

In Oslo: free movies and concerts outdoors in the summertime and at the rock club Rockefeller. Everywhere: Fishing in the sea (lake and river fishing requires a paid permit), and free entrance to many museums. Check out the websites visitnorway.com and visitoslo.com!

Odds and ends:

Alcohol and tobacco (in all forms) are regulated and taxed and are very expensive. Buying a bottle in the tax-free and leaving it for your host will ensure you great popularity, but don’t ever drink and drive!

featured photo credit: henrikj via photopin cc

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There are countless classes, books, articles, and people that will claim they can teach you how to assimilate into a culture. However, I’ve found that the best way to learn is to just go and experience it first hand. These are my top 5 tips for adapting to and learning a new culture once you’re there!  


1. Be Neutral. In order to truly learn a culture, you have to shed any prior bias or judgments you might be bringing to the table. This can be one of the hardest things to do, since often we are unaware of our perceptions and tendencies. The best thing to do is not judge. Anytime you catch yourself thinking negatively about the way people act, the things they eat, their values, etc. just take a step back and consider how differently everyone sees the world. There is no right or wrong, just different ways of living life.

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2. Roll your Rs. In other words, learn the language. If you are traveling anywhere, chances are that the native language where you’re staying is not going to be English. Take the time to learn the language, and show people you are interested in their culture. Even if you sound completely foolish, if you make a genuine effort to speak their language, people will be happy knowing that you appreciate it. Plus, it can be pretty endearing – like when you’re trying to roll your Rs while speaking Spanish to your new friends in Barcelona.

3. Make Friends. This is without a doubt the best way to learn about a culture. Get to know the people who actually live there, don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone and introduce yourself. When was the last time you ever were annoyed with someone trying to learn more about you or where you came from? People are more than willing to tell you about their lives and teach you about their culture, so just talk to them!

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4. Be Uncomfortable. There are going to be things that you are not used to, but instead of avoiding new experiences you should embrace them. It’s okay to be uncomfortable; in fact it is one of the best things that you can ever do. Maybe the thought of eating a worm makes you feel a bit sick to your stomach, but when you’re in Namibia and they offer it to you as a gift because it’s one of their countries dishes – you eat that worm with a smile. When you face uncertainties head on, you learn how well you really can adapt to and learn a new culture.

5. Above all, be curious. You have to want to learn about another culture, or you never will. Watch people, marvel at the simplest things that are new to you. Embrace new lifestyles and culture with wonder and curiosity, and you will find that you are learning things and shifting your perspective without even knowing it.

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About the author

SarahSarah is the owner of The Travel Project, a blog dedicated to providing budget trips and travel tips. Due to her extensive travel experience, Sarah has developed the skills to plan extremely cheap and authentic trips that she is now sharing daily for anyone to take. She hopes to create a more tolerant and positive world by making travel more attainable to others. At only 22, Sarah has already been to over 42 countries and 108 cities. She began her own personal travel journey when she left home at 16 to sail around the world. Her experiences fueled what has become a lifelong commitment to travel.

There’s a big world of home sharing out there. To help you sort it out, we’ve created this handy infographic!

Types of Home Sharing (2)

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College towns have the reputation of being full of unruly frat boys and rowdy parties, but with museums, theater, and school spirit, these ten cities are proof that sometimes college towns are actually the best towns to visit.

1. Charlottesville, VA

Charlottesvillephoto credit: afagen via photopin cc

Charlottesville has something for everyone – just ask famous University of Virginia alumni Tina Fey, Katie Couric, and Tiki Barber. Catch a ballet performance at the Paramount Theater, take a walk downtown, or visit Thomas Jefferson’s former home in historic Monticello.

 

2. Oxford, England

Oxfordphoto credit: UGArdener via photopin cc

The city of Oxford simply oozes with history. While the University itself has no official founding year, there is evidence of teaching from as early as 1096 (for perspective, Harvard wouldn’t be established until nearly 600 years later). Tour the centuries-old Bodleian Library, bike down to the Thames, and finish off your day with a pint at one of the many local pubs.

 

3. Boulder, CO

Boulderphoto credit: Snap Man via photopin cc

Boulder’s bike sharing program, B-cycle, is emblematic of the friendly culture and active lifestyle the city is known for. Cruise down Pearl Street, a pedestrian mall specializing in all things local (jewelry, beer, and cheese to name a few), then grab your skis and hit the Rocky Mountain slopes.

 

4. Lund, Sweden

Lundphoto credit: briweldon via photopin cc

In Lund, the focus is firmly on the traditional. Stroll down the cobblestone side streets (virtually free of automobile traffic) to the 12th century Lund Cathedral, then visit the world’s second-oldest open air museum. If you’re feeling hungry, head over to Saluhallen food market, for the Lundaknake, a local sausage made only in Lund by Holmgrens & Company.

 

5. Washington, DC

Washington DCphoto credit: Gray Lensman QX! via photopin cc

While DC is known first and foremost as the country’s capital, it’s also home to nine colleges and universities. There are few cities in the United States more full of history, not to mention the world-class Smithsonian museums. When you’ve had enough monuments for the day, head to trendy Georgetown for shopping, restaurants, and sweets from the famous Georgetown Cupcake.

 

6. Heidelberg, Germany

Heidelbergphoto credit: udo.d via photopin cc

Heidelberg might be best known for its impressive Castle, but this historic city is full of shops, cafes, beautiful fountains, a renowned outdoor theater festival… and the world’s largest wine barrel. You can find it in the castle’s wine cellar; it’s made from 130 oak trees and holds exactly 221,726 liters.

 

7. Austin, TX

Austinphoto credit: atmtx via photopin cc

Austin’s official motto might be “The live music capital of the world” thanks to its extensive, vibrant collection of venues and the notable South by Southwest festival, but its unofficial tagline? “Keep Austin weird.” With events like the annual O. Henry Pun-Off, Eeyore’s Birthday Party, and Spamarama, it doesn’t seem like the city needs to worry about being ordinary anytime soon.

 

8. Berkeley, CA

Berkeleyphoto credit: Joe Parks via photopin cc

If you looked up “college town” in the dictionary, you might find a picture of Berkeley. The city is jam-packed with art, film, music, shops, and restaurants along with the 8,500-seat Greek Theater, Tilden Regional Park, and of course, a healthy supply of sporting facilities. You can take it all in from the top of the 307-foot tall Sather Tower in the heart of UC Berkeley’s campus.

 

9. Cambridge, England

Cambridgephoto credit: Brian Negin via photopin cc

The medieval town of Cambridge has been heading steadily into the modern age as of late. New restaurants, trendy cocktail bars, and contemporary art galleries exist right alongside the decades-old Fitzwilliam Museum, classic theater performances, and of course, the 800-year-old University.

 

10. Savannah, GA

Savannahphoto credit: UGArdener via photopin cc

Georgia’s oldest town is also one of its most eclectic. Rich history, antebellum architecture, and classic Southern hospitality fuse seamlessly with the modern culture surrounding the Savannah College of Art and Design. When you’re done browsing the museums and shops, treat yourself to the pralines at River Street Sweets and take a quick trip to the beach at Tybee Island to round out your day.

How many of these college towns have you been to? Tell us in the comments!

Florence Featured

Certain places on the planet just stand out. They make you walk a little slower, inhale a little deeper, and linger a little longer. Check out our list of destinations you should exchange to at least once in your life, and get ready to live like a local with HomeExchange.com in every single one.

1. Paris

Parisphoto credit: Fuad Babayev via photopin cc

It’s nearly impossible not to get swept up in the City of Light’s romantic atmosphere while strolling the cobblestone streets and getting wonderfully lost. As the saying goes, Paris is always a good idea.

 

2. Bali

Baliphoto credit: Aristocrats-hat via photopin cc

Visiting Bali is like stepping into a “wish you were here” postcard. Come for the white sand beaches and stay for the stone temples, mischievous monkeys, and the warm sense of community.

 

3. Lisbon

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It’s hard to pin down exactly what makes Lisbon so special, but if we had to guess we’d say it’s the mix of old and new; centuries-old buildings paired with a decidedly unfussy, fun, and youthful atmosphere.

 

4. Cape Town

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Wherever you go in Cape Town, you’ll find yourself surrounded by spectacular scenery. Whether it’s the instantly recognizable Table Mountain, the golden beaches, or the sprawling vineyards, you’re never far from a picture-perfect view.

 

5. Barcelona

Barcelonaphoto credit: Don McCullough via photopin cc

This capital of Catalonia must be one of the world’s most vibrant cities thanks to its roots in art and architecture, its cutting edge culinary scene, and the infectious passion of its citizens.

 

6. San Francisco

San Franciscophoto credit: Don McCullough via photopin cc

Even the most jaded, anti-tourist-attraction travelers will be swept away by the views of the Golden Gate Bridge as the early morning fog shifts. San Francisco is one part hippie, one part tech genius, and 100% fabulous.

 

7. Florence

Florencephoto credit: imagina (www.giuseppemoscato.com) via photopin cc

A loaf of bread, a jug of wine…a saucer of olive oil, a breathtaking collection of art. We’re pretty sure Florence is a sort of heaven.

 

8. Marrakech

Marrakechphoto credit: Tusken91 via photopin cc

Visiting Marrakech involves a certain amount of voluntary disorientation. You’ll get lost, distracted, and waylaid, but don’t fight it; going with the flow is a much more authentic Marrakchi experience.

 

9. Istanbul

Istanbulphoto credit: ninara via photopin cc

Istanbul, as of late, has been referred to as “the world’s hippest city.” A trip there is a whirlwind of magnificent Ottoman mosques, trendy new restaurants, and a mix of Asian and European cultures all existing in harmony.

 

10. Reykjavik

Reykjavikphoto credit: Stuck in Customs via photopin cc

Snowcapped mountains, world class restaurants, volcanoes, northern lights, and geothermal baths. Need we say more?

 

Do you agree with our list? What destinations would you add? Let us know in the comments!

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People often think of cities like Los Angeles, New York, London, or Paris when they are asked about film or television show locations. What about all the other beautiful places in the world that serve as backdrops for current and past blockbuster hits? Did you ever want to stand in the very place where some of your favorite characters stood? Well, with HomeExchange.com Members across the world, we can help make it happen.

1. Istanbul, Turkey

Films: Argo, Skyfall, Taken 2

Daniel Craig: Naomie HarrisDaniel Craig stars as James Bond in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures/Columbia Pictures/EON Productions’ action adventure SKYFALL.

Action, intrigue, and spies! The city of Istanbul is steeped in history and culture, mixed with a sense of exotic mystery, all of which combine to make the perfect location for action thrillers. Istanbul replaced Iran for the Oscar winning movie Argo, served as the location for Skyfall’s opening scene, and an adrenaline pumping chase sequence with Liam Neeson in Taken 2. Want to walk in the footsteps of James Bond, 007? Pay a visit to Istanbul.

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Guest Post by Sandra Harris Ramini

HomeExchange.com, as we all know, opens up new horizons. It turns you from a tourist into a traveler. You have more of the inside track on life in whatever city, village, town, far-flung field than anyone who’s booked themselves into a hotel. It’s also very affordable. Free in fact.

So it gets you thinking. Why spend a lot of money on all other aspects of traveling life if you don’t have to? Why not take this whole notion of ‘living like a local’ a bit further and enjoy it more for a whole lot less?

Rule 1:

Be flexible – a flight to Paris or Rome might be out of your reach on a Saturday but perfectly possible on a Wednesday. Keep your options open. Make adjustments along the way and keep an eye on flights. There can be as much as £100 or ($166) difference from one day to the next.

Taking time to stop and stareRule 2:

Eat with the locals. Yes, go ahead and buy a good food guide. Then keep it for laughs. Instead, wander around your area, check out restaurants and who the customers are, and follow the locals. The food will be good, but so will the prices. People who eat in their neighbourhood restaurants and bistros do so because it’s good value. Talk to fellow diners if you get a chance and they will fall over themselves to tell you about an even better, even cheaper restaurant that they would also recommend. Triple whammy: good food, a bill that doesn’t make your eyes water, and new friends.

Rule 3:

Look out for deals on the internet or get yourself on the contact list of travel companies you know and trust.  I go to Australia as often as I can to see my daughter and her family, and I am on the Flight Centre list, which is a global company. Every now and then flights come up on special last minute deals of around £500 ($830). It’s the same airline, same flight, and same seat as any other economy passenger, just several hundred pounds or dollars less.

Rule 4:

Not all travel is by air. In fact, I try to avoid planes if I can and go by train, coach, boat, or car. I have always considered flying over somewhere as literally skimming the surface; great for an overview, but if you want to get to know a place you must smell it, walk on LsebNits streets or through its fields. Take time to stop and stare. Slow travel is always more rewarding and it is also often (not always) cheaper.

Obviously, once you’ve arrived at your chosen location take public transport when available. It’s not only much cheaper, it gives you an instant taste of your surroundings and the people who are going to be your neighbours for the next few weeks. At Gare du Nord in Paris, my husband and I were whisked off by a new best friend from the train to our home exchange in the Bois de Boulogne. French waiters may be the snootiest in the world, but ordinary French people can be the kindest and most helpful imaginable.

Rule 5:

Buy in markets. They’re everywhere these days, in every major city of the world and plenty of smaller towns and villages. Often they only appear on special days of the week, but it’s not hard to find when that is.

In Italy, markets are great for underwear, sweaters, T-shirts, and hats. You can also find good leather belts and handbags (just avoid the ones that pronounce themselves to be by Dior or Gucci but at a fraction of the cost). Better to look out for well-made, attractive goods that pretend to be no more than what they are.

Of course some markets are the expensive option, selling rustic looking honey or cheese or bread at prices way above the local supermarket. But you’re paying for atmosphere and charm and a bit of local banter alongside the actual goods, so factor those into your calculation, too. In fact, if you consider how much fun you’re having, how many locals you’re meeting and how your travel bills feel considerably lighter you’ll be laughing. And who’d blame you?

About the Author

The author on the Greek island of SantoriniSandra has been a freelance broadcaster, journalist and writer all her working life. She has reported on TV for Thames Television, London, presented on radio for the British Broadcasting Corporation and has written for The Sunday Times, You Magazine, Punch, Times 2, She Magazine and High Life where she became commissioning editor. Later she became editor of Business Life and created the highly successful sister magazine to High Life for British Airways Club World and Frequent Flyers. She became an enthusiastic home exchanger after writing an article about it for the British national daily newspaper, The Guardian when she interviewed Ed Kushins, the founder of Homeexchange.com. Since then she has traveled to Rome, Sicily, California, Melbourne, Perth, Morocco and Venice, writing about her adventures not only for various glossy magazines, but for HomeExchange.com. Sandra has been married to Jafar Ramini for 40 years and has three adult children and four grandchildren.

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It’s back to school time for much of the planet, so we’ve put together a list of things you can learn to help make the most of your world. Step out of your comfort zone and into the classroom – even if you don’t leave your house!

1. Dance

dancephoto credit: redbuildinggroup via photopin cc

From the Argentine tango to the Viennese waltz, there are dance styles from all around the world. Dance is a great way to get in touch with different cultures, elevate your mood, and sneak in some exercise, too!

2. A new language

language photo credit: Tim Green aka atoach via photopin cc

There are about 6,500 languages spoken in the world today, and while chances are you won’t need to bust out your Belarusian anytime soon, it’s a great idea to polish up your basics. English, Spanish, French, Mandarin, and German will help you communicate in nearly every corner of the globe.

3. A musical instrument

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So you never mastered the recorder back in elementary school. That’s ok! There’s an instrument out there for everyone. Head to your local music store and try every instrument you can. Who knows, you might discover your inner Mozart… or Led Zeppelin!

4. Arts and crafts

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It’s been scientifically proven that working with your hands can lower stress and boost brain function. The list of crafts to learn is nearly endless, but to get you started, how about knitting, calligraphy, woodworking, or painting?

5. Cooking

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Some people are just not at home in the kitchen. Even if you’re one of them, you can absolutely master some basic dishes. Make it your mission to cook the perfect grilled cheese, or expand your skills by learning some advanced techniques from around the world.

6. Mixology

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That grilled cheese is going to need the perfect cocktail pairing! Learn the art of the perfect Moscow mule or work on your own signature drink.

7. Books and literature

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If you’re reading this post, you obviously already know how to read. But in this digital world, we can sometimes forget how great it feels to pick up a book. If you’re already an avid reader, try tackling a different genre or a classic that you’ve been meaning to dive into.

8. First aid

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Most of us took the requisite CPR class in high school, but how much do you remember? Sharpen your first aid skills and you’ll always be prepared in case of emergency.

9. Photography

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Even if your camera is your iPhone, you can improve your photography techniques. There are countless tutorials on the web with tips and tricks for taking the best possible photos no matter what equipment you’re working with (extra useful for snapping some great listing photos!)

10. Travel planning

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Ever notice how some people seem to just do more when they travel? That’s no coincidence; trip planning is a skill that has to be learned like any other. Put together some dream itineraries and you’ll be ready for your next home exchange in no time!   Learning resources: Brit + Co, Skillshare, Khan Academy, Duolingo