Meet the Frog in the Fjord
Lorelou Desjardins on writing her humorous blog about living in Norway as a foreigner
By Molly Jones
Eight years later, she is still living in Oslo and runs the popular blog, “A Frog in the Fjord,” where she chronicles her experiences as a foreigner living in Norway
She also works as a human-rights jurist and cultural coach, has written a book on Norwegian culture, and dreams about becoming a stand-up comedian.
I recently had the opportunity to interview Desjardins about her experiences living in Norway and writing her blog.
Molly Jones: Can you tell us a little about your background and why you moved to Norway?
Lorelou Desjardins: I am a human-rights lawyer. I moved to Norway in the end of 2009 because I got a job in Oslo. I never thought in a million years that I would settle down here or live here more than 18 months. But then I realized that Norway had everything I was looking for without even knowing it: gender equality, work-life balance, beautiful nature, a peaceful and open society, and high ethics. So I stayed and have been here since!
MJ: Why did you originally start writing your blog, “A Frog in the Fjord”?
LD: I was encountering many cultural misunderstandings, and I saw humor in many of them. Sometimes I laughed about it, sometimes I was frustrated because I did not manage to understand what Norwegians meant or wanted, and sometimes I had questions. The blog was a way for me to express all those feelings and share them with others who might feel the same or people who might have answers. I also started the blog because of my love of writing—it is one of my favorite things to do in life.
MJ: How has the experience of writing your blog compared to your original expectations?
LD: The blog was for me to have fun—to play with humor and culture. I had no expectations as to the blog being read by more than three persons, i.e., my mum, my aunt, and our neighbor back home. I was hoping a few foreigners would read it, but really I was doing it for myself more than anything. But then after nine months of writing anonymously, with a few hundred reads per month, one blog post, “The Joys of being a Woman in Norway,” went viral in the U.S. and in Norway with over 60,000 reads overnight. The biggest Norwegian media started trying to get a hold of me, for me to talk about my blog in the media.
I was really scared and just wanted to hide under my bedcover until the storm passed. I thought, “What’s the point of coming out with my real name? In two days everybody will have forgotten about my blog.” I wanted to protect my actual career and job, but after a while I realized that “A Frog in the Fjord” was not being forgotten and people were reading my blog more and more, and eventually when I was asked to write a regular chronicle in one of Norway’s biggest papers, I decided to write under my real name. My blog has since become a book, and I am now interviewed quite often on television, radio, and papers in Norway. I also continue to write for my own blog and magazines, papers, etc.
MJ: If your blog is intended to teach expats and foreigners about Norway, why do you think so many Norwegians also like reading your blog?
LD: I think Norwegians like to read about what foreigners think of them. There is a kind of collective inferiority complex. They know that for many people in the world, Norway is not on the map… So I believe that the fact that a foreigner not only knows about Norway but also writes about the quirkiness of the Norwegian culture with love (and some teasing) is something they appreciate. It also proves that Norwegians have their own peculiar culture…. Also because of Janteloven, Norwegians cannot brag that much. But if a foreigner like me brags about how great Norway is, then that counts as double.
MJ: Your articles explain the Norwegian culture and language quite humorously. Do you feel that Norwegians understand your sense of humor well?
LD: Yes, Norwegians understand my humor, but sometimes they are also slightly offended. Some topics have a higher risk for misunderstandings on humor, such as those I wrote on working in Norway and feminism and gender equality. Foreigners are also offended sometimes because they feel I am too hard on Norway. … Luckily most readers, Norwegians and foreigners, read between the lines and like my humor.
MJ: You have become increasingly involved in the Norwegian media over the years. Why do you think it is important for foreigners to have a voice in the Norwegian public debate?
LD: I think it is important for every group in a society to have a voice. Foreigners are an increasingly big group in Norway, and I think it is natural for us to say what we think and what a heterogeneous group we are. … I think foreigners have a duty to be in the Norwegian debate not only to be critical about what is happening in the Norwegian society but also to remind them of how lucky they are to have such low corruption, functioning public transportation, gender equality better than almost anywhere in the world, etc.
MJ: What goals do you have for your blog moving forward?
LD: I remember during my interview for my Norwegian job, my future employer asked me “Where do you see yourself in five years?” I answered, “If I like it here I will be here, and if I don’t I will be somewhere else.” It is the same thing for the blog: I will continue doing it as long as I like it. I released a book in Norwegian in April this year, telling my story during my first year in Norway and discovering this culture as a clueless Frenchwoman. Some of my blog posts are in there, so who knows—maybe I will write a second book. Maybe I will continue writing on the blog and invite other writers. Maybe I will start a YouTube channel. I just went to a stand-up course, playing my blog texts on stage for a Norwegian audience, and it was cool. So who knows! As my 88-year-old grandmother says: life is long.
Read “A Frog in the Fjord” and learn more about Lorelou Desjardins at afroginthefjord.com.
This article originally appeared in the Dec. 29, 2017, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.