MARSHALEE JONES, 28,  JAMAICA

I’m from Jamaica, baby! I have been living in Norway for 3 years. I did my master’s degree here and am now working. I have a Master’s in social work. Jamaica is an English speaking country but we also speak Patois, a native language. It’s tropical, so we are used to warmth, and with warmth comes excitement, loudness and fun. Our motto is ‘out of many; one people’ because we are such a diverse country in terms of ethnic groups. Our people are made up of Africans mainly, but we also have Chinese, Europeans and Indians that form the remaining parts. I spent my whole childhood in Jamaica. My first time out of Jamaica was when I went to the US for a cultural exchange programme during my bachelor’s. Students could go and earn a living during the summer and also engage in the cultural exchange. I learnt a lot that summer and met so many people from different nationalities. I was in Maine, which wasn’t as diverse as a place like New York. We have a saying in Jamaica: ‘If America coughs, Jamaica catches a cold’ – which just says that our cultures are similar in so many ways. There are differences though. During summer, the youth in America are partying and travelling whereas in JA you would probably find most youth working.

I did an Erasmus Mundus Master programme that brought me to Europe. I lived in Portugal, Sweden and Norway, swapping countries each semester. Then finally ended up in Norway. I have also been to Spain, the UK and Kampala. All these places were quite different from Jamaica. In Portugal, language was a problem but I could easily cope because they embraced the Jamaican culture so much. In Uganda, it was like home completely, it is almost like they are Jamaicans.

Before coming to Norway, I was advised that I shouldn’t have high expectations, that the people are as cold as the snow. However, I was open and wanted to pass judgement based on my own experience. My experience here was not easy. In Jamaica we have such a helpful society where it is easy to ask for help when you need it. When I first got to Norway, it was like I was thrown into the ocean and didn’t know how to swim. I pretty much had to teach myself everything. Norway taught me how to be responsible and independent. Not knowing a lot made me curious to know the culture and find my place in society which is what I love about Norway. It stretched me to my full potential. My favorite Norwegian statement is det går bra.