Seyed Jamil, bi-cultural trainer, tells his story of resettlement

I am Seyed Jamil Naser (pictured), originally from Afghanistan. I came to Norway as a quota refugee from Pakistan in December 1999.  I work as a senior advisor for the directorate of kids, youths, and family affairs (Bufetat) in Trondheim.  I mainly work with settlement of unaccompanied minors. I also worked as an advisor for the department of immigration in Trondheim from 2008 to 2011.

I did my masters in political science at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in 2008.  I have been working as a Cross Cultural Facilitator (CCF) for IOM Norway since May 2013. I gave my first cultural orientation (CO) classes to a group of Afghan refugees in Tehran, in August 2013.

I came to Norway without having any kind of cultural orientation. I remember my first days here. I knew very little about Norway. I didn’t even know how Norwegians greet each other. I did not know about Norwegian culture, family structure, school systems, housing, language, or even the weather. I had just heard that Norway was a country with long winters.

I arrived in Norway on December 15th, 1999. A lot of people were shopping for Christmas gifts.  There were lots of people in the shopping centers and in the centre of Trondheim. I thought that people would dress up over the Christmas period. That’s what people do for Id in my country or Pakistan. There are always lots of people on the streets wearing new cloths.  But when Christmas Eve and Christmas day arrived in Oslo, the city was dead. I didn’t see anybody on the street. I was wondering what had happened to all the Norwegians, and where the festivities were. I was really shocked.  I have heard a lot of similar stories from other refugees who, like me, did not have CO. They all have very interesting stories.

I really enjoy giving cultural orientation classes to other refugees.  In my CO classes I tell them that they are so lucky that CO classes exist. I share my experiences with them. I tell them about the cultural shock I experienced and the cultural blunders I made in my early days in Norway. When I tell the class about some of the things I did they laugh.

I believe that if quota refugees coming to Norway did not have CO classes, it would not only be difficult for them to start their new lives, but it would also be very difficult for Norwegians to understand them.  To receive around 1500 new refugees with very high and unrealistic expectations would be a real strain on local government. It would be unsustainable.