I have just spent a week in the freezing cold Northern Europe, visiting my old home towns London and Oslo. I arrived in the UK on Sunday evening, but I didn’t get to see a lot of fascinating London since I had two days of meetings in Reading on the schedule. Since I had come all the way to the UK I also decided to pay a visit to Oslo and see some of my old friends that I haven’t seen since I left Europe almost 3.5 years ago.
Hence, Tuesday evening I arrived in Norway and I was met by heavy snowfall and subzero temperatures. It was in fact quite a shock coming from the tropics to the extreme cold in Northern Europe, and the minute I came out of the airport the only thing on my mind was “what the hell was I thinking?” I knew it was going to be cold, and I was relatively well dressed, with long underpants, woolen cardigan and a thick winter jacket, but I was surprised by how the cold was penetrating all my layers. I am pretty sure that it was no colder than I used to experience when I lived there, but today I am simply not used to it anymore because my body is completely acclimatized to the hot and humid tropical weather.
The three days in Oslo were extremely hectic. There were so many people that I wanted to see, but time simply didn’t allow it, so I was prioritizing people who have been like a family to me. Besides, the cold and the snow made it very difficult to get around as much as I wanted to, and some of the visits I had planned had to be cancelled. However, I was much exited to see the little girl I am godmother to. She was born after I left Europe so I have never had a change to actually meet her, but she was an absolutely lovely 2-year old.
Unfortunately, I found it really hard to get around in Norway due to the low temperatures. I simply couldn’t walk around outside as I would like to because I was freezing too much, so I ended up being very dependent on people driving me. I must admit that I felt a bit imprisoned, which made me rather frustrated and depressed, and the experience did not encourage me to return any time soon. Snow is so incredibly unpractical, and the clothes you have to wear to keep warm are heavy and uncomfortable, so now I can’t really believe how I managed to survive all the years I lived in Oslo.
The UK was a little bit warmer than Oslo, as expected, and there was no snow that I had to struggle with. But the short stay in Reading made me realize that I have become too used to the fantastic service in Asia. I was in fact surprised when nobody came out and assisted me with my luggage when I arrived at my hotel on Sunday night, and I found most of the people working in the hotel to be relatively grumpy. But I was trying to remember that Asian hotel staff is particularly friendly and accommodating, and that it may not be quite the same in the rest of the world. I think the two years I have lived and worked in Asia have made me very spoiled.
Now I am heading south again, but instead of going back home to Singapore I have to fly directly to Delhi in India for a two weeks project. Luckily the schedule was decided before I left Singapore, so I have brought with me everything I need for the trip. I am looking very much forward to getting back to Asia.