Heidi met up with Norwegian stay-at-home expat guys in Houston, Texas to find out if they’re taking domestic work and childcare seriously, or are living the high life with sports cars and work-outs while their wives are working. Join them for Bowling Tuesday!
Six guys show up. They tie their shoelaces and scan the shelves for the perfect ball, while loudly discussing the results from last week. This is serious business!
– Yeah! A happy roar breaks the sound barrier! Eric is first and makes a clean sweep. All the pins tip over with hollow bangs! Full score!
The lady in the next lane is just about to roll her ball, but jumps by surprise and it bumps straight into the gutter, but she smiles anyway.
– Eric doesn’t have a winner instinct at all, one of the guys ironically states behind my back. But he’s OK, since he works for Bjørn Dæhlie Sports in Norway, the company of a World- and Olympic champion in Nordic skiing. Eric came here last summer with his wife Elizabeth and two teenage sons.
– I kind of like this life, Eric says, who works out a lot, and even ran the Houston Marathon this year. But the story he’s eager to tell, is all about Jarle. A few days ago, Jarle wanted to buy a cast iron garden table from a private person and Eric joined to help him carry it. The seller’s garden looked like a jungle and when they inspected the table they spotted a big, fat snake coiled under the bench next to it.
-I jumped behind Jarle and didn’t take my eyes off the snake. But Jarle didn’t react at all and kept on bargaining with the seller like nothing had happened, Eric says, while shaking his head.
The snake looked like it had swallowed a big ball and had apparently just been eating, which the Norwegians should be grateful for.
– Huh, huh, yeah I keep the guys busy, Jarle laughs. He has settled and bought a home here.
–I have moved an outhouse and I’m tearing down a gazebo, so for now, they have enough to do, he says!
Kyrre came to Katy, Texas last summer, and in September he decided to join the expat ladies for their regular Friday coffee.
-I’d heard about Eric, but had not been able to find him. I tried the Friday coffee a couple of times to see if he was there, but it turned out that Eric and I showed up every second time, Kyrre says with a big smile. Luckily one of the Norwegian ladies finally came to his rescue with Eric’s phone number.
-We met and decided to track down more guys so we could start bowling tournaments. We did great and with some help from the ladies and some happy coincidences we collected a whole bunch, Kyrre explains.
– No! Kyrre’s last pin tilts like in slow motion, trying to stay upright. But finally:
– Yes, it tipped over!
– It takes time to keep the house in shape and take care of everything, even though I have outsourced the cleaning, but I’m not denying that many of us men have a different focus than girls. I feel it’s way out of my comfort zone to buy kid’s clothes, especially pink tights for my daughter. It’s a change, but I do what I have to do, although I do not like it, he admits.
-Follow through boys!
-Oh, I can really feel the pressure, since I started off so well, Eric utters.
How many ounces in one pound?
Sigurd does like his new life in Texas. He is taking a pilot’s license on light aircrafts – a childhood dream. The kids are very happy and life is good. However, his first trip to the super market was somewhat weird! Suddenly he couldn’t remember how many ounces there are in a pound and asked the lady behind the fresh meat counter:
– How many ounces are there in a pound? And she replies
– That depends on what kind of meat you want.
– That cannot be right! Sigurd states
– Yes! I have worked here for 16 years and this is the way it is!
– Ok then. What about roast beef?
– It depends if you want thick or thin slices, she replies while Sigurd desperately tries one last time:
-I just want to know how many ounces there are in a pound. The lady then responds:
-But I cannot give you what you want, if you don’t tell me!
Sigurd will never again forget that there are 16 ounces in one pound.
-Come on then. Focus! Aim for the pins!
Kyrre feels that life is simpler here in some ways, but he believes that men struggle a lot more being a housekeeper than women.
-It doesn’t feel natural for us to be solely responsible and I don’t see the same things as my wife. Who moves a big closet just to see if there is dust under it?
– No man at least, one of the bowling buddies dryly replies.
Fiddling with tablecloths
Kyrre finds it difficult to take initiative to do things he doesn’t like.
– Fiddling with tablecloths and candles is not for me. It feels unnatural to do it. But once it’s in place, I actually do like it, he says thoughtfully.
– The wife can surely become a little annoyed at times. But I really do try to remember what is expected when we have guests, although it isn’t easy. I write lists over and over again. Then I list everything up for myself, he says with a faint smile.
Kyrre and Jarle start discussing shirt washing and ironing during the subsequent luncheon at the Mexican Restaurant “Vida Loca”. Jarle washes and hangs up the freshly laundered shirts to smooth, while Kyrre delivers his shirts at the cleaners to get them crisp.
-I do not think that the shirts become clean enough at the cleaners, he says. I like to iron my own shirts, but find it very difficult to iron women’s blouses. Too much ruffs and stuff!
Stories and laughter flow during lunch and the atmosphere is good. Everyone has forgotten about the bowling scores, apart from Eric… Plans for future activities are discussed, and Jarle thinks they should start a card club:
-We ought to be able to get a night off once a week, us guys too!
When the bill comes, it’s fun to see how much more fuzz it is for guys to figure out the split than for women. While Sigurd and Jarle discuss the bill with the waiter, the other guys just leave the restaurant, and Eric exclaims:
– Jarle really loves this! To argue with the Americans!
By Heidi Nesttun-Sunde, February 2014