Many claim they would go to any length for the person they love. But what if that length was measured in kilometers or miles? What if you left everything that is familiar to you, all for love? That is exactly what Greta Solomon did. She followed her husband thousands of miles away and new love found the couple journeying between Ethiopia, London, and Norway.
Caribbean Roots, Londoner Lifestyle
Greta Solomon’s Black-British identity combines her father’s roots from Nevis and her mother’s roots from Jamaica with her British upbringing to create a curious, confident creative with an affinity for the unknown. Her Jamaican mother and Nevision father moved to England when they were ten and sixteen respectively, and met in Birmingham. Born and raised in London, Greta’s first trip abroad was a year spent living in Nevis with her family when she was five. After that there were school trips to France and Spain, but she didn’t start properly travelling internationally until she was seventeen. In her twenties and early thirties, she travelled three to four times a year.
Greta began her career aged twenty-two, as a journalist for women’s magazines in London. She later became a freelance travel writer and visited countries including the Thailand, Malaysia, Ireland, and the U.S. Other significant trips include visiting Ghana for two weeks, when she was twenty-five, to represent Great Britain in the Model of the Universe Competition. At the age of twenty-six, she relocated to Gran Canaria, although she recalls, “After five weeks, I found out that I didn’t like it and came back home. So I wouldn’t really count that.”
Multicountry Love Story
Greta continued her career in London, training as a life coach and setting up a tutoring business. At the age of thirty-one, she returned to her journalistic roots taking a job in public relations at a business-to-business PR consultancy. There, Greta was in charge of two clients, a distribution company and a charity that works towards preventing maternal mortality in the developing world. It was while working at the consultancy that she met Krister. He had arrived in London from Norway in 2010 on a charity assignment with Boston Consulting Group. Greta remembers that she and Krister “clicked right away.” She says, “At first I didn’t think too much of it because he was only supposed to be in London for a year.” But they soon realized they had each found the one. The pair got engaged and as they were both working with charities related to Ethiopia, they decided to take a three-month sabbatical to Ethiopia. They married exactly one year after they met while serving in Ethiopia on two different projects with Save the Children.
Their time in Ethiopia was a difficult assignment for Greta. Though she enjoyed her time there and felt very safe, she found the abject poverty she witnessed to be overwhelming at times. Between the heartbreaking scenes outside their door and the constant food sickness, Greta ultimately decided to return to London two weeks early.
Shortly after returning to the U.K. from Ethiopia, Greta said goodbye to friends and family once again before her husband joined her and they both ventured to his home country of Norway. The pair reasoned that it would be a great opportunity for Greta to learn about his culture, and the family-friendly environment would be the ideal place to have a child.
The Norwegian Way
Greta admits the transition to life in Norway was somewhat challenging at first. She says, “It’s actually very hard as an expat to really get a footing into society there… they want you to speak Norwegian to fit in with the working culture, to fit in with the life.” She also found that forming new friendships came with unique challenges. She references studies like one cited in a 2017 Business Insider article by InterNations on expats in Scandinavia, where “More than six in ten expats find it hard to build friendships with the distant local residents.”
Greta echoes the findings, noting, “Although the Scandinavian people are warm and friendly when you know them, it’s quite hard to get in, especially if you don’t speak the language.” She says it took her about two years to make new friends and completely adjust to her new home.
When asked how residents of the Nordic country responded to Greta as a Black expat, she explained that she received a warm reception. She notes, “Norwegians love London, and because I speak with a London accent, the reception was good.” Greta goes on to explain, “I was able to start my business as a business writing trainer and coach quite easily. I was able to get clients. Everybody sort of accepted me in a business sense.”
Although it is generally challenging to make friends, she does not believe her race played a factor in her interactions with most locals. Norway is a major expat destination, according to Greta, and many Norwegians are married to expats. The writing coach describes multicultural relationships in the region, saying, “It’s quite a normal thing out here for a Norwegian man or woman to be married to an expat. It wasn’t considered a weird thing. So I never felt strange in that respect.”
However, despite general acceptance from the Norwegian community at large, she acknowledges she did miss the diversity of London. Of Norway, Greta notes, “It’s just trying to sort of find your place in society, because it’s not a particularly diverse country. There aren’t many Black people. There aren’t many Indian people. I missed the diversity of London. And that diversity sort of spreads out to everything: It’s not diverse in Norway. It’s not diverse in food, it’s not diverse in people, not in the things to do, not in activities.”
Despite the large number of foreigners in the country, Greta believes Norway has managed to hold tight to its culture and overall way of life. The Londoner muses that “The Norwegians sort of say “you take Norway on its terms.” And if you take it for what it is, you can really love it; but if you choose not to and you opt out, then you kind of have to find your own sort of way of living. So for me, someone who doesn’t ski, someone who doesn’t go to the cabin — it took me a bit longer to fit in, to find people who also weren’t into that kind of thing.” Greta eventually found people with whom she shared artistic interests and advises that “When you live abroad, you have to have more in common with your friends or your associates than just being expats.” However, she admits that despite her eventually successful acclimation, she was glad to move back to London.
While in Norway, Greta gave birth to their now five-year-old daughter, Savannah. The couple initially moved to Norway because “we wanted to have a child. And we wanted her to know her Norwegian heritage as well as her British heritage.” Greta also hopes to introduce their child to her Caribbean roots with trips to Jamaica and Nevis. While her daughter does not understand her entire heritage as a multicultural child, Greta makes sure her aunt and cousins use the art of verbal storytelling to educate her about her Jamaican heritage. Locally, there is a large Norwegian community in London, providing Savannah with opportunities to practice Norwegian beyond fluent conversations with her father.
Back to Business as Usual
Now that Greta is back in her hometown, she has revisited her network of clients and colleagues in the creative community. As a creative writing coach and author, she helps women become better written communicators. Her clients range from aspiring writers to corporate professionals. She runs “writing workshops and coaches people who want to write self-help and how-to books.” She is also writing her second book called Heart, Soul & Sass: Write Your Way to a Fully-Expressed Life. She equips her clients with tools and techniques to optimize their creative productivity and write with heart, soul and sass.