As a man of obvious African decent I am well acquainted with many of the stereotypes associated to my image. These stereotypes and treatments vary slightly in my frequent travels around the world – from dismissive language from service industry works to apprehension from fellow commuters when I get ‘too close’. But I also recognize my privilege. I am happily married with three young children, have an amazing network of friends and colleagues and overall great prospects in life. Yet the privilege that has opened many doors that otherwise would have remained closed to me, does not stem from any of the aforementioned. My tangible privilege comes from my accent. You see, I was born in Canada and raised in the United States. I’ve been working as an expat in Norway for almost four years now and I have to confess that I ‘use’ my accent to my advantage. And I know to use it because this society taught me that it has value.
When I first moved here (Norway) and was looking for a place to rent, I had two of my interns calling house listings we found online. I would notice that they both barely got two sentences out before they were told ‘Nei’ or the receiver would hang up the phone. So I made some calls of my own and every time someone answered they would invite me to come and view the property to see if I was interested in renting or leasing it. I also had my interns call back the numbers that flat out rejected them and when I spoke, those same rejections would extend a warm invitation to me. There was no doubt that my accent in contrast to their notably ‘African’ accents won me favors. So, to my fellow expats or those seeking opportunities here in Norway, it may help to add a few ‘privileged’ friends to your network to make a few calls and introductions just to secure the warm invite to your next opportunity.
Written by David, a Minister and Business Owner.