– Interview with Yasbenia Harper –

In my goal to support people moving abroad, I enjoy taking interviews, revealing personal stories and advise.
Why do you seek to move abroad? What are the challenges and opportunities you may encounter?
This month we are traveling from Mexico, with Yasbenia.

Original country: Mexico
Current country: Norway
Your story in a nutshell:
I’m from Mexico city and I moved to Norway in 2009 because I was with a Norwegian guy. I’ve been living in a city called Stavanger for 8 years and I am now officially a Norwegian and Mexican citizen.
I feel very happy to say that I come from a beautiful country, and that a wonderful country like Norway has become my second home. I’m in general a quiet person but very social and always excited to see new places and learn new things. Listening to music, going to concerts, traveling and cooking are the activities I enjoy the most. I studied Business Management many years ago in Mexico City, but I have worked in very different places and positions throughout the years.
From the first assistant of the Chair of a foundation and travel agent for an American airline in Mexico, to teacher assistant and document controller for an oil company in Norway. Many people in this city have lost their job due to the oil crisis, including me, and that gave me the chance to experience even more. I worked as a tourist guide in the summer and now I collaborate closely with a friend who has started the import of Mexican food products in Stavanger. We import authentic ingredients to supply the Mexican food lovers with the most popular products and we also organize catering events where we make authentic dishes to show Norwegians what the real Mexican food is about. This is not a full time job though, so I’m an active job seeker.

Biggest challenges:
In general my biggest challenge has always been to shut that voice that tells me that I should keep things the way they are because that’s the safe way to go. My biggest challenge right now is to be able to find a job in The Netherlands while still living in Norway. If I can’t find it soon, I think my next step will be to move there and look for one.

On overcoming fear:
I was extremely shy for many years and that made me feel scared and stopped me from doing many things. It wasn’t easy to overcome the shyness but I did, and I keep reminding myself that I can’t let fear take over my life. I think what helps the most is to constantly remind yourself of how far in life you’ve come despite of whatever bad decision you think you made in the past. We should just try to learn from that and use it to make better decisions that will make us proud of ourselves in the future.

Working practices and benefits in your adopted country:
My first job in Norway was as an assistant in an international kindergarten. My second job was as a document controller for a big oil company where most of the staff was also from different parts of the world. Working in these places gave me a great opportunity to know and understand many different cultures and see how they work.
I realized that it doesn’t matter where you come from or what your background is, when we all have the same goal and show tolerance and respect, we can make things work out.
I also had the opportunity to see the difference between the Mexican and the Norwegian working environment. In Norway there is more trust that you will do what you are supposed to without the boss worrying too much, and I feel like that makes you want to do your work even better. You wish to show that you appreciate that vote of confidence and that you won’t let neither your boss nor the company down. Management in Mexico is quite different or at least it was when I worked there. Very often you need to work outside office hours or do activities that are not part of your job description, all these without getting any extra remuneration, just to constantly prove your boss that you are reliable. I haven’t heard about situations like these in Norway.

About integrating and adjusting smoothly? What went well and what was difficult?
I was lucky enough to find good friends from the beginning, without them everything would have been very hard. I love learning languages so learning Norwegian was something to look forward to. I believe I adjusted quite well to the Norwegian ways and weather, but the hardest part was (and still is sometimes) to understand the different dialects in Norway. Every little city has their own dialect that differs a lot from what one learns at school, and if you don’t have the chance to practice it on a daily basis, then it’s a challenge to feel completely integrated.



Where do you find inspiration?
When I worked as a tourist guide, I had the chance to be inspired by the other guides who have been traveling to different countries. I was amazed to see how many of them just left their home country without hesitation and came to Norway because there were no jobs back home or simply because they love to experience new things. After that, I realized that if I don’t have neither a family nor a proper job here, then nothing should stop me from looking for new opportunities and experiences somewhere else.

How you stay motivated:
I think the best way is to be excited about something. My main motivation for the past months has been to learn Dutch, and the excitement of moving to a new country and meeting new friends is what gives me great motivation to work for what I wish.

What are your words of Wisdom?
No matter how difficult your goal seems to be or how scared you are, just push yourself to take the first step and you’ll realize how suddenly you feel stronger to take the next ones.

What is the worst that happened to you as an expat?
I consider myself lucky because nothing really bad has happened to me. I didn’t have the nicest experience being with the Norwegian guy for whom I made the decision to move here, but Norwegians in general are kind, tolerant and respectful people and I have never felt unwelcome here.

Any funny experience that happened to you as an expat?
Maybe the funniest part is that here people usually don’t save food for more than one day, whereas in Mexico you can keep your favorite dish in the fridge for days because it would be a shame to let something so tasty go to waste. So I always get the weirdest looks when I ask: ‘Are you really gonna throw that away?? It’s still gonna be good tomorrow!’

Another funny thing at the beginning was having people looking at me strange when I say hello with a hug or a kiss on the cheek . It’s not just my Mexican culture but also my personality to be happy to see my friends and to want to express that affection. I’m glad they got used to it by now!

Your Plans for the future: I’m currently looking for a job in North Holland, South Holland or Utrecht. I think The Netherlands is a beautiful country with an amazing history, beautiful cities, and hopefully full of possibilities. Although I would need a job where I can use English as a main language, I’m already studying Dutch and I hope to become fluent soon. I want to be able to integrate to the Dutch society faster than I did to the Norwegian one.

Your BEST TIP(s) when moving abroad:
Now that I wish to live in a new country, I realized the things that I should have done in Norway to adapt faster.
I should have not been shy to make mistakes when speaking Norwegian,
I should have tried to make even more Norwegian friends and try to join more social activities to get more familiar with my community since the beginning.
It took me a long time to do all these things in Norway simply because I was shy and thought Norwegians would criticize me. If I’m lucky to get a job in The Netherlands, I’m happy to know that I have more knowledge to be able to make my life easier and that’s why I’m already doing my best to learn the language and understand the culture before moving there.

Thank you very much!
Picture taken in Budapest in the summer.
Interviewed by Rachel Smets


Rachel is Author of the Bestseller ” Awaken Your Confidence: 15 People Share Their Journey to Success”,


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