I was brought there first by a girl from Nepal. We were on one of those government-run ‘I need to find work and fast’ courses together and it was lunchtime. She wanted to buy food for middags / dinner that evening and I offered to come along. Hooking her arm in mine, she walked me down the main street in Grønland which is a really vibrant multi-cultural area of central Oslo.
It’s one of those shops where the fresh produce is on the outside of the shop which is on a pedestrianised street. The sheer hustle and bustle along the shop front raised my curiosity from a distance. We got closer to find shelves and shelves of beautiful fruit and vegetables, rapidly disappearing into people’s baskets as they tried to outmanoeuvre each other to get to the chillies, bok choi or garlic. It was two deep and in some places three deep with customers. Whatever these guys were selling, people wanted it, demand was high.
It was clear that the customers are mainly immigrants, Turkish, Indian, Bangladeshi, Chinese, East-African. I could well have been the only Irish person there that particular day, gaping in amazement at this multi-cultural flurry of trade.
Immigrants to a new country tend to look for what they know, what they are familiar with. If they can’t find it, the resourceful few will always create it. This is where a great market-style shop like this comes from, in the multi-cultural heartland of Oslo, and in cities all around the world. I think that the people running it are Turkish, judging by the packaged goods on the inside of the shop, most likely immigrants who spotted a niche and opened this shop to satisfy the needs of an immigrant community.
It’s the same premise of course that gives us Irish pubs in practically every urban area on the planet. We Irish tend to like Guinness and the craic on the basis that one could maybe possibly prevent iron deficiency (according to legend and my grandfather’s doctor) and the other is a by-product that’s just good for the soul. Being Irish, we’d feel guilty about it if we didn’t go forth and share this with the rest of the world.
As for this lovely fruit and veg shop, I’ve been back there many times. This place enriches the area for all because a shop like this serves all tastes and cultures, Norwegian or foreign. And it’s cheap. They clearly have economies of scale, it’s the only shop I have ever been to where they seem to be always restocking. Apples and peppers are running up the street that fast.
As a migrant, I love shops like this for the slight mayhem, the different languages and the sense it gives me of the sheer cultural vastness of the world. This one is a tiny global microcosm right here in the heart of Oslo.
One of my Norwegian colleagues had recently discovered this place and was eagerly passing on the good news to others on finding the BEST place in Oslo to buy happy vegetables at a great price. Norwegians traditionally tend to shop locally and so it would be more uncommon for this to be a travel destination for Norwegians than for immigrants. But like me, she is probably delighted to discover there are 10 different types of onion, even if we have absolutely no idea what to do with them.