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From Greek musical dream to Norwegian oil industry job

From Greek musical dream to Norwegian oil industry job

| Text and photo: Björn Lindahl

Iro loves music and wanted to learn how to build concert halls. So she moved from Thessaloniki to Trondheim to study acoustics. Meanwhile her home country was hit by a deep crisis. Now she is happy to have secured a job in the oil industry - and her brother Dimitris has joined her in Norway.

The siblings have done the same as tens of thousands of other Greeks - left their home country to find work elsewhere.

“In my university year only 5-10 out of 200 people have found work in Greece,” says Dimitris Orfanos.

“The rest have gone abroad or are unemployed.”

In the past few months he has been staying with big sister Iro in her rented flat in Oslo. 

“As soon as I finished my master’s degree in electronics and computer technology I moved here. I’m now looking for a permanent job in Norway,” says Dimitris.

Iro, Dimitri

They realised the Greek crisis was serious in 2010. 

“Until then we believed the crisis would only hit the big companies.”

But the crisis led to the bankruptcy of many Greek companies big and small, including their uncle’s Thessaloniki engineering firm when commissions dried up in 2011. The family’s younger daughter is looking for a job as a lawyer in London.

Iro came to Norway on a scholarship to study environmental technology two years ago. She was tempted because the Norway was a leader in the field.

“If you’d have asked me two years ago whether I’d be working for an oil company, I’d have said no chance!”

But it soon became clear no new concert halls would be built in Greece in the foreseeable future. After trying her hand at freelance journalism and working in a hotel, Iro Orfanou got a job as an engineer with Aker Project. She is now hired by Kvaerner to carry out structural strength calculations on an oil platform deck. She believes that had she not been so persistent and patient she would not have got the job. 

“I called a few times to ask how my application was going, before I got hired.”

Her salary is three or four times what it would have been in Greece - if there had been a job there. 

“I am still not sure about oil companies wanting to drill near the North Pole, but I imagine I will be staying in Norway for the next ten years,” she says.

Had his sister not already been in Oslo, Dimitris would have considered it more natural to seek work in other countries than Norway.

“Primarily Britain, because of the language, or Germany and Australia.”

He still has not secured any job interviews, but has started to learn Norwegian. He can stay and look for work for three months without a residency permit, thanks to the EEA agreement between the EU and Norway. He could also return to Greece and then travel back to Norway for another three- month period.

“So far I’ve managed to live off savings from jobs I did while I was a student. But you feel like a little child here. You don’t understand the language and you can’t even walk,” he says and looks out on the icy pavement outside the cafe where we meet him and Iro.

“But Norway seems to be a very well organised country. Although it is cold here, people are friendly and I really like their straightforwardness and appreciation of nature,” he say.

We go down to take some pictures outside of the Oslo Concert Hall.

Harald Oredam’s sculpture Jordmusik [Earth Music] could also be illustrating migration with its powerful organic copper shapes stretching towards each other. 

“I sang opera for two years,” says Iro.

“And I had time to do some measurements and calculations for the new Oslo Opera House - before the oil industry got me,” she says.


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