Zoe Gale grew up in Bath, Somerset, before relocating to Norway to be with her now-husband. They have two daughters, Grace and Téa, and Zoe runs hoycouture.com from a small island just beyond Oslo.

Then and now
I grew up in the city of Bath, where I met my future husband. We both spent time in London, as friends, and after some years he moved to Oslo for work at the acclaimed architect firm Snøhetta. I eventually went to visit him and the rest is history. I became quite attached to Oslo and the Scandinavian way of life – and to him – over the course of regular weekend jaunts. The slower pace there was very appealing (a stark change from London) and then there was the serendipitous discovery that my great-grandmother was Norwegian. I became pregnant with my first child after a two year long-distance relationship, and the easy decision was made to move there.

We initially lived in the centre of Oslo but we had friends who lived on a small island called Malmoya just minutes from downtown Oslo, which we regularly visited and fell in love with. When our first daughter, Grace, was five months old a beautiful apartment became available on the island. We had no real intention of moving but on the first viewing I was in love. Never had I felt so strongly about a property. It faces south-west, with huge windows overlooking the sea (fjords.) To the distant right you can see Oslo city and the famous Holmenkollen ski jump hanging high in the mountains. We moved in two weeks later and it was and still is the most amazing home full of love and inspiration.

Island life
We now have two gorgeous girls. Grace is 3.5 years and Téa, nearly two. We are so lucky to live on the Island, there are lots of young children and we have great neighbours who have become good friends.

In Norway children start nursery (barnehage) at a very young age, generally from a year. As I was a stay-at-home mother I wanted Grace to be home for as long as possible. At two years and three months she started – after quite a lot of protest from me! This is the Norwegian way and barnehage was being ‘strongly recommended’ for Gracie’s language development. It was very hard, I felt like my heart was being ripped out every time I Ieft her, but very quickly it became apparent that she loved it.

Téa now goes to the same barnehage. It is your typical Norwegian style wooden cabin set in the forest at the end of our lane. They adore going, it is a very small nursery of 22 kids from the age of one to six years. They spend at least two hours a day outside, whatever the weather, which is wonderful for them. The little ones sleep outside even in the winter in minus temperatures.

A home for all seasons
The seasons are so extreme here, which is lovely although winter can be long and hard, I have in the past suffered from SAD, which is no fun. But if there is snow and bright sunny crisp days, it is breathtakingly beautiful.

A typical weekend for us in the winter is to take the girls sledging in the mountains. Grace has just started to practise skiing on flat ground, next year she will start ski school, its amazing how quickly they pick it up. In the summer we go to the beach, we are so lucky that we have many to choose from on our doorstep. A typical Norwegian summer is similar to the UK so cannot be relied on. Last year though was exceptional, we went to the beach and swam most days it was extraordinary, the fjord around us often freezes in the winter so you can walk around the island on it, and yet in the summer it was 25 degrees!

The community on the island is great although people do tend to hibernate during the dark winter months (us included). As soon as the first signs of spring appear, people materialise and BBQs, bike rides and beach dates are once again booked in.

I always thought of myself as a city chick but since having children and having the opportunity to live where we do, the forest, the fjords and the mountains inspire me everyday. It’s a child’s paradise and I feel so lucky that we can share this experience together.

Here and there
The island is very safe, everyone knows everyone and has each other’s backs. I’ve never experienced that in the UK and it took a bit of time to get used to. Of course we miss home (I still call England home), it’s hard not having mum and dad around the corner, and my sister with her babes who are the same age as ours, and all my besties with each of their clan in tow. But when we do go back, which is often enough, the time we spend with everyone is precious, quality time.

Having had both my girls here it is all I know, but judging from my sister’s experiences in the UK, the healthcare here seems far superior, although of course daunting if you don’t speak the language. I was lucky enough to have had both my babes in an alternative clinic attached to the main hospital: no drugs, water births, both were amazing experiences.

Norway is such a child friendly place. Family life is prioritised with fathers often taking time off during the first year of a child’s life and subsequently childcare is generally shared much more here.

Making it work
I have just launched a new business hoycouture.com It’s an online boutique dedicated to the buying and selling of pre-owned designer fashions, and has regular features on inspirational working women, taking a voyeuristic peek into their wardrobes, then giving our clients the opportunity to buy their pre-owned designer wares.

It’s extremely exciting and terrifying at the same time. My Norwegian is still not very good, so with the business and my two girls speaking fluently it is a priority to learn.

Norway is a very special place and I feel, even though it has at times been tough, it has also been a magical place for the girls to make their first memories. I am sure we will one day move back to the UK but not anytime soon.

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