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What is so great and not so good about living in Norway? One recent arrival reveals all based on his experiences so far.
Life in Norway gets tons of email from people asking if they should move to Norway. That’s a decision we cannot make for you! However, we can of course guide you based on our experiences. Generally, this involves weighing up the positives and negatives, and how they will apply to you.
Living in Norway: The pros and cons
I’m Mathew, a British guy living in Oslo. I’ve been back in Norway for nearly six months now, so I figured it was about time I wrote an article about the pros and cons of living in Norway. I’ll cover my favourite things about living here and the small things that frustrate me most.
In addition to my own personal views on the positives and negatives of living in a country like Norway, I have asked one of my Norwegian friends, Marius, for his views as a native Norwegian.
My great grandfather was Norwegian, and this is what initially drew me to Norway’s west coast and Stavanger in 2016. I briefly returned to the U.K. in order to get my bachelor’s degree – but now I’m back! This time, I’m living in the capital, Oslo, where I’m studying a master’s degree at the University of Oslo and working part time as a writer.
I hope to settle in Norway permanently in Norway, so I thought I’d write an article about what I enjoy most about living here and what things I don’t like. I’ll also share Marius’s views as a native at the end of each section.
The weather (neutral)
Depending on where you live, the weather in Norway can be quite extreme. Parts of the country are very cold in the winter with heavy snowfall, particularly northern towns and cities and also those inland. Even in the summer months, temperatures struggle to exceed 20 degrees in some major places like Tromsø and Bodø.
Rain is common in the west, especially in Bergen, Haugesund and Stavanger. In autumn and winter, the rain on the west coast can be relentless, and it can rain pretty much non-stop for days on end.
However, one bonus of living in this part is of Norway is that temperatures are fairly mild all year round, compared to other areas in the country.
Oslo is probably the most diverse in terms of its weather variation. During the summer months, it is not uncommon to see temperatures in the upper 20s and sometimes hitting 30C. In the winter months, the city can be a very cold place to live, often with heavy snowfall. During this time, the authorities do an excellent job of keeping the roads clear and the city functioning as normal.
Marius says: other, more rural, parts of southern Norway often have more difficult conditions to deal with in winter. In Lillestrøm, where I live, the snow conditions can be significantly worse than Oslo, even though it’s only ten minutes away. As a local, you just learn to live with it.
While the transport in Norway may not be perfect, I do feel it is significantly better than the British system. Train journeys in particular are often scenic affairs. Large windows allow for great views, which are enjoyed from comfy chairs complete with plenty of leg room.
Oslo also has T-Bane (metro) lines which provide a convenient way to get around the city region. Oslo and some Norwegian cities also offer a tram system, with frequent services that connect large parts of the city. In addition, there is also an extensive bus network throughout Oslo, which is a popular way to make short journeys.
Marius says: you can take the train to many places in Norway but connecting to major cities can be time consuming. For some journeys, if Norwegians want to save time, flying is a convenient option. However, these days, I do feel people here are becoming more environmentally aware and try to travel greener when possible.
High cost of living (negative)
The high cost of living is one of the biggest downsides of living in Norway, especially for new arrivals. The price of groceries is much higher than virtually every other country. Eating out is not something you would indulge more than once per week, or at least that’s the rule I have for myself.
It can of course be difficult when first move to Norway, especially if you don’t have a job or much savings to help you. But at the same time you live within the budget you have, which in turn allows you to decide sensibly what you spend and when.
Marius says: when you have a job in Norway, you won’t notice the cost of living as much. I think house prises and rental prices, in Oslo at least, will always appear on the extreme side.
English language (positive)
Certainly, a big positive about life in Norway is that English is widely spoken as a second language. You can travel the length and breadth of the country and get by perfectly fine with just English. This is especially useful when you first move here and have limited knowledge of Norwegian, as being able to communicate in those early days is important.
Marius says: we learn English fairly early in school so that’s why most Norwegians are fluent. I think more recently the exposure to British and American television shows and films has also helped with language acquisition.
Mail and delivery times/charges (negative)
This is possibly my biggest frustration about living in Norway. The post in Norway is incredibly slow. Regular letters can take about one week to turn up, while packages ordered online from Amazon can take many weeks to arrive and with additional charges to pay.
Perhaps I’m spoilt by the British system, where you can order some items online in the evening and the following morning, they are on your doorstep.
Norway’s mountainous landscape proves to be a logistical nightmare for mail and delivery companies, which is the main reason for the delays. The additional tax and duty on many items ordered from outside of Norway is another added frustration.
Marius says: again, this is just one of those things that you get used to living here. When I studied and lived Wales, I did get used to British mail and speedy online delivery times. I found adjusting to the Norwegian way when I returned home was difficult.
The outdoor environment (positive)
My favourite thing about living in Norway is the outdoors. The country is so green and fresh and accessible for both hiking in the warmer months and winter sports in the darker months. The fjord landscape is unique and there is always something new to explore. Even if you live in one of the major cities, nature is always within touching distance.
As a keen runner, Norway is the perfect place to live. There are many routes that can give you a workout while at the same time allow you to enjoy the wild outdoors. I feel this country has some kind of magnetism that seems to draw people outdoors.
My favourite thing to do in the summer is to visit Stavanger and take a swim in the fjords. The water is so clean and inviting and you can always find a quiet place to relax in serene surroundings.
Marius says: the outdoors, combined with the long summer days is the best time of the year for me. I think most Norwegians are happiest at this time of the year. We’ve been really lucky here in Oslo the two summers. It has been very hot for days on end.
Some other things that didn’t quite make the list …
University education in Norway is free. This also includes international students, although non-EU students should check financial guidelines before applying. The institutes are of a high standard and are open to people of any background.
As a result of a strong economy, there is generally a high standard of living in Norway. This means high wages and a clean and well-kept country. But it also means the high cost of living I mentioned earlier.
Norway also prides itself on being an open and inclusive place to live. A diverse country that welcomes people from all over the world. Many of the major cities have truly international flavour. It is also LGBTQ+ friendly, and it is not uncommon to see same-sex couples happily holding hands as they take a stroll down Karl Johan’s Gate in Oslo.
Finally, and another personal favourite, is copious amounts of pepperkaker and marzipan during the run-up to Christmas. If you have a sweet tooth or a love of almonds, then you’ll love Norway at this time of year.