Living in Norway Guide

Living in Norway Guide

By Joshua Wood, LPC

Last updated on Jul 31, 2020

Summary: Expats, global nomads and retirees living in Norway talk about meeting other expats, befriending locals, the local culture, diversity in Norway, international schools, crime and more.

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People living in Norway share their experiences making friends, adjusting to the culture, what expat life is like in Norway, healthcare in Norway and more.

Deciding Where to Live in Norway

When we asked expats living in Norway to offer newcomers advice about choosing a neighborhood and finding a home, they replied:

"We found our place to live off the internet site here in Norway Finn.no. We weren't concerned about neighborhood as much as we were concerned about finding a place to live. Its a University island so places go fast and there's not a lot available," said one expat living in Tromso, Norway.

"We live in the center of Oslo because it is close to the train and bus stations for us to get to work- it also has a great balcony. We also wanted two large bedrooms, and a w/d in the flat which can be tricky to find in older flats," mentioned another expat in Norway.

Need health insurance in Norway? William Russell's private medical insurance will cover you and your family wherever you may be. Whether you need primary care or complex surgery, you'll have access to the best hospitals & doctors available. Unlike some insurers, we also include medical evacuation and mental health cover in our plans (except SilverLite). Get a Quote

Need health insurance in Norway? William Russell's private medical insurance will cover you and your family wherever you may be. Whether you need primary care or complex surgery, you'll have access to the best hospitals & doctors available. Unlike some insurers, we also include medical evacuation and mental health cover in our plans (except SilverLite). Get a quote from our partner, William Russell.

Meeting People in Norway

Expats living in Norway talked about meeting people in Norway and local clubs and organizations:

"I haven't been able to find an organization, club, etc.There are no expat clubs to welcome you or anything of that sort. My child goes to an International school so I have met parents (from other countries) who have become good friends. Norwegians are not easy to befriend if you don't know them through someone else. and from what I have heard northern Norwegians are not as welcoming as southern, so we have that up hill battle as well. Its been really hard to find anything if you don't speak Norwegian," said one expat living in Tromso, Norway.

"Orienteering is big here and I had never heard of it before. There are groups that go out twice a week. There are many, many sports clubs you can join to meet people. I met many people through an adult education course on the Norwegian language which also helped assimilate me into the culture. Swimming at the pool Pirbadet is popular for families and those in the 20-30's at the last hour it is open when the rates drop. Hiking in the mountains and skiing (both alpine and cross country) of course are also popular," mentioned another expat in Norway.

"AWC of Oslo, Petroleum Women's Club, International Forum...there are classes offered in language, culture, arts, yoga, pilates...the list continues," commented one expat who made the move to Norway.

"American Women's Club is available, but not really functioning. After trying several churches we have found a Church with an American core to be the friendliest place in town! In southern Norway, (we lived in Oslo for 10 years my husband is Norwegian), the culture is tough to break into. It is almost stereotypical small town closed," remarked another expat living in Kristiansand, Norway.

Expat Life in Norway

What is it like living in Norway? Here is what people had to say:

"In general, it seems to me everyone for his own. Family is important because no one steps out of the box they live in. Socializing is for who you know. And work ethic is just different from what I am used to. When clock hits 4:00pm the desk is empty if you are Norwegian. All projects take forever to get done due to this mentality. Sports events are rare and again hard to find if you don't speak or read Norwegian, so you really have to be an extrovert to find out what is happening on the island for the weekend. Tourist center helps if you go by once a week," said one expat living in Tromso, Norway.

"Lives revolve around the outdoors and family. People work from 8-4 and after 4pm, the office is cleared out. There is a great emphasis to do something fun every day and it seems like they spend most of their time outdoors, at least in the spring, summer and fall. They hang out by the fjord and bbq and play volleyball and sun tan on the weekends. There is a saying here that there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing, which seems to sum up their attitude towards the outdoors! Family is definitely a priority with the one year maternity leave and love of children here," mentioned another expat in Norway.

"The people's priorities are money, status and beautiful houses. Daily lives revolve around sports, socializing and family activities. They spend their money on big boats, big houses and keeping up with each other and taking the boat or drive to neighboring countries to buy cheap meat and alcohol. Public drunkness and disordliness is socially acceptable. Where ever you travel in the nordic countries, if there is a drunk staggering the odds are he/she is Norwegian," commented one expat who made the move to Norway.

What Expats Appreciate about Their New Culture

We asked expats in Norway what they appreciated about their new culture. Here's what they had to say:

"It is of course, a very beautiful country, despite the constant rain. Once you get to know them, Norwegians are very nice, and way less superficial than Americans. I love that public transportation and sidewalks are everywhere, it is a joy to not be dependent on a car. I also feel much safer, especially with health care being (mostly) free. Knowing that you won't be turned away from the hospital if you don't have insurance when you are a poor college student is a relief," said one expat living in Stavanger, Norway.

"Norwegians are kind and will help you if you need. If you eventually are able to make friends with a Norwegian, you probably have a friend for life. They are less superficial, and are less likely to say things that they don't mean, compared to, for example, Americans. People won't try to talk to you on the bus; they'll probably try to avoid even sitting with you! :) Beautiful nature The whole culture of going for hikes on the weekends," mentioned another expat in Norway.

"The beautiful nature and the lush green surroundings. Although, I have to admit that it can get tedious sometimes, as I am used to the extravagant city life with skyscrapers at every corner and streets bustling with people. I love the seafood here. I like how people are very independent," commented one expat who made the move to Norway.

"I appreciate the Norwegian's love of and respect for nature. I like the roundabouts as opposed to USA stoplights all over the place. I bike/walk, so I really enjoy that the sidewalks are separate from the roads and often wind off in completely different directions. I appreciate that Norwegians aren't easily offended. They have great food here as well. I also appreciate their lower crime rates. You can tell people really aren't expecting anything but the best in people they encounter," remarked another expat living in Stavanger, Norway.

"So many things. The nature, the peace and tranquility, the community-mindedness, the pride Norwegians have in their home, their families, their communities, their nation; the fantastic quality of life here, the hospitality, the civility most people have, and lots of incredibly handsome, rugged men. :)," added another expat in Norway.

"Clean air and environment, they get things done in society here better than in the UK. There is a real lack of general aggression in people which is nice. Living in the London area there is always a base stress that is just part of life, that is not evident here. The lack of crime is a breath of fresh air to me," remarked another expat who made the move to Norway.

The Most Challenging Aspects of Living in Norway

Then, we asked expats in Norway what was most challenging about their new culture. They replied:

"Norwegian people in general can seem to be very rude, and you can often feel as if everyone is looking down their nose at you. They also tend to dress very well, so wearing jeans and a t-shirt when going out is usually frowned upon. Some restaurants or bars/nightclubs even have a dress code and won't let you in if you aren't "acceptable", which can be embarrassing. Almost everything is closed on Sundays, and opening hours on Saturdays are limited. And of course, everything here is ridiculously expensive! It has also been rather difficult for me to get a job outside of school because I do not speak the language well enough yet," said one expat living in Stavanger, Norway.

"Norwegians don't like to stand out or call too much attention to themselves. If you are different, people will stare, which can be annoying. It can be difficult to make new friends. People have this idea that after they have 3-4 good friends (often ones they've known from elementary school) they have enough. Because Norwegians are less superficial, they also come across as rude sometimes If someone bumps you in the street, don't expect an apoplogy. Also, don't expect anyone to hold doors for you, and expect sneaking in queues for the bus or airplane (if there is a queue at all!) People, particularly government employees, are often inefficient and incompetent, doing "just enough" It is really expensive to eat out in a restaurant, and the service is usually ranging from average/apathetic to terrible. I almost never eat out anymore because of this," mentioned another expat in Norway.

"Norwegians are very good at avoiding responsibility and passing the buck. Bureaucracy here is really bad. It can take months for a simple form to be processed, especially if you do not fall into a specific category. At NAV when looking for a job because NOKUT had recognised my qualification (after a year!) I could only be put in education jobs, despite the fact that I am also an office administrator too (worked in management for a while). Couldn't have both. Very frustrating place to be after the open-mindedness of Denmark and UK," commented one expat who made the move to Norway.

"Not knowing how to speak the language. It's not easy learning a new language from scratch. I tried speaking Norwegian when I first started taking the course but my spouse was very critical of my pronunciation to the point that I became fixated on making sure the words sounded correctly instead of actually speaking the language itself. Living with a husband and adjusting with life in his country isn't easy either. And the prices here are extortionately expensive. It's difficult for me because back home, I have gotten accustomed to the fact that having fun always involves spending money," remarked another expat living in Bergen, Norway.

"Some of their driving rules are backwards from those in the US, such as "yield to people on your right, except in roundabouts". People have stopped and waited on me multiple times when I was pulling out of the street my house is on. I wish people were more friendly and more chatty like Americans. I always say "excuse me" if I bump into someone. I have the impulse to smile at people I pass while walking, or to make a comment to a random person, such as "cute dog"," added another expat in Norway.

"The hours of operation of shops and other public places; the lack of understanding Norwegian at times when people speak to me (I feel like an idiot); the "can't be bothered" or "pass the buck" mentality people working in the service sector often have here -- whether it is Telenor, UDI, NAV, or the local municipality offices, etc. Experience has shown me that these type of workers are incapable of admitting a mistake, apologising for mistakes, or actually doing their job effectively. Lastly, the staring. I came here from a big US city where people rarely look at you in passing (unless there is really something to look at) each other on the streets or in cars, etc. Here, it is more common. It has angered me so much when I saw people staring or looking at me. I was told it's just local curiosity because they don't know me or haven't seen me before (one person even said it's because I'm handsome), but it's hard not to think it rude and unacceptable behaviour. This is not so much the case in cities like Oslo, Trondheim or Bergen," remarked another expat who made the move to Norway.

Diversity in Norway

We asked expats about diversity in Norway and whether locals are accepting of differences. They said:

"It's very diverse, however very prejudice towards Americans and color of skin. We have a saying amongst expats here "Norwegians are the nicest most rudest prejudice people you will ever meet." I feel lucky to have white skin cause I pass as Norwegian sometimes, but my friends tell me stories that has never happened to me, nor would I want to be treated as they have," said one expat living in Tromso, Norway.

"In general, central and northern norway are not as religious as southern norway. The town is fairly diverse culturally. The Norwegians learn English in school and are really great speakers so even if you try to speak Norwegian to them and they know you speak English, they will talk to you in English so they can practice! The town is not really economically diverse-from what I can tell, most people seem to make around the same amount of money. With health care free here, it makes a big difference. The town is fairly diverse-there are a lot of foreigners at the university here and working in the technology trades," mentioned another expat in Norway.

"After reading the other profile on Norway I was completely surpised. I have yet to experience this here and have enjoyed every minute. Yes, it can be tough here only if you make it difficult," commented one expat who made the move to Norway.

"Southern Norway is the bible belt of the country. But don't look for this to be evident in daily life. Breaking into this culture if you are Norwegian, as my husband is, is TOUGH. If you have a different color skin forget it - they openly exercise racial and age discrimination in the job and housing markets. The UN may have voted Norway the nicest place to live and it may be one of the richest countries in the world, but in our opinion, that is a farce. The health care is so far below standard that it is dangerous to be ill. You have to ask the doc to take your blood pressure! The schools are destitute of funds, the hospitals are closing for lack of funds, it is a prime example of mismanagement, greed and arrogance. It went from 3rd world poor to first world rich in less than 3 decades. The economy grew but the culture did not. This is the land of Jante Loven, (Jante's Law)which is don't think you are anybody and certainly not any better than me, because if you stand out or excel they will take you down! That is the national curse and it is lived out on every level and area of society. Only the greedy and the arrogant rise to the top where they judge and criticize the rest of the world - especially democratic countries, socialism is the reigning philosophy. Their hatred for Israel and America is fightening. It is openly shown in politics and journalism. Norway is no friend of the USA or Israel," remarked another expat living in Kristiansand, Norway.

International Schools in Norway

"If you decide to move to Bergen, any other school there would be a better choice for your child," said one expat whose children attend International School of Bergen in Bergen.

"Be careful about: 1. Childcare provision for school holidays. There is no provision for about 9 weeks of the year so if both parents work it is not a feasible solution 2. If your child requires anything that is different to the schools standard procedures, accept that you will have to go through some heartache to convince them of your child's needs. 3. The children get a lot out of the activities offered, and all seem to be happy so I would say my gripes are only about administration rather than happiness of the child," added another expat with kids at British International School of Stavange (BISS) in Stavanger.

"Do Not enroll your child ! From what I understand they are closing down the high school due to financial mismanagement. This school has no books broken furniture, it is dirty and thee playground is littered with broken bottles. It has ill trained teachers and rude administrators. who seem to care little for the students," commented one expat when asked about International School of Bergen in Bergen.

"I would not be sold on the glitz and glamour of this school. The ratio for teacher-aids, counselors and people of that nature is way too small. It is a great school if you have a middle of the road student but little effort or support is offered to high end and low end students. Finding out exactly what the curriculum your child will be learning is nearly impossible. You are provided with a very general summary. The administration is slow to make progress and keep current with modern teaching strategies. There is a music program for middle schoolers but due is not properly staffed to provide a good education in music. The ratio for teacher-aids, counselors and people of that nature is way too small. Finding out exactly what the curriculum your child will be learning is nearly impossible. You are provided with a very general summary. To be honest, this school is past its time. It is surviving on reputation alone," remarked another expat living in Stavanger with children attending International School of Stavanger.

"ISS is an amazing school environment, provides an excellent all-around education for children, and is highly supportive of parents and families. Visit the school and you'll understand immediately what a wonderful place it is," said another expat in Norway with children at The International School of Stavanger.

"I would think twice before enrolling my child the buildings are old and unkempt and the curriculm is not up to international standards," remarked another parent with kids at International School Bergen in Bergen.

Health Insurance in Norway

"If you fail any of these tests (see earlier section), you will, even though you pay "trygdeavgift" a. be invoiced for health care and pursued through the courts to recover the value of treatment you received b. be refused an EU healthcard c. be refused the services of a "fastlege" (family doctor / GP) d. lose access to your medical care in your native land unless you continue paying into the national insurance scheme there as well Please see, for further information The Norwegian National Insurance Act sections 2-1 and 2-14 paragraph 4," commented one expat living in N/A, Norway.

"With socialized healthcare, you have an out of pocket threshold, and when that is met we are entitled to what is called a frikort (freecard), for the remainder of the year. You then have no co pay other than special cases where it is not deemed medically necessary. Example: I have what is called skintags that can be annoying and unpleasant, so I have them lasered off about once a year. Even when having a frikort, it will still cost me some. Normally a specialist costs about 365N OK for co-pay, but if time runs over or if they need to use extra equipment, then you will have to pay a portion of that. With a frikort, that 365 is waived, but anything over that you will have to pay part of," mentioned another expat living in Norway.

Expat Health Insurance in Norway

William Russell's private medical insurance will cover you and your family wherever you may be. Whether you need primary care or complex surgery, you'll have access to the best hospitals & doctors available. Unlike some insurers, we also include medical evacuation and mental health cover in our plans (except SilverLite). Get a quote from our partner, William Russell.

About the Author

Joshua Wood Joshua Wood, LPC joined Expat Exchange in 2000. Joshua has a BA from Syracuse and a Master's in Clinical and Counseling Psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Some of Joshua's more popular articles include Pros and Cons of Living in Portugal, 10 Best Places to Live in Ireland and 5 Best Places to Live in Spain. Connect with Joshua on LinkedIn.

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