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LIFE IN NORWAY

The challenges of moving to Norway as an American

Moving to a new country can be tough. Uprooting and uncertainty tint the entire process. It is a big decision, and the hours of research and preparation will, at best, only dampen the culture shock, writes Agnes Erickson.

The challenges of moving to Norway as an American
Photo: Damir Spanic on Unsplash

As an American, moving to Norway will no doubt expose you to obvious societal differences that can be challenging to get used to. Along with other expats, it is wise to observe with an open mind. Here are a few challenges to look out for.

The language

If you are planning on living in Norway long term, learning the language is the best thing you can do when it comes to working and integrating into Norwegian society. Norwegians are proud of their Nordic tongue and they should be.

Despite this, you can get by with just English. In fact, most Norwegians are happy to switch to English so they can practice. This can be challenging at times when you want to practice speaking Norwegian and the natives switch to English.

 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 

 
 

 
 
 

 
 

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US politics

It can come as a surprise that American politics are so popular abroad and are perhaps even more of a discussion topic than the national government. Norwegian news outlets feature US political news almost daily.

As an American, you will be often asked to share your personal opinions as to what's happening in the United States. Socially, there is no assumption about political viewpoints being a private topic.

Paperwork and visas

The process of getting your visa to work and live in Norway is not an easy task. This is written from experience. Since the United States is not a part of the European Union, there is no open-door policy for living and working between the two countries. A simple missing paper in the visa application can be enough grounds for an application denial.

It is not uncommon to hear stories about Americans who waited up to a year for an answer only to receive a rejection before having to start the whole process over.

It can be difficult to understand why the process can take so long but the Norwegian society is a popular one, and their whole system is overwhelmed by the number of applications. If you want to live in Norway, you need to commit to diligent research and fact checking to find out what type of visa is the best fit for your circumstances.

READ ALSO: How to apply for Norwegian citizenship

Alcohol

The Vinmonopolet is a store in Norway that sells all alcoholic beverages over the alcohol volume percent of 4.7. In other words: no, you can’t pick up a few beers at the corner 7-Eleven. Wine cannot be found in local grocery stores.

The sale of alcohol, including the time of day it is sold, is strictly controlled by the government and this can take a while to get used to. Advertisement of alcoholic beverages is illegal in Norway. There are no happy hours or two-for-one offers in restaurants.

This strict control and lack of visual alcohol promotion makes the drinking culture in Norway a little more hush hush than an American might be used to.

 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 

 
 

 
 
 

 
 

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A quiet society

There is a popular assumption that Americans are loud. They speak louder and are more boisterous in their celebration. Whether this is true or not in relating to your own personal self, you will notice that the Norwegian society in general is a quiet one.

It is not uncommon to experience complete silence on public transportation, even during rush hour. Norwegians tend to speak in a softer tone and are less animated in casual conversation.

Eating habits

There is so much bread! Be prepared to eat bread for breakfast, lunch, and for an after-dinner snack. The Norwegian diet relies heavily on bread for its different spreads. Luckily, the quality of bread is almost incomparable to what is typically found in the states. It is rich with grains and nutrients and sold fresh in most grocery stores.

Also, sweets are not consumed as openly as in the US. A Norwegian’s relationship to sugar starts when they are very young. Sugary foods are typically not allowed in preschools and lower grade elementary schools. ‘Lørdagsgodt’ or ‘Saturday goodies' is a popular expression describing sugar as a special treat that is typically only consumed on Saturdays. This is an old school rule, but still stands strong in the minds of many Norwegians.

The weather

Talking about the weather is extremely popular among Norwegians. It’s understandable, considering the intense season change they experience throughout the year.

There is also a popular belief in Norway that there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes. Subzero temperatures are no excuse to stay inside. Norwegian society is active, and outdoor winter sports are among the most popular to follow and participate in.

Cabin life

Owning or visiting a cabin multiple times throughout the year is very common in Norway. The history of staying in a cabin goes deep into Norwegian culture of loving nature. Many families built cabins along the sea, or in the mountains, to visit with their families back in the day when international travel was only for the rich. Cabin life is now a preferred activity during weekends and public holidays. Driving for hours just to get away for a weekend, and the total immersion into nature can be tough for an American or any other expat not used to this cultural convention.

Janteloven

Putting in simply, Janteloven is a belief about society Norwegians (and most other Scandinavian countries) have. It is an understanding that you put society before the individual and not boast about personal gain. It is not often referred to as it is just a normal way of life.

For an American, it explains why the MVP award doesn’t exist here in children's sports. And why a multimillionaire could typically be found living in a one level home and owning just one car. This conformity can be a challenge to understand and get used to when moving from a more ostentatious country.

READ ALSO: Do I regret moving to Norway?

Member comments

  1. Another whiny American complaining about visa costs and paperwork when they have it way easier than most people from the developing world *eye rolls*

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MONEY

How and where to get the cheapest fuel in Norway

Norway is leading the pack when it comes to the sales of new electric vehicles. In fact, nearly 60 percent of all new car sales in this country are electric. But for petrol and diesel car owners who have yet to make the switch, knowing when and where to find the cheapest fuel can end up saving you thousands of kroner.

A petrol station in Norway in 2021. Refuelling your car is a pricey business in the Nordic country, but there are ways to limit costs.
A petrol station in Norway in 2021. Refuelling your car is a pricey business in the Nordic country, but there are ways to limit costs. Photo by Malik Skydsgaard on Unsplash

Why is it so expensive to fuel up?

Fuel – gasoline, petrol and diesel — is an expensive monthly bill for many. Norway typically has some of the highest fuel prices in Europe. The at-times sky high prices are mainly due to taxes on fuel imposed by the government, as well as the usual international market factors.

The Norwegian Competition Authority or Konkurransetilsynet recently stated that it is perhaps now more important than ever before to be aware of the ever changing fuel prices.

We have registered price differences of 2-3 kroner in the same local area. There is undoubtedly money to be saved by following along,” said Marita Skjæveland, deputy leader of the Norwegian Competition Authority’s energy section to broadcaster TV2.

The average price to fuel up between the months of July to October this year was 18.8 kroner per litre (2.26 dollars or 1.94 euros). 

READ ALSO: Five things that are becoming more expensive in Norway (and why)

Does it matter which day you fuel up?

As of writing, routinely fueling your vehicle on a specific day of the week will likely no longer save you money. 

“We see that the players in the market still raise prices two to three times a week, but that it happens on different days from week to week,” Skjæveland told TV2. The competition analyst added that by the end of the year, fixed price increases may also happen over the weekend. As such, it’s important to stay updated not only on the weekdays, but on the weekends as well.

Previously, Sunday evenings and early on Monday mornings used to be known as the cheapest time to fill your vehicle’s tank with petrol or diesel.  This is now a practice of the past. 

Where can I find cheap petrol prices online?

Hunting for the cheapest fuel prices in Norway is quite common. It’s also a normal discussion to have with your neighbours and colleagues. So don’t be worried about appearing ‘cheap’ if you want to talk about the high price of fuel. Or share which local petrol stations you have noticed to be less expensive. 

You can check Facebook for groups that are committed to informing the public on where to find the cheapest petrol stations. 

For Oslo and its surrounding areas, you can try here, and if you live in or are driving through the south of Norway, check here.

Drivestoff is an app designed to compare prices of petrol stations you will drive by on your journey so you can plan ahead to get the cheapest fuel. You can find more information and download the app here.

You can also save money by looking for a queue of cars at a petrol station. Yes, it may be just busy. But oftentimes, a queue is a signal for cheaper petrol prices. 

Memberships and credit cards can save you money on fuel

If you’re in the market for a credit card, look for one that might save you money on fuel. Credit cards such as 365 Direct and Flexi VISA will give you good discount options at all petrol stations. If you have a particular station you always fill up at, such as a YX, you can sign up for the company’s credit card to receive discounts on fuel. 

There are also benefits to be had if you sign up for a credit card or a drivstoffkort or “fuel card”.

A drivstoffkort is a special credit card which you use to pay when refuelling your vehicle. The cards generally only work at the stations run by the company to which the card belongs. Different deals and types of card are available, depending on the company.

Specific deals on credit card and drivstoffkort discounts can be found (in Norwegian) here

You can sometimes use membership cards with grocery stores or real estate organisations to give you discounts on fuel. For example, the Coop Medlemskort will save you 45 øre when filling up at Circle K petrol stations. Trumf kortet, which is associated with the chains Kiwi, Meny, Joker and Spar, gives you bonuses when you fill up at Shell stations. OBOS members receive a 27 øre discount on petrol and diesel at both Statoil and 1-2-3-Automat stations. 

Where can I get the lowest priced petrol?

Petrol stations in Norway are extremely competitive. There is no one company that is known to sell gasoline or diesel cheaper than the others

Like many other goods, fuel prices around Norway will rise and fall with demand. Typically, fuel stations located in mountainous towns or areas that heavily rely on tourism will have more expensive fuel. If you’re on holiday in such a town or area, and can wait to fuel up when you get to a more trafficked motorway, it will likely save you money. 

Petrol stations that don’t have employees on location tend to be slower at increasing their prices to match the competition. So if you know you’ll be passing by an ubemannet or “unstaffed” petrol station on your trip, it may be cost-effective to wait and fill up there. 

Consider how much time you want to invest

Joining the hunt for cheaper fuel may not be for everyone. It is time consuming, and admittedly hard to achieve due to the ever-changing prices. If you are not dependent on your vehicle for your daily commute and don’t often drive long distances, fueling up at your local gas station may be the best choice. 

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