Norway ranked as one of the hardest countries for foreigners to settle in

Norway has a great work-life balance but it can be very difficult for international residents to settle in, a survey of foreign nationals in the country has found.

Pictured is Karl Johan Gate Street.
Foreigners in Norway were full of praise for the work life balance, but said that it was hard to settle. Pictured is Karl Johan Gate Street. Photo by Gunnar Ridderström on Unsplash

Norway has ranked 34th out of 52 destinations in the Expat Insider 2022 survey published by InterNations

The country performed best in the areas where foreign residents were asked about their work-life and quality of life but scored below average for personal finance and in the bottom three for how easy it is to settle in. 

Overall, 68 percent of international residents in Norway were happy with their life in the country, compared to 71 percent globally. 

When it came to work-life balance, Norway was one of the best performing countries and ranked second, sandwiched by neighbours Denmark (1st) and Sweden (3rd). More than three-quarters of those surveyed said they were happy with their work-life balance, compared to 62 percent globally. 

“I love the work-life balance! It has a great impact on me having enough time for my family, social life, or any other type of activity,” one respondent said. 

Residents were also impressed with the local economy, job security, and business culture. Easy access to high-speed internet, cashless payment options and availability of government services online gave Norway an above-average score of 15th on the Expat Essentials index part of the survey. 

Housing was an area where the country ranked low, though, with 48 percent saying housing was hard to afford. The high cost of living was another issue for those who took part in the survey, with 55 percent of respondents giving this aspect of Norway a negative rating. 

A lack of nightlife and culinary variety meant that those in Norway were twice as unhappy with their options for bars and nearly three times as dissatisfied with the food. 

However, the biggest issue for those who took part was how difficult it was to settle in. Norway was among the three worst countries for settling in, with only Sweden and Kuwait performing worse. Foreign residents said it was hard adapting to the culture, they struggled to make friends and over a third described the locals as generally unfriendly. 

“I dislike the difficulty of building a personal network with the locals. It is hard to overcome feeling like a stranger,” one respondent said. 

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Settling in Norway: Five places to meet new people and make friends 

Making new friends can sometimes be easier said than done in the socially reserved country of Norway. Here are our picks of the places where you can meet new people in Norway. 

Settling in Norway: Five places to meet new people and make friends 

Friends can improve everything, whether it’s having someone to enjoy a hobby or interest with, grab a bite to eat with or lean on for support when times feel tough. 

Unfortunately, making friends in Norway can sometimes be challenging. This can be for a few reasons, whether it’s not knowing anyone when you move, the reserved nature of the locals (with Norwegians sometimes closed-off nature being more a sign of them respecting your privacy, rather than being antisocial), or simply being a bit shy. 

However, while it’s unlikely you’ll make a friend for life in Norway (or most places for that matter) trying to strike up a conversation at a bus stop, there are still plenty of places where you can make friends and meet new people.

READ ALSO: The best tips to help you settle in Norway 


Finding and joining a club of any kind, whether it’s a lifelong hobby or something you’ve always wanted to try, can be a great way to meet new people. 

“Look for local groups, for example, I subscribed to a dance class where there were only Norwegians, and I made friends with them,” Timea, who lives in Bergen but hails from Hungary, told The Local previously. 

Sharing a mutual interest or passion will give you and the other members something to bond over and discuss. 

While it may take a while to become friends with other members, you may have a friend for life when you do make a breakthrough. 

“Take up common local activities like hiking, cycling, skiing, swimming etc., enjoying nature. Attend various activities around the city- get involved in dugnad. Most importantly, show up, and once they get to know you, they are really good friends that you will have for life,” Taiyeba, who has lived in Norway for seven years, said to The Local in an earlier survey.

There are plenty of groups and activities comprised of both other foreigners and Norwegians. In Oslo, for example, there are several groups for international residents looking to find others to play football with. 

Norwegian courses 

Learning the language comes with many benefits, from being able to help you land a job to helping you qualify for permanent residence or citizenship later down the line. 

However, one often overlooked benefit is being able to make friends with your fellow coursemates if you attend one in person. 

Additionally, it’ll help newer arrivals meet one another and set up support networks to help with the bedding in process. 

However, even for those who have been here a while and are just now learning the lingo, the shared experience of picking up Norwegian will give you something to chat about with your coursemates.


This is great for somebody who speaks a language in addition to English and will give you more chance of mingling with the locals than a language course. 

There are several språkkafe, or language cafes, in Norway’s big cities. For those who don’t know, a language café is where a group of people who speak different languages meet up to teach one another. However, as so many people in Norway are highly proficient in English, other languages are in much higher demand. 

Sharing your language with somebody and teaching them about your culture could help spark a friendship based on cultural exchange. 

To find language cafes across Norway, click here

Expat groups 

A go-to for anyone new to Norway should be to join a social media group of other foreign residents. The group could be open to all foreign residents or just those from a specific country. 

These groups will regularly hold meet-ups, allowing you to meet people in real life. Foreign resident groups have a number of purposes, too, whether you have a burning question, want to vent about something, or need help tracking down food that reminds you of home. 

Making friends with people in these groups can be a big hand if you’re feeling homesick and want to socialise or talk to your fellow nationals.


Spending your free time helping others can be rewarding in more ways than one, beyond knowing that you’ve done something to help someone else. 

You could be networking with others and establishing friendships. 

“Learn the local language as quickly as possible and try to be a part of social groups where you can help people that need help. This way, you make professional connections and friends,” Gaganmeet from India told The Local in a survey when they were asked about the best tips for settling in. 

With more than 100,000 different volunteer organisations, there’s plenty for you to get stuck into. You can look for volunteer groups here

Making a serious time commitment isn’t a must either, for example, taking part in a local dugnad may only take a couple of hours a few times a year, but it will help you to connect to people in your local community.