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READERS REVEAL: Is it easy to settle in Norway? 

Norway was recently ranked as one of the toughest countries for foreigners to adapt to. But is this the case? The Local's readers had their say. 

The Local Norway's readers have had their say on whether it is easy or not to settle into life in Norway. Pictured is Trolltunga.
The Local Norway's readers have had their say on whether it is easy or not to settle into life in Norway. Pictured is Trolltunga. Photo by Robert Bye on Unsplash

One of the biggest challenges when moving to another country involves settling in and adapting to your new surroundings. 

Norway has been ranked as one of the most challenging countries for foreigners to settle in by the Expat Insider 2022 survey published by InterNations

The Scandinavian country finished in the bottom three when it came to the index that measured how easy it was to settle in, with only neighbouring Sweden and New Zealand performing worse. 

We asked The Local’s readers whether they had a tricky time bedding in or if they found life in Norway a breeze. 

Readers got in touch in their dozens to share their experiences (thank you to those who took part!), and overall more than 80 percent of those who responded to our survey said they thought it was hard to settle in Norway.

Keep your eyes peeled for a future article on tips for settling in, and click here for more insights from our readers. 

Hard to make friends and overcome the language barrier

Those who shared their experiences said there were several reasons foreigners may find it hard to adapt to Norwegian life. 

Peter, originally from the USA and who lives in Stavanger, said that while Norwegians were good-natured, there wasn’t as much of a culture of socialising in Norway. 

“Norwegians are nice, but don’t prioritise making new friends. There also isn’t as much of a culture of going out and hanging out in public spaces,” he said. 

Many others also wrote that Norwegians reserved nature also made it hard for them to gel with the locals and feel settled. 

“(The) Norwegian cultural value of respecting others’ privacy makes it difficult to establish bonds and create a network,” Elizabeth from Canada, who has lived in Norway for seven years, said. 

Another respondent to our survey said that not speaking the language made it difficult to adapt, and quipped Norwegians could be pretty shy unless they’ve had a few drinks. 

“Not speaking the language (can make it hard to settle), Norwegians are only really friendly when drunk,” Pedro from Guatemala but living in Skien wrote when responding to our survey. 

Sanjeev, who lives in Oslo, described learning the language as “a prerequisite” to feeling settled in Norway. 

It can be challenging to get set up 

Others said that the cost of establishing themselves in the country being so expensive made it difficult. 

“It’s expensive to get language lessons, and getting a driver’s license is very expensive. Language and cultural differences are also challenging,” Peter, who has lived in Norway for ten years, said. 

Alyse said the immigration process and cost of living also made it hard to get used to Norway.

“It’s hard to find friends. It’s hard to navigate the immigration process. It’s hard to enjoy the work-life balance when you can never afford to go out,” she said. 

Sara, from the USA but living in Adger County, had an easier time with immigration but said getting everything else in order took a while. 

“Family immigration was easy. Getting set up with all the little things like banking, driver’s license, and schooling took longer than I expected,” she said. 

A reader from Oslo who didn’t want to be named said that the difficulty in finding a place to call home made life in the country hard. 

“Finding accommodation is very difficult, and costs are too high as well. Alternate options are very few,” they wrote. 

Getting a job that meets work permit requirements was another frequently mentioned issue.

READ ALSO: What is it like to rent in Norway as a foreigner?

Not everyone thinks it’s tough to adapt though

However, not everyone found it difficult to settle in Norway and just under a fifth of those who moved to Norway and participated in our survey said they thought it was easy to fit in with their surroundings. 

Katriina, who lives in Bergen, but is originally from Finland, said that it was easier to bed in if they already had a job or place to study in place when they arrived. 

“If you have a job or a school place ready here when you move, it’s a lot easier to settle in. If you have neither and, for example, only move for a Norwegian partner, it can be much harder to make friends and (live) life of your own outside the relationship here,” she said. 

Unlike Katrina, who said moving just with a partner could make it difficult, one reader from Fredrikstad noted that having someone in Norway made it easier to integrate.

“As I followed my Norwegian boyfriend, it was easy for me to integrate. But, I understand (why) people who come here knowing no one can feel lonely,” they wrote. 

Dipankar, who has lived in Oslo since 2013, said having a job and being willing to put in the hours to pick up the local language could make it easy to settle in Norway. 

“I think it’s easy to get settled in Norway if one has a permanent job and (is) willing to learn the local language. If not, it’s gonna be difficult,” Dipankar, who has taken up Norwegian citizenship since moving from India, said. 

Additionally, Kimball who originally comes from the Netherlands, but lives in Møre og Romsdal, said that making an effort with the language helped make it easier to find friends. 

“If you make an effort to learn the language then I found people were very friendly and open. I had no issues with making new friends,” they said. 

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REVEALED: Do higher language requirements make Norwegian citizenship less appealing?

Norway will raise the language requirements for citizenship in October. Foreign residents in the country have told The Local whether the new rules will put them off applying in the future. 

REVEALED: Do higher language requirements make Norwegian citizenship less appealing?

The language requirements for Norwegian citizenship will become stricter from October 1st. The required level will be raised from A2 to B1, in line with the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR).

For those that register their application and submit it via the online application portal before September 24th but are unable to hand in their documents to the police before October 1st, the UDI will count their application as handed in before the new rules take effect- meaning they are required to pass the language test at A2. 

READ MORE: How long does it take to meet Norway’s new language requirements for citizenship? 

So, how have those hoping to become a Norwegian citizen in the future taken the news, and do they think the new rule is fair? 

Shortly after the change was announced, The Local ran a survey among readers and subscribers to find out whether they thought the new requirements would put them off applying. The results of the survey delivered a clear “no”. 

Just under 75 percent of readers said that the higher requirements would not put them off applying, while 26.7 percent said that the new rules would deter them from attempting to become a Norwegian citizen in the future. 

Additionally, only one-fifth said that language requirements for citizenship were a bad thing. 

When using social media as a bellwether, you should always exercise caution. Still, even there, most comments and replies to articles announcing the change were reasonably positive towards the change. 

One common thing readers undeterred by the language requirements shared in common is that they felt knowing the language to a certain degree should be expected of a citizen. 

“Knowing the language goes hand in hand with living in a foreign country and certainly with becoming a citizen. If citizenship is important to you, the language must be as well. B1 level is achievable and a reasonable level to expect a citizen to have,” Even, who originally hails from the USA but lives in Vestland County, told The Local. 

Similarly, many felt the requirement for B1 isn’t too demanding, either because by the time they are eligible for citizenship, they should be comfortable at that level or because they feel that the country gives a lot in return. 

“By the time I’ve spent enough time here to apply, the language requirement will not be an issue,” Peter, who has lived in Norway for a year, said. 

Meanwhile, Lester from South Africa wrote: “Norway gives me so much but asks so little in return. A few hundred hours of language training is well worth living in one of the best countries in the world.” 

Others also wrote that B1 was a reasonably attainable level if you put in a couple of hours a week to reach the language requirements.  

However, not everyone felt the same. A common frustration among those who think that the Norwegian language requirements would hamper their chances of becoming a Norwegian citizen was that they thought the new requirements moved the goalposts. 

A reader from Brazil said that the process led them to decide to leave Norway for good.

“This process (applying for citizenship) became so frustrating for me. It was hard for me to pass Norwegian A2 level. Then when everything was ready for me to apply for citizenship, they changed the (residence) rule from 7 to 8 years and now (new) language (requirements). I got totally discouraged and now decided that I will move out of Norway as well,” the reader wrote.