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Six things foreigners should expect if they live in Bergen

Robin-Ivan Capar
Robin-Ivan Capar - [email protected]
Six things foreigners should expect if they live in Bergen
If you plan to move to Bergen as a foreigner, this "no-nonsense" guide on living in the city will come in handy. Photo by Eirik Skarstein / Unsplash

As the locals regularly boast, Bergen is a city with a host of unique traits. From its dialect to the weather, here's what you need to know if you plan to live in Bergen as a foreigner.


So, you've decided to move to Bergen, Norway's second-largest city. First of all, congratulations! With its reputation of being one of the safest cities in Norway and amazing, easily accessible nature, there are a lot of reasons why you're more than likely to enjoy Bergen's day-to-day life.

However, if you're wondering which of Bergen's attributes and quirks stand out the most for foreigners, we've got you covered with this guide on what to expect when you live in the "rain capital of Norway."

The Bergen dialect

In a number of foreign language schools, the Norwegian language taught is very close to the Eastern, Oslo dialect.

There are stories of people investing as much as 40,000 kroner in Norwegian language courses, reaching B1/B2, and then having trouble understanding even basic conversation among Bergen locals after moving to the city.

Don't expect the locals to switch to another dialect – they're quite proud of the Bergen one. Therefore, you should take the time to upgrade your Norwegian language skills accordingly.


One of the key obstacles that can prevent you from making a smooth transition between the Oslo and the Bergen dialect is pronunciation. The Bergen dialect is more similar to Nynorsk (one of the two written standards of the Norwegian language, along with Bokmål) in pronunciation.

Furthermore, the Bergen dialect is one of two dialects in Norway with only two grammatical genders - other dialects in the country have three grammatical genders.

You should expect the transition to take (at least!) a couple of months and might even want to consider a local language course "booster" to make the entire process as painless as possible.

You can find a short primer on Bergen dialect slang and expressions here (in Norwegian).

Limited career opportunities without knowledge of the Norwegian language

Bergen – as is the case with cities in most of Norway – is not Oslo. Aside from the capital, expect to find limited opportunities to find work without speaking Norwegian. Running a business operation in Norway is an expensive affair, and multinational companies are well aware of this.

Therefore, there are limited career opportunities for English-only speakers in Bergen, and most people who move there tend to invest heavily in developing their language skills in the first two years of life in Bergen.

Some industries and specific sectors might have job opportunities for people who speak only English – including seafood, international sales, IT, and tourism – but as a general rule of thumb, you'll struggle if you don't become fluent in Norwegian quickly.

Additional note: If possible, try to secure a job before moving to Bergen, as the city – and the country – is very expensive.


The Bergen weather

No guide to Bergen is ever complete without a mention of Bergen's key feature – rainy weather. On most days in the city, expect rain, as it rains more than 230 days a year!

Nestled on the seashore among seven mountains, the city has a unique microclimate which keeps temperature temperate and rainfall an everyday staple of life.

If you're moving to Bergen from a sunnier/drier city (or country), the wet weather may even come as a shock. You'll get used to it eventually. As the locals say, "There is no bad weather, only bad clothes."

So, don't forget to stock up on raincoats, umbrellas, and water-resistant clothing, and you'll be fine!


Dynamic and international city

Aside from being a safe and wet city, Bergen is also known for its thriving community of international citizens.

A notable part of this community is related to the student population. As the University of Bergen (UiB) points out, Bergen is home to about 25,000 students - around 10 percent of the city's overall population - during the academic year.

The city also has a notable community of international workers thanks to the career opportunities offered by Bergen's tourism, seafood, and restaurant and bar sectors.

If you want to immerse yourself in this international atmosphere, take a simple walk to the city centre, where most of the UiB campus is located, or make your way to the Fishmarket and Old Town Bryggen area, where you'll be able to witness Bergen's vibrant city life firsthand.


Incredible seafood

Bergen's culinary culture – and some of its traditional dishes, such as the Bergen fish soup - is characterized by high-quality seafood.

Situated on Norway's western coast and surrounded by majestic fjords and deep sea, the city has a tradition of harvesting seafood that goes back centuries.

Fresh fish, crabs, prawns, scallops, and crawfish are local go-tos for many Bergen residents. Expect to find seasonally available seafood on every corner – from general stores and fishmongers to sushi places and established restaurants.

As the state-funded Visit Norway guide points out, some of the best seafood restaurants in Norway are located in Bergen, and the city's chefs are well-respected both at home and abroad.

So, save up, and treat yourself to some of this fantastic seafood every now and then!


Not as expensive as Oslo – but expensive nonetheless

While housing prices and overall living expenses might be somewhat lower in Bergen compared to Oslo, don't be fooled – the city is extravagantly expensive.

According to the latest rental housing statistics, a 3-room apartment in Bergen cost an average of 13,795 kroner in October. Compared to the same month in 2021, the price increased by 4.8 percent.

READ MORE: 'Landlords market': Rent prices in Norway's biggest cities continue to rise

Two other major expense items to watch out for are food and drinks – it's very hard not to have your jaw drop after getting a 1,200 kroner bill for dinner for two (drinks included) in a regular restaurant close to the city centre.

Many students and international citizens opt for money-saving hacks such as eating at sushi buffets (Sabrura is a local favourite) or using Too Good To Go, a surplus food app that offers excellent prices on food that stores and restaurants would otherwise throw in the bin.



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