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Norway Explained For Members

The pros and cons of living in Norway

Robin-Ivan Capar
Robin-Ivan Capar - [email protected]
The pros and cons of living in Norway
By carefully considering the advantages and disadvantages of moving to Norway, you will be better positioned to understand what to expect. Photo by Jonas Schöne on Unsplash

Don't let first impressions drive what might become one of the most important decisions in your life. Before you move to Norway, make sure that you're familiar with all the perks and downsides of living in the Scandinavian country.

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Before relocating to Norway, you'll likely come across two major (online) lines of thinking associated with living in the country as a foreigner.

On the one hand, people will say it's the land of "milk and honey," with high wages, a robust welfare system, and abundant career opportunities.

On the other, some will point to the downsides of living in Norway, such as the language barrier, challenges when making friends and getting into a new social circle, and the often dark and cold weather.

Regardless of your current knowledge of life in Norway, thoroughly research what living in this country actually looks (and feels) like.

By carefully considering the potential advantages and disadvantages of relocating, you will be better positioned to understand what to expect and prepare for any potential challenges.

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The pros

1. The high wages and standard of living

Ask most people what Norway is known for, and they will likely mention high wages and a high overall standard of living.

They're not wrong – analyses regularly rank Norway among countries with the highest average wages in the world. According to Statistics Norway (SSB), the average monthly earnings in Norway amount to 48,750 kroner before taxes.

Pair that with a robust welfare system, accessible healthcare, and free education, and the Norwegian standard of living can be objectively described as pretty high.

However, don't forget that the country's living costs are also relatively high – more on this in the cons section.

2. A very safe country

Generally speaking, Norway is a very safe country, with a low crime rate and high levels of trust in the police.

Most crime that you'll be at risk of is petty crime, especially in the country's capital. The risk is somewhat higher during high tourist season (roughly from June to September), as that is the period when pickpockets try to take advantage of crowds in numerous Norwegian tourist hotspots (such as the Fish Market and Bryggen wharf in Bergen, for example).

In any case, as an international citizen, you're likely to feel an overwhelming sense of safety in virtually all Norwegian cities.

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3. Stunning nature, breathtaking culture

One would not be amiss to say that some of the natural phenomena that are closely associated with Norway – such as the Northern Lights and the Midnight Sun – are globally recognised bucket list favourites.

Furthermore, the country's majestic fjords, wild forests, and numerous mountains and lakes all contribute to its unique appeal for thousands of nature lovers who visit Norway each year.

The Scandinavian country also has a rich history and many world-class museums. Those specialising in the Viking Age are particularly popular among tourists.

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4. If you're looking for work-life balance, look no further

Work-life balance is one of the key priorities for many Norwegians. A lot of jobs offer ample vacation time, and the country's strong union movement is relentless in promoting worker- and family-friendly policies.

In Norway, work-life balance is not just a catchy HR concept – you can see it put into practice all around you.

From flexible working hours and generous parental leave schemes to the strong emphasis on leisure time (especially outdoor activities such as hiking), Norwegian society values the personal lives of workers, and workplaces often accommodate employee efforts to enjoy a fulfilling personal life outside of work.

Hiking

Norwegians are serious about work-life balance. Pictured are two people hiking. Photo by Toomas Tartes on Unsplash

The cons

1. Norway is really expensive

Once you get a job offer in Norway, you'll likely be taken by surprise by the (high) salary offer. However, it's important to note that the cost of living in the country is also quite high, especially in the biggest cities.

From housing and food to transportation and entertainment, expect all costs of living to be expensive, especially if you're moving to Norway from a country with a lower standard.

Furthermore, Norway also has high tax levels in order to support its abundant welfare safety net, so expect a decent portion of your earnings to end up in the state's coffers each year.

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2. The language

While generally speaking, Norwegian speak and understand English quite well, the vast majority of job opportunities in the country are reserved for Norwegian speakers.

That can make it challenging for people moving to Norway without a job offer in place to find a job opportunity in their area of expertise.

Furthermore, it can also be challenging to integrate into society and create a new circle of friends without speaking the Norwegian language.

Unsurprisingly, Norwegian language courses at language schools are quite expensive, and you'll need to invest a lot of time to develop your fluency to a level that guarantees proficiency.

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3. The weather

While there are significant differences between different parts of the country, on average, Norway's climate can be described as cool and wet.

The winters in Norway are long, and summers are short. So if you have a strong preference for warmer weather, take this factor into consideration.

Some Norwegian cities – such as Bergen and Trondheim – see almost absurd precipitation levels each year.

If you end up living in any of the two (and many others), you'll need to invest in weather-proof clothing and adapt to a new lifestyle (which involves not letting lousy weather stop your plans for the day).

Residents of Norway's "Rain Capital", Bergen, have a saying: "There's no bad weather, only bad clothes."

Take these words of wisdom to heart.

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4. Being far away from loved ones

One aspect of life in Norway that isn't talked about that often is the creeping sense of loneliness and isolation that some migrants feel after moving to the country.

This can be a challenge, especially if you moved to a small and remote town in Norway, with limited opportunities for socialisation and restricted flight options.

The language barrier can also be a problem, especially in the first year or two after you make the move.

There's nothing wrong with missing your family and friends - just make sure you're working on developing new social contacts that will contribute to your well-being in the Far North.

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