Norway is the dream. But don’t take our word for it, because the United Nations agree too. According to their latest Human Development Report, which ranks the best countries in the world to live in, Norway has been first place for 13 consecutive years. Understandably, moving here is something more and more people consider – but are you actually prepared to make the jump? Below we’ve gathered some nuggets of first-hand knowledge that will help you avoid the most common expat mistakes and start your new life in Norway.
As a rule of thumb, if you’re a Nordic citizen or a passport holder from the EU/EUA area or the Schengen countries, you won’t need a visa to enter Norway – but you’re facing restrictions in terms of your stay that wouldn’t apply in an EU country (we’ll get to that later). Passport holders from the US, Australia, New Zealand and some Latin American countries will also be able to enter without a visa. But to make sure what applies in your case, visit the Norwegian Directorate of Immigration‘s official website, state the country of your citizenship, and the system will offer you personalised information. If it turns out you do need a visa, you can get a visitors’s visa, which costs 60 euros and will be valid for 90 days.
Each case is different. If you’re a Nordic citizen, you don’t have to do anything; just report your move after six months. If you’re here on a visa, you have three months – after which time you need to leave the country and then re-enter it. Citizen of an EU/EUA country? You have nine months in total. On your third month in Norway you have to register as a job seeker, which gives you six more months to pursue career opportunities. So it’s really important to start your job search well before arriving in Norway. Also it may sound obvious, but learning the language will go a long way towards your job search efforts, as many companies only do job postings or accept applications in Norwegian.
Woohoo, you got the job! Now it’s time to get settled. The first step is to get a National Identity Number, which will allow you to open a bank account. Then, you need to head to a tax office to get a tax deduction card, which your employers will need to calculate how much tax they will deduct from your salary each month (taxation in Norway is steep, but fair). And finally you have to register to Folkeregister as a resident of your local municipality, in order to be entitled to healthcare – but that will happen automatically once you start paying taxes (i.e. after your first month’s salary).
Finding an apartment in Norway is neither easy, nor cheap – that’s why most Norwegians prefer to buy rather than rent (the monthly instalments of most bank loans are lower than what you’d have to pay for rent). The problem is that, although you could find more reasonably priced accommodation outside big cities like Oslo, Bergen, Trondheim or Stavanger, the big cities are usually where the job opportunities are. Let’s take Oslo, for example: an apartment in a “nice” neighborhood like Frogner could set you back around 1,700 euros per month, whereas in one of the more gentrified, hip neighborhoods like Grünerløka or Tøyen, around 1,200 euros per month. It’s no wonder then, that many people choose to flatshare. Websites like Finn or Hybel are great resources to get you started with finding an apartment and a roommate, but you should also check relevant Facebook groups about renting apartments or rooms in the city you’re interested in.
We’d like you to sit down for a moment and absorb this information: deposits consist of three months’ worth of rent. Which means that before you even enter your new home, you’ll have to pay four months worth of rent (three for the deposit and the current rent). The good news is that your deposit money will stay on a sealed account and you will get it back at the end of your lease.
Printing all that paper is obviously not great for the environment and Norwegians, like all Scandinavians, are always trying to live eco-friendly lives. Βut the added benefit of making transactions via cards or apps is that they’re safer and easier to verify, which helps with combating tax evasion and fraud. Vipps is one of Norway’s most beloved mobile payment methods, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a place that doesn’t accept most credit cards and debit cards. In fact, nowadays, there are quite a few places that only accept cards and not cash.
Αny alcohol stronger than 4.7% in Norway is regulated by the state, and only sold through state-run vinmonopolet shops that close early in the afternoon (no alcohol for you after 3 p.m. on a Saturday!) and remain closed on Sundays. As for the below 4.7% alcohol you see at the supermarket? Well, you can see it but you can’t always touch it. It’s only available until 8 p.m. on weekdays, 6 p.m. on Saturdays and never on a Sunday.
Several things will probably happen to you here. First, you’ll realize how expensive it is to eat outside, and you’ll focus on making food at home. Then, at the supermarket, you’ll notice that items you’ve learned to consider expensive back home (like salmon, good quality butter and berries) are actually quite cheap here – and soon your diet will be just a bit more Scandinavian. Furthermore, there’s an abundance of vegetarian and vegan options that are actually delicious and cheap – so you may end up switching to a plant-based diet. And finally, you’ll think twice about what you’re throwing away. Norwegians compost food and recycle everything else, using a system that makes it really easy for you to also live an eco-conscious life.
Forests are your friends – especially during foraging season. Every year from July until October, you can forage berries and mushrooms in any Norwegian forest. It’s your right, as it’s your right to roam freely, hike, ski and camp, pick flowers and chop wood for fire. You can fish on the fjords, swim at the lakes and beaches, camp at forests and fields, ski the mountains in the winter. Very soon you’ll learn that nature in Norway is a great provider – and if that’s not a great shift in mentality, we don’t know what is.
Polar night may only be a thing in the northern part of the country, where the sun won’t rise for months, but even in the south lack of daylight can be a serious issue. With the sun setting at 3 p.m., it may be hard to get all the vitamin D your body is used – and you may end up feeling exhausted or sad as a result. So take your supplements and rest assured that in a few months you’ll be soaking in sunlight 24/7.