Ranked as the ‘best country to live in the world’ for the 12th year in a row by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), there are plenty of reasons to consider moving to Norway.
It’s a country that offers outstanding natural beauty – epic fjords, glaciers and fertile landscapes – along with an incredibly high standard of living, long life expectancy and health, as well as outstanding education.
If you’re looking for a place to relocate where you can find the perfect work-life balance, then Norway should be at the top of your list. Whether you’re looking for a vibrant city life or a remote country lifestyle, Norway has it all in abundance.
The capital city, Oslo, is brimming with culture, arts, and has a busy social scene, whereas Bergen further north on the West Coast is a great place for city life and outdoor activities, including skiing, hiking, and fishing.
The quaint and sleepy towns dotted throughout the country offer a quiet rural life, where age old traditions and practices are still heavily used today for fishing and agriculture, but with great transport links to bigger cities for the best of both worlds.
Visas and becoming a citizen
With a country of this size, the population currently stands at just over five million, but this is continually growing due to the attractive prospects of life in Norway.
Part of the Schengen Agreement and Visa Waiver Program (VWP), means those who wish to travel to Norway from all EU/EEA countries, as well as most major countries including the United States, Australia, New Zealand and Japan, can do so without requiring a visitor’s visa, providing they have a valid passport and stay no longer than 90 days.
However, if you are planning on moving to Norway for the foreseeable there are a number of visa options available, such as family visas, working permits, study permits, permanent residence permits and citizenship.
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Working permits for Norway
In order to work in Norway you will need to apply for a residence permit, which typically requires you to have found a job prior to the application and those aged 18-55 years will be required to complete a certain number of hours approved Norwegian language tuition.
Applying for Norwegian citizenship
In principle, applying for citizenship in Norway is relatively straightforward, however different rules apply depending on your residence credentials, so it’s worth checking with the UDI, or you can find more in depth information here.
Equality plays an important role in Norwegian life. With low poverty rates and a reasonably even distribution of wealth across the population, it’s not surprising that this equality extends to the healthcare system. Legal Norwegian residents, expats and nationals alike, can enjoy access to excellent public healthcare that’s state funded through tax revenues and a national insurance scheme.
Legally residing expats will pay taxes that contribute to the healthcare system, which means you can receive primary care in the state hospitals and clinics.
However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that all treatments will be covered and free, so expats may want to consider voluntary contributions to the national insurance scheme to boost their health insurance cover just in case.
The job market in Norway is buoyant and prospering. On average the wage rates are higher than most of Europe and they have a well below average unemployment rate of 4.6%, which makes it very attractive for foreigners.
As a country rich in natural resources, such as North Sea oil and gas, it’s not surprising that this is one of its main industries. It’s also one of the world’s largest exporters for these resources, too.
Because of this, many foreigners moving to Norway will look to the oil and gas industry in the major cities of Oslo and Stavanger, as well as offshore locations off the expansive coastline. Another attraction with the oil and gas industry is that often English is the common working language with so many foreign companies, so you can get round not speaking fluent Norwegian.
Other job sectors
For other sectors, employment can be a little trickier for expats, as many employers require applicants to be fluent in Norwegian, despite the majority of the country speaking English.
However, language courses are readily available in all cities, but the number of hours’ tuition required will vary depending on the sectors you’re working in.
Popular sectors for foreigners to apply for employment include tourism, services, fisheries as well as the gas and oil industries.
Essential info for Norway:
|Official languages:||Norwegian and Sami (spoken in 9 municipalities)|
|Currency:||Norwegian Krone (NOK)|
|International dialling code:||+47|
|Emergency numbers:||(police) 112 (ambulance) 113 (fire) 110|
|Drives on the:||right|
|Tipping:||In restaurants and bars, tipping isn’t required, as service and taxes are included in the bill. Although it isn’t unusual for Norwegians to leave an additional tip of 10-15% if they’re particularly happy with the service.|
|Unusual fact:||The number of Norwegian descendants living in the United States is almost the same as the number of Norwegians living in the whole of Norway.|
As a rule, Norwegians take great pride in their homes, so whether you’re looking at buying or renting in Norway you’ll find well-built houses and apartments with everything you could need in terms of mod cons and comforts.
However, this quality along with an expensive cost of living comes at a price. Buying or renting property in Norway isn’t cheap so you may find your options are more limited if you’re not covered by company expenses. Naturally, some of the most expensive places to buy and rent are in Oslo and neighbouring Bærem.
Renting in Norway
For those looking to get a feel for the place first by renting, you’ll find most rental properties come fully furnished to a high standard. Having said that most Norwegians (almost 80%), will in fact opt to buy property, despite the high prices, as the long-term tax benefits are far greater.
For example, an average two-bed apartment in a good neighbourhood in Oslo can set you back around NOK 16,000pcm, whereas to buy a similar sized apartment, you’re looking at NOK 3,800,000.
Of course, the price always depends on location, so if you can be more flexible about the area you live in, you may find a better deal. Venturing a little further out into the suburbs, countryside or even other cities, such as Bergen and Stavanger will see significantly lower prices that are much more affordable. Being flexible on your locations can mean your money goes a lot further.
Buying a home in Norway
If you are in the market for buying a property, you’ll first need to apply for a mortgage, which will also need to be approved by a bank. Only then should you put in an offer on a property, as the process works through bidding.
So if a buyer accepts your bid and your finances aren’t in order, you could potentially lose the property and be back to square one.
Cost of Moving to Norway
One thing you will need to factor in with a move to Norway is the cost of transporting all your belongings from your home. Naturally the prices will vary depending on where you’re coming from and where you’re headed, but here are a few price indications to give you a rough estimate of shipping to Norway from around the world.
|London to Oslo||£400 GBP|
|New York to Oslo||£1,800 GBP|
|Tokyo to Oslo||£2,300 GBP|
|San Diego to Oslo||£2,800 GBP|
|Dubai to Oslo||£4,430 GBP|
|Sydney to Oslo||£4,900 GBP|
There’s no getting around the fact that living in Norway is expensive and although the average wages are higher, so are the tax rates and general cost of living for rent and utilities, which may not leave you with huge amounts of disposable income.
Norway has plenty to offer in terms of culinary delights and you’ll find most of the regular items you’re looking for, but a lot of the food is imported, therefore expensive. One of the most reasonably priced foods to look out for is local fish and seafood – although it’s still more expensive than the UK and the US.
One of the other major drains on living costs is alcohol, which is considerably more expensive than most countries and can only be bought from a Vinmonopolet, unless you’re in a restaurant or bar. The average price of a beer ranges from 60-80 NOK, and a bottle of mid-range wine will set you back at least 120 NOK.
For many Norwegians, a trip over the border to neighbouring Sweden is a far more attractive and cost-effective way to do a weekly shop, as the food is up to 20% cheaper.
In terms of eating out, you can get a reasonably cheap ‘fast-food’ meal for between 100-120 NOK, but a three-course meal in a restaurant is likely to become reserved for special occasions, with the average meal costing around 300-400 NOK.
The main expense for living will inevitably be your rent, but other essentials include your basic utilities such as water, electric, heating and waste disposal rate, which currently average at 1,700-1,800 NOK per month for a standard household. No doubt you’ll want to keep in touch with the world, so the internet will be a vital expense and will set you back around 300-350 NOK per month, depending on your tariff and usage.
Getting around in Norway shouldn’t be a problem as it boasts a fantastic transportation system with excellent roads, public transport, ferries and trains. Understandably with so much coastline, one of the most effective and scenic ways to get about is on one of the many ferry lines that run up and down the coastline as well as in and out of Oslo. It’s a great way to see the stunning coastline and relatively cheap, too.
In the cities you’ll find a whole array of transport available and cost-effective monthly passes for 680 NOK; Oslo, Trondheim and Bergen have particularly good public transport available with buses, metros and trams, so you could get away with not having a car if you lived in the city.
However, if you live out of the city there are also trains and buses, but a car might be an easier and more convenient mode of transport. Having said that, cars can be expensive with a new Golf 1.4-litre or equivalent costing around 269,000 NOK and high fuel prices to boot.
Schools and education
When it comes to access to knowledge and the educational system, Norway offers exceptional education that’s compulsory for everyone from the ages of 6-16. They also offer an “optional” three years study up to the age of 19, which most students attend as there are few job opportunities without these qualifications.
All public education is free and regulated by the local municipalities and lessons are taught solely in Norwegian, unless it's’ a foreign language class.
Norwegian school system
The school system is broken down into Primary School (Barneskole), Lower Secondary School (Ungdomsskole) and Upper Secondary School (Videregående skole). Primary education covers the 1st to 7th grade (6-13 years) where kids will learn a core subjects such as maths, Norwegian, English and social studies.
Children are then moved to a lower secondary school for three years, which is where they will be graded and choose a lead subject, such as foreign languages. This stage must be completed in order to move to Upper Secondary School, which is another three years of study to achieve the highest diploma.
There are also now a number of private and international schools in the cities, which are popular with a lot of expats and offer International Baccalaureates that equate to a British GCSE.
Universities in Norway
If you want your kids to attend higher education, then Norway offers free attendance for Norwegian and International students, unless it’s for a private or specialist course at public state universities, colleges and institutions throughout the country. This is definitely a country that values education and equal access for all.
Driving In Norway
As Norway is considered and EU/EEA country, you can use a valid EU/EEA issued driving license without the need to exchange it for a Norwegian one. For countries not in the EU/EEA you can drive up to three months, however if you’re looking for a permanent move you will need to pass a practical exam within a year to receive a valid Norwegian driving license.
Motorist in Norway drive on the right-hand side of the road in right-hand drive cars, which isn’t a problem for most of the world, but for those used to driving on the left, it may take some getting used to. It’s also important to factor in the different driving conditions you’ll encounter in Norway too, as winter conditions will mean severe ice and snow and require snow chains.
It’s also worth noting that many of the excellent roads are located in the south of the country, so if you’re heading north be prepared for less travelled roads with single lanes and tougher terrains as you head into the mountains.
Ranking against the world
As we’ve already mentioned, Norway has been consistently ranked the best place to live in the world, which means it ranks well against other nations, such as the US, UK, Canada and Australia. It has also been named the most prosperous country too for the seventh year in a row, which is fundamentally down to the outdoors lifestyle and healthy living.
The Norwegians are an incredibly family oriented nation, so a move to Norway will mean you can have a healthy work-life balance, where the family and quality of life comes first. Most working days are 7.5 hours and there’s little or no expectation to take work home with you, unlike the US and Japan, so once you’re out the door, you can simply enjoy the fruits of your labour with expansive outdoors, stunning coastline and a healthy lifestyle.
Although, the high standards of living, healthcare and education speak for themselves on paper, it’s often the smaller details that really sell it into people, such as the sophisticated culture, arts and outdoor leisure.
For anyone who’s looking to be at one with nature at its best then Norway is a fantastic choice, as you’ll have nature and beauty in abundance with the Northern Lights, fjords, glaciers and mountain ranges. However one things for sure, you’ll have to be prepared to pay for these privileges along the way as life in Norway is far from cheap.