21 Things to Know Before Moving to Norway
Norway is the best nation in the world, so if you’re thinking of moving there, gratulerer! (congratulations!)
Don’t take it from us, though – take it from the United Nations’ Human Development Index, which has ranked this Scandinavian wonderland as its top nation since 2009.
But to fully enjoy a country, you must first understand it – and that’s where we come in. This list will prepare you for all the joys and occasional cultural tribulations of Nordic life.
The beautiful, UNESCO-protected area of Geirangerfjord
1. Life in Norway costs more
Your new home in Scandinavia may be wonderful, but it comes at a price.
Norway is the third-most expensive country in Europe, according to Eurostat, sitting a massive 38.4 percentage points above the continent’s average.
The UK is a pricey place to live, but it can’t compete with Norway, which beats its British counterpart by 23.7 percentage points.
Even Londoners will feel uneasy when confronted with some Norwegian price tags, so make sure you have enough money in reserve, and a job that pays well enough.
2. Happiness awaits
Norway is the fifth-happiest country in the world, according to the 2020 World Happiness Report.
And its two biggest cities – capital Oslo and colourful Bergen – are in the top seven happiest cities in the world.
The report explains the best countries have widespread social support, freedom, trust, and generosity, as well as a high average income and life expectancy – and Norway succeeds in all these areas, with a welfare system that promotes kindness and equality.
3. The healthcare system is second to one
Norway provides its inhabitants with the second-best healthcare in the world, behind only Iceland, according to a 2018 study published in The Lancet and funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Norway’s healthcare system is universal, meaning everyone in the country is automatically enrolled. Once you’ve registered as a resident after three months in Norway, you’ll have access to the same medical services as a native.
It’s not free – but then again, no healthcare system is. You’ll have to pay taxes, and fulfil copayments for GP and hospital services, as well as prescriptions.
If you’re thinking of getting private medical cover in Norway, we recommend Cigna. With four levels of annual cover to choose from and extra modules for more flexibility, Cigna will sort you out with a plan that suits your needs.
Start building a customised plan with a free quote to protect your most important assets – you and your family.
4. You have the right to camp (almost) anywhere
It is the right of everyone in Norway to camp in nature, as long as you respect your surroundings and stay at least 150 metres from the nearest house, cabin, or caravan.
This is known as allemannsretten, which literally means “every man’s right” but is more accurately translated as “freedom to roam”.
Just make sure you ask the landowner if you want to stay longer than two nights – but most Norwegians will be happy to let you.
5. Norway takes care of its people
The average person is better off living in Norway. Think of a measure, and the country’s excelling in it.
Norway has the lowest rates of undernourishment and unsafe water in the world, according to the Social Progress Index, and gives new parents 12 months of leave between them.
Taxes are high, but that just means you can go to school and university for free, your healthcare (as previously mentioned) is top-notch, and you’ll be properly supported if you lose your job.
The policies work, as demonstrated by the fact that just 0.07% of Norway’s population is homeless – six times lower than the UK’s rate of 0.42%.
6. Democracy is flourishing
Norway is the undisputed champion of democracy. The country has topped the Democracy Index rankings every year since 2010.
Trust is a crucial part of building a fully functioning democracy – and thankfully, Norway is the most trusting nation on Earth, according to Our World in Data.
74% of the population in the country think that most people can be trusted, which is an overwhelmingly positive sign of a functioning society.
7. Coffee is extraordinarily popular
Proportionally, Norway is the second-biggest consumer of coffee in the world. Each Norwegian drinks, on average, 21.82 pounds of coffee per year.
That’s roughly 1,000 cups of hot bean juice every year – or 2.7 per day.
Norwegians generally take it black with breakfast and with dessert at dinner. You may well be invited to someone’s home specifically for coffee, which will often be served with delicious pastries.
There are many picturesque places to have a morning cuppa
8. Gender equality is (almost) a reality
Norway is second only to Iceland in the gender equality stakes, according to the Global Gender Gap Report 2020.
The Norwegian government has an official body that works to create full gender equality.
It does so by seeking and utilising “knowledge of gender perspectives, as well as an intersectional approach – seeing how gender intersects with race, age, sexuality, disability etc.”
9. The country is an LGBT haven
Norway is the 10th-safest country in the world for LGBT people, according to the LGBTQ+ Danger Index.
Anti-discrimination laws have protected all LGBT individuals since 2013, same-sex marriage and adoption have both been legal since 2009, and LGBT soldiers have been able to serve openly since 1979.
And unlike in the UK, transgender people in Norway are able to self-identify their gender without the need for medical intervention or a psychological evaluation – and have been since 2016.
The Nordic nation’s progressive attitude was on view in 2005, when groundbreaking LGBT rights activist Kim Friele came fourth in the country’s Norwegian of the Century poll.
10. Enjoy Taco
Taco Fredag (Taco Friday) has become a weekly tradition for many families across the country.
44% of the population have tacos at least once per week, but the real cultural phenomenon happens on Friday, when 13% of Norwegians sit down to this Mexican dish.
At the end of the week, families enjoy a more communal, unusual meal that the kids can mostly make themselves. Tacos are also extremely tasty, which is reason enough.
11. It’s easy being green
The social taboo over electric vehicles is declining all over Europe, and no more so than in Norway.
The Scandinavian country broke the global record in 2020, with electric vehicles accounting for 54.3% of all new car sales.
But Norway’s not just the first nation in which the majority of a year’s new car buyers went electric – it’s also one of the most eco-friendly energy consumers in the world.
An incredible 98% of the country’s electricity production is renewable. Hydropower makes up 96.3% of this total, with wind and thermal energy also contributing.
12. Most people speak English – but you should learn Norwegian
Around 68% of people in Norway speak English, so you shouldn’t have any issues making yourself understood.
However, if you intend to make friends in your new home, you should learn norsk, as most Norwegians will speak their native language while socialising.
Norway is a wonderful place for families
13. This is the best place to raise children
Won’t somebody please think of the children? Don’t worry – Norway already has.
This explains why the Nordic country topped the rankings in a 2020 study commissioned by the World Health Organisation (WHO), United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF), and The Lancet.
This authoritative trio judged 180 countries on the extent to which children were able to:
- Live in a safe and clean environment
- Have a fair chance in life
- Be protected from violence and exploitation
So if you want your kids to grow up with every opportunity for a high-quality life, take them to Norway.
14. Watch the gap
Personal space is important to people in Norway, and should be respected.
The phenomenon has even given rise to a series of memes based around the idea that social distancing was exactly the same before and during the COVID-19 pandemic.
When talking to someone, don’t stand too close, and resist any impulse you may have to give them a friendly pat or put an arm round their shoulders.
Basically, don’t risk it until you’re completely sure that your actions won’t make your new friends extremely uncomfortable.
15. Don’t expect big shows of affection
In general, Norwegians are not particularly emotional or affectionate.
They often let their guard down when drunk, but even if that happens, it doesn’t mean they’ll acknowledge any deep conversations you shared when they next see you.
You may therefore struggle to work out exactly where you stand with a new friend or love interest. To lessen your confusion, watch for smaller, more implicit signals like an invite to an event, or a wave of recognition.
These signs of affection aren’t given out easily, so place more importance on them.
16. You can feel safe here
Norway is the 17th-safest country in the world, according to the Global Peace Index – 25 places above the UK.
The Scandinavian nation would be even higher in the rankings, if it wasn’t for its high military spending and the amount of weapons it exports.
And the number of offences reported to police in 2019 was the lowest since records began, according to the government’s data body, Statistics Norway.
17. It’s skiing heaven
There’s an old saying that “Norwegians are born with skis on their feet”, and it may as well be true.
Children start out on the slopes at a very young age, and are encouraged to go skiing during their winter holiday, known as vinterferie.
The sport is ubiquitous in Norway, with studies estimating that as many as 70% of Norwegian adults own a part of skis that they use themselves.
You’ll have 170 ski resorts to choose from, and you should take full advantage if you can.
Just don’t complain. Being invited on a ski trip means you’ve been accepted, but not to the extent you can criticise anything. The national obsession is a little cult-like, so be positive.
Skiing is a way of life in this part of the world
18. The Winter Olympics is a big deal…
It makes sense that the ultimate test of skiing prowess is exalted in Norway. For two weeks every four years, the country stops – and with good reason.
Despite being home to just 5.4 million people, Norway has the most gold, silver, and bronze medals of any country in the history of the Winter Olympics.
With a sports budget just a tenth the size of the UK’s, this small nation takes the world by storm every four years – not least in 2018, when it topped the medal table ahead of global superpowers Germany and the US.
Norway consistently collects a haul of skiing and speed skating medals, while the nation watches on intently – but make sure you leave any mean-spirited ‘banter’ in the UK, as the country’s sporting culture is based around camaraderie.
19. …but football is life
If you’re a football fan, your love for the beautiful game will be an excellent way to make friends in Norway, where the English Premier League is wildly popular.
But it’s not just about watching. The country has 325,000 registered players, including 80,000 women and girls, making football Norway’s number one women’s sport.
This popularity led to the national women’s team winning the 1995 World Cup and taking gold at the 2000 Olympic Games.
Oh, and get ready to hear the name Erling Braut Haaland a lot.
The Norwegian Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjær has made his country proud, but the excitement Haaland produces among his fellow Norwegians is incomparable.
The son of former Manchester City star Alf-Inge Håland is destroying records (with his) left and right, and Norwegian fans hope his goals will launch them into their first men’s World Cup since 1998.
20. Try the salmon
Norway’s salmon is delicious, and also an international trendsetter. After all, it’s the reason we have salmon sushi.
Back in the 1980s, Norway had a massive surplus of the buttery fish. The government’s solution: Project Japan.
After years of effort and with the help of a significant discount or two, this cleverly executed marketing plan succeeded in convincing Japanese companies to buy salmon and put it on sushi – and the rest is history.
So along with skiing, make sure you memorise the fact that Norway is responsible for salmon sushi. If you want to casually drop into conversation too, that wouldn’t hurt.
21. Don’t tip – round up
Tipping isn’t customary in Norway.
It’s standard practice to round up your bill to the nearest 10 or 100 kroner, but leaving anything above that is unusual.
No-one will be offended if you pay an extra 10% or 20%, but they will be extremely surprised.