Moving to Norway

Norway conjures up images of Vikings, fjords and trolls, and is traditionally known for its dramatic and breathtaking scenery. In recent years, however, expats have been moving to the "Land of the Midnight Sun" for its success as an oil-producing and exporting country, its high standard of living, and its relatively strong job market.
With limited arable land and a long coastline, Norway's economy was traditionally based on fishing and shipping, until oil was discovered off its shores in the late 1960s. Thanks to rich natural resources in the form of fisheries, hydroelectric power and petroleum production, Norway has enjoyed strong economic growth. Due to the government’s wise investments in its national oil fund, the country currently enjoys one of the world’s biggest budget surpluses.

The combination of economic success, social welfare systems and egalitarian policies has led to Norway being ranked first in the United Nations Development Programme’s Human Development Index for several years in a row. Norway is also one of the world’s richest countries and its capital, Oslo, is consistently ranked as one of the planet’s most expensive cities. Expats moving to Norway should bear this in mind when negotiating their salary package.

Norway has a population of over 5 million; the bulk of the population lives in the southern half, while the north is sparsely populated. Oslo is the largest and most populated city, while other major cities include Stavanger on the southwest coast, Bergen on the west coast, and Trondheim on the northwest coast.

Norwegians pride themselves on their egalitarian policies and welfare state. Every person has the right to free or subsidised medical services (minus dental) and free education. Parents receive a year of paid maternity/paternity leave (also known as parental quota), with the parents splitting the time between the mother and the father. A law passed says the father must have three months of paternity leave that can be used up until the child is eight.

Public transport in Norway is excellent and varied, with metro, tram, bus and train systems linking most urban areas. Cities are often small enough to traverse on foot, though it might be better for expats who choose to live in a suburb to have a car.

On average, salaries in Norway are relatively high. The standard of living for both expats and locals is correspondingly high, yet saving money can be very difficult. Salary margins are narrow between blue collar and white collar, or C-level executives.

Norwegians are on the whole very proud of their country and heritage. The Norwegian spirit is best seen on 17 May, the national holiday celebrating the establishment of the Norwegian constitution in 1814 – which, incidentally, makes it one of the oldest constitutions in the world. It is celebrated with more fanfare than is witnessed in many other countries.

Anna Maria Our Expat Expert

Based in Oslo, Norway, Anna Maria is an intercultural trainer and consultant. She focuses on supporting inpats, expats and repats through their transition periods. She has spent 25 years as an expat. She has lived and worked in 17 countries on five continents. Growing up she spent 4-5 years each in the Netherlands, the US, Peru, and Thailand. She travels extensively to keep up friendships, writes for expat online and print publications and is learning to ski to survive the dark winter.