Moving to Norway
Norway conjures up images of Vikings, fjords and trolls, and is traditionally known for its dramatic and breath-taking scenery. In recent years, however, expats have been moving to Norway for its success as an oil-producing and exporting nation, its high standard of living, and 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 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 mind when negotiating their salary package.
Norway has a population of just over 5 million in an area covering 385,155 square kilometres. The bulk of the population lives in the southern half, while the north is sparsely populated. Nearly 650,000 people live in Oslo, the capital. 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 medical services (minus dental) and free education. Parents receive a year of paid paternity leave, with the parents splitting the time between the mother and the father. A recent 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. Transparency is also important, with documents and tax information both being publically accessible.
Norwegians are on the whole very proud of their country and heritage. The Norwegian spirit is best seen on May 17th, the national holiday celebrating the establishment of the Norwegian constitution in 1814 - which, incidentally, makes it the second oldest constitution in the world. It is celebrated with more fanfare than is witnessed in many other countries.