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A Scandinavian country in northern Europe, Norway usually conjures up images of vikings, fjords, glaciers 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 booming economy, its high standard of living, excellent welfare 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. And owing 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 more than 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), and usually split 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.
The cost of living in Norway is undeniably high but, on average, salaries are relatively high too. The standard of living for both expats and locals is also correspondingly high, yet saving money can be 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.
Official name: Kingdom of Norway
Population: Around 5.2 million
Capital city: Oslo (also largest city)
Other cities: Bergen, Stavanger, Trondheim
Neighbouring countries: Norway shares borders with Sweden to the east, Russia and Finland to the northeast, and Denmark across the Skagerrak Strait.
Geography: Norway consists of a rugged coastline, broken by huge fjords and thousands of islands. Much of the country is dominated by mountainous or high terrain, with a great variety of natural features caused by prehistoric glaciers and varied topography. The most noticeable of these are the fjords: deep grooves cut into the land flooded by the sea following the end of the Ice Age.
Politcial system: Unitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy
Major religions: Christianity
Main languages: Norwegian (official). English is also widely understood.
Money: The Norwegian Krone (NOK) is divided into 100 ore. It is relatively easy for expats to open a bank account in Norway provided they have a national ID number (personnummer).
Tipping: Service charges range from 10 to 15 percent in most hotels and restaurants. Taxi fares are generally rounded up to the nearest krone.
Time: GMT+1 (GMT+2 from the last Sunday in March to the last Sunday in October)
Electricity: 220 volts, 50 Hz. Two-pin, round-prong plugs are used.
Internet domain: .no
International dialling code: +47
Emergency contacts: 112 (police), 113 (ambulance), 110 (fire)
Transport and driving: Cars drive on the right-hand side of the road. Public transport is efficient and easy to use, making getting around Norway very straightforward.
►For a balanced overview of expat life, read our Pros and Cons of Moving to Norway
"Everything is so clean and organised. If Norway were a company, one of their brand values would have to be “user-friendly”. Oslo is so neat, administration procedures are fairly simple and you can do most of it online." Read more about Salvadoran Gisèle's expat experience in Norway.
"Stavanger is beautiful. Gorgeous landscapes are around every corner, from the fjords to the ocean to the countryside." See Canadian expat Jay's full interview about life in Norway.
Are you an expat living in Norway?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Norway. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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