A guide for moving to Norway

Ok, I see this post is getting some traffic from Google on keywords such as ‘relocating to norway’, ‘moving to norway buying a house’, etc. etc. so before you start reading you should know that this article is a joke I published back in 2006. Ok, maybe it’s a little bit of truth in it. But it’s more of a rant than a serious guide. If you’re looking for something more serious you should probably try norway.no, a norwegian embassy like the (uk) one, or an american one. If you just plan on going as a tourist you should check out visitnorway.com. Thanks!

When moving to Norway there are a couple of things you should know. Hopefully this guide will help anyone who is relocating to Norway from any western country. You see, things will change.

1. You’ll need a car – since there are so few people in Norway, the public transport system either does not work or does not exist (depending on where you’re moving to). There’s no such thing as ‘the tube’ and no subway. Rumors has it they have a subway in Oslo, but it probably doesn’t work as it should nonetheless. Buses do exist in Norwegian towns, but they will not take you where you want to go when you want to go. So, you’ll need a car. This also applies even if you live in the middle of a city (e.g. Oslo).

2. Forget everything you know about cooking. Getting ingredients is very difficult, if not impossible, in Norway. The best supermarkets Norway has to offer – like Ultra and Meny – will have the basic stuff you need; potatoes, rice, sugar, some standard pasta and one type of minced meat. If you’re the kind of person who enjoys watching Jamie Oliver or BBC Food to get new ideas and recipies to use you should stop doing that after having moved to Norway. It will only make you frustrated, since you’ll not be able to get your hands on 50% of the ingredients they use. There are no such things as markets in Norway, neither meat, vegetables or fruit – you buy everything in the supermarket. Well, maybe some of the larger cities have markets around noon every other Saturnday but you shouldn’t bet on it.

So, prepare to eat a lot of frozen pizza. Unlike other countries, like e.g. Australia, where ordering pizza delivered is cheap – Norway actually has some decent frozen pizza’s. And we Norwegians eat a lot of frozen pizza. It’s not that we enjoy it so much, it’s more the lack of alternatives.

3. You’ll need a wine cellar. Getting your hands on alcohol is very difficult, since the government has a monopoly on selling it. The only shop that sells something else than beer is called “Vinmonopolet” and it’s closed most of the time. Expect it to be closed when you get home from work, so you need to plan ahead. Take a day off work to buy wine and other alcoholic beverages. Even though they are allowed to sell beer in normal grocery-stores, it’s only allowed at specific times, so they’ll probably not be allowed when you happen to be there (after work). So, buy lots of beer and store in your cellar as well.

4. Plan ahead. The “Plan ahead” strategy mentioned above, will be needed for much more than getting your alcohol in house. If you need to use the Norwegian Postal Service they will be closed when you get home from work. Also, most of the shops in the city centers also close pretty early, so they’ll be closed as well. So if you need to use any kind of public office, or buy something in a shop, you’ll need to take a day off. Just ask your boss – tell her that you need to buy wine or a new coat or post a letter or whatever – she’ll understand. Norway has very generous workers rights, so bosses usually understand.

5. Prepare for the weather. If you’re going in the summer – great! It’ll be light out most of the time (from early morning (0500) to late night (2400)). The summers in Norway are great. Except it rains a lot. If you’re going to stay during the winter you should bring anti-depressants. Or wait, you don’t have to bring them, cause anti-depressants is probably one of the few things you won’t have a problem getting your hands on in Norway as the pharmacies are open till late (some are even 24hr). The reason you’ll need anti-depressants if because it’ll always be dark. All the time. True, it’s only up in the north it’s dark all the time – but it won’t matter if you’re in the south cause it’ll be dark when you leave for work and when you get home it’ll be dark. So, if someone saw the sun from 13:00 to 13:30 that won’t affect you since you’ll be in your office then. If you haven’t taken the day off to buy alcohol that is.

You’ll still want to stay in shape even though the weater is crappy and you’re depressed. So, you should get a membership at a local gym. If you live in one of the “four cities” (Oslo, Bergen, Trondheim, Stavanger) chances are you’ll actually have a gym close to where you live. But expect to pay a lot (around $1000 a year), and the services will probably not be as good as what you’re used to. If you’re used to 24hr gyms you should try to forget all about them before moving to Norway. Some gyms close at 17:00 on Saturndays for instance. Yes, it is true.

6. Pay isn’t everything. Remember, if you’re moving to Norway for professional reasons – pay isn’t everything. Here are some simple calculas for you: deduct 40% from whatever you’re going to be paid (the government will have this). Deduct 25% from whatever you’re left with (this is the tax on everything you buy). So, it’s important that you like your job, cause you’ll spend all your money on the government. But don’t be bitter, remember they need the money to run “Vinmonopolet” and the postal service. It doesn’t matter if you won’t be able to use the services.

PS! Some of these facts might not be 100% accurate, and maybe I did use some irony here and there. And visiting Norway on vacation is probably a great idea, so if that’s the case you can ignore my rant.


Comment by Saft on 2006-03-25 15:11:42 +0000

Having a bad day, buddy? (: Is this a parody of something or did you just want to get out some frustration?

Comment by Bjørn on 2006-03-25 21:31:33 +0000

heh ;) well I guess it’s a combination. There is some truth in it though, which was illustrated to me once again today when I could not find frozen cranberries in the supermarket :angrysmiley: .. but I guess some people have bigger problems than that, huh?

Comment by Kenneth A. Dreyer on 2006-04-09 13:07:05 +0000

Great article. The scary part is that it’s actually true! Everything is closed when you get home from work, and the goverment do take almost all your money. What a great country!

Comment by Yggdrasil on 2006-06-16 16:10:25 +0000

For Americans, please note: Do not smile in Norway. Norwegians are not dumb, and they know that (1) they have never seen you before, so (2) you could not possibly be a friend, so (3) your smiles are obviously fake, and probably some devious plan to trick them. I learned this the hard way: When my friendly smiles only produced suspicion in response, I resolved to smile even more, and more. Finally I was unsuccessfully smiling until my face hurt and my jaws were cracking, and the only result was some Norwegians were convinced that I was stark raving mad. Do not smile in Norway, it is by far the safest. In fact, it is safest to regard all Norwegians with the greatest possible doubts you can conjure, resulting in their immediate trust and perhaps a friend for life, maybe even one you want.

Comment by JJ on 2010-12-22 18:08:39 +0000

I cannot stop laughing…

I am in ExpressionEngine’s forum a while ago and I saw you there, an active member from Norway. Cool. I got curious that is why I came up until this old article of yours.

I should have read your article before I came here in Norway. I wonder how were you able to observe these pointers where I will assume that you are already used to it. Lol.

Anyway, nice article and you rock… By the way, I am a newbie in CI and it rocks as well. I have strong interest in EE. Do you have any pointers on how to get grip with it?

Comment by Bjørn Børresen on 2010-12-23 15:11:29 +0000

haha, thanks JJ ;-)

As for EE I’d follow http://www.eeinsider.com news, the #eecms hashtag on Twitter, install EE locally and play around with it. Check out Bueno from WooThemes if you want to install EE with a theme to learn some of the tags etc. If you want to develop modules (sounds like you’re a CI dev so that’s probably where you’re heading) check out DevKit which will get you started: