This blogpost is inspired by an article published in The Huffington Post stating 25 reasons why Norway is the greatest place on Earth. Here are my own reasons Norway is that place.
Before I tell you why I think Norway really is the best place on Earth, let’s get this straight: Norway is not the best country on Earth for everyone. Norway is the worst place on Earth for you:
– If you want to wear flip flops all year around, sit on a beach and get a tan every single day (and tans from UV boxes in Brun og Blid do not count), drink from a coconut while lying on a white sand beach full of palm trees (drinking coconut water from a box on a white sand beach in Ramberg does not count either), then Norway is closer to being a nightmare than a dream place for you. Then move to Australia.
In Norway there is something called winter, and another one called seasons. And another one called Norwegian-weather-is-totally-unpredictable. Which means that it can get cold in the summer, and there can be 4 seasons in one day. But fore seasons will change, as well as colours on the trees and daylight will fluctuate depending on the month. There are still long and dark winters here compared to most inhabited places on the planet, with a risk of winter depression. Remember, the Arctic circle goes through Norway. This is country is in the Northern part of the Northern hemisphere.
– Also, if you hate outdoor activities such as hiking, swimming in fjords or freezing lakes with happy Norwegians jumping in like it’s 20 degrees in there, skiing in the winter and in the summer (a local activity called bikini skiing); then you will have trouble fitting in this country where everything is made for people who love being outdoors.
– If you think paradise is a place where there are no taxes. That poor people should stay poor (isn’t it a bit their fault if they are poor?) and there is no way those who earn more should pay higher taxes based on the solidarity principle.
– Neither is it if you believe the only intervention a country’s economy should be Adam Smith’s invisible hand, and that a welfare state where the state regulates virtually every aspect of society and economy is blasphemy, then Norway is definitely to be avoided. You will get here and think this country is a bunch of socialists with oil money, a dangerous mix.
– If you think the place of a woman is in a kitchen taking care of children, while men go to work and earn the bread and butter of the family. Where machism is king and women should do as they are told,..
Otherwise for all the other right reasons listed below, Norway is still the best place on Earth to be!
1. Gender equality. In Norway, a man equals a woman and vice versa. It is not to the level that there is an absolutely equal pay between genders, and it doesn’t stretch to situations where men go out dressed as women without the rise of a few eyebrows. But all in all at work, at school and in society in general people are treated equal whether they are a man or a women. No dirty jokes at work, no blockage of your career because you are a woman. See on this topic The Joys of Being a Woman in Norway
2. Extraordinary working conditions. In Norway the laws protecting worker rights are strong and applied. The culture of compromise going on here make it unacceptable to scream at your employees, or sexually harass them. Hierarchy is quite flat even at work, encouraging a sense of equality. Most important of all, it is accepted that workers have a life outside of work, which will allow you to get out of your office earlier than you would in your home country. This applies to jobs with a legal contract, I imagine the situation is different for those with jobs on the black market. If you have any experience on this send me a message with your experience.
3. High salaries. It is true that life is expensive in Norway, but salaries are proportionate to the cost of living. If you earn a Norwegian salary, you will be able to buy those 3 or 4 euro coffees, and you might even manage to pay for a beer without selling your organs (I forgot to say that if you like cheap booze Norway is not the right place for you). The gap between the highest paid person and the lowest paid person is much thinner than in other countries, that is because everyone is paid a decent salary even if your job is to clean toilets. If you want to come to Norway as a tourist, then see my tips on how to visit in Norway on a budget.
4. Stunning nature. Norway is home to magnificent fjords, mountains, islands, seashore, lakes, northern lights, midnight sun and all the nature you’ve always dreamed of. For pictures, you can go directly to the Huffington Post article that inspired this blogpost.
5. Clean air, low pollution and proximity of nature. Almost anywhere in the country air is clean, and if you are in a city centre then take a bus for 20 minutes and you will be in the middle of the forest. This applies to Oslo as well, and it is a luxury that not many capital cities can offer in this industrialised and urbanised world we live in.
6. Long parental leave for both parents. Because of a functioning tax and social security system, a high proportion of the active Norwegian population working and paying tax, and political will of course, people working in Norway get much longer parental leaves than in any country I’ve seen (check out NAV regulations on this). Each couple gets 49 weeks parental leave with 100% of their salaries. Fathers get a minimum quota of 10 weeks (also called pappapermisjon) and mothers get a minimum of 13 weeks. The rest of the leave (26 weeks) is to be shared among the couple as they please. Same rules apply to same-sex couples. Yes, Norway is also gay-friendly.
6. Norway has a low corruption index and good ethics.
Catchy titles in Norwegian media have called Norway the “most corrupt in Scandinavia” but if seen from another angle, the 4th or 5th cleanest countries in the world. Transparency is king here regarding anyone’s tax situation, including politicians’. Any political action of nepotism or conflict of interest will get you fired almost on the spot, a habit which is unheard of in other Southern countries including my own (Sarkozy is accused in 7 cases and is still running for presidential election). Think about it, could Jens Stoltenberg have been taken in a bunga bunga or other corruption scandal without losing his job? I don’t think so. Berlusconi wouldn’t even exist on the political scenery in Norway. See the EU report on corruption in Norway for judges, parliament and prosecutors.
7. Low racism compared to other European countries.
I am not saying racism does not exist in Norway, it does like everywhere else in the world. However racism here is weaker and more subtle than in other European countries such as the UK or France. In Great Britain there are racist crimes such as being stabbed for being Muslim, in France a black Minister was recently compared to a monkey by a magazine, and some politicians still deny the Holocaust.
In Norway I’ve heard first hand stories of Somali taxi drivers in Oslo getting racist comments by clients, and during a heated debate last year many Norwegians with foreign background came out to talk about discrimination and racism they face every day. Like in any other European country, the darker you look and the more foreign your name sounds the more exposed you will be to such comments and discriminatory acts.
However it will hardly ever go beyond words: racism won’t get you killed or beaten in Norway, and integrating is possible especially if you speak the language and have a job. I know that does not sound that comforting but on the scale of worst it isn’t that bad. Note that this might be changing, with FrP in the government and the term “ethnic Norwegian” being over-used in the media without anyone seeming to realise its dangerous scope: racism in Norway might be on the rise in the future.
8. Norway’s economy is strong. Thanks to oil and a good management of the oil money Norway has no public debt. Good management includes not giving oil exploitation shares to your friends and family when you are at a leadership position, it also includes sharing the money with your fellow citizens and not building yourself a golden castle in your hometown. Also, unemployment rate is low (less than 4%) and the Norwegian Pensiun Fund is getting richer by the minute.
9. Respect and trust in human kind exist in this country, and it is applied to every aspect of life, from the Norsk Turistforening that gives you keys to their cabins in the woods, to the Norwegian prison system. In any other country, even a Western one, Breivik would have been shot on the spot on the Utøya. No in Norway he was taken to a jail by police officers respecting the law and the idea that everyone is innocent until proven guilty even though the guy had just shot teenagers in front of their eyes. And now in his prison he is treated well. He did complain that the special anti-stabbing pen he was given to write cramps his hand, describing it as “an almost indescribable manifestation of sadism”. Hum. Maybe he should meet some guys who survived a Syrian prison, just for him to learn what those word mean.
10. Freedom. As long as you don’t scream “Sweden is the best” in a cross country skiing competition you will be free in Norway. No seriously, Norway offers freedom to everyone, what do you think those huge empty forests and lakes are for?
What does it feel like to live in such country? Well, high ethics mixed with high transparency, accountable politicians and freedom to be whoever you want to be makes Norway an easy country to live in. Some Norwegians and foreigners complain Norway is predictable and boring. I say that if boring means my train always leaves on time and public money is spent to build hospitals and schools like it is supposed to, I wish more places in the world were as “boring” as Norway.