9 Reasons Not to Live in Norway

The internet is filled with breathtaking pictures of Norwegians fjords and lakes with pristine water, red wooden cabins and beautiful people hiking. “This is Norway” it usually says on those pictures and videos. Sure, those places exist and it is Norway, but Norway is also many other things. A new study by OsloMet (Oslo Metropolitan University) shows that 30,000 foreigners leave Norway every year (project EXITNORWAY). The researcher asks “Norway is lovely, why are people leaving?”. After almost 13 years in Norway, and as a foreigner myself, I can imagine a few reasons why people would leave. Norway is lovely indeed, but there are many reasons for foreigners to change their mind and leave after all.

  1. Hard to make Norwegian friends

It is possible to make Norwegian friends, of course, but it is harder to make local friends in Norway than almost anywhere else in the world. A survey by InterNations showed that Norway is 55th on the list, making it to the bottom 10 of the countries in the world where it is easiest to make local friends. The main reason is that Norwegians have built their own social network since early childhood. They have friends from kindergarten, primary school, middle school and high school. Then they have made friends at folkehøyskole, university and during Russ. They’ve made friends in summer camps, in youth political parties they were members of. Then when they finish their studies, they’ll maybe make a few friends along the way from work, but basically their friend quota is filled and you are late for that friendship train. They don’t have time for you anymore, however cool you may be. The last train you might be able to catch is making friends from work and with parents of other kids the same age as your kids (if you have any). But that implies that you speak Norwegian, and that they are interested in making new friends. It is however possible, read this for more tips on how to make local friends.

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2. The complexity of raising kids in Norway

About kids, raising children in Norway is a different ballgame than doing so in your home country. In Norway, the state has in a way a higher degree of protection duty on all kids living on the territory than their own parents. Any complaint or even a simple call to the Child Protection Services (Barnevernet) has to be followed up by a home visit and an investigation by the authorities. In Norway any kind of corporal punishment is totally illegal, whereas in other countries, for example the UK, smacking a child is still legal as long as it is “reasonable punishment”.

Barnevernet has been widely criticised in international media and accused of taking children away from their parents based on no proof, while others in Norway claim Barnevernet is not moving fast enough to protect children exposed to abuse in their own homes. In any case, even if you don’t do anything illegal as a parent in Norway, raising children in Norway is bound by a lot of written and unwritten rules which can be tricky for foreign parents to follow – and know about. From expectations at school, how to dress them for every season, and more.

Many foreigners are for example shocked at the food given to children in daycares (barnehage) but also the lack of cantine and warm food given to kids in school.

If you come from a country where education is important, you’ll be surprised by the Norwegian education system which does not give marks or grades to kids until they turn 13, and which let’s kids watch television during school hours while still letting them go home by 1.30pm.

School is not free either, and from the age of 1 until the age of roughly 12 you’ll need to pay roughly 3500 NOK per month per child (reduced price for the second and third child). This is because daycare is until 6, and even public daycares aren’t free. From 6 to 12 years old school is technically free but unless you are not a working parent, there is now way you can pick them up at 1pm when they are done, so you’ll need to pay after school activities until you finish your own job. Food given to kids is also a huge topic, with mostly unhealthy options such as bread several times per day with sweet and way too salty spreads.

3. The price of Eating And Going Out

The price of eating out is pretty outrageous even for people earning a decent salary. You might be able to do it if you don’t have kids, but otherwise count 250 NOK for a meal for one person, that is not counting the drinks, desserts or alcohol – which has insane prices compared to anywhere. Drinking a glass of wine out in a bar can cost around 80 NOK and there is no beer under 70 NOK either.

4. Arrogance of Norwegians regarding other cultures

In 2018, the US Pew Research Center did a survey among many people in the world on nationalism. People in 15 European countries were asked to what degree they agree with the statement “Our people are not perfect, but we have a superior culture than others” Norway is the only country where a majority of respondents completely or mostly agree that their culture is superior. 58 percent of Norwegians completely or mostly agreed to the statement. Spain was the one which answered they least agreed with that statement.

From the survey, it seems national pride is also very widespread in Norway. 92% of Norwegians say they are either “very” or “somewhat” proud of being Norwegian.

Now those are numbers from a survey which might not represent the whole Norwegian population. Or maybe it does. In my experience, Norwegians are less arrogant about their culture being superior than Danes (where I lived a bit over a year), but still quite high.

I have heard stories from people coming from Russia, Ecuador or Brasil who have been met with quite offensive comments from “helpful” Norwegians. “This is soap, you might not know what it is in your country”. A friend was in a Norwegian university to study for a PhD and a person from the university told her “This is a computer, you might have never seen one”. She came from Russia. Another friend, Afro-American from the US, is consistently met with disdain, until she says she is from the US. “Ooohh that is different”.

If you are from an African country, or Muslim, racism of a higher level may occur, spoken or unspoken. My observation is that depending on where you come from and the color of your skin, many Norwegians will assume things about you. Decades of media coverage about Africa being extremely poor and a favorite destination for Norwegian missionaries is not helping. Neither is the rising anti-Muslim voices from the far right including in political parties which have been governing in recent years.

5. The terrible weather

The weather is also not something you’d stay in Norway for. It rains a lot in this country, and with climate change it will rain even more. Even in the middle of the summer it can snow in Finnmark. The summer can be 25 degrees and sunny or rainy with 8 degrees. You never really know. The winters are long, especially in the north, and many cannot deal with the lack of sunlight during the darkest months of the year.

6. The high taxes

The tax system is based on a solidarity principle, which means the more you earn the more you pay. For some people that might not be ideal. Collected taxes are used for schools, roads and hospitals. I have met many people along the years you think it is outrageous to pay so much tax, whether one uses those services or not. But as a French, taxes in my country are even higher, and in Norway there is less corruption than in many other countries, so it works for me. In Norway you’ll pay around 35% taxes on your salary if you earn around 500-600.000 NOK.

7. The unhealthy food culture

Don’t get me wrong, there are wonderful fresh produces available in Norway, such as fish and carrots. The problem is that fast food culture is on the rise in Norway, and there is an unbelievable amount of processed food. From what I see, people find using time to cook meals a waste of time, or they just claim they don’t have time.

A recent study showed that between 60 and 80% of all food bought by Norwegians in supermarkets are ultra-processed foods. Some supermarkets like Kiwi try to give a 15% price cut on vegetables, but it does not seem to be doing the trick. According to the Norwegian Health Institute, there are now more people overweight and obese than people who aren’t. Diabetes is also on the rise. People eat a lot of sugar, like really a lot, and not just on Saturdays (Saturday candy culture). It is however very easy to eat healthy food, as vegetables and basic staple food are available everywhere.

8. Hard to find a job

In some fields it is super easy to find a job, like most IT jobs, where they won’t even ask you to speak Norwegian. But in most fields it is hard to find a job, especially without a local network, studies in a Norwegian university and without language skills. Partners following their Norwegian partner are especially at “risk” since their partner probably has no idea how hard it can be. As a foreigner applying to jobs you are basically in competition with Norwegians who know people, speak the language perfectly and understand the social codes of interviews etc. But of course it is possible, many of us have managed, it is just a lot of work and some luck.

9. Surviving the Norwegian administration

The Norwegian administration has some perks, it is almost entirely digitalised and quite efficient. Unless you are waiting for something highly necessary and are not born here. For example, a Bank ID as well as a personal number are things you cannot live without, yet it might be hard and long to get. Changing immigration status – unless from the EU/Nordics- is also a long and painful process. On the bright side, once you’re in the system, everything is easy.

Of course there are also great sides to Norway, read 8 reasons to live in Norway for more of those 🙂

 

25 thoughts on “9 Reasons Not to Live in Norway

  1. I think you mean kindergarden and SFO, school is free and Norwegian kids don’t go to school until they turn 6. Kindergarden and SFO costs as you say approx.3500 kr per month per child. Siblings might get a discount if they attend the same kindergarden. Low income families Get a price reduction and SFO is from this autumn free for 6-7 years olds.

    1. I other countries kids has an opportunities to stay in a school during forking hours from 8 til 17 after end of lessons for free. 3500 nok for couple of hours in SFO is the price of a private school in other EU countries.

  2. School is free, you pay 3500 nok (approximately) if they attend SFO (which is not mandatory). Other than that you don’t pay for anything, they also get an ipad for school and homework (school should be fun, by the way!).
    I agree on the high taxes..
    About the weather, in summer time when there are 25 degrees outside, you die (that’s how hot it is)

    1. As a Norwegian living in France, I have to say we are heavy taxed here… and you don’t always feel you know what you get back. However my son has been in private school for 7 of 8 years (started when he was 3) and now in Public. I’m so surprised of the extremes high quality of everything in the public school in France. Canteen, equipment, “SFO”-like things… and all for free.. and yes also iPads/tablets.

      A friend of mine had skin cancer on her nose, she got all plastic surgical operations covered, that would not happen in Norway. (why I know, because my friend with the cancer is also Norwegian).

      In Norway, as far as I know, the dental insurance are not very developed. I have this covered 70% by my employer, and the rest by me (around 250 NOK per month). I broke a front tooth when I was 10 and had an implant, this year this implant needed to be redone (after 47 years) – the operation, implant and crown was 85 000 NOK, I paid the fee of 1500 NOK. This would have ruined me in Norway, and this is why Norwegians have in general bad dental health at least if you compare to central European countries.

      I just spend (July) 3,5 weeks in Norway, Vestland, 11 degrees and rain almost every day. I think we had 4 to 5 days with sun.
      Said that, we had 3-4 weeks of sun last year…
      But just to say, I’m not moving home, and I’m close to where Lorelou are borne. it’s hot I can tell you…

      But, as you all know, traveling and living around and abroad makes us discover these things and makes us see our own country at a distance, as well as the host country.
      Do travel, exchange ideas and experiences, it’s the way against the extreme behavior of some of this worlds most powerful nations.

      Thanks for reading my notes 🙂
      “Erlend Emile”

  3. Living in Switzerland, I could only wish to pay “only” 3500 NOK / month! We’re currently paying about 5x that amount for our daughter to attend the municipal Barnehage three days a week, it’s ridiculously expensive.

    I’ve got many friends who made a quick end to their expat lives and moved back to Norway once the pregnancy was a fact; Norway is very family friendly, all things considered.

  4. Point 9 is a significant issue and about administration of the way of life. Law and regulations are consistrantly growing in Norway towards stealing individual freedom through overprotection. In the name of public and overall security. Regardless of costs! There is a reason for high taxes and evermore need for “byråkrati”. Provocation on population will in my upinion lead to more, and severe, none law abiding citizens and ignoration of rules. An example is the “building law” where it is practically forbidden for private person to use hammer and nails for construction purposes.

  5. This sounds very…. hostile and although some of it has truth to it this article speaks more about you. I am not going to criticise the rest of foreigners or french people living in Norway for it, but if my mind was more limited I might say that all french whine and spread the bad news rather than focusing on whats great. Telling stories of what some people have said to foreigners is first of all just stories, which might not even be true, but the most important fact is that assholes are everywhere, and mentioning that in an article about living in Norway is just adding your feelings and thoughts about a people. Most people are nice everywhere and you receive what you expect and send out. I enjoyed your book. It was funny. This is not.

    unsubscribing.

    1. I can understand you, but it’s a list of 9 reasons not living in Norway. In that case find it interesting, … and valid.
      I think for your comment is really valid, but we need to know the background. If for example you are a Norwegian living in Norway and have always done so, then you feel hurt. If you are French living in Norway, it would be very interesting as you and Lorelou would have some similar background. If you are a foreigner from a non-western-European country, your comment is based on that, would love to know more. If you are from an “less developed country” (it’s a economic description, not cultural or religion) your comments might be easier understand by some…
      It’s very important to understand your background.

      Thanks,
      Erlend Emile (French / Norwegian)

    2. Claiming that all French whine wouldn’t be a sign of close-mindedness but plain stupidity and ignorance. The author doesn’t call all Norwegian arrogant, she’s talking about a survey which doesn’t even reflect her own opinion on the topic (see “why the French are so arrogant” post). Besides, the fact that French express their opinion when they’re unhappy is one of their best assets and the very reason why the quality of life in France is so high. There’s no point to focus on what’s already great. You can only move forward and improve things if you look at what doesn’t work.

      There’s a systemic denial in the Norwegian culture that stop Norwegians from seeing all the negative aspects of the Norwegian society. They’ll simply and unobjectively pretend that it’s better than anywhere else. The world and reality as the overall people see it here is distorted by their judgements, feelings and ignorance more than in other countries I’ve lived in. Norwegian can hardly question themselves and you’re an example of it.

      I agree that talking about anecdotes in this type of articles is of little interest and would be better off without it. That said I confirm it exists. I experience it myself every once in a while. E.g. “you’re probably not used to it but people here have rights” when I wanted to give a F to some of my Master students who cheated in an exam or “I’ll start the fire because as a Norwegian I’m more experienced than you”. You’re correct when you say that assholes are everywhere. Fortunately all Norwegians aren’t like that. However, there’s a non negligible proportion of Norwegians who are just like this. It’s something some foreigners are likely to experience when moving to the country so it’s certainly worth mentioning it.

      Now get a grip and stop being salty. You’re just proving her point.

  6. After 10 years in Norway I would say it’s pretty accurate, thou there are and some good things.

  7. Interesting article. I think it’s positive to balance the images of hiking, nature and fjords, partly because Nordic societies have been over-sold abroad to the point of being fetishised. In the popular imagination, Scandinavia is where you can frolic in nature, drive a big car (guilt free because it’s electric powered by renewables) and lead an upper middle-class existence (also guilt free because you’ve paid your taxes, but you’re still somehow loaded nonetheless). The recent Twitter spat about whether the Swedes are impolite for not feeding the neighbour’s children brought it home to me how different Nordic cultures are and how that over-selling means a great deal of space for misunderstanding. Norway is probably more different and exotic than even the Norwegian’s imagine. The high cost of food though is a common bugbear. Part of this is because Norway taxes food imports. The small population, the tax on food, means less choice. Likewise, there’s a focus on Norwegian producers. Some products marketed as staples would be considered luxuries elsewhere. Personally, I’ll never get used to having to pay 55-60 kr for a litre of ‘Greek style’ yoghurt. As well as the knock on effect for the cost of eating out (the 140kr croissant at the Munch museum being one hilarious example), newcomers feel locked out of how they would wish to consume in the the rest of Europe, or feel priced out of ‘the visible urban culture’ they would participate in, which drives a feeling of otherness and estrangement.

  8. In my opinion, one point which is really missing and which is probably hard for a lot of foreigners is the lack of joy in the everyday life in Norway, especially when you come from a lively country from the South. Living in Norway feels more serious and “boring”, it’s sometimes hard to find joy. The main reasons are in my opinion less interactions between people, people staying a lot at home, few events/gatherings and the limited sense of humour of people.

    1. 1. Which country is it easy to make real friends in adult age, without kids in school etc? I really want a good answer here, trying to make some new ones my self after moving to another city.

      2. Barnevernet is doing a great job. Many contact them voluntarily to get help dealing with their kids. Why on earth should you slap your kids anyway?

      3. Yes, we got real seasons with much darkness in winter and sun all day long in the summer. Thanks to the rain, we got loads of green power. You dont move to Norway’s west coast if you want loads of sun and heat. South Norway should still be fine for this need.

      4. Your survey asks under 25000 across 15 countries in Europe. How many is from Norway is not known. But I question the validation of the survey. Sad if the number is that high, but I believe the participants are not representative for the long country.

      5. The food culture??? Eat whatever you want, dont bother what others eat. You said it yourself, there are loads of good food here.

      6. Well done trying to get some other points of view up in the sun, but I think the quality in some points are too low from a journalistic point of view.

      1. 1. Try to live in another country and you will see.
        3. Sometimes you don’t chose to move to Norway. And Norwegian climate is crappy, this is a fact. Also in South Norway.
        5. Food culture is terrible in Norway. This is also a fact. If you are happy with your daily brødskive, I recommend you to travel a bit and see what food culture can be in some other countries.

  9. There are several valid points, but I totally disagree with the comment on barnevern. Firstly, please provide an example of parents in jail because of a “slap”. This is so unobjective as it is possible to be. Barnevern is alerted quite early, but is usually on the helpful side. I know several cases where they made life much easier for parents and children. It is also very unusual to separate children from their parents as it is claimed sometimes. Others have commented on schools. Schools are free, SFO unfortunately not. But don’t forget another important point for parents when children grow up – universities are also cheap, in difference to many other countries.

  10. You have many good observations here and much of it is true. We dont have a culture for food as in many other countries, and everything is expensive.
    But your opinion about barnevernet is wrong. If you are a normal parent looking out for your child you have nothing to fear from barnevernet, they have childrens best in mind. Norwegian parents are not perfect, but it is true that physical violence is not allowed, I think its the same in France. And school is free, the costs are for the afterschool (SFO/AKS) and noone uses this after age 10, most children use it in the first two years.

  11. 2. If you find not corporeally punishing your children too complex, then yes… you might find yourself in trouble with the child protection services. Do you have any friends who have lost their children to the child protection services, though? Because throughout my schooldays, it did not happen to any of my friends and acquaintances, although it probably should have. I think this is a myth.

    4. Yes, Norwegians think they have a superior culture, but they think it is superior because they think it is moral. It is based on pride in the relatively small wealth disparities, gender equality, lenient judicial system, foreign aid, and general inclusivity (of sexual orientations, races, ethnicities, religions, etc.).

    So Norwegians think they have a superior culture in the sense that they think they are superiorly kind. Sanctimonious? Yeah… But still, maybe better than many forms of chauvinism.

    As for racism… Those are all anecdotes. According to surveys and statistics, Norway is among the least racist countries in Europe. I could give you links, or you could just google yourself.

    7. Unhealthy food? I don’t know how you would attempt to quantify that except by looking at life expectancy. Norway has the highest life expectancy in Europe:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_European_countries_by_life_expectancy

    8. That point applies to moving to another country in general. Less so to moving to Scandinavia, since that region speaks the best English in the world:
    https://www.statista.com/statistics/990547/countries-in-europe-for-english/

    9. This also goes for moving in general. Whether moving is simpler or harder… How would we know?

    Lastly:

    -Norway has the most economic equality in the world:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gini_coefficient

    -It is the richest non-tax-haven in the world:
    https://www.worldometers.info/gdp/gdp-per-capita/
    Just by moving here, you got $250,000 as your part of the oil fund.

    -It has the highest life expectancy in Europe:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_European_countries_by_life_expectancy

    -It is the fourth best English-speaking country in the world, only beaten by other Scandinavian countries and the Dutch:
    https://www.statista.com/statistics/990547/countries-in-europe-for-english/

    -Norway gives by far the most foreign aid per capita:
    https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2015/08/which-countries-give-most-aid-oecd/

    -Norway is the second most gender-equal country in the world, only beaten by Iceland, which used to be part of Norway:
    https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/12/gender-gap-equality-women-parity-countries/

    -It is among the least racist countries in Europe, contrary to what you said: https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/user/jaxt/blogposts/piblogpost005.html

    -It has the seventh most Nobel prizes per capita in the world:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_Nobel_laureates_per_capita

    -and the seventh most summer Olympic medals in the world per capita:
    https://www.topendsports.com/events/summer/medal-tally/all-time-comparison-pop.htm
    -and by far the most winter Olympic medals in the world capita: https://www.medalspercapita.com/

    -it is the fourth least corrupt country in the world:
    https://www.transparency.org/en/cpi/2021?gclid=Cj0KCQjw7KqZBhCBARIsAI-fTKIL1xnjcy3V1R2kbJBxjHXKZkQw-Wsxom5HCIYMXCfVXUt9FGjP6RoaAgD7EALw_wcB

    – It has the ssecond-highesthuman development index in the world:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_Development_Index

    -and is the most democratic country in the world:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Democracy_Index

    So when Norwegians say that they are from a superior culture, maybe they aren’t being chauvinist. Maybe they are being honest. If you are going to criticize the country you have decided to move to, you should have your facts straight. Considering everything Norway has given you, you are quite frankly being rude.

    1. Your reply has disappeared, so I will respond to it by repeating it in my own comment. I will not omit anything so as not to take anything out of context, of course.

      “Were you thinking to overturn the points mentioned in the article with that comment? You come across as a caricature of the Norwegians depicted in point 4, with a thick layer of immaturity and frustration to top it off. Not sure you’re helping make a better impression of your fellows.”

      I’m perplexed that you find me so unreasonable. I think I was quite civil and to the point. I would appreciate it if you would be polite too. You have found my initial comment spicy in its sarcasm. I still stand by it, having found the point I responded to to be making light of corporal punishment and quote “smacking children”.

      “You’re so full of yourself you don’t even realise all the absurdities you wrote. I’m used to hearing a lot of silly stuff from Norwegians’ mouth but reading things like “Scandinavia, since that region speaks the best English in the world” leaves me speechless. You deserve an award for reaching that level of Norwegianism.”

      I’m sorry to hear you’ve come to expect so much stupidity from Norwegians that you have come to think of it as “Norwegianism”. I’m not sure what you found stupid about my statement, which is indisputably backed in statistics, but I might guess you’re alluding to nations with English as their native language being more proficient in it than Scandinavians. Absolutely, I hoped that that would go without saying.

      “You should have tried to question yourself on the different points raised (which are frankly gentle criticisms) instead of listing figures you obviously don’t understand anything about.”

      Then help sort me out. What statistics have I misunderstood? More importantly: do you find racism, chauvinism, and taking children from their parents, minor issues? I think they are very serious accusations, certainly not “minor criticisms”.

      The simple fact that you have to look for random top x found online to convince yourself of your delusion is pathetic.

      “As for your last sentence, speaking as a caucasian male who has experienced living in both countries, I can tell you that France gave her much more, including a critical mind. Ponder on it.”

      Who am I speaking to? The author’s husband? I don’t think that there is any reason to turn this into a competition between France and Norway. I have not mentioned France with a word, because it was not relevant to my reply. However, if you feel insulted on behalf France, let me tell you that I find it a magnificent country with a fantastic culture. I cannot think of any country that has contributed more culture than France, perhaps except Germany, and rivaled by Italy, Greece, and England. Two of my five closest friends are French. They both love Norway, but one of them thinks Norwegians can be a little rude. I agree.

      Lastly, to respond to the topic of another article, there is a word for “please” in Norwegian: “Er du snill”. Actually, those are several words, but so are: “s’il vous plaît”.

      When criticizing another culture, it is important to be fair and accurate.

  12. I’m not sure if I agree on the racism part. I’ve lived in Norway for 3 years, just before the Coco-19. I’m from Belgium, but I’m black. And I’ve never experienced racism. I’ve met a couple of Kenyans and other black people from Switzerland or the Netherlands. And no, a couple of us have Norwegian friends, never had any comment of people explaining to us what is a computer or not. I mean, my experience was not necessarily harder or easier than my other skin colors friends that came from outside of Norway. I’ve met there people from Austria, Romania, Bulgaria, France, England, the US, many Germans, Swiss, Dutch people, Italians, Kenyans, Ethiopians, Filipinos (many many many many of them) and I frankly didn’t hear much about racism in Norway, except that one time when there was an incident on TV. And as for my Norwegian friend, never heard of them talking bad

    I know racism is everywhere, but I’d say, Norway is one the country where it’s less likely to happen. So personally, I’d even put such a thing on a list of “good reasons to live in Norway”, because it is really inclusive. Hard to make friends, maybe, but inclusive. Especially compared to the rest of the world.

    However, for the rest yes, quite accurate. They love their Norway. I was even told once “Why would we join the EU, we’ve already had the Germans and the Danish here. Now that we are finally free, we don’t want Brussels to give us orders.”

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