The Kingdom of Norway has a unique positioning in the world today. It may be a Nordic country existing in the northwestern portion of Europe, but it also controls arctic and sub-Antarctic islands. The country also claims a section called Queen Maud Land in Antarctica.
The core territory of Norway consists of the northern and western portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula. Most of the country features high, mountainous terrain with a variety of natural features. It is famous for the numerous fjords, the deep grooves cut into the land that the sea flooded, following the end of the Ice Age.
There are over 400,000 lakes to discover when you start living in Norway, and Hornindalsvatnet is the deepest one on the continent. You can also explore over 239,000 registered islands. The areas that have a higher altitude in the country often contain permafrost, as does the interior of Finnmark country.
If you have always thought about moving here one day, then these are the pros and cons of living in Norway that you will want to consider.
List of the Pros of Living in Norway
1. There is plenty of high-quality housing to find.
You will quickly discover that Norwegians take great pride in caring for their homes. That means you can find numerous properties on the market that reflect the high standard of living found in the country. Most of them use bright colors to accentuate the visual aesthetics of the region, with modern conveniences found inside. This advantage applies to historic homes in each community too, although you might have specific rules to follow if you purchase something on a government registry.
2. Many rental properties come furnished.
Most of the rental properties that you’ll find available in Norway already come with modern furniture. You can find a place that feels clean and supportive without paying a significant premium for the experience. If you don’t like what you see, most landlords in the country are usually willing to replace the items that you don’t like. You also have the option to bring your own if you prefer.
3. Norway offers an outdoor lifestyle.
If you enjoy activities outside, then Norway is going to satisfy your wanderlust. Hiking, skiing, camping, and fishing are all part of the lifestyle here. The opportunities are endless, especially when you begin exploring the northern part of the country. You’ll discover cycling and walking paths are prominent in most of the cities, allowing everyone to maintain an active lifestyle based on their preferences. It’s also fairly easy to find a gym or to join a sports team.
4. The country is naturally beautiful.
Most people who visit Norway for the first time are visibly struck by the sheer beauty that surrounds them. Although you will always experience episodes of rain and wind along the coast, the beautiful landscapes more than make up for whatever small discomforts you might experience.
Norwegians care greatly about the environment and how much of an impact they make on it each day. There are visible efforts to keep each city clean in multiple ways. You should be prepared to start recycling in ways you never thought were possible when you start living here.
5. Norway has a fairly low crime rate on a national level.
Although it is a good idea to take precautions wherever you decide to live, you’ll find out that Norway is relatively safe with a low crime rate. Most children walk themselves to school every day without worrying about something happening to them. People still leave their homes unlocked at night because of how confident they are in their neighborhood and community.
There were only 25 murders in total in Norway in 2018, and overall crime is down 9.6% since 2014. Organized crime operates on a small scale, but the two primary issues are petty theft and domestic violence.
6. The country has one of the best healthcare systems on the planet.
Although many people think that Norway offers free healthcare, the system operates on more of a deductible-style system using a one-payer approach. Everyone pays for their prescriptions and doctor’s appointments, but only up to an annual limit that is currently around 2200kr. Once you pay off that limit, then everything else is free. The goal is to be as fair as possible so that everyone pays something. If you have a serious injury or illness, then the amount isn’t going to bankrupt you.
Most clinics have automated machines that you use before leaving to ensure that you’ve paid if there is an amount that is due. When you walk out of the office and you haven’t reached your limit, then you’ll get an invoice in the mail with a fee tacked on.
7. Norway takes a family-first approach to life.
The priority of Norwegians is to spend time with their families before anything else. It is expected for parents to leave work if needed to attend to the needs of their children. The government offers a generous parental leave policy so that both parents can welcome new additions to the family. That’s in addition to a working day that is usually 7.5 hours at most. Businesses don’t expect work to happen on the weekends or during the evening, and there are five weeks of holidays per year.
Most large companies provide significant perks to their employees to use. It might be a discounted fee to a golf course, discounts at the local cafeteria, or even a cabin to use for the weekend.
8. Worker salaries are relatively high when you live in Norway.
The salaries that you find in Norway are generally higher than what you’ll find in the rest of Europe. That fact is especially true for the workers who find themselves at the lower end of the pay scale. It’s a remarkable fact considering the country doesn’t have an established minimum wage that businesses must follow.
That means you will have more money available to pay the higher prices found in Norway. It’s also why the service industries in the country are more expensive. The range of salaries isn’t as wide as it is in the United States or Canada either, so you’ll want to keep that in mind if you have your eyes set on a promotion.
9. Cultural integration is fast and easy in Norway for most people.
Although you might hear the occasional complaint about Norwegians being unfriendly, cold, or standoffish, the culture is fairly easy to integrate into when you start living here. Most people speak English, so that makes it more comfortable for many people. If you give someone enough time to warm up to you, then you’ll find that this country tends to be a very welcoming place.
10. Your post-secondary education in Norway is free.
If you start living in Norway, then you automatically qualify for this benefit. You don’t need to be Norwegian to attend college classes or the local university. As long as you establish residency, then you’ve met the qualifications. It is absolutely free to obtain your degree, which means you can pursue whatever vocation you prefer for your career without the hassle of debt. The country places a significant emphasis on being educated, so the public system reflects the structure.
List of the Cons of Living in Norway
1. The cost of renting or buying a home in Norway is significantly high.
If you are going to start living in Norway, then you need to plan for your housing expenses before anything else. Renting or purchasing a home can be very expensive, especially if you want to live in one of the cities. Some people have their employer cover these costs, but the exchange rate is something you’ll need to think about for your initial expenses. It isn’t as much of a problem once you adjust to the economy, although it does take a little time to begin enjoying the amount of disposable income you receive.
2. Food in Norway is going to be a different experience for many people.
If you are used to life on the Scandinavian Peninsula, then this issue isn’t really a disadvantage because you’re already experiencing life this way. When people start living in Norway after being in North America, they quickly discover that the amount of selection available to them for food products is a lot less than expected. You can find about everything you need or want, but you might have 1-2 choices instead of 7-10.
That means dining out becomes a very expensive proposition. Most people here save their restaurant experiences for special occasions because of the cost. Even if the only thing you want is a hamburger, you’re going to pay the equivalent of up to $25 for it.
3. You will need to get used to the consumption taxes in the country.
Merverdiavgift is a form of a sales tax or VAT that gets applied to goods and services in Norway. It’s put on almost everything, so there really isn’t a way to avoid this expense. You will always see the cost of the tax in the price listed for consumer goods so that there isn’t any confusion about what you need to pay. That’s why it can be so expensive to go to certain places or why prices seem high here. The standard MVA rate as of 2018 is 25%. Only Hungary is higher at 27%.
You will pay a lower rate (12%) for items like food, movie tickets, accommodation, and public transportation. Education and health services are exempt.
4. Alcohol costs are very high in Norway.
The duty on alcohol is extremely high in Norway, and you’ll see that immediately upon arrival. Your tax obligations go up based on how strong it is, which is why spirits are priced out of reach for many families. Expect to pay up to 85kr for a half-liter glass of your favorite beer, and that cost can go above 125kr for a smaller glass of a craft brew. It’s cheaper to purchase alcohol in the supermarket, but you’re limited to a strength of 4.7%. The best option to avoid this disadvantage is to buy it duty-free the next time you’re going through the airport.
5. Adjusting to a different pace of life in Norway can be challenging.
Life moves a lot slower in Norway than it does if you are used to living further west. You need to consciously reduce how much effort you put into things sometimes when you live here. The culture even looks down on people who attempt to rise above what everyone else is doing. Most people get there eventually and find new pursuits that they love, like exploring the numerous outdoor opportunities that exist.
6. You will be responsible for several significant upfront costs.
If you rent a room, an apartment, or a house in Norway, then most landlords will require a significant security deposit to secure the space for you. The minimum amount is one month of rent, but most places will charge you three months to protect themselves. It’s not the same as your rent either, so that means you need to pay a month of rent in advance so that you can get the keys. Most new residents should plan on having six months of living expenses disappear immediately when they sign a lease.
That’s why if you are under the age of 35, it might be a better idea to look for a property to purchase. Tax incentives are available until then, so most Norwegians own a home by the age of 40.
7. You have no choice but to follow the mandated healthcare system.
Norway doesn’t provide you with a lot of choices when you have health decisions to make. Because it is a national system of care, everyone must follow the procedures that the government mandates. You cannot contact a specialist without a referral from your assigned family doctor, and that means your wait times for some complex procedures can be a little longer than they would be in other nations.
That’s why you will see some Norwegians embarking on medical tourism trips if there is something specific that requires treatment. Some people will go to a different country to get a second opinion on their condition. That makes it even more expensive to get the care you need.
8. It can be challenging to find work in Norway.
Finding work can be quite difficult in Norway. Because you have a highly educated population because of the free post-secondary educational opportunities, it can be tough to carve out a spot for yourself in the vocational culture. It can be almost impossible to fire someone after they receive an employment offer, so there aren’t that many openings available on any given day. It is not unusual to send out more than 100 applications before receiving an offer. Hiring managers want to know if you’re sticking around because training new people is expensive.
The primary challenge that exists for people who start living in Norway is the sticker shock that happens on arrival. You need to have a significant amount of savings in the bank to pay for your moving expenses, housing costs, and initial needs before you start working. It usually takes about a year to fully adapt to the economy, and even then, you might be purchasing your meat and alcohol from somewhere else.
If you can manage those issues, then a plethora of benefits await your arrival in Norway. It is a land filled with beautiful landscapes, outdoor escapes, and opportunities to walk, cycle, or meet with friends. Life slows down here because you get to spend more time with your family.
The pros and cons of living in Norway often involve your expenses, but there is so much more to see and do here. You’ll find that if you decide to take a leap of faith to be here, the rewards are worth whatever risks you feel like you are taking.
Blog Post Author Credentials
Natalie Regoli, Esq. is the author of this post and the editor-in-chief of our blog. She received her B.A. in Economics from the University of Washington and her Masters in Law from The University of Texas School of Law. In addition to being a seasoned writer, Natalie has almost two decades of experience as a lawyer and banker. If you would like to contact Natalie, then go here to send her a message.