Living in Alta: First Impressions

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Here are some of the first impressions I had about Alta, Norway, after moving there as a student.

They say that the first impression is the most important thing when meeting someone new, or in my case, moving somewhere new.

Nordlysbyen Alta

In my case, Alta in northern Norway. Since there wasn’t much information about this cozy little town on the Internet, I didn’t have much to expect. But fear not!

Anyone out there trying to discover anything and everything on this little town in Finnmark, you have nothing to worry about. This place will treat you well.

The scenery

Mountains. Mountains everywhere.

Accented by the Altafjord and the Alta River, these towering peaks take your breath away.

Everywhere you look you will be able to see a mountain peeking out from behind the trees. The ocean and the river only add to the beauty.

Alta scenery

Seeing all of that from the sky was something out-of-this-world for me. I was in awe. I was inspired and motivated by something I hadn’t even set foot on yet.

Stepping out of the plane to be welcomed by such incredible views and such clean fresh air was such an experience. It’s not just at the airport that the views make you want to stop what you’re doing and just look.

In the city center, on random winding roads, on the way to the bus stop, the views consume you. It is truly amazing to see the harmony between the city of Alta and its surrounding nature.

I have been to places with nature like this in the past, but the difference between those places and here is that the locals know how lucky they are. They truly appreciate being able to explore the outdoors so easily and so freely.

Everyone here loves hiking, or biking, or snowmobiling, and of course skiing. It is an incredible atmosphere to be around and it makes it that much easier to admire this town’s beauty.

If you are in need of some fresh air or are itching for an outdoor adventure, this place has it all.

The scale

It is small. I am from a city with roughly 193,000 residents, so I was nervous when I realized I was moving to a town with only 20,000 people.

Alta Sentrum from above
Downtown Alta from above

Everything here is within walking distance, and you often see the same people walking around town on a weekly basis. It is small, very small.

There is not a large corporation, or an infinite amount of Walgreens on every corner. There is not a double-decker Target, or an Ikea big enough to play hide-and-go-seek in.

But there is a sense of community. With being such a small place, lots of people are involved in similar events, activities, or festivals. They love their tiny little town. And it makes you love it too.

Even though this place is small there is a lot to do. Most options include something that deals with nature and outdoor activities, but there are also lots of places to go shopping or have a nice meal out. I don’t see myself ever being bored in a place that has so much variety for its size.

Friendly people

The people here are SO welcoming. I have read a lot of articles about how intimidating Norwegians can be, and about how they don’t open up so easily. This place undoubtedly abolishes all of those predispositions.

Since day one many locals have offered to help me out with rides, or directions, or translations, or really anything. They are genuinely kind-hearted and open-minded.

Central Alta

They do not exclude you because you’re not a native. They do not avoid having conversations with you. They do not make you feel unwelcome. It is just the opposite. The locals here want to make sure you feel welcomed. They want to make sure you’re adjusting to life here.

I have had many instances where people have gone out of their way to make sure I feel like I fit in here amongst all of these Norwegians, and it is heartwarming to see that this much kindness still exists in our world today.

I would have to say that it is difficult to not make friends here. You can’t go anywhere without meeting someone new. Everyone seems to love meeting new people and finding new things to talk about.

It is a contagious spell that makes you want to be just as out-going and hopeful. Eventually this will result in you finding people you want to get to know.

Having this newfound hope and warmth from the locals really helps when dealing with the high costs of living in Norway. Which leads me to my next point.

The cost of living

Almost all of the prices here will make you cringe a little. Especially if you’re from the States, like I am.

You have to get used to buying off-brand things for prices higher than something brand name would be in America. You have to get used to buying one-ply toilet paper and being okay with it because you save 20 kroner by doing so.

Alta cityscape

Adjusting to the high expenses in Norway was the most shocking and difficult thing to come to terms with when I first moved here. I knew it was going to be expensive, but I didn’t know that it would be this expensive.

The food, the transportation, the housing, the mail, everything here has the potential to break your bank. The plus side of this is that it really teaches you how to budget your life and use your money wisely.

As a student I guess I should be happy that I am learning to do this so early on in my life, but at the same time, sometimes I just want to buy a chocolate bar without wondering if I should have saved that 45 kroner for something more important.

There are many things that might shock you when moving to or visiting Alta. Maybe it is how nice the people are, or being completely engulfed by nature. But the reality is that this place welcomes you with open arms no matter who you are.

The best impression this place gives is the warmness of the culture and lifestyle, even if the prices are stone cold.

About Katelin Pell

Katelin Pell is a 19-year-old student studying Arctic Adventure Tourism at the UiT campus in Alta, FInnmark. She is originally from Grand Rapids, Michigan.

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13 thoughts on “Living in Alta: First Impressions”

  1. Love it Katelin. You are a really good story writer and you paintet the story so clearly that I now want to go there myself some time. Thanks and enjoy!!

  2. Reading your story about the impressions of living in Alta is very much impressive..you could be a good writer kate?It’s a very interesting story bcoz friend of yours who can read this might have already have an idea of what are the expectations they’ll get if they also visiting in Finnmark..Good job Kate!

  3. If I ever get an extended period of time in Norway I plan on going north. While Alta seems like a small town to you. I live in an area of Northern Minnesota where the nearest town, ten miles from home, has a population of about 1200. Things are a bit more expensive here, but I remember prices in Norway being high. So are the wages, though. For a student it would be tough, but it makes living within one’s means a useful learning experience. You make Alta sound like a wonderful place and I envy your time there.

  4. You are learning what it was like to be an American living in America 60 years ago. It was exactly like that.

    It can still be like that for you here in America, Katelin.

    Good luck and God bless you.

  5. Very interesting to hear about your experience in Alta. I’m currently looking at joining the Arctic Tourism studies as well! Any way you could tell me a bit more about the admission/process to go over there from the states?

  6. Hi Kate! Cool post! I was checking the Arctic tourism studies as well and wondering how easy or possible finding a part time job in Alta will be..? Did you or your friends had one? Thanks for sharing!

  7. Kate
    Thank you so much for such a lovely description about alta.
    At this moment i m wondering that wether you are in alta or in another part of the world.
    But my question is im a 42 years old married man which always tries to give new taste to his life.
    I m a industrial engineer which tired of engineering and now im a tour leader.
    So i want to apply for the “arctic adventure tourism” in alta university.
    So i want study there and my wife will be beside me.
    I wanna know badically what s your opinion about living in this city and by the way how is the job condition in alta?
    Is it possible to find a job according to graduation of this course in alta ?


  8. Hi there,

    Thanks a lot for sharing your experience. I am thinking of applying for a master’s program at the University of Tromso. Everything is supposed to be covered by my scholarship but I am still feeling VERY uncomfortable with the prices in Norway. Is it really challenging to find a job in such a small city like Alta if i don’t speak any Norwegian?

    Thank you in advance,


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