Things You Must Know Before Moving to Norway

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Moving to Norway is a dream for many. But before you pack your bags, there are a lot of things to understand about the country.

Moving to any new country can be a shock to the system. A new language, a new daily routine, and just a new way of doing things can all take a long time to adjust to.

A Norwegian fjord retirement

Norway might seem different at first. After all, everyone speaks English right? Nevertheless, there’s plenty of cultural differences that can easily catch out new arrivals.

It's important to learn as much as possible about your new home before taking the plunge. Whether you're about to move to Norway or you're just thinking about a relocation, this list should get you thinking!

It's not exhaustive, so feel free to add your own thoughts in the comments at the end of the post. I'll add the best ones to the article over time.

The fishing industry in Lofoten

You may have to wait a long time to register

Waiting times at immigration offices seem to get longer every year, and the situation is much worse in the major cities, especially Oslo. Book an appointment as early as possible via the UDI website, and triple-check you have all the paperwork that is required.

It can be difficult to open a bank account

Without having the permanent Norwegian ID number and an address in Norway, opening a bank account can be a challenge.

The problem is that to rent a place to live in Norway, you generally need a bank account, and to obtain an ID number, you need an address. You may need to rely on a foreign bank account for your first few months in Norway.

You need a lot of money to get a place to live

Maybe you've already decided on the best place to live, but finding a specific home will still be a challenge.

Renting a room, apartment or house in Norway is an expensive business. Many landlords require a deposit equal to three months rent, along with the first month's rent in advance before they will sign a contract.

Scandinavian house in the winter

You can find landlords willing to rent with a smaller deposit requirement, but competition for these places is fierce. Renting in Norway.

Your driving licence might not be valid

If you're not from an EU/EEA country, your driving license will only be valid for up to three months. To keep on the road beyond this time, you'll need to exchange it for a Norwegian one.

The rules for how to do this depend on the country that issued the permit, but most people will have to take at least a driving exam, with some having to go through the full first-time driving training. Read more here.

It doesn't snow as much as you might expect

I'm probably just as much to blame for this as anyone as I'm constantly sharing pictures of the snow on Life in Norway's Facebook page! But the truth is, it doesn't snow in most parts of Norway for months on end.

It can be snowless here in Trondheim right through to December. When snow does fall in the cities, it doesn't tend to stay for long on the ground. It's a different story in the mountains and more rural areas, though!

Snowboarding at Folgefonna
Photo: Philipp Kämmerer / Unsplash

Cash is on the way out

Despite the sexy new banknotes launched recently, Norway is racing towards becoming a cashless society.

Debit and credit cards have long been used to pay for even the smallest purchases, while the rise of mobile payments service Vipps has made it easier for small businesses and even market traders to accept digital payments. Cash is still accepted almost everywhere, but don't expect this to be the case for much longer.

You will have to wait to get a credit card

Rules vary but generally any credit card applicant needs to have been in Norway long enough to submit a full year's tax return.

In practical terms this means most people will need to have been living in Norway for almost two years before they can successfully apply for a credit card. Some financial services providers require longer.

Domestic flights are like buses

Norwegians think nothing of hopping on a plane for a day trip to Bergen, or a business meeting in Oslo. It's simply so much quicker than driving or taking the train. The domestic flight services from SAS, Norwegian and Widerøe are extensive.

Obviously, this is under normal circumstances! Things have been quite different in 2020 so far. Before the global health crisis, flights left Trondheim's Værnes Airport for Oslo on a typical weekday morning at 6.00, 6.30, 7.15, 7.30, 8.00, 8.20, 8.30, 9.20 and 9.25.

Tickets are generally cheaper one week before departure.

New-look Oslo Airport terminal

Don't expect to get anything done in July

Virtually no-one works during the Norwegian holiday month of July, and those that do can't get much done because all their colleagues are away. Many businesses run shorter opening hours throughout the month, or close entirely.

You can't buy beer after 8pm

Unless you go to a bar or restaurant, that is. Alcohol regulations in Norway remain strict, and supermarkets are only allowed to sell beers of up to 4.7% alcohol content up to 8pm weekdays, 6pm on Saturdays, and never on Sundays.

Stronger beers and wines can be bought from the state off-license Vinmonopolet, but their opening hours are even shorter.

Be prepared to adjust your daily routine

Norwegians eat a light lunch early in the day, generally between 11am and noon. Some office canteens are only open until 12, and almost never beyond 1pm.

Dinners are generally eaten at home between 4pm-6pm, and restaurants are at their busiest between 5pm-7pm. In some smaller towns, it can be difficult to find a place to eat after 9pm!

Fish counter at Mathallen

Healthcare is not free

But it is heavily subsidised. The Norwegian healthcare system works on the basis that everyones contributes towards their healthcare costs up to a certain amount.

Beyond this, the government pays. There are many exceptions, but you should expect to pay around 150kr for a consultation with a doctor.

Norway is not a member of the EU

But the country is a member of the European Economic Area, or EEA. This means Norway abides by the freedom of movement rules, making it much easier for other EU/EEA citizens to settle in Norway. Among other things, residents are entitled to a European Health Insurance Card, and Norwegian driving licences are valid throughout the EU/EEA.

Learning Norwegian is all about motivation

Although Norwegian is said to be one of the easiest languages for native English speakers to learn, motivation can be a problem given how widely English is spoken and understood in Norway.

English speakers can get by very well without learning the language, which can lead to complacency. Having said that, finding a job without speaking Norwegian is a real challenge. Read our tips for learning Norwegian.

Learn Norwegian with story: An online course to help you learn a new language.

Norwegians can appear rude and unfriendly at first

But they're really just keeping themselves to themselves. Norwegians don’t smile at people in the street, or ask a stranger on the bus how they are doing, but one researcher says this is actually a Norwegian version of politeness.

The article seems to suggest that the point isn’t about whether this behaviour is right or wrong.

Rather, it’s about everyone (including Norwegians!) understanding how this version of politeness can affect others. For foreigners living in Norway, it’s just one more thing to which we must adjust!

About Life in Norway

Sometimes, more than one person in the Life in Norway team works on a story. This was one of those times!

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22 thoughts on “Things You Must Know Before Moving to Norway”

  1. How hard would it be for American retirees with Norwegian backgrounds to move to Norway? I’m thinking about coming back to Trondheim after three generations in the USA.

    • If you have children think very carefully before moving to Norway. The age of criminal responsibility is 15 and as we have found out to our cost a 14 year old can sexually assault and stab your child and receives no punishment at all. The Norwegian child protection services protect the perpetrator and not the victim. They even expect the victim to remain in the same class as their attacker.
      We would never have moved to Norway knowing many things we know now.

  2. Being new here I strongly feel that this article helps a lot to all those who are planning to fly to Norway soon.
    Having said that, bank accounts and getting an ID in Norway is of utmost importance 🙂

  3. Nice article. I like the Scandinavian countries very much, but I don’t think I can live there. As far as I know, they have a very high standard of living. And services I am used to have for free are paid in Norway 🙂

  4. Well, I’m giving up. So many articles saying how hard it is and also we are not welcome. When I See how easy it is to a foreigner move to Brazil, this is desapointing. Sorry for the bad English.

    • And that’s okay.
      We’re polite, not welcoming. We’re Northerners damnit, we’re cold natured. Most of us say “Oh, I’m so happy” whilst in truth, the person is on antidepressants.

      Is it just me, or is it non-coincidental that we both are among the happiest countries, at the same time as we’re one o the countries using antidepressants? Hmm…

  5. We are who we are…but we tebd to be sinsare about most things. So if you try you will be liked and loved the rest of your life🇳🇴💖

    • I only visit. Want to live there part of the year being retired. Having said that, I agree with Monica. You try, you will be loved.

  6. What I missed most when I lived there was about food : no time to eat lunch at work, few good fruits and vegetables (and this habit of having everything wrapped in plastic!). But Norway is a great country, I met nice people and learning Norwegian has been a real pleasure for me. Besides, administration stuff are not so bothering, compared to my own country (France)

  7. Hey this guide was absolutely fantastic, I’m a relatively unqualified UK citizen who had a degree in sociology and (hopefully) a masters in public health, I dont speak norwegian though can i ask

    1) do you know any resources for where i could work in the health field?
    2) how difficult would it be for me to apply to these jobs without speaking Norwegian? I’m more than happy to learn while there at night classes.

  8. Moved here with my family almost two years ago, from the US, for a university job. We live in Oslo. First of all, the myth of Norwegians being “unfriendly” has not been true for us. Perhaps it is because we are in Oslo, but we have had no trouble meeting and befriending interesting people. We have been invited to people’s houses and hyttas for meals, swims, and boat rides. A positive experience on that front overall.

    Now, to the more challenging. Exchanging my US driver’s license has been HELL! I flunked the first driving test because of one mistake on one roundabout. That is what the report they game me said. Had to take courses, a theory test, and am taking a second driving test next week. Btw, this is after 30 years of accident-free and mostly ticket-free driving in the US. To all Americans, the driving culture here is very different, and you need to learn it before taking the driving test. Oh, and the three required courses, the theory test, and the driving “lessons” have cost me about 15000 NOK so far.

    On balance, though, we enjoy living here.

  9. I’m from the uk live with my wife who is Norwegian we hope to retire in Norway. We meet the financial requirements how soon would I be entitled to health care ? Anyone any ideas ?

  10. The one thing I would say is that despite most people speaking English, there are people who understandably don’t want to so it shouldn’t be relied upon. Learning Norwegian is important.

  11. I just recently returned home after 44 years living in the US. The one thing I would mention is that official records ; ie.. wedding certificate, birth certificates, and such from another country must have an apostile stamp to be recognized in norway. Much easier to get it done before you move!!


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