While it might not be an immediately obvious choice for expats, Norway is becoming an increasingly popular destination for people looking to start a new life in another country.
Figures from Statistics Norway show around 13 per cent of the nation's population is made up of immigrants and their children – compared with just over four per cent back in 1992. So, just why has the country become so attractive to expats?
High standard of living
Norway is well-known for its excellent living standards. The socialist style of government and successful oil industry has meant both employment and wages are high, although taxes and living costs are at a similarly high level as a result (the Lloyds TSB International Cost of Living Index ranks Oslo as the fifth most expensive city to live in out of a list of 50 places).
Nevertheless, you'd be hard pressed to find anywhere with as good living conditions. The United Nations Development Programme had Norway in first place in its most recent Human Development Index (the 2011 edition), citing its average life expectancy at birth of 81 years, nearly 13 mean years of schooling for adults and low poverty levels compared with other countries.
This makes Norway a particularly excellent option for expats looking to settle here for a while and raise a family.
It's easier than you might think to integrate into Norwegian society – provided you make the effort to get to know the locals and the country's traditions and customs. You'd be forgiven for believing that the fact that Norway isn't officially an English-speaking country will be a serious hindrance to anyone looking to settle here, but the truth is that English is pretty widely spoken.
While it's definitely recommended that you take the time to pick up a little Norwegian to help ease you into life here, you can still conduct many tasks and conversations in English, especially in the big cities. In Oslo, at least, you'll find that most official forms are in English, and a number of signs and announcements come with English translations.
Plus, as a lot of the locals seem to have a good grasp of English, you'll have the chance to improve your own Norwegian in everyday conversation without embarrassing yourself too much! Most people will be all too happy to help with your vocabulary.
Perhaps the one thing that might take a bit of getting used to is the food – Norwegian meals tend to be extremely fish-focused! However, the cities in particular are very savvy when it comes to international cuisine, so it shouldn't be too difficult to find alternatives if the local food isn't to your taste.
Fascinating culture and landscape
Norwegian history and culture is exciting to explore, making living in the country a fantastic prospect for anyone with a penchant for new experiences and offering lots of potential for day trips and longer holidays within the nation. You could, for example, travel to the north to learn all about the Sami, the indigenous people, or delve into the past by touring the impressive stave churches to find out more about religion in Norway.
There's also Norway's fantastic landscape to enjoy. The majestic fjords, glaciers and mountains attract crowds of tourists each year, while the northern lights are perhaps the ultimate attraction for both locals and visitors. It's little wonder that the people here are proud to be Norwegian, and that more and more expats are flocking to this part of Scandinavia in search of a new life.
This was a guest post from Edel