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“Why Did You Move to Norway?”

Røst is one of Norway's most remote islands

This is the question I am asked in nearly 99.9% of conversations with new Norwegian people that I meet.

If you are an expat/immigrant, call it what you will, I guarantee you will have to get used to fielding this question so much you might want to get a metaphorical baseball bat to hit this inquiry straight out of the ballpark then you don’t have to waste too much time contemplating why they ask.

The existenstial angst of asking yourself late at night “why DID I move to Norway?” could prove too much for a simple soul in a dark Scandinavian winter.

My response to this question is pretty pedestrian now, after some creative responses that went down like a lead balloon I usually answer in a cheerful and concillatory tone that “my partner is Norwegian”.

No further questions asked but it leaves me looking a bit like the little woman – following her man around the world with no plan for herself, but this is ok as I am quite without ego now.

Dogs and the Norwegian landscape

Moving to another country will strip you of all ideas you have of yourself, it disarms you in ways you had not imagined.

You are just you now but without the lanuage you wielded so well at home, struglling to find a place in a new culture and open to all new ideas. In some ways this is great, it makes you really who you are, a sort of stripped bare version of yourself.

The truth about why I moved to Norway is much richer and more difficult to explain – there were a few reasons I moved here and some have worked out and some have not.

Reason number one: The Wilderness (this one worked out)

For the last few years before I left the UK it was, for me, a sweat box of work, work, work and not enough space outside. Not enough open space. Not enough nature. Where are all the trees?

I lived in the city and worked in the city and played in the city and I longed for the green spaces, but I wanted pure wilderness not a city park full of teenagers lolling about but real unfettered, pure wild nature.

Mountains, fjords, tundra, forrest – great expanses of nature. That is what I have found here and this is why Norway will always be heaven for me. Norway is beautiful full stop! If there is divinity in a landscape then it is here.

A roadside beach in Lofoten, Arctic Norway

My time spent hiking, camping, living by a fjord, swimming in deep dark waters, climbing mountains and seeing seasons that actually are definite seasons is an experience I will take inside of me forever and whereever I go.

So I hope my children born here in Norway love the wild as much as me for if there is a country with a beautiful landscape then this is it.

Reason number two: Norwegian Cosmic Disco (this one did and didn’t work out)

This is rather niche and I do not want to discourage any new readers to this blog so I will cover this in vague fleeting language that you can skip over if you like.

Suffice to say I have been pickled in a genre of music since I was about 13 that emerged out of black America sometime in the early 70’s and tripped over the Atlantic and made every young Brit crazy for a period of years, it’s evened out and spread like a joyous wildfire in Europe.

Turns out that the Norwegians have made some jolly good stabs at the current vibe of this genre in recent years. So I came here to dance to this music in the nightclubs of Oslo and make some art and design work for it too.

I did do that and it was great but then I had to get a job to make a living here (expensive place to live) and then I had children and you know the rest.

Reason number three: Digital Nomad (this one didn’t work out)

After I had been working, working, working for someone else in the UK for what seemed like my entire late youth, 20’s and early 30’s I decided that I could take my skills and set up shop as a freelancer.

Working for a tech startup in Norway

Buoyed up with various ideas from the progressive thinkers in the US about work being without place and anyone with a laptop and an internet connection could sell their wares globally on the internet I thought it would be an excellent idea to live in Norway and be a freelance designer.

This was folly. Absolute total hogwash. Three days after arriving I understood a block of cheese was around 5 quid and a beer around 4.

Everything else you need to live was also an extortionate price – housing and food could eat away a decent salary in no time so to put your creative wares on the open global market where you are competing with India, China and even the UK was just impossible.

Why not live where you want and do the work you love in a global sense?

Erm because Norway has an economy that precludes everyone that is not doing Norwegian business – you must work with Norwegian companies that pay Norwegian salaries or freelance rates – to try to compete with the world who have lower living costs and can price their work at much cheaper prices means you simply cannot afford to live here.

So don’t come here if you want the global digital nomad life, it’s totally impossible.

The real question

So those are my real reasons for moving to Norway but I think the question the Norwegians pose is actually more interesting than my answer. So why do Norwegians ask why you are here? Is it that weird to be here as a foreigner?

I have worked, studied and socialised with so many people in the UK who had come there recently from different countries and not once did I ask them why they came to the UK. Never. Not once. It never entered my head. It wasn’t political correctness or some social convention – it genuinely never occured to me to ask.

Was I just a social buffoon who didn’t think about people’s lives and past cirumstances or was it something else, perhaps just a bigger place where there is a bigger acceptance of other people.

I just assumed that they were here like millions of others to take part in the UK, to work, to live, to love, to have a brew and put your feet up. Maybe to escape, maybe to prosper but always without question accepted.

I wonder if it seems unusual for someone foreign to be in Norway whereas it is an absolute no brainer for someone “foreign” to be in the UK.

The Norwegian people I have given my standard reason for being here to are often super smart and worldly, so I am inclined to think that it is because Norway is so small and there are limited opportunities that perhaps it is a bit unusual to move here especially from the UK.

Once Norway stops thinking of itself as little Norway then perhaps people will stop asking me why I am here.

It’s much like someone asking you why you are wearing a hat – because I like it and because it’s what I want to do. Implicit in the question is “it’s a bit weird you are wearing a hat”.

Norway wants to reinvent itself as a creative and progressive economy now the oil is gone and with only 6 million here perhaps not every answer is born here.

Diversify and prosper Norway… you’re such a looker it’d be a shame not to.

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About the Author: Brit Mum Abroad

Originally from Manchester in the UK, she has lived for some years in Oslo where she worked as a designer. Following the birth of her two children she moved to the Norwegian countryside where she is kept busy navigating family life, working life and hanging on to her sense of humour. She lives next to a fjord with her two dogs and two children. Her interests include interior design, painting, interactive design, creative arts and music - which there is none of where she lives, luckily she also loves the Norwegian nature.

9 Comments

  1. Hello!
    Loved the text. I agree your Idea about the why people ask. Can you tell how is the life like, especially on winter? I’m from rio de janeiro/Brazil.

  2. Would an American retiree couple with a net worth of about $4 million and guaranteed pension of about $75K per year have a chance of surviving in, say, Bergen or nearby?

    1. Your pension can be enough for nice living, depends of lifestyle if yours. I recomand you to stay for about 1 mounth in the country before you decide. Everyone speaks english there. You may find apartmant/house renting price on http://www.finn.no

  3. Its cold, its dark, its far north, its small, its expencive; thats why we ask. Why would anyone wish to be here when its difficult in winther? Why not stay home or move to a warm place with a lit of jobs. Thats why we ask😂

  4. Nobody from the UK understands why we moved to Norway with 4 children either. Why didn’t we want to move somewhere warm? Why didn’t we move to somewhere we could already speak the language? Why leave the UK? ……well it’s complicated but I just say it’s because we love Norway. I always got the feeling some Norwegians were annoyed we were here but I work in a sector with skills shortages and pay taxes, although it’s sometimes difficult we love it and hope to stay 😊 Thanks for the article

  5. Great post, Brit Mum Abroad. Moved here myself from UK in 2010/11 so I can relate to many of the experiences you reference.

    1. Having your personality stripped bare when you first arrive through an inability to speak the local language; I dread to think the countless times that I stood nodding inanely without having the faintest clue what the person speaking to me was on about; not a particularly pleasant experience but one learns to get over it. Yes, most Norwegians (at least where I live) can speak English pretty damned well but the majority refused to use it even when I was flailing around speaking uninteliigible Norglish; for some reason they seem to be too embarrassed to use it despite at the time it being far superior to my garbled attempts at Norwegians.

    2. The eye-watering cost of living; I still haven’t really got over this but I soon learnt to stop converting to GBP every time I bought something as it was just too depressing; you’ve got to live so, as long as you live within your means, best to just get on with it rather than constantly worrying.

    For me living in Norway, when compared to the UK, is pretty much a no-brainer, especially if you are bringing up kids. A far superior standard of living, much better work/life balance, incredible & varied scenery & wildlife (I’ve still hardly scratched the surface when it comes to experiencing the opportunites that Norway has to offer) and possibly one of the safest countries on the planet that you could live. How many other places in the world would see babies wrapped in wool in prams parked outside residential front doors in sub-zero temperatures? I thought it was insane when I first saw it, half expecting someone from social services to come steaming round the corner at any moment to whisk the poor babe away to warmth & safety. You just wouldn’t be able to do that in the UK; in fact you would almost certainly be arrested! I suspect that most in the UK would no longer be aware of the benefits of a child having a sleep out in the cold when they are properly wrapped up in wool and protected against the elements.

    Life in Norway may not be perfect but it’s certainly a lot closer to my vision of Heaven than the UK.

  6. I have always wanted to live in Norway , but until recently didnt think I could, as its was not in the EU.

    Now I discover I can, the Uk (my passport) is leaving the EU…Hmmmm

    I actually have a one way flight booked to Sweden tomorrow, which if I get the courage to take it, will be an adventure as I have some money, but no exact plan.

    Is it realistic to be able to us the last few weeks of my EU Freedom of Movement to move to Norway?

    As you can tell I am a bit all over the place at present, and have effectively shut down my UK business for March to do some thinking / traveling / decisions.

    I am in the lucky position, that my partner (whose house I live in) is supportive of me establishing myself somewhere else (she will join if it works out).

    Craig

  7. that wildness is food for the soul. . . .

    I would rather live extremely simply and be fed in my soul,
    and create a culture of radiant health and wealth of spirit,
    with lots of good books at home

    than live extravagantly and die for lack of nature.

    great article.

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