Why I Want to Live in Trondheim

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Having just spent the last 2 weeks in the United States, I’ve had a lot of time to ask myself whether Trondheim is really where I want to live.

Needless to say, it’s a huge commitment to move halfway across the world. In the USA, I have my family, incredible job offers, a truck to drive, a garage full of bikes and hiking gear, an incredible professional network, and access to tons of cheap and easy shopping. Yet, life in the States often feels lacking of balance and simplicity.

It's the perfect size city

In a world with so many options of where to live, it’s difficult to find your “just right” or your “happy place”. For me, Trondheim is the perfect fit.

It is not a huge city like New York or Chicago, where you are surrounded by towering skyscrapers and all you can hear are police sirens and the honking of car horns; nor is it located in the remote middle of nowhere. It’s not hard to meet people or find something to do on Saturday night and yet the streets are never so crowded that you’re bumping into people.

With a population of just over 172,000, the city center offers something for everyone yet remains serene and peaceful without being overcrowded. Inside the center is a plethora of great restaurants, pubs, and a wide array of shopping centers for everything you need. The prices are often far above average, but then again, so are the salaries.

You’re surrounded by nature

Just a short drive away you can find mountains, fjords, cross country skiing, and plenty of things to do. The Norwegians have a saying “There is no bad weather, only bad clothes”, which perfectly represents their attitude towards taking advantage of the beauty all around them. The Norwegian culture is notorious for making the best out of any situation and for always finding a reason to be outside.

Here in Trondheim, where there are snowcapped mountains and beautiful views of the fjord almost everywhere you look, it’s easy to get lost in nature even on your way to work. Even just yesterday, while biking into the city center, I pulled my bike over on the side of the bridge to take photos of Nidaros Cathedral and the icy river below. I certainly can’t remember the last time that I did that in New York or Los Angeles.

Trondheim Nidaros

There are so many outgoing people

Although I am new to Trondheim, I have had nothing but great experiences with the people here. Although a little more reserved, they are certainly no less friendly than any other people I’ve met during my travels to over 45 countries. Want to open a conversation with a Norwegian? Simply mention skiing and you’ll be chatting for hours.

As an immigrant, I have been treated with the upmost respect and have found that many successful business leaders have gone out of their way to introduce me into their networks and to provide job leads. Whether in the mountains at the cabin or in the local bibliotek where I take norskkurs weekly, the people are always warm, friendly, and helpful. To really connect with Norwegians, it is helpful to have a solid understanding of what drives them and what sets them apart culturally.

There is a great tech sector

Trondheim is home to NTNU and HiST, two of the most prominent technological universities in Scandinavia. In addition, there is a quickly growing entrepreneurship scene, which is most definitely noted by anyone who has ever grabbed a coffee at DIGS café. Trønders are very quick to learn technical skills and are often some of the first to create high-tech solutions to some of the world’s trickiest problems. Read more about Trondheim's technology scene.

Live where the Vikings lived

Viking Trondheim

The city was actually founded by Viking King Olav Tryggvason in AD 997. Trondheim was the nation's first capital under Olav and remained so until 1217. Olav’s statue can still be found in the city center. Nidaros cathedral, in the center of town, was Northern Europe’s most important pilgrimage site during the Middle-Ages and still serves today as an amazing example of Gothic architecture.

The city also has a fortress located atop one of its largest hills. Kristiansten Fortress was built in the 1680s to provide protection from rival neighbors, including Swedish forces. Who doesn't want to live in a place with such unique history?

So many opportunities to be involved in the community

In just two months here I have already found countless ways to be involved in the community, including: Volunteering for Gi Bort Dagen and Kosmorama and most recently earning a position on TEDx Trondheim’s marketing team. It makes sense that a city with such a high student population would have many volunteer opportunities (1 in 6 inhabitants are students)

But even outside of the college campuses, you will find business and industry leaders of all ages working alongside one another at a wide variety of events. Community is an important part of Norwegian culture and nowhere is this more apparent than in Trondheim.

A slower pace of life

Admittedly, since I have not yet found full-time employment, I may be wrong about this. However, life feels less hectic and hurried. In the States, I was constantly running from one event to the next and checking emails while eating on the run.

It was also common to spend 2 hours in traffic during rush hour on my way to and from work in Los Angeles or to be packed like a sardine into the metro in New York City as people struggled against one another in the race against time to get to work. In Trondheim, biking or jogging to work is common and you don’t have to be worried about dodging your way through heavy traffic while you do it.

Here, it seems that outside of a very busy and focused 8-16 work schedule, people tend to slow down and relax more once the workday is over. It is very uncommon for people to answer work emails on the weekends or outside of working hours.

This allows for some breathing room between work life and non-work life; which I believe is something that we are slowly losing concept of in the United States as technology allows us to work from anywhere at any time. I believe that this balance greatly reduces stress and anxiety and allows people to concentrate more on what really matters in life.

Trondheim winter

The very strong family atmosphere

Last Sunday, my girlfriend and I went for a hike in the park as we always do and for the first time I realized that many families actually meet up and hike together throughout the day. In fact, it was uncommon to see a single family alone whereas most of them traveled in groups of three or more. The idea of a Sunday stroll is not exclusive to Norway but the togetherness, community, and focus on family activities is certainly stronger here than in many other places.

The family is the center of Norwegian life and this can be seen through the number of daycares dotted throughout the city and in the number of mothers out pushing their strollers on any given day. It is not so much that they work and then make time for family but that they are a family and they make time for work. Trondheim very much reminds me of the small town I grew up in and represents much of what I love most about small-town USA.

Very low crime rates and good education

Most people will consider crime rates and education at the top of their list when determining where to live. Norway is consistently ranked as one of the safest countries in the world by the Global Peace Index. Trondheim, in particular, is very safe and violent crime is extremely uncommon. Some minor crimes such as bike theft are relatively common but this can be prevented by locking your bike to one of the many bike parking stations located throughout the city. As for education, what’s not to love about some of the best education in the world, for FREE? The public school system is very good at all levels and the universities such as NTNU and HiST are some of the best in Northern Europe.

Janteloven: Everyone is equal

As opposed to the common view that I have heard of Norwegians being cold and unfriendly, I have found quite the opposite. Almost everyone I have met here in Trondheim has been kind, humble, and good-natured. Much of this can be attributed to what is called “janteloven”. In his 1933 book “A Fugitive Crosses His Tracks”, Aksel Sandemose outlines 10 basic laws about how people should view themselves in Scandinavian culture. In general, flaunting wealth, criticizing others, or think of yourself as better than anyone else is very much frowned upon.

The culture here is one of togetherness and humility; which is something that I very much admire about the people. The actual rules sound a bit harsh an extreme as they are written here which has led to the “anti-Janteloven”. The latter is very similar to the way we view ourselves in the United States which is good in moderation but can be dangerous and pretentious when taken to extremes. Which Janteloven do you like better?

It is quite clear that I very much enjoy the life, culture, and nature here in Trondheim and that I am very fond of the people and institutions. I hope that I will find a job here in the next 3 months so that I can stay and continue to experience more of Trøndersk culture. In the meantime, there will certainly be many more adventures, friendships, and new opportunities.

About David Smith

Dave Smith is a former US Marine and a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley. He is an avid adventurer, backpacker, and volunteer with travel in over 40 countries. Dave moved from the USA to Norway in December 2014 to pursue a serious relationship with his beautiful Norwegian girlfriend.

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38 thoughts on “Why I Want to Live in Trondheim”

  1. Should be retitled, “Came here for the girl, fell in love with the culture.” Hoping and praying you find work soon so you can stay for all three

    • Dave, this is a wonderful article. I had a flashback when I was Studying Abroad in the United Kingdom. The content and visuals resonated with me.

      This is a great article about thinking outside of the box, and career choice from a veteran’s perspective. Use the same philosophy that allowed you success on your mission trip and go forward.

      God’s Best Always!

  2. Thx Dave,
    For those kind words about my hometown. I get so proud.
    So good to hear that you enjoy our city. I’m sitting her in the USA reading this. So funny! 🙂
    Take care! Have fun!

  3. So glad you like our city! I think one of the things that has contributed to the city’s uniqueness is how almost every house/store is never more than two stories high. It makes the city less “claustrophobic”, koslig and easier to navigate in.

  4. Nice article! Interesting to hear an American perspective of my hometown. I was born and raised there. Married an American and now live in crowded Bay Area, California. Trondheim will always have a special place in my heart. So beautiful and yes more laid back. Luckily I get to visit often. Best wishes with your job search!

  5. Sounds like a nice town. However, I don’t know that I would like to live somewhere w this stated philosophy: http://www.janteloven.no/ simply because I like those ideals for MYSELF but I don’t know that I would want live somewhere where that is a societal expectation…. If I want to be a jerk, I want the freedom to be a jerk. 😉

    • I cant really say these guidelines are deeply rooted in our culture. Every Norwegian probably heard about them, i remember us reading about it in school but i cant for the life of me remember a single one of them. You might say it is (in moderation) part of the “Norwegian way”, how we think and conduct ourselves but they are neither an expectation or requirement of others. We have jerks here too, like everywhere else.

  6. You are certainly making me homesick! I have lived in the United States for 21 years now, but Trondheim will always be my favorite place on earth, whether or not I ever move back to live there again.

    I was born and grew up a few hours north of the city, but my maternal grandmother lived in Taraldsgaardsveita, right by Ravnkloa, and spending time with her at her house was my favorite thing to do. I couldn’t wait to move to the city for “videregaaende skole,” and I lived with my grandma while attending Heimdal VG Skole during the mid-80’s. Then, I ended up living all over Trondheim, literally, in various apartments, during the rest of the 80’s and the first half of the 90’s. Most of my formative experiences in life took place in Trondheim…I fell in and out of love there, had a child while living there, learned many, many life lessons, and experienced the most devastating and wonderful emotions during that time.

    I will always love Trondheim, and I am glad you do, too.

    Itj faarraa naalles!

  7. Exactly how I feel. I fell in love of Trondheim, to the people, the lifestyle, culture. I live in Trondheim too!:-)

  8. It is great that you feel so welcome! Good for you guys. Not everybody are treated as well as you have been though. Makes me wonder what you do?
    I am Norwegian but my partner is from another country. We have spent about 15 years living abroad, but are now back in Trondheim for work for a little while.

    The average Norwegian considers foreigners to be less than them. I don’t think they do it to be rude, it is just so ingrained in their culture.
    Since Norway made their oil money, the country is just so different. And mostly it has changed for the worse. There is no work-ethic, food culture or service. Young workers are lazy, not relaxed. The reason why Norwegian business sometimes fall behind on a global scale is that a lot of people simple take half the day off on a Thursday and start their weekends then! It is utterly impossible to get a hold of anyone after lunch on Fridays, then you have to wait until Monday morning.
    There are 3 companies that run the grocery business. This often means that you can choose from expensive or slightly less expensive garbage. Luckily some independent shops and markets are still around.
    You rarely hear please and/or thank you. It is difficult to get used to after living away for so long. Most of the service industry are made up of Swedish people, because any job in this sector is concidered to be beneath a lot of Norwegians. This is translated into people working in shops, restaurants, bars, hotels etc being referred to as “servants”. The only people who tip their waitress are those who work in the industry themselves.
    There is no such thing as equality. In business men rule boardrooms, media and deal-making. Just to be heard over the top of the pompous, yet jeans-wearing(!), male CEOs a woman has to be utterly amazing at what she does in comparison to her male co-workers.
    At home, the woman rules. A Norwegian woman decides everything that concerns the home and here the man/husband/partner has no say! I guess all in all that balance between business and homelife, with the two extremes, might be concidered equality?
    The picture that most people have of the smiling Norwegian with rosie cheeks on TV is just not the reality of things. Most people I know here never hike, ski or do any of the other typical “Norwegian things”. People are rude, racist and narrow-minded.
    Consider this: in one of the world’s wealthiest countries the majority of the people want to make helping beggars a crime!

    There are nice things about Norway, sure, but it could be so much better.

    • Sad reading Sofia. I am sorry you and your partner have such a bad experience here. Based on some of the things you are saying you are based in Oslo and not Trondheim? Things are a bit different between these cities, where you see more studente behind the bar than swedes for instance.

      May I ask what you try to do to blend in and find friends, or have you resigned to yourselves?

      I can agree that the newest generation can appear spoilt at times, but I am not the least worried about them. My nephew was confirmated last year and hardly any of them drinks at parties (maybe 1 of them). For us and generations before us most of us were wasted at 15-16. They behave exemplary compared to us and have great visions of where they want go in life.

      The jeans-wearing CEO is the part of janteloven I like the most. In Norway the prime minister can have a chat over the fence with a cashier-registrar living next door. Who else feel more that they are above others, wearing an expensive suit in the office? Horizontal organizations where the boss is in contact with their employees and customers are normally the most innovative, change-oriented and holds the highest employee satisfaction rate. It’s content – not appearance

      Good luck to you both and always look at the bright side of life

      • I rili like yo reply Espen! yu are realy positive nd optimistic about life. I feel sofia is sayn the truth to some extent. but she probably went overboard with it.. im lookn towards having my Masters degree in NTNU next yr.. itl be great to meet yu Espen!!

    • I’m not so sure that I agree with the very negative picture you paint.. i have lived n the US since the mid 60’s, and am currently visiting my hoetown of Trobdheim.. I find the people to be much more service oriented than they were while I was youg. I ca’t speak to Norwegian businesses, as such, but notic within my own family how hard they all work. Just my 2 cents. Jeg elsker Norge, spesielt Trondheim. ??

  9. Always enjoy reading your articles Dave. Glad you are enjoying life over there. Norway is definitely a special place. Take care, and I will be praying for a job that you will enjoy!

  10. David

    Welcome to Trondheim! I am from Seattle, and have lived here for just under a year. I moved here to live with my fiance, who is Norwegian.

    I agree with many if not all of your observations of this city and Norwegian culture. It is a very peaceful, beautiful, and relaxed. AND so many people love skiing, biking, and in general being active and creative. I love it.

    Best of luck with your language skills and finding a job. Perhaps I’ll meet you sometime during one of Yanks in Trondheim’s (Facebook group) monthly dinner parties.

    Ha det bra!


  11. Dear David,

    Nice and warm piece about my home town. Only one thing. While Janteloven is key to understand Norway, it is by definition negative. LIke Jim Crow to a southerner, it tells us what we must combat in ourselves.


  12. Hi,

    I’m sorry but it really looks more like a cry for approval than anything else to my eyes; few people understood why you left the US maybe, and you only ever list positive things, and there sure are some negative ones, but as you’re here only since 2 months there’s a lot you don’t see yet. I really don’t see the point of such a (public) article if you really like Norway so much as you claim.

    Also, it’s a very non-norwegian thing to boast (so much about Norway).

  13. Hey Dave. I just randomly stumbled across this article while looking for info about life in Trondheim.
    Ironically, I am also a Marine and I met the love of my life while in Trondheim…… Imagine that!! I’m seriously thinking about saying good bye to the Corps and settling down in Norway. Right now I’m exploring job opportunities and learning the language slowly. I’d be really interested to have a conversation with you. The similarities are too much to be a coincidence. Semper Fi brother.

  14. I’ve been doing some research on Norway and Norwegian culture and this is the first article I’ve come across that had positive things to say .

    • Hey Susie,

      That’s odd. Norway is an amazing place. Harsh in some ways but absolutely wonderful. But that’s just my opinion. For what it’s worth, I always take everyone else’s opinion with a grain of salt and wouldn’t let bad reviews of Norway deter me from visiting.

  15. Hi, I have a friend who is likely to move to Trondheim for studies, could u please tell me how is the quality of life in Trondheim in 2016? Specially how the migration crisis could have affected it so far?


    • Hi Jan St,

      The quality of life in Trondheim is quite good. I like it here. The winters can be harsh and summers maybe hit or miss but IF you can find a job, the pay is good and the work hours are also good. There are a lot of aspects to answer your question of “how is the quality of life” though. To each their own opinions.

      I don’t fully understand your question about the migration crisis, but I have seen no change over the previous year. Then again, I am mostly working or in the mountains.

  16. Hi David! i just get here from google jajaja. I hope you are ok over there, some day i will visit Norway. =)

    I’m chilean and i was making a story and i need a specific info. Do you know if in Nidaros Cathedral really exist such a coins wishes niche? (mmm jaja..i dont know if well written…But, is a place inside the Cathedral were you could throw a coin a make a wish) i read it here :


    but i couldn’t find it in another page…

    I would appreciate your help or anyone who could help me too.

    Muchísimas Gracias!! Abrazos sureños!!

  17. Have just read (today, 28 November 2016) that the city council has passed a resolution calling its residents to boycott goods and services produced in Israeli settlements. For the sake of general knowledge, it would be useful if some official could make public who are those sitting in the council of Trondheim?

    Also relevant could be the arab (% or number) population of this city.
    I bet this decision was driven by anti-jewish streams that have nothing to do with Norway and its indigenous people. If intellectual Norwegians still exist in and/or around this city, they should perhaps address this issue.

  18. Loved your article and I’m hoping you can find your job and stay in Trondheim. Maybe one day we can be neighbors 🙂

  19. Hey Dave,

    Great list of reasons! Super cool you left the USA to live in Norway. I’m thinking of moving there as well, just wondering if you speak Norwegian? Is this something required to make friends and have a job? I understand the majority of Norwegians speak fluent English but aren’t so keen on making friends that require them to speak English all the time. What has been your experience with this?


    • Hi Greg,
      Speaking Norwegian is important in landing a job. While nearly everyone speaks fluent English, Norsk is still the business language. Unless you work in tech as a developer or some other type of job where speaking with people/customers is not so important, it’s pretty important to speak norsk.

      People like to do business/interact in their mother tongue, and for good reason.

      Friends don’t mind speaking English, but definitely prefer Norwegian usually… which provides a greta opportunity to learn. People won’t laugh at you if your Norwegian sucks so you should always at least be making the effort to speak norsk.

      I’m not fluent, but I can read/listen without problem, I can speak it decently, and I’m still working on the writing (most difficult). I suggest that anyone who wants to move here start learning the language asap.

  20. The reason they are going out of their way to be nice to you could actually be fear driven, norwegians are still afraid to go outside of the box or they simply do not know how to and they definitely do not want to anger upon themselfes another country because they felt disrespectful while visiting or these are my thoughts anyway .. also foreigners are known to work harder than most Norwegians as far as I’m concerned and they see you as a product that can help push our country forward which again I guess is fair enough in itself.

  21. Hi Dave! Great site with a lot of interesting things both good and bad, and as a Norwegian (Trønder) myself I must admitt I recognised alot of the things you comment upon about us as a bit if a shy and not all that socal bunch..in that aspect and ofc others I belive we have alot to learn from you guys in the US, but as you seem to have catched up on, we are frendly in the end and an open mind and a heart on your sleeve tacktick is usually met with the same 🙂 best regards, Sondre.

  22. Interesting perspectives. My main bugbear with Trondheim is the transport. It’s a relatively small place but the entire ‘city’ is car oriented. I cycle and take the bus, but neither are convenient when the urbanism is so suburban and stretched out leading to ugly sprawl and noise screens/raised car signage as if on a motorway. Traffic seems to be routed through the old city centre, making it feel harried. City Syd is one of the ugliest places I have visited with the exception of Southampton in the UK. The car centric thing feels more like the US than Europe. It doesn’t have the compactness of Bergen nor the open access of Oslo (you can walk or cycle around the entire Fjord safely). The public transport is expensive and infrequent and all privately operated so there’s no critical mass to displace the traffic. There are signs of change, but having to wait so long to cross a road shows who the kommune prioritises. Those lovely views over the Nidelva show buildings that are mostly inaccessible with the exception of the occasional restaurant. It feels like there’s a lot of getting there but little sense of arrival. With more imagination, I think the kommune could make the city a vastly more walkable ‘destination’ that you could visit instead of the rather fragmented place it seems to be today. Doubt it will happen though.


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