Oslo, Norway Report of what it's like to live there - 08/18/11
Personal Experiences from Oslo, Norway
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
No, we have lived in Warsaw, Poland; Moscow, Russia; Sofia, Bulgaria; Ankara, Turkey and now Oslo, Norway.
2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?
Our family lives in the NY area - there is a direct flight on Continental and SAS from Oslo to Newark, NJ.
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Most people live in town and are able to walk or take the tram to work. The Oslo International School is located in a suburb of Oslo. We leave near the school, and it takes about 30 minutes to drive in/ 45 minutes by bus. There is a rush in both am/pm (after 7:45 am and after 3:45 pm).
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
lThere are lots of stores where you can get everything you need - but they are at least twice as expensive as those in the Washington DC area.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
I shipped a lot of non-perishables (especially toilet paper and paper towels), school supplies (pens, pencils, calculators, combination locks), clothes.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
MacDonald's. The center of Oslo has kebab fast food - the price for one person is about twenty dollars.
5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?
Organic and allergy-friendly foods are starting to appear in stores more often. You can find most of these products in the big supermarkets.
6. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Some mosquitoes - they can be a problem way up north near the Russian border. Lyme disease is a risk in eastern Norway near the Swedish border
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
We have use of the DPO.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Not sure - it is hard to find babysitters. Norwegians have the 1st year off, and then they are able to place their child in a local daycare. So there is not a big demand for nannies
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Yes, but they are expensive.
4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?
You must set up a Norwegian bank account when you move here. We pay all our bills online.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
Catholioc churches have one or two weekend masses in English. I doubt if the Lutheran churches have English language services.
6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?
Most people get their news online.
7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
Unfortunately, not too much. Most Norwegians speak wonderful English.
8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
It is not as wheelchair accessible as the U.S. In the winter, many people do not clear their sidewalks, so there is always a problem with black ice.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Local trains and buses are fine - cost is about twice the cost of DC metro. Taxis are very expensive - no one takes them unless there is an emergency
2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?
We have a Subaru Outback and it is fine. I do not drive into the mountains after it snows. Many people have SUVs. You must have snow tires put on your car after mid-October.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes - I am not sure of the cost - similar to what I paid in Washington DC.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
They have to two or three cell phone companies here - rates are competitive.
1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?
I think so, but the rules have recently changed -- so one should check.
2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?
There are vets and kennels but they are very expensive
Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:
1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?
Only if you speak Norwegian.
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Less formal than in Washington DC. Most Norwegians do not wear ties.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Not really - we will see if anything changes after the terrorist attacks on July 22, 2011. The authorities believe it was a lone attacker.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
No. Really good.
3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?
Good. My daughter has asthma and has had no problems while living here. However, the air is very dry (even though it rains and snows a lot). My younger daughter and I have had problems with eczema - many Norwegians also have problems with this.
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Summer - 60s may rain a lot. Winter in Oslo begins in December and lasts to the end of March. The first heavy snow usually is near Christmas, and then the snow will not melt until the end of March
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
Oslo International School is the main school for expats (non-Norwegian speakers) in Oslo. I think it is a mixed bag. The primary school is not as challenging as schools in the Washington DC area, but once they get to secondary school it tends to get more challenging. The primary and secondary schools follow the IB curriculum.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
Check with the International School - their policy has changed in the last year.
3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?
Most people I know with young children send them to their local Norwegian preschool - good and heavily subsidized.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Yes, the international school offers a variety of programs: basketball, soccer, floor-ball (programs are usually for 2 or 3 grade levels. Most Norwegian neighborhoods have sports teams affliated with the local school.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
2. Morale among expats:
3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
Not done very often because it is so expensive.
4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
I think it is good for all types, especially people who enjoy being outdoors. It is very expensive, so it is difficult for people who like to go out to eat and drink.
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
Yes - most Scandinavians are tolerant.
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
No - overall it is a very tolerant society.
7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Our fjord trip last summer and taking the Hurtigruten (working Norwegian cruise/postal) ship) to the Lofoten Islands which are located above the Arctic circle.
8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Hiking in the mountains - going by the Oslo fjord and hanging out by the pier. In winter: cross-country ski anywhere or go downhill skiing - a 20- minute drive or train ride from most parts of Oslo.
9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
The nature is unbelievable. Everyone should see the fjords in western Norway
11. Can you save money?
It depends on how much you entertain/travel.
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
3. But don't forget your: