Oslo, Norway Report of what it's like to live there - 01/11/20
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. I've also lived in cities in Africa.
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?
USA. Travel usually requires a connecting flight.
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?
We lived in a single family house in the suburbs, but many folks live in apartments downtown as well. Housing size is a little smaller, but plenty adequate. Commutes are generally easy with excellent transit.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
There isn't a lot of variety and much of the produce is imported. Cost of food is higher, especially at restaurants. There are lots of international food markets that provide produce at a cheaper cost than grocery stores and generally have more variety.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Paper products are nice to have on hand as they are pretty expensive and sold in small quanities.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Foodora delivers food in the city, but availability of this service is limited/unavailable in the suburbs.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Very few insects in Norway.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
Local postal service and diplomatic post.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Very expensive for most Americans, but a few folks employed a house cleaning service.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Expensive, yes, but abundant and generally similar to US standards.
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?
Yes, yes and yes.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
There are a handful of international churches that have services in English, both Protestant and Catholic. There are a few more options if you are willing to listen via translation/headphones:
Oslo International Church
International Baptist Church
American Lutheran Congregation
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
You rarely need local language. The locals love it when you try to speak, but will quickly shift to English.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
There seem to be a lot of accommodations for physical disabilities.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Safe, reliable, frequent. About US $4 for an hour of transit. Recommend getting a monthly unlimited card if traveling daily.
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?
Smaller cars are recommended. Big cars are very difficult to park in garages and in the typical Norwegian parking space. Winter tires are mandated by law during the winter months. You can pay a tire service to store your tires in the off season. We brought a typical American minivan. It worked in the suburbs, but it was tight and stressful in the winter. I'd probably bring it again, but there were frustrations. Car fit in garage with just inches to spare on each side.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes. You can get it pretty quick once you have your bank account set up.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
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?
Hard to get a job locally and spouses need to jump through lots of bureaucratic hoops to get license to work.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Very safe post.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
There is adequate medical care for most basic things. They do things pretty differently from the US in terms of how they treat. There is less anesthesia and pain medication offered. They strongly dislike antibiotic use. We found they under treated for a lot of ailments compared to American health care. We found this frustrating and inconvenient most of the time, but we adjusted to their way of care for the most part. If big medical issues were to come up, that might be more of a concern.
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?
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
Lots of gluten-free products for people with celiac disease.
5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?
The winter darkness is a big deal for a lot of folks. You have to be good about taking your vitamin D. We all came back to the US with deficiencies, despite taking supplements. Being outdoors as much as possible during the winter was helpful.
6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Long winter, but lots to do outside. Usually very mild summers.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
We had a great experience at Oslo International School.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
They make minor accommodations at OIS. Generally, the country does really well with the special needs population, but because OIS is private, it wasn't easy/natural to get the services that would be available to the local population. Also, while English is widely spoken, some special needs services were less available in English. Therapists, for example, may not be willing or feel comfortable speaking to children in English because of the vocabulary needed.
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?
The application for the local barnehage system is a little tricky to understand and navigate, but the local barnehages are pretty excellent. We had two children use the one in our neighborhood and it was overwhelmingly positive. We were sad to take our youngest back to the American preschool. There is a rating system for barnehages in the city, but finding out which barnehages are good in Baerum kommune is mostly via word of mouth. Kids at least a year old are guaranteed a spot, but you may not get your top choice. It is much harder to get a spot at your barnehage of choice in the city. Easier to do so in the suburbs.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
After school sports are available at OIS. My kids loved the variety of offerings, but they are largely recreational. If you are looking for something more competitive, try the local club teams. Some clubs are more friendlier to foreigners than others. Some are more English-friendly. Your kid will probably miss a lot in local language, but coaches will often repeat instructions in English as well. At the high school level, sports at OIS are pretty lacking. Teams are formed based around tournaments. They have a few practices and travel to compete in the tournament. It's fun for the kids, but they won't likely develop as an athlete at OIS alone.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Decent expat community. Some expats really loved it, some less so. Those with active kids probably benefitted from Oslo the most.
2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
Joining local sports clubs is probably the best way to meet locals. They are available in every part of the city.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
I can't speak for singles, but families with active children probably would do very well in Oslo. They prize time outdoors and there are so many winter options available. Our kids tried a new winter sport every year. Lots of free skating rinks in the suburbs. In the suburbs, there are cross country ski trails everywhere and the kids learn this skill at OIS. Anyone who enjoys the outdoors will thrive in Oslo.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
5. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?
Generally, Norwegians are closed off to outsiders, but we found that with a little work, we made inroads with neighbors and coworkers. Norwegians come alive in outdoor settings such as out hiking or skiing, so you often get a different view if you encounter them on a hiking trail v. the metro.
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Not to a large degree.
7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Northern lights. All winter sports that we learned to enjoy. Beautiful snowy landscapes. Fjords are incredible. Definitely go see a glacier up close. Doing a dip in the oslofjord with friends in the winter (there are companies who offer floating sauna services).
8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Ice skating. downhill skiing. Cross country skiing. Hiking trails everywhere with cozy cabins along the way that sell waffles and coffee. Check DNT maps to find cabins that serve food and snacks.
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?
Clean. modern. Close to nature.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
I wish I had known not to be intimidated by the winter. Adopting the Norwegian view of winter can go a long way in terms of how you view your time living there and how you manage during the dark winter months.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Absolutely. We benefitted so much from the easy access to nature and culture of being outdoors.
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
oversized american vehicle
4. But don't forget your:
Long underwear! you'll probably convert to wool after you arrive.
5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
TV shows on Netflix:
Norsemen (maybe better enjoyed once you've been there for a while)
6. Do you have any other comments?
My one advice for those headed to Oslo is to find a winter sport to enjoy.