Oslo, Norway Report of what it's like to live there - 06/20/09
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 - also lived for two years in Conakry, Guinea.
2. How long have you lived here?
2 years -- 9/2007 to 7/2009
3. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
US Dept. of State
4. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Canned goods, paper products.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
It is expensive for Americans, especially so if the dollar is weak.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Yes - 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 need a Norwegian bank card at some stores, so you can't count on relying on your credit card everywhere.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?
7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
None, though it would be very helpful if you wanted to volunteer or take classes. I found a cross-country ski class for english speakers - but nowhere to volunteer.
8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Similar to most modern, European cities.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Totally safe, although on weekend nights it is as though you are in a different city with the party people. Not cheap, but way cheaper than parking.
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 been able to rely mainly on public transportation; though for weekend trips and skiing, our Pathfinder has been great. You do need winter tires.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
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?
2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?
Yes - but you'll pay for it.
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?
Some spouses found jobs -- there is very little unemployment here. No idea how complicated the paperwork might be, though.
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Health & Safety:
1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?
There is no pollution, although there have been complaints of allergies from some of my colleagues this spring.
2. What immunizations are required each year?
3. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
I've never felt safer anywhere I have lived -- people walk everywhere at all times. It's amazing.
4. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
We were here for two winters. The first was dark, dreary, drizzly, with lots of black ice but little snow. This past winter (2008-09) we had lots of snow, a clear day here and there, and no black ice. So - weather probably depends. You should plan to take sunny holidays regulary from October to March.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
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?
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Yes - but unfortunately most of them are neighborhood-based, so if your children do not speak Norwegian, it doesn't work well.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
2. Morale among expats:
It depends -- we loved it.
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?
Family time is truly sacred to Norwegians, so entertaining locals is typically during work hours or tied to end of workday -- lunches, teas.
4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
If you enjoy outdoor living, you will love it here. We have travelled all over Norway, learned to x-country ski, seen Pulpit's Rock near Stavanger, and toured the fjord country. It is amazing. People who are less outdoorsy -- and/or are perhaps more shy about making friends -- seem to suffer.
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Norwegians are reserved and have preconceived notions about Eastern Europeans and non-Norwegians -- or even 2nd/3rd generation Norwegians. Americans are relatively popular, especially since Obama's election.
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Hiking, skiing, sailing, exploring the stave churches and historical sites, tons of museums, live music venues. Most American films are in English with Norwegian subtitles (except children's films).
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
9. Can you save money?
We didn't, but if you were disciplined, never ate at a restaurant, and didn't travel, it would be conceivable. There are a lot of low-cost cultural things to see/do.
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
We'd love to come back! It's a fabulous city, wonderful people, down-to-earth, modest but very proud.