Oslo, Norway Report of what it's like to live there

Personal Experiences from Oslo, Norway

Oslo, Norway 12/02/16

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No, I have lived in several other cities around the world.

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2. How long have you lived here?

3 years.

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3. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

The US Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Oslo is an UNFURNISHED post. Lucky people got gorgeous, spacious apartments in Frogner/Marjorstuen area. Other people got an apartment, a single family home, a townhouse, or a duplex in the suburbs. They were all spread out and we lived among the locals.



The commute varies from a few minutes on foot to 15-30 minutes by public transportation to 1 hour of driving through traffic if you're one of those who are allowed to drive to the Embassy.



Most housing was leased, so maintenance issues were reported to GSO and the local staff had to contact the landlord and wait for the landlord to hire someone to come, which took forever and a lot of nagging on my part. My housing was very old and had numerous maintenance problems. They apparently do not check the places well enough before renting. The local staff could care less about your housing problems. The Embassy assigns whatever they can find just before you arrive regardless of your preferences.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

There is everything you need in Oslo. Norwegians' diet is similar to Americans'. They love pizza, hotdogs, tacos, BBQ, candy, and ice cream. There is not a wide selection of vegetables and fruits.



Groceries cost more than in the US, especially meat and alcohol. Fortunately, we had the option to buy alcohol in bulk from a duty free shop in Denmark (Peter Justesen). That was the only way to afford drinking. Despite the fact that Oslo has been rated the most expensive city in the world, we had low COLA for a long time (as low as 25%), which made everyone at post unhappy.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

I was able to order things as I needed from Amazon. Do bring your own blankets and towels. The welcome kit was horrible. Also bring your favorite DVDs. The Embassy provides a TV but no TV service. Getting my D number (temporary resident number), opening a Norwegian bank account, and having someone from the cable company come to my place took a long time.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Restaurants in Norway are ridiculously expensive. Food was never good enough to justify the price. $20 for a burrito, $35 for a pizza. I never used any delivery services due to the high delivery fees. The cheapest dining options in town are McDonald's, IKEA, and kebab restaurants. Oslo deprived me of the pleasure of dining out. There are not many restaurants to choose from in Oslo unless you live in downtown. I had to walk for 15 minutes from my place to hit one small restaurant.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

There were many bees during summer, which occasionally made it inside the house.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

DPO and occasionally pouch. Amazon shipments usually arrived within a week.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

I didn't know anyone in the Embassy community with household help. Sitters charged around 150 nok/hour.

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3. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Credit cards are accepted almost everywhere, but Norwegian bank cards are the most accepted. The bank charges a fee per bank card per year.

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4. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

None, but it helps to know some for reading signs and grocery shopping. Post did not offer language lessons.

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5. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Yes. Not all trams are wheelchair accessible and the sidewalks are icy during winter.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

They are safe but not affordable. It costs around $4 one-way to ride the train, bus, or tram no matter how short the trip is. Once you pay, it's good for 1 hour. If you have a family, it easily adds up for a round trip to go anywhere. A monthly pass cost about $80 per month.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Expect to wait well over a month for the Internet to be installed, and don't rely on the Embassy to help you. Depending on the housing, some people couldn't get cable. I paid about $45 for 10mgb. It was noticeably slower than what I was used to in the US, but good enough for Netflix. Customer service in Norway are toll numbers, meaning you're charged by the minute on top of your whatever your phone plan charges. Paper bills cost money. Elect electronic billing to get around this.

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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?

There were EFM jobs available at post, mostly for low pay.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Oslo International School Parent Association.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Close to none. Oslo is a very safe and quiet city. Women can walk around alone at night.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

There is a nurse at post. She didn't do much other than helping book an appointment and giving flu shot. You go to private doctors (Volvat, Aleris, etc) and bill your insurance. The quality was fine and the price was similar to the U.S.

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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?

The air quality in Oslo is very good.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Summer never got hotter than 82F and mornings and nights were chilly. Norwegians enjoy sunshine as much as possible during the summer and sunbathe in bikinis and BBQ wherever there is a little green space.



Winter is cold, dark, wet, icy, and very long. It didn't even snow enough to make it pretty.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

Every Embassy child I knew attended Oslo International School. I think most parents were content. The school is open 9am-3pm, only 180 teaching days a year with various breaks throughout the year. This makes it difficult for spouses to have a full-time job. It's not that teachers are more educated than those in US public schools. I think what helps run the school more smoothly are the ample budget, smaller classes, and lots of parents volunteering.

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2. 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 process of getting into local preschools seemed like a nightmare, and no one at post was helping the incoming families. Norwegian preschools, which cost about $400 a month, were just OK from what I heard. No one was ecstatic about it. Oslo International School has a preschool for a much higher tuition than Norwegian preschools (cost similar to the US). DOD people could afford it and they seemed to like it.

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3. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Oslo International School offers many different kinds of after-school activities for a cost. Music lessons at OIS are absurdly expensive. There is no school bus after the activities, so you will need to pick up your child at the school, unless they are old enough to take public transit themselves.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

The morale was pretty low. The local staff acted as if they ran the place. There weren't many CLO events and spouses rarely met each other. Everyone lived apart. CLO at the time was a DOD spouse on a first Embassy assignment. Many Embassy events inevitably excluded family members including the 4th of July Party and the Christmas Party.

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2. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Families with small children seemed to have a hard time waiting for months to get a spot at preschool. They can feel isolated. Most couples and singles seemed happy. Oslo is not a global, metropolitan city so it can get boring after a while. Norwegians are not eager to make new friends especially if they know you're an expat. Nothing is open on Sundays, not even grocery stores.

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3. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Yes. I believe Oslo is more tolerant than the US.

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4. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Norwegians are not explicitly racist but it is easy for one to see that they feel superior to people of immigrant backgrounds and want them to know their place in society. It was disappointing to see little diversity among the Embassy personnel and the Oslo International School faculty despite Oslo having the highest share of immigrants in the country of over 30%.

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5. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

You can get Norwegian sweaters, chocolates, trolls, and cheese slicers. Department stores also sell nice pottery, glassware, and silver crafts from Denmark, Finland and other European countries.

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6. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Oslo is safe and quiet. You can speak English everywhere, and more than half the cable channels are in English. Norwegians like America and pay great attention to what goes on in the U.S. Norwegian nature is absolutely beautiful.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Maybe not. After 3 years, I was ready to leave for a place with good food and warm people where everything is more affordable.

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2. Do you have any other comments?

Oslo is not a family post. CLO was not active, and there was no support for EFMs. People in Norway are not hard working but are entitled. I also found them too naive. You'll find out.

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Oslo, Norway 12/04/15

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

Have lived elsewhere in Western Europe, also in Thailand

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2. How long have you lived here?

2012-2015

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3. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

U.S. Government assignment

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Apartments in the city, small single family houses in the suburbs - I guess what was most new to us is how many people's "single family house" is actually what we would call a condo, maybe a 3BR flat in a community that is built around a common area. These can be very family friendly but are a little hard to get used to if you are expecting a house. On the other hand, you don't have to do any yard work or snow shoveling. :)

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Expensive. But buy fruit and vegetables anyway! Our best tip was to shop at a big store like an ICA or Ultra on a Saturday afternoon and buy lots of things that were marked down. Having freezer space for those things was a big help.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Hmm... don't skimp on winter attire (including Yaktrax or Katoola microspikes). Winter tires would be cheaper purchased overseas. Consumables?

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Oslo is getting much better food culture, but it's not an international food city in the way that say Copenhagen or maybe Stockholm is. The inexpensive restaurant options are mostly not worth it (think US$20 for a bowl of soup or a baguette sandwich). The expensive restaurants are very good. However, lots of positive trends, more international options... tex-mex, food halls, food trucks, etc. Don't overlook the "immigrant" restaurants in Groenland, for example. McDonald's has the best deal in country with I think a 12 kroner hamburger (not even on the menu).

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

None - we had ants in the kitchen occasionally but I'm not sure we ever even saw another bug in the house

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Daily Life:

1. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Haha - you can pay about 120 NOK/hr for someone of immigrant background who is looking to make a little money, for something like babysitting or housecleaning. That is legal as long as the person doesn't earn more than something like 5000 NOK/year for the work, if I remember correctly. If you go "white market" through an agency, I think it's twice as expensive. Needless to say, many people get by without domestic help.

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2. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Expensive. Plentiful outdoor opportunities, though - gotta take up cross-country skiing, and can buy (possibly junky) equipment inexpensively at school rummage sales in the fall ("loppemarked").

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3. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Ubiquitous - some restaurants don't take cash.

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4. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Plenty - the American Lutheran Church is a nice community (it's mostly non-denominational, very international).

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5. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Very little. I had it and used it, but could have done fine without it. Half the servers in town are Swedish anyway.

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6. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

You'd need to choose your location carefully - relying on public transportation might work well with the t-bane and even the buses, but some tram lines are not handicapped accessible at all.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Yes, safe. Affordable? If you buy your ticket on board, a bus costs 50 NOK - the exchange rate when we were there meant that was over US$8. But the monthly pass is a good deal. I considered taxis not affordable and never took them. The local/regional trains from the airport are almost as convenient as the airport express train, and are half price.

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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?

City cars are appropriate. Winter tires are required. We used our car occasionally for a big grocery run, and otherwise only for getting outside of Oslo, whether that was for day trips, hiking, or the occasional driving tour. Rental cars are very expensive. We were glad to have the car, but if you live inside Ring 1, it may be more hassle than it's worth.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes. Not terribly expensive.

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Pets:

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?

No quarantine, but you need to have done your homework well in advance (following a calendar for shots, for example). Quality care is available, but expensive.

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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?

Yes and no. Honestly, if you are a petroleum engineer or some such, you might be able to write your own ticket, though maybe not in this downturn. I knew people with great skills, including in IT and in international relations, who were never able to get their foot in the door. It helps a lot if you have a tie like a Norwegian spouse, I think, or a degree from a Norwegian school. Norwegians are skeptical about non-Norwegian CVs, at least U.S. CVs.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Lots if you have a kid in a school band, for example, but there just isn't an altruistic kind of volunteer culture in the same way there is in the U.S. If we had stayed longer, I would have looked into doing some kind of volunteer trail maintenance, perhaps, via DNT.

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3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

More casual at work than in the U.S., but not sloppy in public, like sweatpants. Men generally don't wear ties, and women generally don't wear suits. Plenty of high-end outdoor gear.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

No, so much so that it makes it tough to adjust back to the "real world."

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

I can only speak to private health care, but I found the quality at Aleris to be excellent. You get what you pay for? Norwegians have to wait a looong time for non-emergency surgery. I had a great experience with labor & delivery at an Oslo hospital.

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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?

Very good.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Too cold and dark for me. Winters vary, but we had one winter with 6 months of temperatures hovering just under/around 32F/0C. While it was never TERRIBLY cold (never below -20C, say), that was a long time of being chilly and having to worry about ice and snow on the ground. The other two winters have been much milder, only about 1 month of snow. Regardless, it gets dark by 3:30pm in December and January; if you work an office job, you will only experience sunshine during the week if you go out at lunchtime. Summers are really variable - we had some "balmy" days in the 70sF, but it can also be grey, chilly, and rainy, which can be depressing. Definitely plan for sunshine breaks to places south in the winter and maybe even the summer!

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Schools & Children:

1. 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?

Yes, organized daycare (barnehage) is available for 12 months and up. Can be a little hard to get a slot at your desired barnehage the first year, and babies are only guaranteed a slot from the fall in which they are 12 mos. In other words, if your kid is born in October, you may have to wait almost 2 years, at least if you are picky about location. Our barnehage was comparable to a good (not fantastic!) U.S. day care, but cost less than US$500/month.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Most expats are "lovepats," i.e., married to Norwegians and well-integrated into Norwegian society. Many of them love Norway and many of them don't, due to all the reasons mentioned above (pros are mostly generous welfare for Norwegians, work-life balance; cons are high cost of living, long winters, closed society). In general, though, I would say morale among true expats (those who are not settled permanently in Norway) is low for those reasons.

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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?

Having people over to your house. Alcohol is so expensive out that people drink at home, for better or worse. Picnics in the summer?

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

The exchange rate was unfavorable our entire stay, and it was just so expensive that we had to adapt our habits a lot. Food and drink are expensive, so if you're used to eating out a lot, you may have to scale back. Norwegians tend to be so reserved, and single friends complained about no one talking to them at bars, except possibly crude drunken propositions at closing time. Something like meet-ups might be a better way to get to know friendly people. Travel opportunities are pretty abundant, though not inexpensive.

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4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Yes

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5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Probably - Norwegians like to think of themselves as very tolerant, but they are not necessarily interested in other cultures, etc. - I think many people would dislike having someone with a non-European background next door to them. I had an Indian friend whose Norwegian neighbors always complained about her cooking smells. Tiny Jewish population, no general understanding of Judaism. Probably no gender prejudices - dads share (almost) equally in child care, which is great.

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6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Hiking and camping; seeing natural beauty while touring especially by car; easy access to outdoor life from Oslo; good fresh fish; appreciation of work-life balance; Norwegian and expat friends.

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Outdoors. Join DNT and get out into the woods. Take the ferries to the islands in the summertime. Enjoy the long nights in summer.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Nothing. Maybe fresh cod? Everything else is too expensive. Hardly any handicrafts left, and those that are are exorbitantly expensive.

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9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Personal safety is high. Outdoor activities are plentiful and amazing.

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10. Can you save money?

Not while we were there - just groceries added up really fast.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

Oslo is a small city. Feels more like a big town. I expected Copenhagen or Stockholm, and it was disappointing in that respect. It's not easy to get to know Norwegians - lots of people are still friends with their childhood friends and don't "need" or want new friends.

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes, because it's safe, clean, family-friendly. We did well socially mostly through kid-centered activities - I can see it being much more difficult socially otherwise. I personally would hesitate to go back there or anywhere with such a long winter.

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3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Shorts and sundresses.

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4. But don't forget your:

Winter gear. Hiking boots.

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Oslo, Norway 06/09/15

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

We've previously lived in the Middle East (before children) and I did a year in Korea with the Army.

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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?

We are from the DC area, and there are some direct flights to Oslo but many more connections available - leave the East Coast of the U.S. in the evening and arrive in Oslo the next morning with 6-10 hours total flight time depending on connections and the airline.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Four great years!

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Assigned to the Embassy with the State Department.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Housing is spread all over, with most expats more on the west side of the city. The embassy has apartments downtown, houses in the suburbs and some folks closer to the Oslo International School which is actually in Baerum, in the town next to Oslo, which can be 30 minutes or more away in rush hour traffic. Public transportation is very widespread and very reliable (we've laughed at the complaints after dealing with the DC Metro system!). There are regular trains, the t-bane (similar in style to the DC metro in that it is below ground in the city center and above ground further out in the suburbs), trams on the streets called Trikks, as well as busses and regular ferry routes out across the fjord! Our commute averaged 30 minutes, some walk 10 minutes to work and others take longer as they combine different transportation options. Driving is not as common because there is limited parking in the city (especially around the Embassy) and it can take far longer since you yield to pedestrians and cyclists and the streets have more volume than they were really built to handle for the most part. Actually, if you're a bicyclist, that is a common and great option that may be faster than anything else. And yes, people ride them rain or shine and switch to studded snow tires in winter for bikes too...

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

You can get everything here, at a price. Local goods are often better than what we can get in the U.S. and since the imported items are more expensive, might as well buy local! The bread in every grocery store is freshly baked and better than most specialty bakeries in the U.S.! The small green grocers have more varieties of fruits and vegetables and there are lots of Asian markets for those specialty items as well.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

More smartwool long underwear and socks!

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Sadly, McDonald's and Burger King are here but local restaurants are better. And if you're going to pay US$25 for a burger, wouldn't you rather it be better than a Big Mac? There are many local restaurants that are really good and several with Michelin stars in Oslo. Expect to start at expensive and go up to well beyond exorbitant!

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

No huge issues, except that there are virtually no screens in doors and windows in Norway, so what they do have will get in your house when you throw open the windows to enjoy the fresh air! Mosquitoes can be bad out in the forest areas, but just for the bites and itching (no disease issues). I think ticks are getting worse, so you'll want to watch out for them and the attendant tick-borne diseases (again, when you're out in the forest areas).

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Through the DPO at the Embassy.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Somewhat available but very expensive, so not that common.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

There are a couple of chains around as well as more specialized locations like Crossfit and yoga studios. All have more limited hours than you'd expect in the U.S. and the costs can be kind of high, but they do seem to have promotions and specials on occasion.

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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'll want to get a chip card with a pin code that are nearly universally accepted here. They can take U.S. cards if they know how, but some vendors do not. And there are locations that don't take cash! ATMs are everywhere and safe.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

I think most are available with a bit of research.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Almost none. Even if you've learned the language, the average Norwegian on hearing your accent will reply to you in English (which they started learning before 1st grade).

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Yes, although they try to make streets, sidewalks and public transportation accessible, many places (and even the tram system) are old and would make ease of access and getting around hard.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

All are safe, public transport is expensive but worth it. Taxis will break the bank, so use sparingly!

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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?

Small SUVs are best, and with good tires. If you living farther up the hill (we did!) or plan to make trips out in winter, studded snow tires with four-wheel drive are the best option. There are congestion tolls entering the city, so if you're not with an embassy and exempt from taxes, you should factor that cost into your budget!

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes, the service is good and cost (relative to everything else) isn't too bad. There are a couple of providers to choose from so if you shop around, you might get better deals.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Get one! The phones are expensive here, but if you get one as part of a plan it isn't bad. And believe it or not, the plans are actually very cheap! Many things are by SMS or text, so having something is a requirement.

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Pets:

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?

Cats and (especially) dogs are loved here. Dogs are extremely well-trained and often off leash without a single issue. They are welcomed on public transportation and outdoor seating at restaurants and cafes. The quality of care is just as high as the U.S., although much more expensive and I have heard that pet insurance is not offered here.

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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?

Depending on your skill set, you may find something not requiring the language on the local economy, but despite English being so universally used, many jobs will require fluent Norwegian as well.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Many offices are business casual, leaning towards the casual side. It is common for people leaving work to change to get more dressed up before going out to meet people.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Norway had its first-ever (homegrown) terrorist incident soon after we arrived here, sadly. Like other European countries, Norway is dealing with how to handle immigration and integrate newcomers into their society. They are also concerned with radicalization of those already here who may either support extremists elsewhere or travel to be foreign fighters themselves. The other side of this is the backlash against immigrants (which was the stated reason for the attacks on July 22, 2011 by a native Norwegian). But the authorities here are clearly focusing on these issues and in no way are they daily concerns. The biggest actual concern is pickpockets and thefts of opportunity when a purse or laptop bag is stolen when someone's back is turned. Overall a very safe place.

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2. 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?

Oslo does have occasional poor air quality days (I think it's supposed to be worse in winter), but anyone who has lived anywhere with even moderate air pollution will laugh themselves silly at what is considered 'poor' here. I think it is actually just fine.

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3. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

This is Norway, so it will be cold. Some winters are worse than others, and sometimes you will find yourself in wool socks in August when it's only 60F and raining. But the Norwegian saying is 'there is no bad weather, only bad clothing', so do not expect for events to be cancelled or moved indoors due to the cold/rain/ice/snow. Four years here without a single snow day or even a delay. Our son is in a local school and they have significant outdoor time every day. When it starts to get cold, every kid just adds a full layer of wool long underwear under everything else, and we invested in good insulated outdoor gear that was put to good use. But some winters were not even that bad...while this spring has been cold and as I type this in June we have yet to hit 70F and they just had another huge (think feet!) snowfall in Telemark a couple of hours from here!

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

The Oslo International School is a British IB curriculum school that most folks use and seems well-liked. I don't think they have much capacity to deal with anything beyond the most basic learning disabilities or special needs, but that could certainly change as well as be a case-by-case status. There is also a French School right downtown a few blocks from the palace, but I have no experience with it. We opted to put our son first in a local barnehage (preschool and kindergarten rolled into one) since he turned 5 right as we arrived. He was fluent in the language by our first Christmas and we opted to stay with the local public school system for our whole time. Norway just lowered the starting age for first grade from 7 to 6 in the last ten years or so. School is very play and experience-focused rather than academic, so depending on your kid's age and particular personality, this may not be the right choice for everyone. Our son has loved nearly every day and we are happy with his academic process as well.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

I know there are extensive services for Norwegians here, but don't have any knowledge of them or if they are available to ex-pats or not. See my note about schools above regarding the International school.

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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 previously-mentioned barnehages are everywhere, but there can still be a wait to get into one. Some are utebarnehagen, which means they are primarily based outside for most of the day. Yes, there are 2-5-year olds in Norway who spend most of the day outside. The come home filthy and exhausted but love every second. Norway is the land of free-range parenting, so don't be surprised if your child has spent a day hiking with a campfire along the way, or if they come home telling you about learning to whittle. Because at school that day, they handed out knives to a bunch of little kids and taught knife safety while cutting sticks (my son was proud that he hadn't cut himself, but other kids did)! Kids are allowed to climb and jump and play, and the resulting scrapes and injuries are expected and handled (and no one sues)!

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Yes! Soccer (futbol, of course), skiing (downhill and cross country) as well as lots of other sports.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

It's a decently large but not at all a cohesive group since there is so much to do and see, travel throughout Europe is easy, and there are not a lot of activities where this group comes together on a regular basis.

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2. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Yes! Great activities for families and kids, lots to do for singles and couples without kids.

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3. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Yes. Gay marriage is legal and accepted.

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4. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

While openly an accepting society welcoming of all races and religions, there can be an undercurrent against immigrants, especially those not choosing to integrate fully into society.

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5. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

We have seen the Northern Lights, been in the Arctic Circle in summer when the sun never set, hiked some unbelievable country in Lofoten, been skiing out in the woods just 15 minutes' drive from the city and stood on Preikestolen (Pulpit Rock) 600 meters above Lysefjord (I wasn't kidding about the outdoors bit)!

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6. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Get outside! Given the (extremely) high cost of living here since all jobs pay a living wage (enjoy that US$15 cup of coffee or US$25 beer!), hikes and many outdoor activities are by far the most affordable. Exploring outside the city center of Oslo is fun and getting outside the capital to see more of the country is required!

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7. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Spend it on experiences rather than things. Your money will go further and get you so much more!

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8. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Beautiful, beautiful country that is the ideal location for those who love to be outdoors or are real athletes.

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9. Can you save money?

NO

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

In a heartbeat. We actually stayed a 4th year when the option opened up and are already talking about return visits.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Sundresses.

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3. But don't forget your:

Sunscreen (needed when the sun does come out), wool socks and willingness to get outdoors!

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Oslo, Norway 05/08/13

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No, I have lived in a number of cities in Africa and Asia.

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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?

From the USA, there are a few non-stop flights out of New York (United, SAS, Norwegian), with all other destinations requiring a stopover somewhere in Europe. Non-stop flying time about 8 hours.

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3. How long have you lived here?

3 1/2 years.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Academic.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Mostly apartments, generally much smaller than in the USA. A few houses on the outskirts of town, but these are VERY expensive. There are lots of different locations to choose from. The west side of town (Frogner, Bislett) is where the embassies and a lot of expats/well-to-do folks live, and there are lots of gourmet shops and restaurants. On the eastern side (Grunerlokka, Torshov), it is more bohemian and younger, with more bars and artsy stuff. Gronland is very multicultural, with tons of ethnic food stores.

Apartment rents do not vary much between areas, maybe within 1000 NOK/month or so at most. The market for flats is tight. Going prices are about 12000 NOK (just over $2000) per month for a 1 BR apartment of about 50-60 m2. Each additional BR adds about 3000-4000 NOK to that. Landlords can be reluctant to lease flats to foreigners. Usually, landlords will have a sort of open house ("visning" in Norwegian) to show the available unit, and interested parties will put their name on a list from which the landlord can choose. The criteria used by the landlord is generally arbitrary, and foreigners can be low on the pecking order, so it might take a few visits before you get a place. If you don't have an identity number or bank account ready, it can be A LOT harder.

Electricity costs depend a lot on how new the apartment is. Older flats tend to have higher ceilings that result in higher power bills. My flat averaged around 500 NOK/month, but it was very efficient.

Commute time from the locations mentioned to the center is 20 minutes or less by bus or tram. I usually walked to work in about 20-25 minutes.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Supermarkets are everywhere - you can't walk 100 meters without running into one! However, they are typically small, and brand selection is poor. Think former Soviet Union in terms of variety. Costs depend on the item, but groceries are probably about 30-50% more costly than in the USA. Meat, milk, and eggs are about double the price.

You can only buy beer in the supermarkets---and only until 8pm on weekdays, 6pm on Saturdays; no Sunday sales. A six-pack of lousy Norwegian beer is about 120 NOK. Wine and liquor have to be purchased at the Vinmonopoliet, open until 6pm on weekdays and 3pm on Saturday. Their wine selection is not bad, but prices are high. The lowest price for a bottle of wine is about 90 NOK. Because the tax on alcohol is on alcohol content (not price), Vinmonopoliet tends not to import many low-value wines, but at the $20-25 range, you can find a pretty decent selection. Liquor is prohibitive, witness the bum-rush at duty free after flights!

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Maybe a few comfort food items from the USA, but generally everything is available here, though at a cost. I do my shopping for big-ticket items in the UK or elsewhere.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Lots of restaurants of all types. Costs are high. The cheapest options are local kebab shops that will offer a large kebab and soda for about 45-50 NOK ($8-9). A main course at a regular restaurant will range from 120-180 NOK. Alcohol is very expensive - about 50-60 NOK for a 0.4 liter lousy beer. Even soda in restaurants costs about 39 NOK and no free refills!

Prices for restaurants, other than at the really high end ones, are not an indicator of quality. You can pay 150 NOK for a great Pad Thai in one place and then have a terrible pizza for the same price at another place. Restaurants are generally not good value, but there are a few exceptions.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

None.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Regular mail, though packages from overseas valued over about $30 could attract duty!

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2. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Sure, lots. Prices about 400-500 NOK/mo.

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3. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Card machines are ubiquitous, but Norway, like the rest of the non-USA world, uses pin/chip technology, so if you try to buy things with a card without a chip, you might have problems. A few local shops only accept Norweigan-issued cards.

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4. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Newsinenglish.no is an English-language online news source that is good and free. You can get cable from a variety of providers; prices similar to the USA.

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5. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Almost none. Norwegian is not that difficult a language to learn, but there are many dialects, so you might understand one person and not another. It can be very hard to practice if learning, because once a Norwegian knows you are not a native speaker (or once you make any mistake), they will immediately switch to English.

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6. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Generally OK, but the city is hilly in spots.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Yes. Taxis are not affordable though - it costs about 80 NOK to enter the taxi (about $14) and a short 3 km ride will cost about 150 NOK.

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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?

The tax on cars is prohibitive, well over 100%, and fuel costs about 14 NOK/liter (nearly $10/gallon). There is no need to drive in Oslo - public transport is efficient, extensive, and affordable (about $120/month for an unlimited monthly pass).

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes, I paid about 300 NOK/month. Generally good quality and fast.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

They are everywhere and getting a pre-paid line is easy. Post-paid requires a job and a credit history.

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Pets:

1. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

From what I have heard, yes.

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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?

See above. Good opportunities exist in research, academia, IT, and engineering, and will be in English language environments. For other careers, despite Norway's 3% unemployment rate, you will need fluent Norwegian. There is often a well-documented reluctance among employers to hire non-Norwegians, so it can be an uphill climb if you do not come here in advance with something lined up.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Generally causal, people actually dress up more for going out than for work.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Not really, usual big city awareness.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

No health concerns as such. The public system is pretty average. You pay the first 2000 NOK out of pocket, and then the rest is free for the remainder of the year.

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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?

The air is very clean, but very, very dry. I have never seen so much dust.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Winters are long. They are no worse than a Midwestern winter (temps down to about -20C or 0F), but they can be relentless, with snow starting in mid-November and lasting well into April, with the occasional flurry seen in May. The worst part of the winter isn't the dark or the snow, but the fact that Norwegians are too $%^*&@ lazy to shovel the sidewalks after storms, which means there is a layer of ice that is never treated and persists for months. They occasionally throw rocks on it to help with traction, but that is of limited use. Walk like a penguin, indeed!

Summer (Jun-Aug) alternates between majestically cool days (low 20s C) with bright skies and sun, and grey rainy days. Summer ends abruptly the last week of August (without fail) with temps falling 5-8 degrees C within a week. Spring and Fall are similar in pattern to Summer, just cooler.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Pretty large.

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2. Morale among expats:

Mixed. Norway can really wear people down. A lot (majority) of expats come here as spouses of native Norwegians, with high expectations of finding work. This often proves difficult, as most jobs require fluency in Norwegian, meaning a lengthy stay out of the job market while learning, frustration with the system, etc. The dark and cold can also get to people, and people used to things happening quickly or inefficiently can get frustrated with the slow pace here. You will see a lot of people stay 2-5 years and then leave - there aren't so many long-term expats unless they have some sort of family connection here.

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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?

Lots of dinner parties and a very active bar scene. Friday/Saturday nights can be crazy in places. The high cost of alcohol is not a deterrent.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Good for all. There is a good international scene with a number of expat-focused groups (New to Oslo, Norway International Network, Internations) that have regular get-togethers. Oslo is very family friendly, with excellent family-leave policies if you work on the local economy. It is maybe not the best place for relationships that are in trouble - I have seen a number of such relationships fall apart here. Not sure if it's the dark, or cold, or what, though.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Yes, it is very open.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Not really - Oslo is nearly 30% foreign born. There is occasionally some tension with immigrants assimilating into society, but the government tries really hard to integrate newcomers. There have been recent tensions with the Roma that are ongoing.

Having said that, Norway is a bit closed and it can take some time to get to know Norwegians. Language is really important in this regard to break the ice, but still some view foreigners with suspicion.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Preikestolen is excellent! Visits to cities in the western part of the country (Bergen, Trondheim).

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Once you have seen the main sites in the city (Holmenkollen, Opera House, Vigeland's Park, Aker Brygge, Sognsvann), there's not a lot else to see, but the outdoors are right on your fingertips - the subway literally drops you off at the foot of the forest for skiing in winter or hiking in summer. Norwegian Air offers low-cost flights throughout the country and the rest of Europe. There is lots to see and do in Norway in general, as long as your pocketbook can handle it! The flights may be cheap, but hotels in Norway are a different matter!

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Sweaters, reindeer meat, lutefisk (if you are brave!)

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Oslo is a beautiful city, with an interesting culture and terrific opportunities for outdoor activities (of different sorts) year-round. The city is safe, relatively clean, increasingly multicultural, and laid-back.

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11. Can you save money?

Yes. But you have to adopt a non-American lifestyle. This means you cannot eat out 3-5 days a week, you can't have a car, you don't go buy frivolous things, and you don't go to the bar all the time. Personally, this isn't that hard to do. I have easily saved about $1000/month on a similar salary as I would have had in the USA.

Having said that, it would be harder to save with a larger family and/or if one spouse did not work.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

I am still there, so yes.

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Oslo, Norway 08/18/11

Background:

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.

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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.

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3. How long have you lived here?

2 years

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Government

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

We have use of the DPO.

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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

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Yes, but they are expensive.

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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.

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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.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Most people get their news online.

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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.

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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.

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Transportation:

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Pets:

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.

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

There are vets and kennels but they are very expensive

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

Check with the International School - their policy has changed in the last year.

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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.

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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.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

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2. Morale among expats:

Above average.

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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.

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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.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Yes - most Scandinavians are tolerant.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

No - overall it is a very tolerant society.

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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.

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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.

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Skis.

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

The nature is unbelievable. Everyone should see the fjords in western Norway

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11. Can you save money?

It depends on how much you entertain/travel.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

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3. But don't forget your:

Credit card.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

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Oslo, Norway 06/20/09

Background:

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.

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2. How long have you lived here?

2 years -- 9/2007 to 7/2009

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3. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

US Dept. of State

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Canned goods, paper products.

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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.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

None.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Yes - expensive.

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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.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

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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.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Similar to most modern, European cities.

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Transportation:

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.

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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.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

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Pets:

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?

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

Yes - but you'll pay for it.

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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.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

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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.

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2. What immunizations are required each year?

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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.

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4. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

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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.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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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?

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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.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

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2. Morale among expats:

It depends -- we loved it.

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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.

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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.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

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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.

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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).

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

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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.

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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.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

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3. But don't forget your:

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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7. Do you have any other comments?

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