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I'm Norwegian but have been in the UK for over 10 years now. DH is English, we have a 7 month old baby.
We really can't make up our minds about staying here, or moving to Norway!
The cost of childcare, the stress about getting the kids into "good" schools, and later on, university fees, is making me want to run... but I feel like I have to start all over again and figure out how things work, as I've been gone for so long. I'm also concerned that DH will be happy there - although he's the one that's been pushing most to move lately.
I have tons of questions, but the short question is; has anyone on here moved to Norway, whether you're Norwegian or not, and how did you find it?
What's better, what's worse?
Any advice would be much appreciated, thank you!
I spent the autumn and winter in Oslo as my DP was on a temporary secondment.
I was expecting the worst but I loved it (well everything except the exchange rate and cost of wine!)
People seem to have a better quality of life - less commuting time, work sensible hours - and it seems a more familiy oriented country. My DC, who was 3, loved it too.
If only we could go back!
You need to put a shout out for Quint - I think she's going by QuintessentialOdyssey at the mo, or something like that... She lives in Norway. Try asking in Chat for her, someone's bound to point her in this direction.
Hi Horse, would you go back then, if you could? Permanently, or for a longer period of time?
It is definitely more family oriented, which is why I'm thinking about moving now.
Geocentric, thank you, I will go ask for her now!
Hi, I'm English but have lived in Norway for several years (Stavanger and now Oslo). we're moving back to the UK this summer but would love to stay in Norway if the circumstances were right for us.
Generally speaking quality of life is better here. work/life balance is more reasonable and the family is a priority. Taxes are high but so are salaries and i don't know many poor Norwegians! Family life is great with outdoor activities all year round (most of which are free!). Services are good with just about everything you need at your doorstep. As a foreigner I found it hard to learn the language (but managed it in the end) and it wasn't easy making friends - but your DH will be halfway there with a Norwegian wife. My DD went to barnepark and barnehage and loved it without having pressure on her to start reading really early. No competition for school places and all schools offer the same (pluses and minuses in that). Many Norwegians go to UK universities and get a grant from the Norwegian government, something your child would be entitled to do. I do miss the variety of British culture: tv, theatre, film, music etc and you'll probably be a bit frustrated by Norwegians shops and supermarkets at first but things have vastly improved since I first came to Norway in 96. Think i've waffled on for long enough - have i convinced you yet? As Nike say: just do it! Lykke til
Tusen takk, Fernie2
It's nice to hear that you and Horse enjoyed living there, I've tried searching on expat forums and so many people slag it off! Norwegians are so rude being the main complaint, and how hard (impossible) they found making friends and integrating. I think this can be true, but of course my/our situation will be different.
Food shopping is frustrating there! But we can always go back here and stock up.. and cook more from scratch!
I assume you moved because of work? This has been the main problem for us, DH has applied for jobs but only had one reply so far, and it took them 2 months to reply! Then another month to sort out a phone interview... no job offers so far, but just have to keep trying. I was told by NAV that if I move on my own with baby they can help, if we move together then they can't help at all... So this is the main concern, that we move, use our savings while looking for work but it will take months to get anything. Will have to find out more what our options are. I could move first, then DH after, I suppose.
where are you moving to and what line of work is it?
I don't think Norwegians are rude - certainly more direct (and that's not a bad thing) but not rude. Trouble is most have good social network already set up and are not that interested in extending it. Most of the Norwegians that i have got to know well have been those that have either travelled a bit or have some particular interest in foreigners or foreign lands. As a 'mixed marriage' I think you would have a foot in both camps: expat and local so don't think social life would be a problem.
Shame about NAV and work. Surprised NAV can't help. Do you intend to work? DH is in oil related business which is what brought us here and I work as teacher in ungdomskole (much better pay than UK). Recession is definately not as bad here as in rest of Europe and oil money is a cushion. But language could be an issue for work for your DH. Oil business companies often operate in English so not a problem for DH, in fact it's meant he has failed to learn much Norwegian cos he's not speaking it at work. I suppose the other option is for you to be the breadwinner until DH is up to speed with the language - don't know whether that is an option.
Food shopping is fine. I stopped stocking up from the UK after the first year - not worth the effort and you learn to cook with what you've got. Although we really can't live without Yorkshire teabags and have them flown over if we run out! How sad is that! How do you cope in the UK without brown cheese? I lived in Malaysia for a while and knew a group of Norwegians who were seriously looking into ways of importing brown cheese via Singapore!
am waffling on again...... oh dear
Hi again Bob
Yes, would love to go back if DP offered perm. move.
I found the shopping ok - was very near an ICA and could easily get a bus to a big shopping centre.
We're flexible about the location, but most of my friends are in Oslo and that's also where most jobs are. DH has an Engineering degree but have worked in direct marketing since graduating so is looking at both those and anything in between really. It would be much easier if we were there so he'd be available for interviews etc, the only worry is how long this might take.
I'm on maternity leave here now due back at the end of the year but most of my salary would go on childcare - so I'm thinking now maybe I should just resign, and find something in Norway, then DH can be a SAHD whilst looking for work, and signing up for Norwegian course. He'd love that too!
Ah it all sounds so simple now!
The concern I have was that NAV told me as DH is British he needs a recidency permit, he can stay 3 months on holiday visa, then 6 months as a job seeker during which time he much support himself financially, and apparently it makes no difference if we're married or not. It sounds strange to me so I'd like to find out some more facts about this.
I can definitely live without brown cheese! But used to have salty licorice sent over I live in London, so this helps as you can get most things here. I once went to the Norwegian church when I was a homesick student and ate waffles and read my local newspaper! I only discovered afterwards that you're supposed to leave a tip for the waffles!
Horse, would your DP like to move back too? What type of work was it?
Yes DP would like to go back for a better quality of life. He liked working there - the job had reasonable hours and he could easily commute across Oslo by train or bus (transport runs on time and you can usually get a seat!). He's an engineer working for an oil company.
I just chanced upon your thread.
I moved to London to study at UCL when I was 20, I met my (now) husband shortly after I moved. We set up home together, we embarked on careers, we got married, we had children (8 and 5), set up our own uk based company, and moved to Norway just over 2 years ago due to my parents ill health, after more than 15 years there.
I think what you have to bear in mind is the following:
1. Where do you live now, how integrated are you, and how much you love/like it there.
2. Your husband, will he integrate to Norwegian life and society and find work here?
3. Will you BOTH easily find work in Norway
4. Where are you planning to live?
It has not been a great success to us, to be honest, and I reckon we will be like a "boomerang pom" and return to London within the next couple of years.
Make sure you dont look upon Norway through rose tinted glasses. Your childhood and memories of childhood will for sure differ to the real experience.
We are in Tromsø. It is 24th of June, it is 6 degrees, wind and rain. Had we lived in Oslo, or somewhere more urban than here, I suppose it would been different.
In the 2 years we have been here, my husband has only seen 2 jobs he could possibly have applied for. Most jobs here are building related, local government, or within industry and labouring. Again, I suspect Oslo would be different, as my dh is an IT professional.
Food. At least up north, it is remarkable what poor choice we have in the shops, and how overpriced it is. We spend 4 times as much on food here as we did in London, and we have had to just about cut lamb and beef out of our diet, as it is too expensive (and we are by no means poor!) I would have to spend nearly £30 on enough tender beef for a caserolle dish to feed 4! 750g chicken breast is £10, in Rema, which is regarded "cheap". As chicken is really chicken and not hen, you need two to feed a family of 4, and I spent £40 in the butcher for that. Unless you want precooked and premarinated chicken, from Prior, which is salty, dry and yucky. (Admittedly, I am a foodie.)
I bought a few lamb shanks in the automn when lamb was "in season", to put in the freezer for later. You have to start thinking seasonal regards to your food, if you want to live within a reasonal budget and invest in a freezer. £4 for a tiny punnet of rasberries. The same with strawberries, and the only fruit to be reasonably priced is apples and bananas. Even a punnet of grapes is £3.
But this is inconsequencial.
Nav. And residency.
My husband applied for an EU residency, which lasts 5 years. It took 9 months, and in this time he had permission to stay without a problem. If he had applied for the standard Family Reunion visa, he would have to prove that he was not outside norway for more than 3 months in total during each year. BUT he would get a free full time Norwegian language course. (We were billed 12000 kr for 3 months) You have to prove that you can support yourselves financially, and that you have somewhere to live, and what your rent is, etc. You need to speak to your local police station, as they handle this on behalf of the foreign office.
Where do you live now, and where are you planning to live in Norway?
Oh, I see you want to live in Oslo, you wont have the same problems as us then.
Also much easier to go back.
Hi QS, thank you for your reply!
I suppose my story is similar in some ways, I grew up outside Trondheim, left for London when I was 21, worked and studied.
But I've moved around different parts of London, never settled in one place. Most of my friends have been foreigners too and a lot have left and gone back/moved on, I can't say I have a stable network, although a few good friends whom I'd miss, but probably not more than I miss my friends in Norway now.
I met dh a few years ago, we were in the process of buying a place when I got pg, then pulled out as more details came to light about the property and we're still both relieved we didn't buy it, we would've struggled financially. So, we're still renting and not sure exactly were to settle if we do stay in the UK, or were we would be happy/were would be good for dd.
We live in London now, but think we'll move further into Kent or Surrey, simply to save money. DH has no family here either, if he did I'm sure it would change things.
Horsesweat and Fernie2, I think your experiences are different because your dp's were posted through work, this would be the ideal way to move but I don't think it'll happen for us.
There are so many pros and cons for both places, but the main concern is that we want to do what's best for dd.
I am so overwhelmed right now with having to choose childcare, which would take most of my salary, then when she starts school, will she even get into the one that's closest to where we live, how does it all work? And will we be able to put her through university, the fees wont get any smaller will they.
I guess the case is I know how it works in Norway, it's simple, everyone gets a place in a nursery and the nearest school, and they're all of a decent standard - and if we're not happy with the mainstream one even the private ones are affordable as they're also subsidised. And university is free. I also like that they start school later.
QS - what do you think about the question of were it's better to grow up; does it matter? Do your children miss the UK? Does your DH speak Norwegian now?
I really feel for you, I can imagine exactly what it's like... Where my parents live it's 10 degrees today, and rain, rain, rain. We went a few weeks ago and I had to borrow my mums rain coat ffs. In June.
I did actually move back after about a year in London, stayed for a year, but missed London so much, even the tube!! And I always used to miss London when I went back, but this has changed over the last few years, now it's the other way around.
I just never anticipated it would be so hard to go back.
Also, does anyone have any thoughts about racism in Norway, compared to the UK or elsewhere. DH is of Indian origin.
Fernie2, you don't waffle on, that's my speciality!!
Thanks again, all of you, I'm taking everything you've said into account, and will harass NAV lady again (I got someone's email address so don't have to call different people all the time!)
Fernie2: Have you been there for 14 years? How old are your dc? How come you're moving back to the UK now? (nosy!)
Dh speaks norwegian quite well on a superficial level. He has only made one friend during his two years here, a couple from Eritrea, through the Voksenopplæringa language classes. He found that even if it was very multicultural in the classes, the people had so recently arrived they were in the typical phase of defending their own culture and their heritage, so were not very open to Norwegian culture at all, and headed into a very strong "Somali-ness", "Russian+ness" etc.
However, many had spent time further south, and they said they encountered more racism in oslo and the bigger cities, than in Tromso. They said here they were taken at face value and accepted for who they are rather than the colour of their skin.
They developed a theory in my dhs class that We are ALl stuck in Tromso. We have no rail, it is difficult to get here, only way out is by plane, so you dont get any random people here who dont want to be here, because nobody ends up here by chance!
He misses London, but he is also quite outdoorsy, and we live right by Slalombakken, and they spend the entire winter downhill skiing, and cycling in the summer.
The boys still speak English, and we speak English at home. They miss London now and then. Our eldest turned 6 as we left, so he had a period of blocking out any though, or indeed love for the country he was born and grew up in.
We own a house in south west London, and we are renting it out, for the moment. At least that is the idea, but it has been nothing but trouble. I did not really settle in London until after the kids were born. I joined NCT, and threw myself into the "South West London Mother Hood Scene" I never had Norwegian friends, I did not attend the seamens church at all. Instead I attended our local Anclican Church and did voluntary work for them as the Editor of the parish news letter. 90% of my friends were (and indeed are) British. I had no problems with nursery, or preschool, and no issues when our oldest son started Reception.
Childcare in London is taylored around The Working Parent. Here it is less so, in that there are few wrap around options.
In London life was easy, we had a cleaner, and an au pair. In Norway you just DON DO SUCH A THING! You clean your own house, even if you are working your proverbial arse off with a demanding job, and you dont have au pairs - nannies. Instead you have to rely on your neighbours teenage children for the odd babysitting, and you use family and neighbours as emergency childcare.
We have not been out even ONCE together as a couple after we moved here, as we dont have any family who can babysit.
I do find my sons preschool better than any London nursery though. Lots of messy play and outdoors activities.
My sons school is so lenient that I think all children have mild behavioural problems due to lack of boundaries and respect for grown ups. After 2 years, I dont think he has learnt much, and they are carefull not to let him rush on ahead of the class. This is tough, as he started school in London at the age of 4 (two years earlier) and he was ace in maths even then. The result is that he never has maths homework, and he is not stretched.
My youngest lost his asthma when we moved to Norway, and this is the single most important reason why we are not moving back.
Another gripe regards to shopping. We have no online grocery shopping. I am doing 2-3 shops every week, IN THE SHOP, rather than spending 15 minutes on Tesco online and dropping by at my local MS for some fresh foods when I am out and about.
But, the mountains are nice!
Ugh I can't sleep.
I've heard the same from other friends (Indian etc) that Oslo is the worst, Trondheim is fine and everyone has positive experiences and find the people friendly. My parents town even is fine, everyone was very nice to dh. I like the theory about Tromsø!
Dh used to row, but have 0 time for that now. He'd love to start that again if he could. Also mountain biking, cycling in general, he'd love to get one of those backpacks were he can stick dd in and go for walks in the forest. I've been teaching him all about coffee and hot chocolate on flasks, oranges and Kvikklunsj!
I have another good friend here who had a baby some months before me, have spent time with them, also used surestart centres for babycafe, internet for meeting other mums locally etc. It wouldn't be a problem to integrate and create our own network if we do decide to stay, I think.
We're moving next month so will look into local nurseries/childcare options as soon as we know we're well stay, but I know that they are all very expensive, and I don't earn that much. I work from home, my boss is great and flexible if I would like to work PT etc, so I would like to keep it. We've been thinking about getting an au pair but need to find out more about the real cost of this too. But it would be the ideal solution for us, as I'm at home anyway it would be nice to just have someone else there to help out, rather than send dd out of the house.
We were actually talking to my friends about this when we went to Norway recently, they're getting a cleaner when she's back from maternity leave, also some of their friends and family have cleaners. But this was in Trondheim and Oslo, maybe attitudes are different? Tbh, your situation there sounds like ours here right now. And it sounds like you were (are) better off financially, which is maybe what it boils down to. In the UK, as long as you have a certain amount of money, life is great, but if not, it can be very hard.
Dh is out of the house 10 (on a very good day) to 12 hrs a day, sees dd 1 hr in the morning and 1 at night, he's supposed to do 40 hrs/week but it's more like 45 - 50. He hates it. You can work your arse off in the country, and get very little back. I can see that people get a lot in return for paying their taxes in Norway, which is why most people don't mind paying them. Dh would like to move so that he can spend more time with us, and for all of us to have a better work/life balance.
"My sons school is so lenient that I think all children have mild behavioural problems due to lack of boundaries and respect for grown ups"
Sorry, this made me laugh, but I know what you mean. It's the "we're all equals" attitude, which is great, but they should be thought respect at the same time.
My dad was complaining about exactly the same thing, that if someone is good at something they have to wait for everyone else to catch up, rather than receive extra work or support to develop. It was the same when we were at school.
I know, no online shopping. I hardly use it now actually, but probably would be a godsend when dd is old enough to know what "sweets" are...
About the meat, I don't eat red meat anyway but I think it's always been expensive. I can't remember that we ever had lamb, or even beef. Mainly fish, and then pork or chicken. I used to be vegetarian but now eat fish and chicken, turkey etc. My parents actually thought chicken and fish was expensive here, especially the fish. But that might be were they live. Although - in Tromso it should be too?? ;)
Sigh. I'm due back at work e.o. the year, will see what we figure out about childcare etc, if it makes any sense for me to go back. If not, I really don't think we have much to loose by going.
It's a bit similar to when I decided to move here in that I thought if I don't go, I'd always think "what if?". I have a feeling this might happen if we stay here, and I wont be able to settle completely as this will always be at the back of my mind.
QS, it's supposed to be 16 - 18 degrees in Tromsø today! Hope it's true, and that you get to enjoy some sunshine
Hello Bob, been away (cycling near Bergen - beautiful!) but wondered whether you had made a decision yet.
No we haven't been in Norway for 14 years - if so think it would have been very difficult if not impossible to leave. We've moved every 3 years (with DHs work) and five years were spent in Malaysia - couldn't have been more different from Norway!
Think rascism is an issue in Oslo these days. It's often discussed in newspapers and on the radio and I've heard some pretty rascist comments now and again. However, I can't imagine it being any worse than any big city in the UK. And it is often directed at refugees and asylum seekers rather than economic migrants.
I agree that discipline in school is an issue. I worked at a ungdomskole for 18 months and was constantly frustrated by discipline issues that seemed basic common sense to me.
However, think policy is beginning to change on trying to keep everyone at the same level and not letting bright kids get ahead. Education theory follows the UK and Canada and there is a lot of emphasis on differentiation and giving all kids the chance to learn at their own pace, including the bright ones.
Anyway would be interested to hear how you get on. Good luck
I have read this post with great interest. I am British and my partner is Norwegian. I moved to Norway in 2000 and we moved to Sydney in 2008, we're now trying to decide whether to move to England or Norway and your responses were very interesting.
We lived in Bergen for the 1st 3 yrs (where oh is from) and i found it so very hard, the worst thing being that my UK education was not recognised, I had to work as a cleaner (1 yrs after graduating from uni), I was still learning the language and the weather was so very depressing and I found it to be a racist city (or that fremmedfrykt was a very real concept) ... We moved to Oslo where I found life much easier. I was able to go to the office where my education application was rejected and speak to the people in person and suddenly it was acknowledged so I was able to get a good job, comparable to Norwegians, but it was a long way getting there and nearly broke me. I had 2 children in Oslo and the maternity benefits were great as well as kontantstøtte so I was able to work part time. We moved to Sydney in 2008 and had another baby who is now 6 months, in oz we received no financial help at all and daycare for 2 days for my little girl costs the same as her full time place in nursery which has made us realise that in terms of financial stability and work/life balance Norway is the best place. We have a flat in gamlebyen so our closest school if we were to move back is not meant to be very good, which worries me about going back. On the other hand I have been away from England for 9 years and am worried that if we don't live there, even for a short time now, we'll never end up going back. What would you all say are the positives of the UK?
I found less racism in Oslo (i am mixed race) once you have a decent job people seem to accept you for who you are. I think that the fact racism makes it to the papers is a good thing, that it is worthy of a news item IYSWIM. Things like food shops and shopping in general and customer service are definitely better than when I first moved to Norway. In gamlebyen we even had a supermarket that opened on Sunday!!
interested to read your post Willow 5. we actually have a visa for Australia but have decided not to go. Terrible delays in bureaucracy meant 2 years delay for us actually getting the visa, by which time we had moved back to Norway so the timing was all wrong, but i do wonder if we should have found a way to make it work anyway. What else makes you decide to leave Australia?
We're going back to the UK basically cos the kids want to (they've never lived there) but we are very apprehensive about going back in the present economic climate. Here in Norway I had a good job, back in the UK my opportunities are going to be very limited and competition is fierce, my best option will probably be to start my own business.
Looking forward to cultural life in the UK. although i speak Norwegian I've never really felt like there's much going on culturally. We will be in Brighton, so will be close enough to visit London regularly - that will be good for kids too. And we're close to France and the rest of Europe - expensive to travel from Norway.
Of course being closer to extended family should be fun (well, most of the time anyway!), we have missed out on that for the last 14 years.
Am hoping the education will be an improvement too (kids were at International School here - so that is not a criticism of the Norwegian system). However, we have got the youngest into private school cos the local comprehensive with 1500 kids looked very scary!
I think it depends where you would live in the UK, but generally i think you are right - you get a better work/life balance in Norway and it's a great place to have kids. I think you have to work out what is important for you and your family and forget the general comments people make.
If you're worried about schools in gamlebyen could you not move a bit further out? With 3 kids you probably need a bigger place anyway.
anyway, interested to hear what you decide good luck
I think our main decision to leave Australia is that whilst we love it here, it will never be 'home' and it is so far from family. We have a 2 an a 4 yr old so we have to pay full fare for them for flights so if something happened and we needed to fly back to Europe it would cost so much that it almost makes me trapped to be here sometimes. Compared to Norway we're struggling financially having been not working with no maternity pay, child benefit, subsidised nursey etc.
My worry with returning to the UK is the negativity portrayed in the media, sounds so depressing, but not sure if thats just media hype. My children have never lived there and I really want them to have a time in their lives where England feels like home. Also, with such little children, I've really noticed since been in Australia that I love English being their mother tongue, I can help them with their language and as it's part of my identity I like that its natural for them to speak English over Norwegian (though I do feel thats its great they are bilingual).
The education issue in Norway compared to England is interesting too. I'm not sure I would be happy with my 5 yr old starting in gamlebyen skole (but then that could be the Norwegian headlines brainwashing me). In the long term if we were to move to norway we would probably move out of that area, but in the short term we have a flat there so return to gamlebyen if we were to go back to norway. Still in denial that I have 3 children and can't cope if there's not a cafe within walking distance! Does your youngest go to st. sunniva? I'll be applying there just in case we decide to go back to Norway, but chances of getting a place are low, especially as I'll be applying from abroad.
I think I can see that overall Norway would be a better place, free schools and in the longer term free uni, would be a gift to give my children a country with free quality education, but at the end of the day England is my home and I have to decide where I want my children to call 'home'. I've often thought about where I would go if me and my partner were to separate (when we were in noway and no real reason, just my practical side coming out) and I would want to return to England, but it would be very easy for his parents to manipulate him into making it difficult for me to leave Norway with the children, resulting in me being stuck in a country where I wouldn't want to be. I guess this is my main point for wanting to back to England instead of Norway.
I would want to return to the south of England so interested to know your experiences
Hi Fernie I thought I'd killed this off! Saw this a week ago or so but not had time to reply. Baby much more active these days!
I really really want to move back now. We had almost decided on staying here for some time, as it seemed impossible to find work before moving to Norway. So I just had to switch off a bit, iyswim, and concentrate on making the best of living here. And I tried... but then I just got really down and as soon as we started talking about moving again, I realized this is what I really want. I am so fed up with renting here, so if we were to stay then we would buy something, but what's the point if it's for a couple of years only?
I have also calculated that if I was to go back to work and put dd in nursery full time I'd be left with £7 per day So not really worth it!
I hope us applying whilst still living here wont make it too difficult to find something, some friends are trying to move from Oslo to Trondheim area and even they are having problems as the employers look at their Oslo address and don't even bother interviewing them.
Willow5, I read a post on some expat forum once from and English girl, said she was in Bergen with bf, had to wait 8 months for a job and then she only got a cleaning job. Was this you?? Or is this very common!? Same thing actually happened to a friend of mine, studied in London, moved back and only got cleaning job - this was some years ago and job market is apparently better now. Still, it's scary.
Of course there are positives about the UK. I would also say arts and culture, and there is so much to do with kids in London. You can experience every culture here, which would be a big plus for us and make it easier to teach dd about both Indian and Norwegian heritage. I know there is stuff in Oslo too, but not on the same scale.
Sense of humour of course.
I think, in short, Norway is good for the basics; maternity/paternity leave, childcare, education, better work life balance, you can get more for your money property wise.
The UK is good for the non-essentials, like entertainment, cultural life, shopping, and a big bonus is definitely the location - so easy to travel everywhere and lots of good deals around.
No not me, but a very familiar story, seems like a rite of passage in Bergen to start off cleaning!
I agree with what you say about positives in both countries and at the end of the day a society that really supports a work/life balance and equality with work and childcare makes for a more manageable daily life and is a good example for our children(am currently in Australia where there is no government parental leave scheme).
Sounds like it! This is my fear for dh too, if he can't find anything straight away and will be stuck working as a cleaner or taxi driver. But as it is now, we have nothing to lose by just going, then we can always come back or go somewhere else.
I thought Australia was supposed to be so good for families, that might be for school age children then..
So, anyone know about shipping from UK to Norway?