About Norway


Norway has experienced a fair share of ups and downs over the centuries. Norwegians went from being Viking conquerors in the 8th century (the first to ever sail all the way to America), to having to enter “unions” that formally subjugated them to either Denmark or Sweden for almost half a millenia. They also went from being mostly poor farmers, to discovering oil in the 1960s and subsequently becoming one of the richest and happiest places in the world. Nevertheless, one thing has been a constant throughout the years: humble or glorious, rich or poor, Norway is a breathtakingly beautiful country to live in.

The place and the people

Norway has been populated since the Late Stone Age, when a huge ice shelf of the last Ice Age melted (between 11,000 and 8,000 BCE), but due to the extreme climate and the mostly mountainous terrain, the settlements were sparse and concentrated in the coastal areas. Although mostly farmers, the people who lived in the area we now know as Norway started embarking on sea expeditions from very early on; rock carvings show that ships played an integral part in the local society every since the Bronze age. And they would continue doing so, leading up to what we now call “the Viking age”; an era stretching a bit over two centuries (from 793 CE until about 1050 CE), during which the infamous Vikings would raid, colonise, and trade all around Europe, inadvertently discovering Iceland and America (then called “Vinland”) along the way. A lot has happened since then, but most modern Norwegians take pride in identifying themselves as Vikings even today.

In all honesty, Norwegians take pride in most things Norwegian. It is only natural after over 400 years of being subjugated to either Denmark or Sweden (from 1397 to 1814) to have a strong need to cultivate and celebrate one’s distinct national identity. Ever since Norway became fully independent, it has been a unitary constitutional monarchy -- but although they have a King, they’re also considered the world's most democratic country. Norwegian society can be described as very secular, but the Lutheran values of frugality, hard work, and humility have been well embedded to the Norwegian lifestyle ever since Lutheranism became the predominant religion (after the Protestant Reform took place in Europe).

It was actually Lutheranism, combined with the Scandinavian concept of “janteloven” (where one person is not supposed to think they are better than their peers) that helped Norwegians to deal with the sudden influx of wealth that followed the discovery of oil in the late ‘60s and the subsequent impact that had on the country’s net income from the ‘80s onwards. When the money from the oil started pouring in, Norwegians put them to good use: the Oil Fund, established in 1990, is currently the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund and invests the surplus revenues from the petroleum sector. With the country’s financial future basically secured, the focus shifted into creating a welfare state that will allow citizens to enjoy one of the highest standards of living in the whole world: free public healthcare, 46 weeks of paid parental leave, complete transparency when it comes to salaries and taxation (which has led to minimising the wage-gap) and an overall egalitarian approach to all aspects of life.

Love for the environment is another key factor for Norwegians -- which makes sense, once you bring the captivating vistas of the country to mind. The rugged mountains that take up ⅔ of the terrain, the lace-like fjords that make for about 80% of the incredibly long coastline, the lakes, the glaciers. Add to that the dramatic light changes that can be observed the closer one gets to the Arctic Circle, with the phenomena of Midnight Sun in the summer (where the sun doesn’t set before 1 a.m.) and Polar Nights in the winter (where the sun almost doesn’t rise at all) and the evasive Aurora Borealis, and it’s not hard to see why this country’s natural beauty is so beloved by visitors and locals alike.

In fact, the locals are doing their best to preserve nature: Norway is the first country that banned deforestation in order to save the rainforests, the one with the most efficient recycling plant on Earth, as well as with the highest number of electric cars per capita (and currently working on turning their air fleet electric too). They are also moving towards banning fur completely, and all the newer buildings, including the renovated Oslo Airport, are built with green sustainability in mind.

The economy and resources

Despite its long history of farming, the beginning of the 21st century saw a dramatic decrease in the number of big farms in the country: less than half of the farms that existed back in 1950 still remain. Currently, Norway’s top resources are oil and natural gas -- but minerals and fish also play an important part. (A little known fact: it was Norway that first introduced salmon to the Japanese.) Hydroelectric power is also huge. About half of the country’s lakes are located in elevated areas of at least 500 metres, which makes them prime for harnessing the power of water and turning in into electricity. In turn, the electricity produced is being used to charge electric cars, bringing the practice of sustainable energy full circle.

All the key industrial sectors (from petroleum and aluminium production to banking and telecoms) are being co-owned by the state, something that perhaps contributes to the fact that unemployment rates remain quite low (less than 5%). Having rejected proposals to join the European Union twice, Norway remains today a member of the EEA agreement with its national currency, the Norwegian krone, fluctuating every year depending on oil prices but in general remaining strong. Heavy taxation on goods such as alcohol and tobacco have really pushed the market prices up: as a result, Norway is considered one of the most expensive countries in Europe. After Luxemburg, Norway sports the second-highest GDP per-capita in Europe; a combination of having a large amount of natural resources and a very moderate population count.

It makes sense then, that the Land of the Vikings has become such an extremely attractive destination for expats, especially for those seeking a healthy work-life balance. A secure, stable environment which promotes childcare, education, equal rights, and wellbeing, combined with a majestic scenery? You wouldn’t be wrong to think that Norway sounds like heaven on earth. Granted, it’s a paradise where temperatures can reach minus 42 degrees Celsius in the winter. But as the locals will tell you time and time again, “there is no bad weather, only inappropriate clothes”.