The joys of being a French expat in Norway

Expat interviews
  • Une blonde en Norvege
    Anne-Sophie Drouet
  • Paysage norvegien
    Anne-Sophie Drouet
  • Au coeur de la Norvege
    Anne-Sophie Drouet
Published on 2017-10-25 at 14:00 by Veedushi
Anne-Sophie comes from Ardennes, but she spent a few years in Paris before moving to Norway. Three years went by since she's living the dream with her companion in the beautiful town of Tønsberg. Looking back at her journey with mixed feelings – with sheer enthusiasm and nostalgia – here is what she has to say about Norway.

Hi, Anne-Sophie. Where are you from, what are you doing in Norway and what were you doing before?

I'm 34, and I moved to Norway three years ago. I now live in Tønsberg, which is less than one hour and a half away from Oslo, along the Fjord. I'm a video editor and have worked for over 11 years for many channels in Paris (M6, TF1, etc.). I'm now a freelance video and photo editor while my boyfriend is running a drum school.

What brought you to Tønsberg?

I'm from Ardennes, but I lived for ten years in Paris before moving to Norway. In fact, we chose Norway to Paris for its lush nature and calm atmosphere. We didn't want to be in Oslo even though we chose to remain close by – for professional reasons mainly. Following a market study, we decided that Tønsberg would be the ideal place for both of us taking into account our respective jobs. It's really easy to reach Oslo by car. Being one of the oldest Norwegian cities, Tønsberg is a wonderful place to be with abundant history and culture and just around 45,000 inhabitants. There are so many things to see and do here.

What is the process of moving to Norway?

You can stay in Norway for up to three months with a tourist visa, but if you wish to stay longer, different conditions apply. First, you have to register at the Immigration Department which is responsible for issuing visas and other permits. Also, you need to justify that you have sufficient funds to support yourself during your stay until you find a job. A copy of your bank statement will be requested, following which you have to apply for a resident number for your ID card.

There are different ways to obtain your ID number – either by finding a job and having your employer take care of these formalities on your behalf or by registering as a freelancer. We chose the second option, which allows us to operate as a full-fledged company. We had to submit the company name (free of charge) along with a draft of statutes resuming our intended activities. When submitting the documents, we just had to explain that we had already applied for the ID number.

Vivre en Norvege
© Anne-Sophie Drouet

What do you like the most and the least about Norway?

I'd say the people here! They are really friendly and open-minded. The main purpose of my blog was to get rid of misconceptions about life in Norway. I was told that Norwegians are cold and reserved – which is absolutely not true. They can be quite timid at first, but once you get to know them everything becomes easier. We've met so many people who have been really helpful and we have become good friends. I also like the nature here which is unbelievably beautiful all year round. You can even find small lakes around the highway surrounded by impressive mountains. What I like the least is that everything is family-orientated, and I don't have kids yet. Norwegians generally have less time for themselves and more for their family. It comes as no surprise that Norway is a top destination for families.

How would you describe Norway in a few words?

It's a beautiful country with incredible people.

What has surprised you the most about Norway?

People were really surprised by our decision to move from Paris to Tønsberg. In general, Norwegians like France and the French. From the way they speak about Paris, I get the impression that they would love to live there. I was also amazed by how friendly and helpful people are. Most of those we met during our move, including the bank agent with whom we opened our account, were really helpful.

nature en Norvege
© Anne-Sophie Drouet

How easy or difficult it is to find accommodation in Norway?

It can be quite difficult but the owners of our home were really nice. We visited the flat even before obtaining our ID number and opening our bank account. Usually, owners are reluctant to let their property without these documents. Ours agreed immediately and even assisted us with the utility bills. So we've been living on the ground floor of a beautiful house which is only 100 meters away from the beach.

In Oslo, like anywhere else, you can find typical flats and houses. Elsewhere in Norway, houses are often shared. You can easily rent a whole floor.

What are the local labour market's features? Is it easy to find a job in Norway?

People are very open-minded and all basic formalities can be undertaken in English. However, the language barrier can be quite significant when it comes to finding a job in Norway. You might find it hard to adapt.

What are the year’s biggest holidays or events in Norway?

A range of music festivals is held especially in Vesforld and surrounding regions such as Telemark Buskerud and Oslo. Norwegians are fans of rock, blues, country, and folk music.

Douceur de vivre en Norvege
© Anne-Sophie Drouet

How is the transportation system in Norway? How do you move around?

Having a car is a must in Norway. We also have a wide bus network but since I have to move around with all my shooting material, it's more practical to have a car – even if it's very costly.

Are there good options for people who enjoy nightlife?

Not really. Besides, you move to Norway for its calm environment and nature; not for the party lifestyle. Of course, we have restaurants and bars which are open till late, but in general, it's quiet on week days. Also, we have a few pubs that are open on Saturday nights until 1 or 2 am, but that's nearly all. The same applies to Oslo where people prefer to have a family gathering. It's all about the Norwegian culture and way of life.

What is your opinion on the cost of living in Norway?

The cost of living can be high when you hang out. A restaurant meal, for instance, can cost around 20 to 40 euros. You can still find cheaper restaurants if you know where to go. For a fine wine, count between 10 and 20 euros and 10 euros for a beer. Food and drinks cost as much as in France. However, given the high wages, Norwegians have good living standards.

La vie en Norvege
© Anne-Sophie Drouet

Give us some useful tips that expats-to-be in Norway will benefit from.

It's quite easy to move to Norway, but staying here long term is another story. Norway offers an incredible quality of life that makes me feel like staying here forever. If you really want to stay, fight till the end – it's really worth it.

If you had to advise an expat on five items to bring with them to Norway, what would they be?

I would say sunglasses and sunscreen. Even though we don't have extreme heat waves, the summer brings in mild temperatures that can rise up to 25 to 30 ºC. Prevention is better than cure. You will need gloves, hat, and boots for winter.

Have you been able to adapt to Norway and to the society?

I've adapted quite easily thanks to my friends. I'm thankful for having this bunch of people who stood by us in our hard times – especially when we almost had to move back to France due to financial issues. A friend of mine offered me a job while another lent me his car. They also helped us build a network to develop our activities. Nowadays, we're doing pretty well.

What are your plans for the future?

I really miss working with a team as I've been doing back in France. I hope to find some opportunities with a local production, maybe.

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