Living in NorwayMonday, June 20, 2016
I have moved to Norway about 2 years ago, after living in Hungary all my life. Originally, I was planning on moving to Sweden, but the plans have changed due to some problems and circumstances. Here are some highlights about the country, in no particular order. This is mostly based on Oslo, things might be different in other cities.
The public transport is extremely good. There are no gates/first door entries on the local buses, trams, metros, or even on trains, but there are random inspections. Tickets are valid for an hour, on everything for the current zone. There is an android/ios app run by the public transport operator Ruter, that you can use to buy tickets, which tells you down to the second when your tickets expire. I can't tell just how convinient this is, I don't have to make detours in the mornings when my monthly tickets expire to buy a new one, I don't even have to keep it in mind, because the app notifies me when it expires. This is very different from Hungary, where we use paper tickets, and it's very frequent that when the cold sets in, the ticket machines just break down, and your only option of getting a ticket is buying it from the driver, which is obviously more expensive.
I even have an app for my watch (Pebble) which shows me nearby stations and the time for departing transports.
Trains are fast, frequent, schedules and information are well communicated. The toilets on the train don't look like a spawn of Satan was given birth in there.
The nanny state
There is a lot of nanny state going around. A common laundry room exists in almost every single building, but for some reason they are closed (as in, no electricity) every Sunday. 80% of the shops are closed on Sundays. In the bars, the bartenders are supposed to keep watch of how much alcohol you are ordering, eg. they are not supposed to serve you two shots of vodka if you are alone. There is a certain limit on how much alcohol can be in a drink (the limit might be around 5cl strong/drink, but don't quote me on that), so cocktails like Long Island are very different in Norway, because they can't put in as much alcohol. Drinks that have more than 4.75% alcohol, can't be found in grocery stores, or any store, except the state run Vinmonopolet, which has a early closing times, and high taxes.
Official business, banking, bills
Banking, money, and bills are a solved problem. Every shop accepts credit cards, because there is a system called BankAxept, which removes the transaction fee if you are purchasing with a Norwegian bank card, so neither you, nor the vendor pays for using the card. I don't have to carry around cash at all.
All service vendors can be paid on an automatic "up to X per month" basis. Electricity, internet, tv, insurance, even my squash membership is paid like this. I never have to worry about missing a bill, or god forbid standing in line at the post office to pay bills.
Taking care of business matters, like reporting a change in your address (moving), changing a doctor, reporting taxes, they all happen electronically. Even more, all the forms I have used so far have an English version. If you have a bank account, you automatically get BankID with it, which lets you use your phone as an "identification device" for logging in on any state business related sites.
People are extremely relaxed at the workplace, but it's possible that this is just my impression, because of the heavy contrast with Hungary, where unpaid overtime is very common, jobs are few and far, and there is a general atmosphere of "if you are not willing to do it, there are 3 other applicants, ready to take your place". I had a workplace that mandated a 1 hour lunch break, because management took it for granted that people are "cheating" by taking too much time with eating, so they made it rule that you have to to take a one hour lunch break.
So I come to Norway, and people tell me a work day is 7.5 hours, because they will give you half an hour off, for eating, and I'm like yeah right. Turns out it's true, it's actually part of the labour laws. Also, 25 days off, you get extra salary in June and December (vacation money, and something about buying presents for your family). You also get this "self declared sickness", where you can take up to 3 consecutive days off, 5 times a years, if you are sick, without getting a doctor's notice. I can't tell you how much I love this, because in Hungary it was very common for people to come in working sick, because managament gives you shit for taking sick days, which leads to mass infections at the workplace.
My English coworker told me that when the clock hits 17:00, all the Norwegians disappear from the workplace, the few people you see remaining are only immigrants. I have kinda noticed this too.
No night transports
Night buses are almost non existent. Seriously. There are two night buses that operate every day, the rest are only available on Friday and Saturday nights. If you live in a place that is not covered by these two lines, and are out after midnight, you will have to order a taxi, which is also crazy expensive, 290 NOK for a 6.5 km ride.
For GP, you book an appointment online, or if you have a more urgent need, you call in. Healthcare costs are covered by the state, but there is a "visit fee" of 250 NOK, every time you go to a doctor. If you are prescribed medicine, you go into any pharmacy, show an ID, and they will give you what is prescribed. You don't have to carry around retarded papers with signatures from your doctor, or anything like that, thanks to the centralized system. I have a cream that I need to use for allergic rashes, and I get a prescription that is valid for a year, I don't have to go back to the doctor every time it runs out.
Stuff is expensive
800g of chicken breast will cost you ~90 NOK (9.6 EUR), a loaf of bread is ~40 NOK, a can of 1.5L Coke is 30 NOK, 1L milk is 18 NOK, a monthly zone 1 ticket is 680 NOK. Import tax is 25%, and since Norway is not part of the EU, you pay it on everything you import, which is really bad for small vendors that don't let you reimburse VAT in the origin country, which basically means you get quite fucked when importing. I heard there is an entire industry built around opening shops in the cities in Sweden, near the border, because it is actually "a thing" in Norway to drive to Sweden on a weekend, load up on stuff, and put it in the freezer. Things are not so bad for everthing, eg. electronics, and games are priced the same way here as in other countries.
Oh yeah, dentists. You don't do that in Norway. End of discussion. You fly to another country (most people here recommend Poland), and do it there, because the plane tickets, and dental prices combined are going to be lower. I paid 800 NOK once, and then 1700 NOK another time for a filling replacement (granted it was a pretty big chunk that was missing the second time, but seriously).
Food selection sucks
I pondered on writing "restricted", but no, it sucks, especially compared to Hungary. It's like all general grocery stores have the same small selection of stuff. I'm used to a big selection of sausages, smoked meat, and smoked chese, none of which I find here. I found one place (Mathallen) that sells smoked chese, but 200g of that costs 800g of "normal" (~100 NOK). There are no Tescos, or any kind of large food store chains.
Corruption is rampant in Hungary, and it's the single main reason I have left. Infrastructure is crumbling, poverty and unemployment rates are alarmingly high, hospitals have no money to buy disinfectants (no, not joking), the government takes everyone's pension (also not joking), and employing bouncers at state offices so that the opposing party cannot hand in a referendum (still not joking), and I could go on for a day. There is absolutely no change on the horizon, and it's everywhere. I open the tap water and politics flows out of it. All this sets my expectations about politics to "if I don't hear about it, I'm content", and Norway more than satisfies this.
I love the scenery, around Oslo. Big ass mountains, islands, beaches, sea, forests, everything is close. There is a metro stop where you can ski down the mountain to another metro stop, and travel back up. Skiing is a very big thing here.
My mother and sister's main concern was "but it's so cold ablablabla", but it's not, and even then, I don't care. I will gladly exchange the humid 38C summers in Hungary with the -19C winters (extreme ends of the scale). I can wear a heavier coat in the winter, but I can't do anything about the heat in the summer.
Daylight is different, shorter in the winters, longer in the summer. I didn't notice the darkness in winter, but summers? Oh boy. It's middle of June, and it only gets dark at midnight, and even then it's not complete. I'm having trouble sleeping, and I'm thinking about getting a slingshot to shoot down seagulls. Seriously, those flying fucks get up at 3AM, and won't shut up.
I quite enjoyed it here so far.