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Expat Insider - The World Through Expat Eyes

Lots of Leisure Time for Expats in Norway, but No Friends to Spend It With

Expats enjoy their working life, as well as the above-average quality of life in general, but they struggle hard with settling in.

Norway lands in a mediocre 34th place out of 52 destinations in the Expat Insider 2022 survey, but it performs very strongly in the Working Abroad Index (9th). In the Work & Leisure Subcategory, it even lands in second place, right between its fellow Nordic countries Denmark (1st) and Sweden (3rd). Expats in Norway benefit from an amazing work-life balance, with 77% judging it favorably (vs. 62% globally). “I love the work-life balance! It has a great impact on me having enough time for my family, social life, or any other type of activity,” says a respondent from Guatemala.

Moreover, expats rate the state of the local economy (93% happy vs. 64% globally) and their job security (70% happy vs. 59% globally) very highly. They also appreciate the fact that Norway’s business culture supports flat hierarchies and independent work (71% happy vs. 45% globally) and that it promotes flexibility (78% happy vs. 60% globally). The most common sectors for expats working in Norway are IT as well as manufacturing and engineering (12% each).

Great Digital Infrastructure, Difficult Housing Market

While Norway’s ninth place in the Working Abroad Index is its only top 10 ranking, the country still does well in the Expat Essentials Index (15th). The Digital Life Subcategory (5th) is its greatest strength. Among other factors, expats are really happy with the cashless payment options (96% happy vs. 84% globally), the easy access to high-speed internet (88% happy vs. 79% globally), and the availability of government services online (80% happy vs. 61% globally).

Dealing with the local authorities in general does not seem to pose many problems for expats in Norway (68% happy vs. 40% globally). However, the same cannot be said about all the factors in the Admin Topics Subcategory (21st). For example, expats struggle with opening a local bank account (28% unhappy vs. 21% globally). Lastly, the Housing Subcategory (35th) is Norway’s weakest spot: only 51% consider housing easy to find for expats (vs. 54% globally), while 48% describe it as hard to afford (vs. 43% globally).

Safe, Clean & Not a Lot of Fun

In the Quality of Life Index, Norway lands in an above-average 16th place. However, its results in the individual subcategories are a bit of a mixed bag. On the one hand, Norway does incredibly well in the Safety & Security Subcategory (4th). Expats describe it as politically stable (92% happy vs. 64% globally), they feel safe there (95% happy vs. 81% globally), and they can openly express themselves and their opinions (77% happy vs. 64% globally). The country also makes it into the top 10 of the Environment & Climate Subcategory (8th). With regard to its natural environment, it even gets the second-best rating worldwide, right after Switzerland (1st). Close to all expats (99%) rate this positively (vs. 83% globally), and 91% say the same about the local air quality (vs. 65% globally).

While Norway’s performance with regard to Health & Well-Being (20th), as well as Travel & Transit (24th), is slightly above average, it ends up among the bottom 10 in the Leisure Options Subcategory (47th). Expats are satisfied with the opportunities for recreational sports (82% happy vs. 75% globally) but unhappy with the local culture and nightlife (33% unhappy vs. 16% globally) and the culinary variety and dining options (34% vs. 12% globally).

A Comfortable Life despite High Living Expenses

Norway's result in the Personal Finance Index (37th) is clearly affected by the high cost of living (46th): 55% of expats give this factor a negative rating, 20 percentage points more than the global average of 35%. Nonetheless, three out of four (75%) state that their disposable household income is enough or more than enough to live a comfortable life (vs. 72% globally). All in all, 62% are satisfied with their financial situation, about the same as the global average (60%).

A Cold Welcome in a Cold Climate

Norway’s biggest weakness by far is the Ease of Settling In Index, where it ends up among the three worst-rated countries worldwide (50th). Only Sweden (51st) and Kuwait (52nd) do even worse. In fact, for each single rating factor surveyed in this index, Norway ranks among the bottom 10. Expats find it difficult to get used to the local culture (40% unhappy vs. 19% globally), and they do not feel welcome (29% unhappy vs. 16% globally). Over a third (34%) even describe the local population as generally unfriendly (vs. 17% globally), and they struggle with making local friends (61% unhappy vs. 37% globally).

“I dislike the difficulty of building a personal network with the locals. It is hard to overcome feeling like a stranger,” says an expat from Italy. It is hardly surprising that 35% do not have a personal support network in Norway (vs. 24% globally). Overall, one in five respondents in Norway (20%) is unhappy with their life abroad, compared to a global average of 13%.

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