Perhaps the attraction is living in closer contact with nature. Or being able to stretch out and enjoy greater living space. Maybe the key factor is the ability to shape a better balance between work and life. Whatever the main reason, an increasing number of families from Western Europe are moving north, looking to enjoy the benefits of residing in what the United Nations has ranked as the country with the highest living standard in the world. New immigrants, particularly in Norway’s rural areas, are reporting positive impressions of quality public schools, a clean environment and room to grow in their new communities.
Gert Rietman has made a business of helping communities looking for new residents and people searching for a better quality of life come together. The Dutch-born Rietman founded Placement Utvikling AS to fill this need, and the company is now a market leader in locating and recruiting skilled foreign labour for Norwegian communities.
Rietman and his team employ a combination of internet, television, radio and convention appearances to get the word out about the opportunities for people to create lives closer to nature in rural Norway. And his message is finding an increasingly enthusiastic audience, particularly in the congested and highly urbanized nation of the Netherlands. The firm’s services include information and guidance concerning moving, organizing language courses, home searches, permits and other formalities.
Opportunities in Smaller Communities
The trend of native immigration to the larger cities has resulted in a surfeit of opportunities for families to establish homes and jobs in smaller Norwegian communities. These areas offer superb wild nature, plenty of living space, and a slower, perhaps more sane pace of life. Although many families looking to move are wishing for a chance to escape from the ills of modern continental Europe and are seeking rural settings, it is also true that Norway hosts cosmopolitan cities such as Oslo, Bergen, Trondheim and the co-European City of Culture in 2008, Stavanger.
But it is perhaps in the smaller communities where a number of the quality of life assets come to the fore. According to Rietman, these areas are attractive because “the rural areas offer space and less stress, safe surroundings and small schools for the children, nature and lots of possibilities for recreation, such as skiing, fishing, hiking, hunting, and so on.”
Rietman himself is an immigrant to Norway, and it is a move he has nothing but positive feelings about. “My wife and I felt the need for more space and nature, and at the same time we felt it was a challenge to move to Norway. And we definitely do not regret it.”
Sandra Wolgast and her family moved from Gorinchem, Holland in 2005 to Isfjorden in Møre and Romsdal county. The family is one of hundreds who have resettled in Norway with the help of Placement Utvikling.
A typical Placement success story is the recent arrival of a Dutch family who took the opportunity to relocate to Eidsland in Hordaland County on Norway’s west coast. John Van der Velt and his wife Jolanda took over a key service point for the community – a grocery store that had been put up for sale. Community leaders contacted Rietman and he was able to bring the Eidsland community and the Van der Velts together. The Dutch family was just one of the 250 immigrant families Rietman’s company has been able to place over the past three years. Eidsland is hoping to encourage three more Dutch families to join their community. “In Holland, work pressure is rising fast,” the couple told Bergens Tidene, “we wanted to get back in control of our lives. We like it here. Eidsland is peaceful, and the fjord is only 20 metres from our house.”
A Perfect Spot
Kees Becker and his family made the move north recently. They sold their business in Holland and came to Norway to build up a family camping business in Kragerø, which has an immigration project with Placement. Becker plans to reach out to market his camping business towards four-wheel drive owners in Holland, he told Telemarksavisa. “For the Dutch, it’s an exotic experience to drive on Norwegian roads with hills, mountains and curves, and in the wintertime on snow and ice.”
Becker and his partner feel they have found the ideal place for their new lives. “This is the perfect spot,” he said, citing its proximity to the main road, golf facilities and the centre of Kragerø.
Reaching Out to Europe
Placement has developed contacts with job seekers and providers in many countries, particularly Germany, Great Britain, Spain, Iceland, Holland and Belgium. As it is structured today, the firm has two departments in Norway and two in Sweden, with headquarters in Stordal. Overall, the company is currently involved in more than 23 resettling projects throughout Norway.
“We have a lot of successful projects, such as Kvinesdal in the south, Åmot in the east, Vestre Slidre in the middle, Stordal in the west – that’s where we have our office. We have just started our first project in the northernmost part of Norway, in Kokelv in Finnmark,” said Rietman.
Placement works to bring small communities in areas such as the northern county of Finnmark together with families looking to relocate for a new life in Norway.