Living Conditions in Norway

What do you need to do to adapt the Norwegian social life? Who can help you with you finance, insurance, family, healthcare and security. Find out by choosing the right subject below:

1. Health Systems

In cooperation with The Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration and the European Job Mobility Portal:

1. Health Systems
When you live and work in Norway, you will be registered with Norske Folketrygden [Norwegian National Insurance], which covers the entire population. This provides public health care which is financed by the Norwegian State and managed by the counties. A charge is payable for visits to doctors. Hospital stays are largely free of charge.
The Norwegian health service is based on a decentralised model. The State formulates policy, capacity and quality through budgets and legislation.
The counties and municipalities are formally responsible for the planning and running of the health service within the law and budgeted frameworks.

The municipalities are responsible for the primary health service
- Preventive health measures. The school health service, clinics, physiotherapists, the midwifery service, pregnancy check-ups and vaccination programmes.
- Diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation. The ambulance service, general medical treatment, physiotherapy and treatment during illness.
- Nursing in and outside institutions. Nursing homes and district nurses.

The counties are responsible for the public dental service. 
The following groups are included:
- Children and adolescents (below 21 years of age)
- People with impaired mental development
- Elderly and disabled people with chronic illnesses who reside at institutions or care homes
The rest of the population use the private dental service, which patients pay for themselves.
The occupational health service in Norway is organised in a number of ways. Individual major corporations have their own occupational health services, and some companies share a joint service. A third model involves workplaces buying in occupational health services from a private doctor’s surgery.
Chemists are privately owned but run their businesses under stringent public control.
The personal doctor system.
These are general practitioners who have contracts with the public sector/municipality.
All citizens registered at the Folkeregister [Register Office] are entitled to their own permanent doctor. Your permanent doctor has to give you an appointment quickly, at publicly set prices. This is a voluntary arrangement. If you choose to use a different doctor who does not have a contract with the municipality, costs are a lot higher. You can switch your permanent doctor up to twice a year. (But to see a new doctor, the doctor of your choice has to have room for you on his books.) A list of doctors can be found in Gule sider [Yellow Pages].
Private health services
A number of private hospitals and health institutions have been established as a supplement to public institutions and services. There are also semi-private arrangements whereby – for example – physiotherapists operating privately perform services on behalf of public health authorities.
The emergency service, accident and emergency, offers medical services in emergencies (accident or illness). This is a municipal service.

2. Cultural and social life
Norway is a young nation with a long history. Over the years, customs and traditions have been merged with outside impulses and influences.
However, most Norwegians do still like to remain in contact with the untouched Norwegian countryside, with its rich flora and fauna. Winter sports are particularly popular in Norway, and a lot of people claim that Norwegians are ‘born with skis on’. More than a third of the population of Norway are actively engaged in some kind of sport.

There are major variations in what people associate with Norwegian history and culture. Some people would mention the Vikings or the Sami people, others would name internationally renowned authors, composers, sportsmen and musicians such as Henrik Ibsen, Edvard Grieg, Ole Gunnar Solskjær and a-ha.
Norway is more than just the Thor Heyerdal expeditions, smoked salmon, lutefisk, stave churches, national costume, reindeer, oil and oil platforms, midnight sun, Northern lights, goat’s cheese and skiing.
Norway circa 2007 is a sparsely populated country in which most things are well organised. Trains, buses and ferries arrive on time, flights take off exactly when they are supposed to, shops, museums and attractions open when they should, and public information is normally correct and up to date.
The Norwegian business culture is informal, compared with most other European countries. We normally have flat organisations and are on first-name terms with the boss. Most Norwegian employers expect their employees to take the initiative and take responsibility for their own jobs.
All the larger towns usually have several theatres, public and/or private. A new opera house is currently being built in Oslo, to open in April 2008.
In the biggest cities, an ‘active outdoor life’ has developed which is very varied – cafés, restaurants, music clubs, revues, etc.
3. The political, administrative and legal systems
Norway is a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary system of government. King Harald V is our king.
The Storting [Norwegian Parliament] is the legislative body and is elected every four years. We have a lot of political parties – the one voted with a majority to the Storting [Norwegian Parliament] forms the Government. The Government is the executive body. At present, three parties have formed a coalition government. This is led by Jens Stoltenberg of Arbeiderpartiet [the Labour Party] (the biggest party in Norway), and Sosialistisk venstreparti [the Socialist Left Party] and Senterpartiet [the Centre Party] are also involved.
The most important job of the Storting [Norwegian Parliament] is to pass laws and the annual State budget, to direct the Government and Administration, approve plans for State actions, implement general discussions on issues relating to foreign policy, for example, and to assess plans and reforms.
Norway is divided into 19 counties and has over 400 municipalities. The municipalities vary widely in terms of area, topography, number of inhabitants and trade structure. Local government is not authorised by the Constitution and so has no protection against changing political requirements. Municipal laws and regulations may be amended by any Storting [Norwegian Parliament], thereby giving central authorities a lot of influence over municipal activities.
NAV (Arbeids- og velferdsetaten [Norwegian Labour and Welfare Organisation]), which holds responsibility for labour market policy, among other things, has municipal sections and usually several offices in each municipality. You should consult your local NAV office with regard to job and social security issues.
Legal power in Norway rests with the courts of law. Courts are independent of the Government and Storting [Norwegian Parliament]. The Høyesterett [Supreme Court] is the highest judicial body. Most cases are resolved by lower court authorities, district courts/urban district courts or the Court of Appeal. Criminal cases can also be heard in the magistrate’s court.
Legal assistance is available from lawyers’ offices (listed in ‘Gule sider’ [Yellow Pages]). If you are a member of a trade union, a number of these offer their members legal guidance or finance fees accrued when legal advice is required.
4. Incomes and taxation
Wage earners, pensioners and trade and industry pay tax to the municipality, the county and the State. Included in this is a National Insurance contribution of 7.8% (including health insurance), which then forms part of the tax deducted from your wage. Employers pay an employers’ contribution. Special rules apply to employees staying in the country for less than six months. Your local tax office will give you more information on these rules.
People staying temporarily in Norway receive a standard tax allowance of 10%. This applies if you do not remain in Norway for more than two years.
Tax rates are relatively high in Norway, as in the other Nordic countries. But this has to be viewed in context with the level of the welfare provisions we offer. Tax has to go to pay for nurseries, schools and free education, hospitals and nursing homes, and infrastructure such as roads and railways.
Taxpayers are divided into two groups:
Class 1, single people and couples where both have an income.
Class 2, single carers and couples where only one has an income.
Your employer will deduct the tax you have to pay before handing over your wages and then paying this amount to the tax authorities. The tax deduction card you have been given by the tax office will tell you how much tax you should pay. If you pay too much tax, you will receive a refund the next year. If you have paid too little tax, you will have to make a payment at this time.
It is up to each individual municipality to decide whether inhabitants should pay property tax.
The average income tax is 33%.
VAT is set to 25% on most goods and services. VAT on food is 13%.
In 2006, the average gross salary was around NOK 29 000 a month, including any supplements. Pay levels vary widely between industries and are dependent on work experience and qualifications.
5. Private life (birth, marriage, death)
Most children are born at the local hospital. Babies are registered in the same municipality as their mothers, unless the parents decide otherwise.
Children with one Norwegian parent automatically become Norwegian citizens.
As a rule, child support is paid to all mothers (when the child lives in Norway) until the child reaches the age of 18. Cash benefits are paid for children aged between 1 and 3, unless the children go to publicly financed or part-financed nurseries. In accordance with the EEA agreement, there are exceptions to the requirement for children to live in Norway, if the breadwinner works in Norway.
To marry in Norway, you have to be 18. A certificate has to be produced confirming that there are no obstacles to the couple marrying. Church weddings and civil weddings are permitted. In accordance with the law, married parents have the same responsibility for any children they may have together.
Unmarried couples can live together in a formalised relationship and have many of the same rights as couples who are formally married. But as far as any children are concerned, they have to enter into an agreement stating that they hold equal responsibility for their children. Cohabiting couples do not automatically have mutual inheritance rights. To have mutual inheritance rights, wills have to be written stating this.
The Norwegian Partnership Act permits two individuals of the same sex to register their partnership. This then has the same legal consequences as marriage, apart from the right to adopt children.
Irrespective of whether or not individuals are members of the Church of Norway, the parish priest is informed of any deaths. Burial normally takes place within eight days. Funeral parlours can provide information on the formalities and ceremonies in the event of deaths and burials.
6. Finding school to your children
Children under the age of six are allowed a place at a nursery. Things are reasonably fair, but there are not enough nursery places for everyone in Norway, so it can be difficult to find a place. The municipality where you will be living can provide you with information on local conditions.
All foreign children are entitled and obliged to go to school, and all compulsory education is free. Children start school the year they reach the age of 6.
When you know which town or municipality you will be living in, you should contact the local school authorities/nursery office. These also have information on nurseries. Essentially, children go to the school which is nearest to the place where they live with their families.
If the child is in one of the first four years of school, with a relatively short school day, you may need supervision for them once they have left school for the day. Skolefritidsordningen [the School and Leisure Scheme], or SFO, is a municipal facility for the hours before and after school. SFOs can be found at schools, or in their immediate vicinity. As this is not part of the school day, a charge is payable.
It may be a good idea to contact the school before you move to Norway so that they are aware that they will be having a new pupil.
There are a number of foreign schools in Norway which offer education in languages other than Norwegian; primarily English, German and French.

7. Accommodation
The cost of accommodation varies widely in Norway, and has gone up a lot over the past few years. The highest prices are in Oslo and its surrounding areas, Bergen and Stavanger. Finding accommodation which is not quite so expensive is easiest outside of the central areas of the biggest cities.
There are several different ways to live in Norway. You can rent, live in a housing cooperative or buy your own home. The rental market in Norway is small, by far the majority of people own their own home.
Houses and apartments are normally advertised in the local press and in the Aftenposten national newspaper. Some newspapers have a housing supplement one day a week, and also place ads for accommodation on the Internet. You can also advertise for accommodation yourself.
Estate agents (and to a lesser extent, banks and lawyers as well) mostly deal with the sale of houses and apartments, but they also arrange rentals. You can find them in ‘Gule sider’ [Yellow Pages] under ‘Eiendomsmeklere’ [Estate Agents]. Estate agents deal with the formal side of things, such as financial arrangements and registration. Loans are mostly arranged via banks, and you can take out a mortgage against your home.
If you want to rent a house or apartment, you should have a rental contract. These contracts are normally valid for a year at a time, with subsequent periods of five years, with mutual entitlement to cancellation. The notice period is normally a month. As a rule, you have to pay a deposit of one to three months’ rent. Your deposit has to be placed in a blocked account. You can find standard contracts in bookshops or on the Internet, and you can also get them by contacting Leieboerforeningen i Oslo [the Oslo Tenants’ Association] This is a special interest organisation which acts in the interests of tenants on matters relating to landlords of

8. Cost of living
Living expenses, which include heating and municipal charges for water and refuse collection, are the biggest outgoing for families or single people.
Transport expenses account for about 18%.
The third biggest outlay for households is the cost of recreation and cultural activities, approx. 12%.
People spend about 11% of their wages on food and non-alcoholic drinks.
Alcoholic drinks and meals in restaurants are considered to be expensive in Norway, particularly in comparison with other European countries.
houses and apartments. Most rental properties are apartments, which are rented out either furnished or unfurnished.

9. Transport
Most towns and densely populated areas have a relatively good infrastructure based on trams and/or buses. In Oslo, there is also an underground rail network.
SASBraathens, Widerøe flyveselskap and Norwegian cover the domestic routes. Norway has 46 airports, from Vardø in the north to Kristiansand in the south. Prices depend on the length of the flight and the time of the flight (what time of day, what day of the week and what time of year). One golden rule is to book in plenty of time in order to get the lowest possible price.
In Western Norway in particular, where the famous fjords are, ferries have to be used to a great extent. Many of these ferries are of the high-speed variety, with regular departures. Price levels vary greatly depending on whether you take the car with you or use the ferry more as a ‘bus’.
Norges Statsbaner (NSB) [Norwegian State Railways] has a rail network running from southern Norway up to Bodø, the coast of the county of Nordland. Trains travel along the southern and eastern coastline. In addition, the Bergensbanen line crosses the mountains between Oslo and Bergen.
NSB has comfortable trains and travels through some outstandingly spectacular landscape. There are lots of special prices and discounted tickets to choose from, depending on when you travel.
Motorways and national trunk routes are of relatively good standard. A number of our roads are narrow, winding and bumpy, and they can be very slippery in winter. It is common to drive on snow-covered roads in the winter, and we switch to winter tyres or studded tyres in November. Road building has been made more difficult by the topography and climate of our country. International road signage is used. There are toll rings around the biggest cities. A few new road and bridge projects are also being financed with money from tolls. Prices vary from NOK 10 to NOK 50. The top speed limit is 100 kph on the new motorways. Otherwise the top speed limit is 80 kph, or 50 kph in populated areas.
Coach (long-distance)
Normally it is not necessary to book a seat in advance. Just pay the driver when you board the coach. Examples of express routes: from Bø in Telemark to Haugesund, travelling time 8 hours; from Ålesund – Molde – Kristiansund to Trondheim, travelling time 8 hours; and from Fauske to Kirkenes, travelling time 4 days.
10. The social security system
Participation in the Norwegian social and social security system is mandatory and financed mainly through taxes. Exemptions may be granted for anyone maintaining this type of insurance in their own country of origin.
You do not need to apply or register. If you are an employee in Norway, you (and, as a rule, your immediate family) are entitled to the same rights as Norwegian citizens through Folketrygden [Norwegian National Insurance]. Your employer will register you for Folketrygden [Norwegian National Insurance] and your contributions will be part of the tax you pay.
Norway is a safe country to live in as regards situations such as illness, childbirth, conditions for the elderly, children and pensioners. Costs relating to such things are covered by Norwegian National Insurance.
Social insurance benefits when you fall on hard times are means-tested, and there are no national standards. Funding is granted following review of your case at the local social/NAV office, based on national/political guidelines.

11. Unemployment insurance
If your employment is terminated or you become unemployed for other reasons, you must contact your local NAV office immediately to register as unemployed. When you are unemployed, you can apply for ‘unemployment benefit’. NAV is the body that will deal with your application. With your application enclose confirmation of your unemployment, the date on which you last worked and the reason for your unemployment. Your income must also be documented.
Your unemployment benefit will be calculated from the income you had over the last calendar year, or your average income over the past three years. Tax must be paid on unemployment benefit. Unemployment benefit will be paid out for up to two years. You will be deemed to be ‘long-term unemployed’ if you are unemployed for six months.
You may also be entitled to unemployment benefit if you are granted a full-time or part-time leave of absence. In such instances, you must get in touch with NAV at the earliest opportunity.
If you become unemployed in Norway and do not meet the requirements for unemployment benefit, your earned entitlements may be transferred from another EU/EEA country. In such instances, you will need form E-301 from the country where you worked over the past three years. Your application for unemployment benefit must be submitted to your nearest NAV office.

12. Sickness Insurance
If you are an employee in Norway, you have the same rights as Norwegian citizens via Folketrygden [Norwegian National Insurance]. To be entitled to sick pay, you have to have worked for four weeks.
If you are ill, you must notify your employer of your absence due to illness on the first day you are ill, and if you are absent from work for more than three days, you have to present a doctor’s certificate. Your employer will also pay your salary when you are ill. Your employer will have his money refunded by Folketrygden [Norwegian National Insurance] following the period when employers are obliged to provide finance. You may receive sick pay for up to one year.
In Norway, there is an Act relating to insurance against injury at work. This means that insurance must be provided for you via your employer to cover you for accidents in the workplace. If you have an accident or suffer injury in connection with your work, you or your employer must contact the Arbeidstilsynet [Norwegian Labour Inspection Authority] without delay.
Treatment at public hospitals is more or less free. For treatment by a doctor, you will pay a charge which is set every year by the Storting [Norwegian Parliament].

13. Family and maternity benefits
Mothers who are members of Folketrygden [Norwegian National Insurance] and who have been employed in paid work for six out of the past ten months are entitled to paid maternity leave for 44 weeks at full pay or 54 weeks at 80% of full pay. The choice made when the benefit period starts will apply for the entire period, and for both parents.
The mother may take three of her weeks of leave before the birth. Six weeks of the paid leave period are reserved for the father, on the condition that he is at home and looking after the child. The other weeks may be divided freely between the mother and the father.
Any mother who has not been in paid work is entitled to a one-off payment of about NOK 34 000.
Pregnant women are entitled to have their work adjusted. If they need to go on leave early due to particularly onerous work, they are entitled to a pregnancy subsidy without this affecting their regular maternity leave or the one-off payment.
Cash benefits will be paid for children aged between one and three who do not take full-time places at any nursery receiving public funding. These cash benefits may be reduced according to the amount of time the child spends at nursery.
Child benefit is paid to everyone with children under 18.

14. Taking a car with you (includes information on driving licences)
The implementation of the principle of free movement of people, is one of the cornerstones of our European construction, has meant the introduction a series of practical rules to ensure that citizens can travel freely and easily to any Member State of the European Union. Travelling across the EU with one’s car has become a lot less problematic. The European Commission has set a series of common regulations governing the mutual recognition of driving licences, the validity of car insurance, and the possibility of registering your car in a host country.
Your driving licence in the EU
There is currently no common EU driving licence in place, but the EU Member States have introduced a “Community Model” driving licence. This common model ensures that driving licences issued by different EU countries are easily recognised in other Member States. A principle of mutual recognition is generally applied. The licence is issued in accordance to national law, but should incorporate provisions concerning the Community Model, such as the basic conditions to be granted a licence.
Old driving licences issued before 1996 do not have to be exchanged for the new Community Model driving licence and remain valid until their expiration.
If an EU citizen takes up residence in another Member State, it is not necessary to exchange the driving licence, although many often do for practical reasons. Also, some Member States require that additional data be entered onto the licence to fulfil certain administrative requirements.
In the event of expiry, loss or theft, a new driving licence can be issued in the Member State of residence, in accordance to national conditions. Citizens should contact the competent authorities.
Registering your car in the host country
In the event you reside in another EU Member State and drive your car there for more that six months, you will be obliged to register the car with the local authorities and pay the host country’s registration tax.
Car Insurance
EU citizens can insure their car in any EU country, as long as the chosen insurance company is licensed by the host national authority to issue the relevant insurance policies. A company based in another Member State is entitled sell a policy for compulsory civil liability only if certain conditions are met. Insurance will be valid throughout the Union, no matter where the accident takes place.
Value Added Tax or VAT on motor vehicles is ordinarily paid in the country where the car is purchased, although under certain conditions, VAT is paid in the country of destination.
More information on the rules which apply when a vehicle is acquired in one EU Member State and is intended to be registered in another EU Member State is available on the link "Motor vehicle tax".
15. Pensions
The pension system in Norway is under review, and new rules will be introduced in 2008.
The pensionable age in Norway is 67. If you choose to work for longer, you will earn pension points until you reach the age of 70. The full earning time is attained after 40 years.
The old-age pension is made up of the basic pension plus a supplementary pension. The basic pension is calculated on the basis of how long an employee has been registered with Folketrygden [Norwegian National Insurance] and is independent of salary level and the amount paid in National Insurance contributions. The size of the supplementary pension is dependent upon the number of earning years and the annual pension points. Full earning time is attained after 40 years of work.
It is possible in some industries to retire at the age of 62 with AFP, Avtalefestet pensjon [Contractual Pension]. This is a contract between business parties, calculated for employees who have had a hard working life. Some professions have special age limits for when people may retire. Firemen, pilots, police officers and oil sector employers are just some of these.
Since 1992, housewives/house-husbands with children under the age of seven, elderly people in need of care and disabled people have all earned annual pension points. This allows them to earn the entitlement to a pension without having received a salary.
A number of companies and workplaces have had their own supplementary pension arrangements. As a result of the major pension reform, it has been established that everyone should receive a supplementary pension.
It is also possible to make payments into private pension funds/insurance policies.
After one year’s sick leave, individuals are assessed for disability pension. For example, it is possible to work at 50% of full time and receive 50% of a disability pension.
Insurance against injury at work must come into force in the event of accidents at work which lead to a reduction in ability to work.
16. E-forms
E-forms are used to facilitate any claims for social insurance when travelling abroad. These are standardised in the EU/EEA. These forms are available upon application from the authorities in the country in which you are entitled to receive benefits.
If you submit an application to the Norwegian social security authorities, you have to have personal documents such as an approved identity card.
E 101
For employees, social insurance upon employment in one or more EU/EEA states.
E 104
Summary of an individual’s employment conditions, insurance and domicile in a particular EU/EEA state.
E 106
Documents the fact that an individual and his/her family are entitled to receive health services in their country of domicile.
E 109
Very similar to the E 111. This form is issued to an individual who is to study or work as an au pair in another member state.
E 119
This entitles unemployed individuals and their families to medical treatment and services overseas. This is valid when the individual in question is seeking work.
E 301
This shows periods which are to be included in the calculation of unemployment benefits.
E 303
Confirmation that an individual is receiving unemployment benefit from his/her country of origin to another EU/EEA state while looking for work.
17. Health cards
The European Health Insurance Card  
The European Health Insurance Card is an essential step towards the simplification of our various healthcare systems. Introduced in June 2004, the card substantially facilitates access to medical assistance for EU citizens travelling to another Member State. Furthermore, it guarantees a quick and simplified reimbursement of expenses incurred locally or shortly after return to the place of residence. Since 1 January 2006, the European Health Insurance Card is issued and recognised by all concerned countries and replaces the previously used paper forms, such as the well-known E 111.
Who is entitled to the EHIC? 
The European Health Insurance Card is issued to:
- EU nationals
- nationals of the European Economic Area (EEA)
- Swiss nationals
- family members of the above, whatever their nationality
- nationals of other countries, who are covered by a social security system in one of the Member States of the EU, the EEA or Switzerland
The EHIC should be requested from one’s national health insurance institutions before leaving for another EU country. All EU citizens are strongly advised to carry their European health insurance cards when travelling to other countries.
While the main purpose of the European Health Insurance Card is to ensure easy access to health services during a temporary stay in another country, it also provides a series of additional benefits, for healthcare providers, patients and insurers alike. The main advantages of the EHIC may be summarised as follows:
- facilitated access to health care abroad
- quick and easy reimbursement of expenses
- security of data
- improved reliability
- less administration
- simplicity – simpler and faster procedures for obtaining healthcare
Generally speaking, this ‘smart card’ contains only basic information such as the card holder’s name and surname and date of birth, but no medical details. It is simple to use and easily recognisable. Further, the information is presented in a standardised way, so that it could be read regardless of the language.
What is a ‘Smart Card’?
A "smart card" is a pocket-sized plastic card, which looks identical to usual bank or credit cards.
Smart Cards have a small gold chip on the front. When inserted into a specific reader, the chip makes contact with electrical connectors that can read information from the chip and write information back.
What information is saved on my health card?
The only personal information on the European health insurance card is the card holder’s surname and first name, personal identification number and date of birth. The European health insurance card does not contain any medical data.
Where is my health card accepted?
The EHIC can be used to receive any kind of health service, being it at a general practitioner, a hospital or a pharmacy. The EU Member States are responsible for the introduction and dissemination of the health cards, but also for the provision of all concerned health care facilities with card readers.
Using the European Health Insurance Card abroad
It is important to note that the health insurance card does not provide for cases in which a patient intentionally decides to obtain medical treatment abroad. Rather, it is intended to insure people travelling to other countries for a limited period and thus covers medical care which becomes necessary during a stay on the territory of another Member State. When a need for access to healthcare arises, treatment will be provided according to the rules of that particular country (for example if healthcare is free of charge in that Member State, the visiting patient will also be entitled to free medical care when presenting his/her European Health Insurance Card).
The provisional replacement certificate
In case the individual in need of medical assistance is not in possession of his European Health Insurance Card, he can alternatively present a provisional replacement certificate that can easily be sent by fax or e-mail by the relevant home national health insurance institution. This certificate is equivalent to the EHIC and entitles the patient to the same treatment and reimbursement of benefits.
The design of the European Health Insurance Card
The design of the European Health Insurance Card is identical in all Member States and bears the European symbol. There are two variations of this layout:
- Standard EU design placed on the front of the card – leaving the back of the card free for content chosen by the respective Member State
- Standard EU design placed on the back of the card – in this case the Member State places the EHIC on the back of the existing national or regional health card
Each Member State can opt for one of the possible variants when issuing the health card.