Moving to Oslo: How stuff works in Norway

Written on 
August 14, 2018

So, you’ve made the coolest decision of your life; you’re moving to Oslo. While you’ve probably heard about our fjords, Viking ships and troll problems, you may not be too hot on what living in Norway is actually like.

As PART I of our Memory Guide to Oslo, here’s everything you need to know about the social and economic systems that will underpin your new life in Oslo.

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D-numbers and ID numbers

First up, everybody in Norway has a unique identification number linked to their name made up of 11 digits. It’s required by the public authorities and lets you access practically all public and private services — like healthcare, banking and tax.

As a new resident, you’ll go through two different ID numbers:

  • D number: this temporary ID is given to foreigners who plan to stay in Norway for less than six months. Even if you know you’re staying longer, you have to apply for this one first. You can’t get paid or pay tax without it.
  • National ID number: this one is your lifelong, permanent ID number. It gives you access to more perks and services than the D number, and is reserved for those staying more than 6 months in Norway.

How to you get an ID number? Start with your D number; you need to apply for it as soon as you land in Norway. We’ve detailed all the steps in PART II.

The cost of living

You’ve probably heard the good news: Oslo is one of the world’s most expensive cities! Thankfully, higher salaries tend to offset the most painful price increases, but make peace with a fact that bargain hunting will soon become one of your favourite hobbies.

To give you an idea, here’s how much a few standard goods cost in Oslo:

  • 1L Milk — 20 kr
  • Loaf of bread — 40 kr
  • Bunch of bananas — 30 kr
  • Bottle of cheap wine (store bought) — 70 kr
  • Cheap meal out — 170 kr
  • 1L gasoline — 16 kr
  • 1-bedroom apartment rent — 11,000–15,000 kr

But remember, we’re also big fans of subsidised work canteens — you’re assured a nutritious, plentiful meal each day for lunch with your employer’s lunch scheme. So stock up, have seconds, bring Tupperware etc.

The Norwegian healthcare system

In Norway, we’re pretty proud of our universal public health care system. Once you’ve started working in Norway you can start using it too!

Your main point of contact will be your GP (fastlege) who will take care of everything, including referrals to specialists. But you need to register with them first (See PART II). You’ll then be able to book appointments online whenever you need them.

In Norway, everyone pays a small amount towards healthcare each year: you pay for each appointment or blood test you require (around 150–200 kr), until you reach your annual personal spending cap of 2000 kr.

Once you reach that quota, you receive a “green card” which entitles you to free care for the remainder of the year — including the cost of any prescription medication. Any excess you paid before receiving your green card will be paid back to you in December. Hospital stays, in contrast, are completely free.

Check out Norway’s official health website for more information.

The Norwegian tax system

Norwegian taxes are pretty steep compared to most other European countries, but without them we wouldn’t have such robust social services.

Here’s how it works:

  • When you move to Norway, you need to go to your local tax office to apply for an ID and get a tax deduction card (see PART II).
  • Your Norwegian employer will download your card directly to their salary system.

Everyone is given a new tax card each year — they are supposed to come automatically, but sometimes you have to order them if you don’t receive them on time. If you don’t have a tax deduction card, or are in between the processing of visas and can’t receive one until the visa processing is done, you are taxed at 50%. Tax returns themselves are generally automated, so you don't have to worry about applying for one.

How Norwegian holiday pay works

Ok. The Norwegian holiday pay system (Feriepenger) is very confusing and needs a lot of explanation. But in principal it’s actually quite simple:

  • Start before 1st October: you are entitled to 25 days of vacation
  • Start after 1st October: you are entitled to 6 days
  • The following June, your employer deducts those days from your salary to pay for any vacation you take the following year. They also pay out any stored feriepenger you accrued from the previous year.

This boils down to one shocking and uniquely Scandinavian work reality: you won’t receive holiday pay in your first year of work. 😱 Essentially, you are earning holiday pay for the next year as you work, so you will not get paid for the first 25 days of vacation you take.

Feriepenger represents 10% or 12% of your yearly salary from the previous year and is not deducted with any tax. As such, once you have worked a full year, you will receive an amount of “feriepenger” around 1.2 to 1.5 of your gross monthly salary (a super nice boost for vacation!).

Just be sure to check your company’s policy for July, when Oslo sees a mass exodus of its working population (and mass influx of tourists). It’s often treated as a mandated holiday month, so see whether your office closes in July and whether you’re obliged to take any time off.

ON TO PART II: Sorting your paperwork

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