Norway’s dirty secret

My husband and I have been waiting for some bad news. We’ve been on tenterhooks for 10 months because we know that someone out there is keeping a dirty secret and we want to be put out of our misery.

There must be something awful about living in Norway. Some beastly part of the lifestyle that we have yet to discover and will send us for an icy swim to another coast in the North Sea. America has its outrageous medical and education costs and the UK has nauseating universal healthcare. And Norway has… long winters. They also have too much cash, more oil than they thought and practically extravagant parental benefits. Sir Thomas More’s fictional perfect island is real, except it’s not called Utopia.

I moved to Oslo on 17 November last year and those first few weeks were tough, it was dark by 3pm and it rained a lot. But things perked up quickly. In a matter of weeks the city was covered in beautiful gleaming white snow, the sun was casting long Arctic shadows and I soon saw how great things are here.

I found a website that gives Norwegian news in English and here’s what I learned:

The exact opposite happens in the US and UK – America owes an arm and a leg to the Chinese and are frantic for more oil, and the Brits can’t spare a dime for their ailing healthcare system. Her Majesty and the rebel Yanks just can’t make ends meet, while Norwegians are deep-frying donuts in crude oil and scrubbing their snow boots with wads of 1,000 kroner notes.

I’ve touched on the beastly topic of socialism and through my experiences in Norway I’ll do my best to dissect it, so stay-tuned.

Since that week in January, I’ve been waiting for the bad news. There has got to be something. The local cuisine is a little bland but there must be something more unbearable than that, right? An obvious example comes to mind.

Cost of living is outrageous – a gallon of milk costs 56 kroner ($10). Multiply that by a toddler and a mom who loves hot chocolate and we spend the equivalent of a private high school tuition on 2% milk.

Imported items are expensive too and the price is going up. From next year tariffs on certain imported cheeses will skyrocket by 277%. It’s called protectionism and the US could use a lesson in it (maybe not quite to the Norwegian extreme).

I understand that the figures I just gave you may seem impossible to digest, it was months before I was comfortable enough with the pricetags at the supermarket to splurge on a $4 Snickers bar. But if you live in Norway it all pans out, I swear.

The average income here is more than half million kroner ($82,000) a year and a vast majority of households have two incomes because the oustanding parental benefits available make it easy for women to maintain their careers.

There’s more. Starting next month, when we’ve been here a full year, my son will get 970 kroner ($171) each month as part of the government’s way to help cover the cost of raising children.

And then there’s the whole reason we moved here in the first place. My husband and I left the effervescent city of London to live in what is comparatively a hamlet on a glacier because a Norwegian company made him an offer he couldn’t refuse:

    • more money
    • less work
    • overtime perks
    • gym membership
    • a buffet-style hot lunch every weekday
    • a 3,000 kroner ($530) yearly allowance for newspaper and magazine subscriptions

It’s a fairly common package here.

Besides that we’re entitled to high-quality healthcare that’s practically free and our son goes to a top-notch nursery for the laughable fee of 803 kroner ($142) a month.

I’ve touched on a broad subject: the beastly topic of socialism. Big government, as the Americans call it. That’s what Norway’s secret is. Through my experiences here I’ll do my best to dissect this subject for you so stay-tuned and signup to follow my blog because if I ever get the bad news about Norway, you’ll be the first to know.

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131 thoughts on “Norway’s dirty secret

  1. Thanks for this fascinating post! I’ve always wanted to hear the details broken down like this. Naturally, as you said, there are pros and cons, but it’s great to see the information put in a non-partisan way.

  2. A 3,000 kroner ($530) yearly allowance for newspaper and magazine subscriptions!
    I want that! In a way, they are encouraging reading.

  3. This is a reply to Tany Aberlaga’s comment and anyone else that does not know about Social Welfare programs in the United States? During the three presidential debates and the one vice presidential debate in the US, there were many exaggerations and false claims that were meant to mislead voters.

    If you click to the next link, you will discover just how much the US spend to pay for what many think of as welfare programs that support deadbeats. That budget was $451.9 billion for 2012 (there isn’t much any president can do about these programs because they are all written into law and no president can cut them. Only both houses of Congress may do that):

    http://www.usgovernmentspending.com/year_spending_2012USbn_13bs1n_40#usgs302

    Here’s how it breaks down:

    Family and children get $113.5 billion of that welfare money and it goes to food and nutrition assistance for many of the 47 million Americans that live below the poverty line, but many of these people actually have jobs. For example: Wal-Mart pays wages that are not considered a livable wage and even conducts workshops to teach many of its employees how to apply for food stamps.

    Unemployment takes another $109 billion of that so called Welfare money, but unemployment support from the government does not last forever—52 weeks or one year unless Congress extends unemployment benefits those workers and employers pay to support as a form of insurance when jobs are lost. America lost about nine million jobs thanks to the 2007-08 global financial crises during the Presidency of G. W. Bush.

    Workers compensation takes another $8.3 billion. These are workers that cannot work and are under medical care due to injuries mostly on the job.

    Housing (called housing and community development) gets $59.6 billion. I suspect that Section 8 programs are funded from this amount.

    The amount that goes to public welfare is $161.6 billion—maybe this money supports the deadbeats that Mitt Romney claims makes up 47% of the US population or 148 million Americans. Does anyone believe that claim?

    For a comparison, the Defense Department gets $902 billion and total spending is $3.8 Trillion. In 2000, US Defense spending was less than $300 billion and it was still the biggest military budget in the world.

    Source for the numbers I’m using:

    http://www.usgovernmentspending.com/united_states_total_spending_pie_chart

    The fraction of the federal budget that goes to support those so-called deadbeats on public welfare is .0042368421% and 1.0 % represents one percent. The amount spent on public welfare programs is way below one percent.

  4. We’re trying to find the downside of living here too. The long, dark winters are never fun but we’re Canadian so that’s nothing we’re not used to and after 2 years on the West coast of Africa in a developing country, we feel like we’ve hit the jackpot.

  5. Definitely believe that which you stated. Your favorite reason seemed to be on the internet the easiest
    thing to be aware of. I say to you, I certainly get annoyed while people consider worries that they plainly don’t know about. You managed to hit the nail upon the top and defined out the whole thing without having side effect , people can take a signal. Will probably be back to get more. Thanks

  6. Pingback: 307 days | Edge of the Arctic

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