How much does a taxi cost in Norway?

$7-$10 per minute. 

Here's a video I shot this week taking a taxi.  You'll see the NOK (norwegian kroner) rise almost every second by 1. Divide by 5 to get the cost in dollars.  

Use public transportation as much as possible that is not a taxi: trains, busses and trams. You can get a monthly ticket on your iphone with the free ruter billet  (in red)  ios app. Then plan what trains and busses you need to take with the ruter planner (gray) app.. more details here.

 

Norwegian Contradictions

Our second year in Norway is almost finished and... It`s growing on me. The quiet. The scenery everywhere. The working hours. Nevertheless, here are some funny contradictions I've noticed along the way:

  • The norwegian way of life is very connected to nature. Mountains are not destroyed, but built on, or around. Nature is everywhere. Recycling is everywhere. But almost everyone in Norway drives a diesel car, and Norway is one of the largest Oil exporters in the world.  Top it off with Norwegians loving to hunt animals and you get a nice piece of contradiction.
  • Norway is one of the richest countries in the world, but everyone drives an hour to Sweden to buy groceries because they cost almost half price there. The same for haircuts and clothing. Norway is so expensive it`s too expensive even for norwegians.
  • Norway is very orderly Trains are almost always on time, busses on time etc. But that also costs a lot in terms of innovation. When everyone is paying attention to the rules, no one is trying to break them, think outside the box, and innovate.
  • It is one of the most beautiful countries in the world, but everyone who lives here hates the winter. In winter you`ll find many Norwegians very tan since everyone escapes to warmer countries during this time.
  • Norwegians are beautiful people, but they are also very solitary. they stay with friends and family and rarely invite newcomers into their inner circle. Like a museum, you can watch the beauty from a far, but never get too close.
  • Norwegians hate working in an office, but love working outside. On weekends you`ll find them happily and diligently doing all sorts of menial work, from fixing roofs to catting lawns to painting walls. anything but sit still. If they have nothing to do , they will start running in some direction until they reach the nearest mountain top.
  • Norwegians are very fit and healthy, but they sure like to smoke and drink a lot. Also, this fitness comes with a cost.  The cost is very low diversity in imported foods. I count less than a dozen types of cereals at the supermarket. Lots of this is thanks to a sugar tax that is imposed on foods that have lots of sugar. Don`t come to norway to eat great a great variety of foods that are`nt fish based. Vegetarians especially will suffer. Also, dear god, there is NO HUMUS in supermarkets here. The humanity.
  • They are great patriots, but will never miss an opportunity to get outside of the country while bitching about winter.
  • They are shy in the day time, and too loud after drinking.
  • There is no need for too much police, since violence is almost zero here. But there are no fences around almost anything dangerous. Trains, fjord cliffs, and even some of the elevators.  teach your kids to not fall off of things, or beware the consequences.

 

A Video Walkthrough of climbing Pulpit Rock (Preikestolen), Stavanger

Last year my wife, myself and our three little boys went to a journey inside Norway, to Stavanger. The weather was amazing (summer) and we climbed preikestolen twice. My wife with our oldest son (6 years old at the time), and then me alone. It takes about 2,5 hours to climb if you take your time.

On the way I thought I'd share my thoughts and video some parts for you. Here they are. Mostly in raw form. I hope you find it useful as a short preparation of what you will see, what roads to take, etc. 

Lonesome Lunches

If you come to Norway from a warmer climate country (say Israel, Italy, Spain, or even the UK), lunches can be quite a culture shock.

It's oh so quiet.

The first time I had lunch in Norway, in a company setting, I was extremely uncomfortable. As if I had farted and everyone noticed.  Everyone was just quiet. Very little talking. Everyone was just...  eating their very small sandwich, with milk perhaps reading something, and then going back to work. 

I'm used to eating hot lunches in a loud environment. This was like eating in a surgery room while an operation is taking place.

Where did everyone go?

The norwegian way of being is very much "to each his own". That means that you are expected to "provide" for yourself, and generally speaking no one will wait for you to join them to lunch.

If you attend a BBQ, you will notice that everyone brings their own personal things, not to share. Be sure to always bring things for yourself. Don't count on their being a "common" area for food. So don't just bring drinks and rely on others to bring food.

If you are in your new job , you might be sitting at your desk, hunched over doing something, when you suddenly realize when you look up that there is nobody else around you anymore. It is 11.10 AM, and everybody around you at lunch already. None even thought of inviting you to go with them.

  That's not entirely true. If the colleagues are extremely compassionate to foreigners, there is a small chance that someone might ask you if you will be joining them for lunch. Expect that to happen about 10% of the time.

If no one invites you it is easy to take things personally, but don't. It really is nothing personal. Just the way things are for everyone else too.

Aaannd... he's gone. 

When someone does invite you to go to lunch with them at the cafeteria, don't expect them to do silly things such as hang around and wait 30 seconds for you while you lock your computer, finish that last word in the email, or tie your shoes. They'll very likely just go, and expect you to "meet them there". All this of course, goes without saying.

Literally, they do not tell you that. 

When that happens,  go and find them at the cafeteria, and hopefully there'll be some room left for you at the table. If not, that's OK. Find a table and wave to the next one you recognize who's looking for a place to sit. Eventually you'll find someone to sit with you and eat quietly. 

Don't panic.

You didn't do anything wrong. People are just used to either go in a group of people they already know, and they are just the way they are. Get used to eat, and don't feel frustrated. Try not to, at least. Try to catch the social queues, and see when everyone is leaving. leave with them. Just go with the flow. People are nice and talkative you initiate the conversation. Oh, and learn some norwegian if you truly want to be part of things.

 

Legevakt, Volvat & The Norwegian Appendix Surgery Experience at the Emergency Room

A few weeks ago, my wife and I went through an ordeal that gave us a good run through of how to get treatment for something "big" if you live in Norway (at least, in a relatively habituated place, near oslo).

One evening, my wife complained of strong stomach pains. After a day and a half of that not stopping, we decided that we needed to get things checked out by a doctor. I called my work and asked some colleages what does one do in this situation.

My boss told me "You just go to a "Legevakt", the emergency room. There was one 10 minutes drive from us.

We had previously heard horror stories of long you need to wait to get treatment in Norway. Frieds said

"If you're not splattering blood on the doctor's face, you're waiting for a day or a week".

So we went to the Legevakt at Baerum.

We were greeted by a lovely building with welcoming nurses. As is the case almost everywhere in Norway, we took a number out fo a machine and waited our turn.  After about 10 minutes, we went into the nurses's offices and they took my wife's pressure and other vitals. Wrote down what they needed too, and explained that there is a priority queue based on age (kids get in faster) and severeness of the case. they asked us if my wife would like to wait on a bed or just sitting outside on the sofas until a doctor will take us. We preferred sitting, and I asked how long to they think it will take for a doctor to see us.

"It could be quite a while"

They said. After getting more specific( "will we be able to get out of here by 15:00 today?) we got some smiles that said "probably not". It was 12:30AM.

So we waited. I might have already mentioned the "three Ts of norway"  - Things Take Time, and time it  took indeed.

About three hours later, a nice young doctor invited us to come in. He was really nice. And also a bit unsure of himself. At some point he even said "now I'm confused". He wasn't sure what to do so he said he will consult with another doctor. We should wait, but he thinks it might be an appendix, or some other things (will not bore you with specifics). so now we wait in bed,  SIX more hours. My wife is not allowed to take any pain medication because she needs to be able to explain to the doctor what hurts when and where. So she lies there in bed , in pain.

Every couple of hours we ask the nurses what is going on. The explain that there is a single surgeon available for the entire building. (hundreds of patients). "WTF?" we think.

another doctor finally comes in, checks here, and still says we need to wait for the surgeon. The surgeon comes in at 10 AM the next morning. My wife spends her (first) night at the hospital. I, meanwhile, get the things in and out of school. explain to them that mo is a bit sick etc..

All this while, the nurses at VERY nice and helpful. If this hospital was a restaurant, it would get 5 stars for the waitresses. They are awesome at checking if you need anything, and bringing you that something.  Everything except the bloody surgeon.

The surgon comes in , checks her, and orders a cat scan. That takes two and a half hours. And now we are really scared. but he thinks it is an appendix and she might need surgery. As a foreigner in a land where people usually talk in a language you do not speak, that is fucking scary. 

Plus, it seems norwegians have a weird way of saying bad news. They say bad news with a smile. As they kept taking her vitals, one time they came in and the nurse said with a big smile "your count of [something technical] is almost double." We started feeling happy, and then I remembered that that thing is the thing that says if there is an infection or not (as they explained before). "So it's actually pretty bad, right?" I asked.

"Yes, it does not look so good" the nurse replied with a great big smile.

This creepiness kept happening over and over. You really have to leep on your toes to understand what they are trying to tell you, without trying to interpret any visual behavioural clues.

Quickly after the Cat scan it was decided to odo the durgery. BAM. Another very scary moement for us. It was to be done an hour from now, at 17:00 PM that day. 

Well at least that was relatively fast. about two hours later she was out and in the recovery room, and the next day, around noon, 48 hours after we went in, we went out, having spent a whole unnecessary night in the hospital.

So that was legevakt. Things take time. Some of our friends at the oslo international school said that they have a subscription to special clincs that have much shorter wait time for procedurs and treatements. One of them is called VOLVAT.

It costs about 2000 Kroner for the family a year, but you get to see the doctor much faster. You also get into treatments usually faster, but you PAY for each treatment and check you get, since it is all done privately. So you can go to a checkup and nd up with a bill of 5000 NOK. Hopefully your job will cover that for you. (mine does for me, but not my family).

Here is a list of all the legevakt in norway.
You can call 113 if you need an ambulance.

How to Walk on Ice in Norway

One of the skills you will have to learn when living here is walking on ice. To work, to the supermarket, to your car. anywhere.

Norwegians are very skilled at this. I've seen people running on ice, sliding along with regular shoes.

Me? I have to look down like a child walking on... well, ice.

this video shows immigrants like me in norway going to work in the morning:

Recommended for the first two months of winter until you get the hang of it: shoe spikes: you get them at stores like XXL (sports store).

iceshoe.jpg

Important Websites to Know in Norway

I am slowly finding out about websites that all norwegians seem to know and use:

THE site for finding, renting or selling anything you have. Find an apartment, a trampoline, or clothes for your children and used prices, sometimes even for free.

Find out how to get from anywhere to anywhere in norway, including what bus stops, train stops, and walking directions from each stop to your exact destination. Also has an iphone app. very useful.

If you do cross country skiing, this site gives you links to special google maps layers that show exact paths of cross country ski "tracks" specially made for skiing in. It also uses colours to tell you when the tracks were last paved, and what kind of ski wax you should be using based on the current temperature  as a bonus, you can see where there are waffle house stops along your route. Here is a link that shows ski routes close to where I live. in the baerum area.

Got other recommendations? please report in the comment section, so others will benefit.

Fake Future Friends in Norway

I got to travel to norway many times before moving in with the family. As I was speaking at conferences I got to meet quite a few norwegians along the way.

When some of them heard that I am moving with my wife and kids here, some of them said :

That's great! You guys could all hang out and meet my kids! We can do an open grill together, and go to our ski cabin in the winter.
sleazy.png

Over 7 months later, not a single one of those future promises were kept.  Not even a phone call from those people, inviting us anywhere. 

Calling these people ourselves, we found many execuses why things wouldn't work out, and generally people acted in a very "american" way, saying "this week is no good", "we'll see" and other crap like that.

If you think moving to a country feels lonely, wait until all the fake future friends you've made show their true colors.  

Slow vs. Fast Norwegians - The basics of norwegian work-life imbalance

A thing that you will find very surprising when you come to work in a norwegian company (and I have now been in quite a few), is the blatant duality of how many norwegians go about their day on and off work.

Outside the office building, you will see norwegians walking quickly, hastily, to work or other places. You will see many of them jogging in fancy sport suits, riding bicycles, riding roller skis up a hill, and generally trying to exert themselves as much as possible. even inside most office builds, most norwegians would rather climb a four storied building up the stairs, than go in the elevator.

Once people sit in their chairs at work, though, it is as if a magical fairy sprinkled some slowing dust on many of them. Yes, there are a few that seem to still be trying to do things in a rather effective way, but majority seem content on doing very little to become effective. almost dismissive of much work ethics, almost blatantly not caring whether someone has to wait another day for that extra bit of service, almost uncaring in their behaviour.  many norwegians I have witnessed at work situations, just don't give a fuck about being effective in their job.

Even norwegians themselves tell you:

If you want good service, ask a swede to do it

And they would be right. What swedes I have met at work situations, have been almost always tons more helpful and welcoming. Well, most all foreigners I meet here have that extra glitz in their eyes, or shall I say, that little glitz of sadness of unfulfilled productivity and "basically giving up" in their eyes from trying to do the right thing and hitting cold uncaring walls of "let's deal with that next week" from their managers.

Some norwegians are aware of this, and cannot stand it either. Some say it is the oil that has created this culture of "i will have a job anyway". some say it is the strong laws in favor of employees that contributed to this as well (it is pretty damn hard to fire someone here. and expensive).

And yet at home, this duality shows its face again. watch a norwegian around their home, and you will often see a person not afraid to climb ladders and fix the roof themselves, not shying away from raking leaves and shoveling snow at odd hours day and night, not caring how clean things are, they are just.not.clean.enough.

Some say "that is just good work-life balance. I say it is an extremely unbalanced balance. If at work on a friday, at three o'clock  all the desks are empty, that is great, because family is bloody important. but how you choose to spend the seven hours you are at work - playing fantasy football, for example, is the imbalance.

Purchasing stuff with paypal in Norway

Paypal is a widely used way to pay for things, and it also exists in Norway. But it took me a while to really be able to find the following links of things you can buy with paypal in norway, that I find usable:

  • First, here is the list of paypal accepting norwegian shops from the paypal site. Note that some of them will actually be delivering to you from , say, sweden, and the import taxes will cost quite a bit, so take note before you buy, where you are ordering from exactly.
  • Flights: We used BravoFly  to book flights to kirkenes with paypal, and flights from Israel to Oslo, for example. All with paypal. Prices are ok.
  • Anything from hammers to floor lamps to wifi routers and extenders to cables, to pots and pans, we got with paypal at Clas Olson. delivery was usually the day after, but costs about 160 NOK to your door.

Do you know of other good finds in norway that you can pay for with paypal? especially: car related stuff? or groceries? I would love to know.

The Rain Sounds Different in Norway

Listen to this while reading this post.

I come from Israel. A land not known for its amount of rain.

 Because all windows in norway seem to be double-layered, the rain makes a tapping noise very differently than I am used to.

It sounds like ice breaking very slowly, as if someone is slowly walking on top of a thin layer of ice. Or maybe a bit like fire crackling.  I love it.

Protip: Order Internet 3 weeks in advance in Norway, and requirements

We learned this the hard way: if you're going to live in a place that does not already have internet connection, plan for installation and shipment of modems and other equipment from your internet provider to take at least two frigging weeks.

Seriously.

I tried both with ADSL and cable providers (cana and telenor). Service level from such companies here is pretty bad interms of wait times and taking the customer for granted.

Requirements

If you want to order ADSL lines, you will need at least a dnumber (temp id issued until you get a REAL id). But, if you order able from paces such as canal digital, you don't need an ID. You just need a date of birth and living address.

Trash Cycles are weird in norway

If you live in the city, you shouldn`t worry about this, but we live a bit outside oslo (Bekkestua, right near the oslo international school). What`s weird is that the trash does not get picked up daily.

  • Regular trash is picked up WEEKLY. 
  • Paper trash is picked up every three weeks or so.
  • Plastic trash is every three weeks.
  • You have to use special "mandated"  types of trash bags for both. Black for regular, orange for paper. Clear for plastic.
  • Black bags are handed out every 3 months(!) by the kummune (area) you live in. They just put it next to your trash cans.
  • Orange and clear bags you should already have in your house if you are renting (your landlord will have them). They are two reusable orange bags, a bit bigger than ikea bags. made of canvas.

here is the quote from my municipalitys site

Yes, all this means you have to carefully plan and wait with your trash until the cycle comes in.

Note

The paper cycle comes in early in the morning on the date specified. (where is the date specified? we have no idea. But we asked our nice next door neighbor). So put your stuff out the night before.

Garbage collection and recycling
Regular garbage is collected from private homes and businesses once a week. Recycled garbage is collected once every three weeks. Paper is separated into orange bags, while plastic is placed in clear plastic bags, both provided by the municipality. Click here for collection dates in your neighbourhood.
— https://www.baerum.kommune.no/om-barum/barum-in-english1/

Three brands to purchase kids winter clothes from in norway

Sometimes my norwegian twitter friends (when they are not shy) are of immense help finding the right things. My wife and I are looking for winter wear, and we got amazing advice:

  • First, there are yearly tests of winter wear over here (be sure to use chrome and it will auto-translate the page for you to english). Those will tell you not just durability of clothing, but how much pollution the chmicals create when being made.
  • The companies norwegians like for full outwear clothing are: Reima, Reflex and SkogStad .
  • Buy under clothing made of wool. Wool underwear, shirts . Those will keep you warm (the companies above also make that, IIRC)

Save Money by going to flea (lopper) markets

Wow. We had no idea how expensive it is to live in norway. Our salary makes up for it, but still, it`s tough to just "spend" so much for anything on the psychological level. So we decided to go to a flea market. 

Well, My wife has gone and I stayed home with the kids.

Flea markets are a great way to save money, and they happen every few months.  You can save lots of money by buying used inter cloths for the family there. 

You can find a list of upcoming markets over here.

Important tip - Be Early

Be there 45 minutes before the official opening. Last time my wife got there 15 minutes after opening time and it was already full of people and nothing good was left. this is our second experiment to do this.

The results

When my wife got there, there was already a line of people. Someone was making jokes and everyone was laughing. When it was time to open the market there was literally a friggin countdown from 10 to 0, and all the Norwegians ran towards all the good.

My wife was able to get amazing deals because she was there early:

  1. 3 full winter suits at the price of 50 kr each (instead of thousands of kr each)
  2. things for free or almost free like bicycles, hats and more.

Learning Basic Spoken Norwegian

About a month before we moved to Norway, I was looking for ways to learn norwegian. Even though you can get by very easily in Norway knowing only english, i was supposed to come in and work at a hi tech company. Norwegian was to be an important part of the equation for me.

There are also other reasons you'd want to learn norwegian if you want to come and live here:

  • Some jobs will not accept you if you don't know norwegian. They might not say it to your face, but there is a duality here. People here are both very proud of their ability to speak in english, and cannot wait for ooprtunities to try it out, but on the other had it gets old quickly for them, and if they have to speak english in meetings just because you are there, it will feel unreasonable to them, and uncomfortable for you, if you're like me. 
  • There are still many people I find here that know very little english if at all. you find them in gas stations, and various services related industries. Some norwegian (even if just asking for directions) if really important.
  • People will really feel that you respect their culture by trying to blend in. I've spent full meetings here where I started out trying to speak a sentence in norwegian, followed by 30 minutes of people teaching me words and better pronunciation. It's fun and a good ice breaker in meetings.

2 months in, and I feel very good about my decision to learn norwegian. it wasn't as hard as I expected. If you know english, or german, it's going to be pretty easy. many words sound very similar, or "make sense" when spoken in english ("translation" is "overchet" for example)

What did I use to learn?

While I do plan to take a "real" course, I started out with simple stuff.

  1. RosettaStone do not have norwegian available. I guess a country with 5 million people isn't big enough for that. They do have swedish so I almost did that. If you know swedish you are pretty much ok in norway. languages are close enough to make sense.
  2. I ended up with Pimsleur Norwegian (full unit 1-30), and I am very happy I did. It is a series of audio based lessons, that were created by some professonr studying how memory works. It is based on repititino, and you feel really stupid doing it, but it friggin works. And i liked that they you understand why some things are spoken in some way and others are not. It gave me a good framework for understanding the basic structure of spoken sentences, so that later, when I learn new vocabulary words, I can just "plug them in" to my sentences. Highly recommended. It is 30 minutes once a day for 30 days.

Why?

We have been living in Norway for a little less than two months now. There is much we have learned the hard way. How (not) to park, what to expect in various places, clothing and paperwork things.

Moving to a new place with a family of three little kids is not each. So I decided to document things so they can help everyone who needs to know them in the future.

Our kids on the trip over

Our kids on the trip over

Us (my wife Tal and me, Roy) with Aviv, our middle child. Before entring the airport

Us (my wife Tal and me, Roy) with Aviv, our middle child. Before entring the airport