Living in Oslo
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A comprehensive guide about living well in Oslo
Living in Oslo is not only a great way to experience both nature and an urban environment. It also gives you the opportunity to visit Norway’s cultural center. Our InterNations GO! Guide to living in Oslo gives you an insight into healthcare, education, housing, and different neighborhoods.
Life in Oslo
At a Glance:
- Oslo has an almost free healthcare system with good medical standards that covers everyone living in the municipality.
- The city has trendy areas such as the newly developed Aker Brygge and Tjuvholmen, as well as the modern western districts, where housing is more expensive.
- Oslo has a mix of both Norwegian and international schools, providing universal education for all ages.
Between the islands in the Oslofjord and the forests and mountains surrounding the city, expats living in Oslo benefit from a vibrant metropolis. Oslo is Norway’s heart and soul, its cultural, financial, and economic center. Indeed, Oslo has a lot to offer both to its local and its expat population. However, it takes more than a beautiful city and breathtaking fjords to fully enjoy your expat life in Oslo.
Looking After Your Health in Oslo
While living in Oslo, you will be able to access public healthcare services and facilities with good quality standards, as well as a smaller amount of private healthcare institutions if you wish. You should remember, however, that in most cases, only public services are covered under the National Insurance Scheme, to which all expats working in Norway are obliged to contribute.
The public health service (Folketrygden) is financed by the Norwegian government and run by the individual municipalities. Expats in Oslo can always turn to a public medical clinic (Helsesenter) or refer to our list of medical services below.
Joining the National Insurance Scheme
Every expat living in Oslo has the right to join the National Insurance Scheme. This rule applies even if you are not a national of an EEA country, as long as you are a legal resident in Norway or are working in Norway. Members of the National Insurance Scheme must pay contributions with their taxes.
In order to claim certain insurance benefits, like disability benefits, you must have been a member of the National Insurance Scheme for a while — in the case of disability benefits, for example, you must have been a member in the three years prior to becoming disabled.
If you are not automatically covered by the National Insurance Scheme, you can make voluntary contributions. This applies to you if your stay does not exceed twelve months and if you have strong ties to Norway, such as a spouse or close family member.
Alternatives to Public Healthcare
You may prefer to choose a private practice or hospital for a healthy life in Oslo. Private healthcare is widely available in Oslo, as many doctors work in private clinics or hospitals — you are free to make an appointment anytime by contacting them directly. Keep in mind, however, that private doctors are not covered under the National Insurance Scheme and are therefore more expensive.
But even if you turn to public medical facilities, healthcare will not be entirely free. It is, however, heavily subsidized. Essentially, expats living in Oslo have to pay a certain fee after each doctor’s appointment until they reach a certain limit (2,205 NOK or roughly 270 USD in November 2017). From then on, they are entitled to a so-called free card (frikort) for the current calendar year of living in Oslo.
Where to Go When You Become Sick
Joining the Norwegian social insurance system (National Insurance Scheme) while living in Oslo allows you to choose your doctor freely within the public system. It also gives you the right to change your doctor up to twice per year. As soon as you have picked a doctor, you can call them to set up an appointment. If your preferred doctor is not taking on any more new patients, it is possible to be placed on a waiting list.
Please remember that most offices are open from 08:00 to 15:00, with out-of-hours clinics servicing emergency patients. You will be asked to pay your medical fees following your appointment. Are you in need of specialist treatment? You need to visit your general practitioner first and ask for a referral.
Below we have listed a number of hospitals and medical centers in Oslo. This list is, however, by no means extensive. Please refer to your municipality or your health insurance provider for more information.
- Oslo Legevakt (Oslo Emergency Hospital)
- Aleris Helse På Røde Kors Klinikk (ALERIS Health Center at the former Røde Kors Medical Clinic)
- Oslo Akutten (Oslo Emergency Medical Center)
- Volvat Medisinske Senter (Volvat Medical Center)
- FortFrisk Legesenter (FortFrisk Health Clinic)
What to Do in an Emergency
If you haven’t picked your medical practitioner yet, or if you are in need of emergency care while living in Oslo, dial the emergency number 113. With major injuries, you can refer to Legevakten (Oslo Emergency Hospital) at Storgata 40, 0182, Oslo. This emergency ward is open 24 hours a day. During the day, you should get in touch with your general practitioner to make an appointment or in more urgent cases visit one of the city’s drop-in emergency ward centers.
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Accommodation in Oslo
Modern Vibes: Aker Brygge and Tjuvholmen
Before 1985, Aker Brygge was nothing but a shipyard and a major hotspot for mechanical industries. Today, the neighborhood attracts around twelve million visitors each year with its modern collection of shops, restaurants, bars, and cafés on the boardwalk, as well as seafood markets with fish fresh from the boat. Those who love Oslo’s nightlife and cultural activities will enjoy life in Aker Brygge. After all, the waterfront along the west of downtown Oslo is a lively, crowded place in the daytime and at night.
Tjuvholmen, on the other hand, is one of Oslo’s newest neighborhoods. The district boasts an impressive, diverse architecture with lots of unique outdoor areas. Different galleries and art installations are located here as well, such as the new, internationally recognized Astrup Fearnley Museum of Modern Art and the adjacent Tjuvholmen Sculpture Park.
Oslo’s Old-Fashioned East and Affluent West: Two Opposites
As is the case in most cities, Oslo’s east is a cheaper neighborhood than Oslo’s west. Grønland is characterized by traditional pubs and modern bars, cheap vegetable and fruit markets. Tøyen and Kampen are only a stone’s throw away and well known for their charm and the traditional wooden houses. Tøyen is also famous for the Edvard Munch Museum, though only until 2020, by which time the Museum will be moved to Bjørvika.
The eastern neighborhood, Tøyen, is a former working-class district, and many of its current inhabitants are from migrant backgrounds or low-income families. Grønland shares a similar composition of its inhabitants, and the two districts have experienced quite a few social problems in the recent past. Moreover, they tend to be associated with higher levels of crime than other parts of the city — whether or not this reputation is entirely justified. Possibly because of these factors, people rather tend not to stay in Tøyen and Grønland for a long time, preferring to settle in more upscale areas if or when they are able to afford a new home.
Oslo’s east also holds historical significance as some remains of medieval Oslo dating back some hundreds of years have been discovered here. In addition, the area offers a magnificent view of the city and a chance to see where Edvard Munch was inspired to paint his famous Scream.
The west is more expensive in terms of rent and closely located to Majorstua, which is well known for its buzzing nightlife and shopping opportunities behind the Royal Palace in Oslo. The affluent area also has lots of modern, luxurious apartment buildings, as well as small shops and bars, restaurants and parks.
The restaurant scene in Oslo’s west is traditionally very upmarket, featuring lots of vegetarian places and many Asian cuisines. Around the areas of Bislett and St. Hanshaugen many students can be found in coffee shops and bars, as the College of Oslo is located closely nearby. All in all, Oslo’s west is quite cozy and charming.
Jump Right into Oslo’s Ski Culture at Holmenkollen
Holmenkollen is located in Oslo’s northwest and includes probably the most popular recreational area in the city. Holmenkollen also acts as a gateway to the vast forests of Nordmarka. Tryvann and Frognerseteren are full of a varied nature and are great places to start your hikes or cycling tours. The area is connected to the rest of the city by metro; it is only a 20-minute or 30-minute journey away from the center of Oslo.
At the same time, the surrounding forests and hills are within easy reach and are full of skiers during the long winter months. The Holmenkollen Ski Museum and the ski jump are located in this area as well. Offering both the hustle and bustle of the city and the serenity of Oslo’s mountainous surroundings, Holmenkollen is indeed very popular among expats and Norwegians alike.
Other neighborhoods in Oslo include the green, well-off residential Bygdøy, and Oslo’s coffee mecca: Grünerløkka. The latter area is definitely not to be missed, especially for those expats who love up-and-coming cool places, with coffee shops on every corner. Grünerløkka has some of the best bars (with great mixologists), run-down spaces turned into art exhibitions, and hidden-away vintage shops. While you may not find the sidewalks flooded with tourists, don’t be surprised if you encounter hipsters en masse.
Finding Your New Home in Oslo
The apartment search in Norway’s capital can be quite a challenge for expats. Not only is the real estate market highly competitive, the rents are also exceptionally high.
Finn.no is by far the biggest marketplace, offering ads for rentals and more. Unfortunately, the page is available in Norwegian only and includes mostly long-term rentals. Hybel.no is unfortunately not available in English, either, although you can translate the ads from Norwegian. “Hybel” is the Norwegian word for a room in a shared apartment; usually sharing a kitchen and bathroom, you may live with the owner of the house or other flatmates. You should also take a look at the classified sections of local newspapers, like Aftenposten.
Alternatively, you can choose to use the apartment service of a professional renting agency. Such agencies either have their own apartments or rent out apartments on behalf of their clients; with most of them fully furnished they make ideal homes for expats. Frogner House or Oslo Apartments provide these services, for example. Keep in mind that this option is rather costly, and like all real estate agents, it will have fees associated with using their service. If you plan on living in Oslo for a few years, hiring a realtor or going on a good old-fashioned apartment hunt may be a better choice for you.
What Is a Standard Oslo Rental Price?
As we have mentioned before, the cost of living in Oslo is quite high. One-bedroom apartments can go for an average of 7,740 NOK per month in the Oslo and Bærum municipality (2016 figures) and three-bedroom apartments can cost 12,880 NOK in monthly rent or more. The exact price, of course, depends on the location of your apartment of choice, whether utilities are included, and on what the place is equipped with (furniture, kitchen, etc.). Expats who wish to live right in the heart of the city center should expect to pay more than the average prices listed above.
Please remember that you may be asked to pay up to six months of rent (but usually less) as a deposit. This is a completely normal procedure. Once you have moved out and the owner has made no claims for repair, you will get your deposit back. The size of your deposit may vary and depends on your landlord. However, it is usually not to be negotiated, and crucially, landlords are not allowed to request a deposit larger than the sum of six months’ rent.
Education and Culture in Oslo
Oslo’s Schools: Education for Everyone
Universal schooling was introduced in Oslo about 250 years ago, in 1889. In the beginning, compulsory education included seven years of education, which was later raised to nine years in 1969 and to ten years in 1997.
All schools in Oslo abide by the national curriculum of Norway, which includes Norwegian, Mathematics, Religion, Physical Education, English, Music, Science and the Environment, as well as other compulsory subjects. The children will also choose a second foreign language, do supplementary language studies, or work on study projects — this may be in Norwegian, English, or Sami.
Children who attend school in Oslo will also learn a lot about the culture and history of the Sami. The Nordic heritage and the lives of Norway’s indigenous people are an important part of the national curriculum.
Following on from primary and lower secondary school, upper secondary education mostly focuses on general studies or vocational training, depending on the students’ choice. After completing their vocational training, students will receive a craft certificate while general studies can qualify them for university admission.
Where to Send Your Kids to School
Children over the age of six are obligated to attend school while living in Oslo. The best way to find a school is by contacting primary schools in your neighborhood and putting your child’s name on a list for the next academic year. Some schools even offer so-called reception classes for expat children who have yet to learn the Norwegian language. They will be happy to place your child there if necessary.
If you wish to send your child to a Norwegian public school, please refer to the administrational homepage of the city for a list of all primary, lower and upper secondary schools in Oslo, as well as adult educational facilities. These schools are administered by the Education Authority (Utdanningsetaten), which you can contact by calling + 47 23 30 12 00 if you have any further questions.
It may be wise for expats to send their children to international schools, such as the reputable Oslo International School, especially if your child does not speak Norway or is slightly older. Bear in mind that international schools are private and often ask very high fees; Oslo International School charges, for example, charges 219,000 NOK per year. For a list of international schools in Norway, including Oslo, please refer to our article on Living in Norway.
Jump into Norwegian Ski Culture
Settling down in Oslo does not only allow you to enjoy the benefits of living in a big city, it also lets you enjoy the close proximity to the surrounding mountainous countryside. The city itself is situated at the end of the Oslofjord, which is why beaches, forests, and islands are within easy reach.
There are 40 islands within the Oslofjord, and some beaches on the islands are reachable in just ten minutes. Oslo’s transportation system, Ruter, includes ferries within its public transportation network. As a result, connections are frequent, affordable and of good quality, especially in the summer months.
The municipality of Oslo includes a total forest area of 242 km², of which Oslo residents and tourists take full advantage in the long winter months when there is heavy snowfall. In winter, you don’t have to travel far to go skiing or snowboarding or to enjoy an adrenaline-packed dog sleigh ride in the forests surrounding the city.
Oslo’s Winter Park (formerly Tryvann) is the largest ski resort in Oslo, with 18 different slopes for a variety of abilities. Perhaps most importantly, the ski slopes are just half an hour away from the city center and can be reached directly by metro (line 1 towards Frognerseteren), making skiing a very accessible winter activity. Oslo is a big city with nature at its doorstep — the best of both worlds for expats!
However, Oslo has a lot more to offer than green hills and beautiful fjords. The city is Norway’s cultural hotspot, with an abundance of museums and modern art galleries. Don’t miss out on the spectacularly designed Opera House by the waterfront or visit the Munch Museum, where you can see Edvard Munch’s famous painting “The Scream.”