Life in the Happiest Country of the World

by Satu Vänskä-Westgarth on August 22, 2013 · 33 comments

life-happy-thumb

I’m slowly resurfacing to the real world from the depths of newborn baby smells and sounds, a very happy place to be indeed here in the happiest country of the world. Or one of the happiest, you could also say that Norway is only in the 2nd or 29th place depending on how and when the statistics were conducted.

But what is life really like in this happy place, all the way up in the northern corner of Europe, faced by the Atlantic and Arctic seas and stretching way past the Arctic Circle, and where the winters are dark and cold and summers sunny and chilly? And would you be up for it?

I thought what better way to explore that than to have a look at my Instagram gallery, the one place that is full of snapshots of our daily life in Norway, slightly glorified with the fancy filters available and most, if not all crappy days neatly edited away.

Work

Views of Lofoten in Norway via Instagram I @SatuVW I Destination Unknown

This is me on a sunny April day at work, exploring the Lofoten Islands in Northern Norway. Here the work days might have extended to seventeen hours, but at least we had fabulous views!

If you fancy working in Norway you need to get used to the 37,5 hour work week. I mean a 37,5 hour work week that really is 37,5 hours. Or if it isn’t, you will get your time back or extra work done paid, minute for minute. I would assume that you, like I will have no troubles with this one especially as it comes with the statutory annual holidays of five weeks.

Family

Family life in Norway via Instagram I @SatuVW I To Destination Unknown

Raising a family in Norway can be tricky. Your children will probably learn to ski roughly the same time as they learn to walk, and if skiing is not your cup of tea you might have trouble keeping up!

That aside, families are well supported by the state and from personal experience I can say that the one-year long maternity leave is heaven. Just like the first time around I am loving the possibility to spend this time at home or traveling with the little ones, postponing the possible separation anxiety coming from putting the kids in a state-supported day care which costs roughly NOK 2500 a month (that’s approximately €300 / $420 / £270).

For you to-be-fathers out there, paternity leave is currently three months, and if the mother wants to return to work early, father can stay home instead.

Food

Drying fish in Norway via Instagram I @SatuVW I To Destination Unknown

Don’t move to Norway for the food. But cherish the possibility to travel abroad to taste all your favorites. It’s not that there is no good food in the country, it’s just that you might not be able to afford it, especially if you are thinking of eating out.

However, there are some things I wouldn’t change like the waffles. Waffles that are available almost everywhere and can be enjoyed as a snack, dessert or the main course of the meal.

The food in the picture above is from Lofoten also, where the season to dry cod was just kicking in when I visited in early April. Most of the cod will not end up in the Norwegian plates though, but in southern Europe’s kitchens and especially in Portugal and Italy. 

Outdoors

Outdoors with Family in Norway via Instagram I @SatuVW I To Destination Unknown

When me and my husband made the trek up to Norway’s highest mountain the Galdhøpiggen, a journey which included being tied to a rope in a long line of other hikers to cross a glacier, we were surprised to see that lot of the other hikers where families with children of all ages. That quickly destroyed our illusion (or daydream) of being hardcore explorers conquering a new mountain, but it demonstrates the point that the outdoors in Norway is for everyone, from infants to grandpas and grandmas and this is something I hope will rub in our kids too.

“Koselig”

Cozy evening in Norway via Instagram I @SatuVW I To Destination Unknown

Maybe the most used word in Norwegian?

Koselig can be translated as “cozy”, and the Norwegians are masters of coziness. Our hometown has a whole host of cafés and little boutiques that could only be described as cozy, and what could be more cozy in the darkness and coldness of the winter time than to curl up on a sofa and read a book by the fire? I find it also quite cozy to pass an evening by an open fire in the summer time.

Winter’s Darkness

Skitouring in Norway via Instagram I @SatuVW I To Destination Unknown

Don’t be put off by the darkness of the winter time, it is not that dark in the southern parts of Norway, especially when the snow hits the ground and reflects even the little light that goes around. That said, go beyond the Arctic Circle and you will be engulfed by the dark season for few months every year. However, come February, March and you could ski in the fabulous conditions above. With a baby in the sledge behind you of course!

High Cost of Living

Is Norway really that expensive?

Yes and no. Yes, it is expensive, but no it isn’t if you earn Norwegian income. Taxes that are deemed high, according to my British husband, are around the same ballpark as the taxes in the UK. And you get so much more for it (take the one year paid maternity leave for example!

Difficult language

Or maybe not…

Learning Norwegian Language

I’m part of the team co-hosting the Instagram Travel Thursday Linky, an initiative started with Skimbaco Lifestyle online magazine to connect travel and Instagram enthusiasts across borders and I would love if you joined us! Read the guidelines on Skimbaco’s site and get to know us co-hosts better by hovering your mouse over the interactive image below. And once you are ready with your own post, please add it to the Linky in the bottom of the page and check out some of the other participating bloggers! All images except the feature image are from my personal Instagram gallery, you can find me there at @todestinationunknown. The “Lesson in Norwegian” has been making its rounds online and I have no idea who to give credit for the image above. If you know, let me know!

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{ 31 comments… read them below or add one }

Chasing the Donkey August 22, 2013 at 8:37 AM

I’d move there just for that code. I love that salted dried fish. YUMM-O!
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Chasing the Donkey August 22, 2013 at 8:38 AM

…oh and by code, I MEAN cod!!! Whoops.
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Satu Vänskä-Westgarth August 22, 2013 at 10:38 AM

Ha ha, no worries, I got you anyway! If you’re into cod, you would LOVE the coastal areas, thats one place where you can definitely pick up both fresh and salted fish.
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Reeta @houseofanais August 22, 2013 at 9:38 AM

Love this story and the pictures! And the lesson is Norwegian is good for the husband who goes there work!!
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Satu Vänskä-Westgarth August 22, 2013 at 10:39 AM

Yep, it’s a very compact and useful lesson indeed and will take him quite far! Is he going to be in Oslo? It would’ve been great if you could’ve joined him on his travel to this direction! :)
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Farrah August 22, 2013 at 12:08 PM

Looks so lovely- I’m glad you’re ‘resurfacing’ as we all call it :) Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy!
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Satu Vänskä-Westgarth August 22, 2013 at 12:20 PM

It is beautiful here, I never get tired of the views in Norway! And yeah, it seems like some days I’m more “resurfaced” than others :)
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Leigh Powell Hines @Hinessightblog August 22, 2013 at 2:46 PM

This post is fantastic. I can’t believe the language. I love it. The photos are wonderful, and I love the flower photo.

I still can’t get over….the language.

Those one words for all of that.
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Satu Vänskä-Westgarth August 22, 2013 at 5:45 PM

Thanks Leigh! And yeah, the language is not quite that simple but as said, a Norwegian is a person of few words…. :)
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Ann August 22, 2013 at 3:57 PM

Beautiful! My cousin lives in Norway. A little north of Tromso. Her pictures on FB make me so jealous.

But, yeah, I don’t think the food is for me.
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Satu Vänskä-Westgarth August 22, 2013 at 5:43 PM

I love northern Norway. If you get the chance, you should definitely visit, it’s beautiful up there!
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Joe @ Cosmic Smudge August 22, 2013 at 6:04 PM

These shots are absolutely gorgeous. Did you get that depth of field on the sunflowers with a smart phone?
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Satu Vänskä-Westgarth August 22, 2013 at 6:25 PM

Thanks Joe! And yep, I take all the Instagram pictures with my iPhone, but the original image didn’t really have depth of field. I just used Instagram’s tilt shift effect (that water drop thing).
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Hatton August 23, 2013 at 4:42 AM

Lovely photos!! Fathers get 3 months!? My husband got 24 hours. I’m moving to Norway if we have #2!
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Satu Vänskä-Westgarth August 23, 2013 at 9:35 AM

24 hours!? Yes, you need to move to Norway (or Sweden, Finland or Denmark)! :)
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Margaret Hogan August 23, 2013 at 7:38 AM

When we come to Norway and see you one of these days (lol) you have to promise to take us to Lofoten. And find book mark lots of cozy cafes along the way. Hope you’re getting some sleep. You sound good.
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Satu Vänskä-Westgarth August 23, 2013 at 9:34 AM

I’m actually doing REALLY good, can’t believe I gave birth less than two weeks ago!! :) I’m waiting for you here Margaret, especially as it looks like we won’t go to Lofoten after all this autumn, the 20h drive kind of put my husband off the idea. I’m still keen though…. But guess we’ll just see some other parts of the west coast instead, it should be nice anyway. But we can go together then! :)

There’s lots of good food here by the way: http://www.matlangsnasjonaleturistveger.no/ (“Taste of National Tourist Routes”)
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Tami @Colorado Mountain Mom August 26, 2013 at 9:43 PM

What a fun and delightful post! I would have to suck it up considerably about the whole “colder weather, this-is-ski-country” thing, but otherwise I’m thinking I’d love life in Norway. :)

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Satu Vänskä-Westgarth August 26, 2013 at 10:56 PM

Ha ha, I think if you are into outdoors you really would love it here. Yes, it can be bit cold in winter but all the houses (well, almost anyway) have fireplaces so it can be very cozy to drink hot chocolate by the fire after skiing! :)
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Jay August 27, 2013 at 7:10 AM

I thoroughly enjoyed this post. We are really happy with life in Norway these days and your list had me smiling!
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Satu Vänskä-Westgarth August 27, 2013 at 9:26 AM

Thanks Jay! And it was lovely to find your blog, I need to come for a proper read :)
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Sara Louise August 29, 2013 at 11:16 AM

37.5 hour work week and decent holiday time is exactly why I love Europe!
Your photos are amazing, especially the one with all of the daisies and the one with the rows of hanging fish :)

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Satu Vänskä-Westgarth August 29, 2013 at 3:43 PM

Thanks Sara Louise, and I can not but agree about the work week and holidays, one reason why I could NOT live in the States, even if I wanted to… :)
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New Life in Spain September 22, 2013 at 9:28 PM

Nei, men! Hallo! Og du? Ellers? :) Great collection of very useful words 😉
Great post and beautiful pictures. (I feel like I always say that, but I am such a big fan of your photography!)
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Satu Vänskä-Westgarth September 26, 2013 at 9:39 AM

Yep! I’ve actually seen a similar one done of Finnish, I guess us northern people have the same way of communicating :) And huuuuge thanks for the kind words! I’m just learning, but definitely love to get out with my camera, especially here in Norway!
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Kari Svennbey March 4, 2014 at 6:18 PM

Yes Norway is a wonderful country and what I miss most about living there is the access to the outdoors for everyone. Like you say it is for everyone. Lucky to go back every year to my cabin.

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Satu Vänskä-Westgarth March 8, 2014 at 8:21 AM

Yeah, I think that is one of the best things about living in Norway! And the reason we probably won’t be moving anywhere else fast. It’s great that you get to go back to the cabin every year!
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Danielle September 30, 2014 at 5:33 AM

love this place. I want to have a job there too. and have happy Family :)
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Satu Vänskä-Westgarth December 22, 2014 at 7:23 PM

Ha ha, it’s not a bad place, alright… :)
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vane December 17, 2014 at 3:47 PM

After living for a few years in the US, I would definitely get used to the 37,5 hours!
Love your blog and your pictures!

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Satu Vänskä-Westgarth December 22, 2014 at 7:24 PM

Thanks a lot Vane! We definitely are lucky in the Nordics with the 37,5 hours, long holidays and good social benefits when you have family. That said, I’m sure there are pros for working and living in the States as well!
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