For a long time, Norway has been, and still is, one of the richest countries in the world. This is mainly due to frequent occurrence of oil and mineral resources. It allows the country to set high standards in every area, including the everyday life. As one can imagine, life in a country full of high standards is very expensive.
But as a Swiss woman, I should be used to high prices, right? According to several statistics Switzerland is one of the, if not “the”, most expensive countries in the world and Norway follows shortly behind.
On the first days of my stay, I spent a lot of money. Mainly on food but also on new stuff for my room. At first, I was surprised on the amount of money I spent on food. But after a few days I realised, that I wouldn’t have paid less in Switzerland. Some foods, like fruits and vegetables are more expensive in Norway, others are cheaper. Quite cheap are local vegetables like cabbage, where the price is only around 0.2 Swiss Francs/kg. So, in the end, grocery shopping was, besides the strange new language, a very similar experience as it is at home.
It didn’t really occur to me at first that others really had to struggle to get used to the high prices.
I started to realize it quickly though. It was my 25th birthday on August 29th and I wanted to do something nice and go out for dinner. I was already here for about three weeks and got to know a lot of people. Nevertheless, I had a hard time finding someone to join me and I nearly ended up spending by birthday alone. The excuse was always: “it’s too expensive to eat out”. And it is expensive, but not more than in Switzerland.
The same happens whenever I want to go get a coffee in a café.
What is more expensive here are foods and soft drinks that contain a lot of sugar (like chocolate, CocaCola, Ice Tea, Fanta…), beer, alcohol in general and cigarettes. The cheapest beer in the supermarkets costs around 2.- Swiss Francs (0.5l can) and in a bar or club you don’t get a beer under 7.- Swiss Francs.
Although beer and alcohol are very expensive, Norwegians drink a lot, and I mean A LOT. But because of the high prices for alcohol especially in bars and clubs, pre- and after-parties are extremely popular.
Most student accommodations are located outside the city centre and therefore students require public transportation. Bus-, train- and tram-connection is very good, departures are very frequent, and even more important in the COVID-19 time – they are clean. Again, it is not surprising that quality has its price. Cheaper alternatives are City-bikes and E-Scooters provided by the city. You find them scattered around the city and you can take them to drive everywhere you want. These are cheap and easy possibilities to get around in the centre or a bit further away. Bergen is a very rainy city, but that does not hinder Norwegians to use scooters or bikes.
Overall, I can say that Norway is rather an expensive country, although for Swiss people the cost for everyday things is mostly on the same level. It is a completely different situation for example for others. In my experience students from Germany and Spain had the hardest time to adjust to the, for them, very high prices. A short comparison shows how big the differences are: While an average medium meal from McDonalds costs around 8 Euros in Spain and somewhere between 7 and 10 Euros in Germany, it is here somewhere around 12 to 14 Euros (special thanks to Giulia from Germany and Fernando from Spain for informing me about prices in your countries).
Even though the feelings on the amount of money you spend in Norway are not the same for everyone, there is still one thing that all exchange students I met agree on: An exchange semester is usually a once-in-a-lifetime thing that one has to fully enjoy, even though one might spend a bit more money as at home.