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READERS REVEAL: Can you get by in Norway with just English? 

It's very common to hear English spoken all over Norway. The Local's readers shared their thoughts on whether you'll be able to get by without learning Norwegian. 

Can you get by in Norway without Norwegian? Pictured is Oslo opera house.
Can you get by in Norway without Norwegian? Pictured is Oslo opera house. Photo by Gunnar Ridderström on Unsplash

Norway has recently been ranked among the best countries in the world for English language skills. In addition, many international firms have Oslo offices where the official working language is English. 

Wherever you find yourself in Norway, you are unlikely to be far from a proficient English speaker, even in more rural areas. 

This may lead to some assuming that they’ll be able to get by in Norway without learning Norwegian. 

We asked our readers whether this was the case. 

‘Everybody speaks English in Oslo’ 

Most of those who responded to our survey said it would be possible to get by in the country without learning Norwegian. 

“Yes, you can get by, but speaking some Norwegian is often appreciated,” Arjen, living in Jessheim, said, responding to our survey. 

“Yes, absolutely. Everybody speaks English in Oslo, where I was an Erasmus exchange student,” Bence Szabo responded. 

In addition, they also added that it would be possible to find work with English as the primary working language. 

“If you are working for a multinational abroad and have skills and experience to create value in Norway, you can certainly make a transfer to Norway work. However, I think it is expected that you learn Norwegian at some point,” one foreign resident who didn’t leave a name wrote. 

However, you will be more limited in the type of work you are likely to be offered. 

“Yes and no, depending on skills. (It is) very easy to find IT jobs, but as an electrical engineer, I faced many rejections because I don’t speak the language,” Maz Khan in Oslo wrote. 

“No. Most of the jobs require a well-spoken Norwegian. Only hard labour workspaces don’t care about the language, but they don’t pay well,” Dora Szabolcsi in Hønefoss said. 

Meanwhile, others pointed out that getting a job in tech was feasible while working in a Norwegian organisation would be off-limits without language skills. 

 ‘You can feel like you don’t belong to society’

Many of those who said that you could get by in Norway with just English were quick to add the caveats that living in the country without learning the language was a short-term solution or that you’d feel left out of society. 

“Yes, you can, but you still feel like you don’t belong to society,” Maz Khan wrote. 

“You can get by in daily life but struggle with the ‘big’ topics. Norwegians don’t like to have serious conversations, argue or deliver bad news in English, so you are at a big disadvantage in many situations where it’s important to understand 100% of what’s going on,” one foreigner in Akser responded. 

Sazi Luke in Fjellstrand said that learning the language would be essential for making friends and progressing your career. 

“(You can get by) in the beginning only. To make friends, build  work relationships and be competitive in the job market, it is beneficial to learn the language,” they wrote. 

Veronica Jaramillo Jimenez in Tønsberg said that ten years in the country without mastering led to feeling like an outsider. 

“Yes, you can manage, I have done so for ten years. However, it is really not ideal if you want to be included in everyday life; moreover, you are always seen as an outsider if you do not master the language, which is why my goal within the next 12 months is to become fluent in Norwegian,” she wrote. 

Member comments

  1. Completely agree that you will not feel fully a part of society; it can also feel quite awkward having to keep reminding people you are not fluent, or the side conversations that happen in the office, for example. More importantly, if you have kids, they will speak Norwegian for the first years and so it becomes essential….also a good way to learn is from them!

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For members


The key Norwegian vocab you need to understand your tax return

Tax return season in Norway is upon us, and most people will get their tax return notice by the beginning of April. Make sure your tax-related vocabulary is up to date with our guide to key terms and expressions.

The key Norwegian vocab you need to understand your tax return

People working in Norway usually get their tax return notices (Norwegian: skattemelding) between March 14th and April 1st.

Although the process is usually quite straightforward (you can find our guide on the key things you should do after getting your tax return notice here), the technical vocabulary can initially seem a bit frightening.

No need to worry – in this article, we’ll help you get a better grasp of all the key terms you’re likely to encounter while going through the pre-filled form and making sure that all the information in it is up to date.

READ ALSO: Five things to do once you get your tax return notice in Norway

Getting a tax refund (få tilbake på skatten) or paying additional tax (å betale restskatt)?

One of the first things that most people check when they get their tax return notice (Norwegian: skattemelding) is whether they will get a tax refund (Norwegian: få tilbake på skatten) or if they will have to pay additional taxes (Norwegian: å betale restskatt).

A key item that you should also look for is the item related to your earnings (Norwegian: inntekten) in the previous year, as a lot of people have their earnings change at several points in time in a year, and the Tax Administration (Norwegian: Skatteetaten) doesn’t always have access to all the figures.

It’s your responsibility (Norwegian: ansvar) as a taxpayer (Norwegian: skattebetaler) in Norway to ensure that the information in the tax return is correct.

Double-checking the deductions (fradrag)

A lot of taxpayers also prioritise checking whether they can add any tax deductions (Norwegian: fradrag) to their tax returns.

As the rules related to travel deductions (Norwegian: reisefradrag) in Norway have changed this year, pay special attention to whether you can claim travel expenses (Norwegian: reiseutgifter) in your tax return.

Additionally, make sure to check whether you’ve included everything you can for parental deductions (Norwegian: foreldrefradrag) if you have children.

Submitting the tax return within the set deadline (fristen for innlevering)

The deadline for submitting your tax return (Norwegian: fristen for innlevering) is April 30th, so you’ll need to finalise your form by then.

If, however, you fall into the category of taxpayers who need to pay additional tax for 2022, remember to do so by May 31st.

If you don’t pay the tax by the deadline, you’ll have to pay interest on the taxes (Norwegian: betale renter på skatten) owed to the Norwegian state.