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Many of you probably know that Norwegians get taxed pretty heavily (36% is average). Anyone who has been to Norway and had purchasing power quickly realizes that the cost for products and services in one´s daily life seems exorbitant compared to what we pay here in the United States (or most other places in the world, for that matter) for the same things. What a lot of people don´t realize is that the standard of living in Norway is one of the highest in the world, and the cost for that has to come from somewhere.
I remember paying NOK 100 for one øl (beer) in downtown Oslo-this is over $15. You can buy two pitchers of øl for this price in many bars the U.S. Needless to say, having forspill (pre-parties) is very common before one heads to the bar.
Unfortunately, it’s not just drinking alkohol in bars that is expensive. Eating out is quite dyrt (expensive). For what you pay for a whole pizza in Norway (no joke, a little more than an øl), you can eat a nice entree at many American restaurants. Kjøtt (meat) is much more expensive relative to other food than kjøtt in the U.S, as is most other mat (food).
In addition to mat og drikker (food and beverages), the cost of actual living space is veldig dyrt (very expensive), especially if you want a place close to a big city center, such as Oslo. I just rented a leilighet (apartment) in Tromsø and I must say, although I haven´t physically seen any of the spaces yet in person, prisene (the prices) seem very high for what a seemingly similar leilighet would cost in the U.S. That´s my American mentality speaking though. I´ve done some reading up on this since I spent probably 24 hours searching databases for leiligheter, sending emails, requesting more pictures, etc.
Even if the leilighet is very small and is umøblert (unfurnished), you still have to remember that the building standards are very high and therefore (newer) hus (houses) and leiligheter are top quality. They are well insulated to withstand the kaldt klima (cold climate). It is very common to have varmekabler (heated cables) underneath several rooms in a residence to provide warmth through the floor.
Although it´s hard to keep in mind when you are not a native Norwegian spending gobs and gobs of money visiting or living in Norway (and not earning Norwegian wages), there is a balance in the seemingly insane prices of goods and services. Norwegians earn more money on average than Americans, are taxed more, spend more on their cost of living, but also have an excellent welfare system that perhaps wouldn´t be possible were it not for high taxes or prices. Some might argue that healthy individuals who don´t study or have children and just work all their lives don´t benefit from the social services provided them, but let´s face it, most people get sick and have kids, and many pursue secondary education. Therefore, in my opinion, if you are a Norwegian living in Norway and earning Norwegian wages, the system truly maintains a healthy balance.