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Svalbard Posted by on Jan 19, 2011 in Culture, Geography, History

I briefly thought about spending 3 months in Svalbard.  If you are aware of the archipelago half way between mainland Norway and the North Pole, you are likely wondering why I would think about living there?  Svalbard is a group of islands where polar bears roam, where the global seed vault is located, and over half of the archipelago is glacier.  Svalbard lies between 74 and 81 degrees north, bulging into the Arctic Circle.  Despite its extreme northerly location, the islands are not as cold as other areas of the world that are further south.  The other 40 % of the archipelago that isn´t glacier is covered with beautiful mountains and fjords.  You may think that was a reason to want to live there.  Wrong again.


When I was explaining to a friend that I had to go home because my work visa was denied, she said `Hvorfor ikke dra til Svalbard?´ ´Why not go to Svalbard?´  The letter I received from the Immigration Office stated that if I wanted to come back to Norway, I would have to remain outside of the entire Schengen area (which is most of Europe) for at least 3 months.  However, Svalbard is a ´freezone´ of sorts.  Anyone can live and work there without a visa.  It goes back to the Svalbard Treaty of 1920 which limited the Norwegian governments ability to collect taxes to that of financing services on Svalbard.  I guess the government doesn´t care as much about who is there and who is working or not if the government can´t collect taxes.  That is why I pondered moving to Svalbard for a short while.  If I had a friend to go with me besides my dog, I would have thought more seriously about it.


I actually became good friends with a Norwegian-Canadian who lived on Svalbard for about 3 months.  And not for any political reason, but just because he wanted to.  He was by himself and wanted an adventure to start a series of traveling adventures.  My friend said that it was an excellent, quirky little place.  It got a bit lonely at times, not only because he was by himself, but because they are so isolated up there.  He did make a number of friends and found interesting things to keep him busy.  Then he moved to Tromsø, which is where I met him.

If you were in my shoes a few months ago, would you have gone to Svalbard?

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About the Author:kari

I attended St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN, where I majored in Norwegian and History. During college, I spent almost a year living in Oslo, Norway, where I attended the University of Oslo and completed an internship at the United States Embassy. I have worked for Concordia Language Villages as a pre-K Norwegian teacher and have taught an adult Norwegian language class. Right now, I keep up by writing this Norwegian blog for Transparent Language. Please read and share your thoughts! I will be continuing this blog from my future residence in the Norwegian arctic!


  1. Christian:

    To be honest, I would have gone! It looks like a beautiful place, even if the warmest it ever typically gets is 40 F…

  2. Marca Robbin Gibson:

    Ja sure, you betcha! What an experience it would be, and such an interesting history. I would take my Norwegian books, my embroidery projects and other crafty supplies, and my Nordic skis and sweaters! Thank you for this great, informative post.

  3. kari:

    Yeah, in retrospect I kinda wish I would have done it. Who knows what the future holds;)

  4. Vanessa:

    I would definitely have gone! In the words of Lisa Ekdahl .. Vem vet! 🙂

  5. Ingeborg:

    JA! Æ har en stor lyst til å bo på Svalbard (og Tromsø) en dag–vet du kor æ kan finne informasjon om arbeidsmuligheter deroppe?

  6. Oscar:

    After years living in the big city where daily accidents, criminal acts, violence is so prevalent and experienced daily, not to mention the horrific traffic jams, I would welcome a nice break and rest in such a small place, it looks very peaceful, I could work in my jewelry making hobby without interruptions. How many people live there and are there any other private businesses?

    • Bjørn A. Bojesen:

      @Oscar There are about 2500 people on Svalbard! And a lot of polar bears! 🙂
      Don’t think there are many private businesses, besides a couple of shops. If you don’t mind the cold – go for it!
      Good luck!