Oslo is quirky, yet impressive. Norway’s capital city is home to the Nobel Peace Prize Award. A winter sleigh ride around the city's compact center reveals quaint shops and beautiful 17th-century buildings that give way to a world-class ski jump in the middle of the city.
This is but a taste of the capital’s unique character. Good-natured, down-to-earth, frank: Norwegians are as refreshing as powder snow. Their pragmatic outlook is an attribute in more ways than one: it’s a survival tool that gets them through Oslo’s long dark winters and its seemingly endless summer days. Oslo may be expensive but the standard of living is excellent. Residential areas are clean, well maintained, modern and there is a good choice of areas in which to live.
Those looking for upmarket houses and apartments should look to Frogner. If you prefer a lively, trendy environment, head for Grünerløkka. Young professionals prefer Tøyen as it’s close enough to walk into the city center, while a more family atmosphere can be found in the pretty neighborhood of Kampen.
As a language, Norwegian is fairly challenging to pick up. However, the non-polyglot need not despair; Norwegians have a near-perfect command of the English language – and they love speaking it. While Oslo is by no means crowded, recently-introduced laws requiring the upgrade of buildings, including schools, have resulted in an outflow of families and schools to the outlying suburbs. With the prohibitive cost of cars and fuel, commuting by train is often locals’ first choice.
What is special or unique about your city?
Oslo is the capital of the Kingdom of Norway. The city has a blue-green image, as it is surrounded by the blue Oslo fjord and green hills and forests. Oslo is the oldest of the Scandinavian capitals, and its history goes back to 1000 years ago, when the first settlements were built at the inlet of the Oslo fjord. After the Great Fire that destroyed the city in 1624, the Danish King Christian IV, decided to rebuild the city in brick and stone and named it Christiania. Three hundred years later, in 1925, the citizens decided to rename their city Oslo.
Oslo is a pleasant city with close to 600,000 inhabitants. The city is characterized by a mix of old and new architecture, parks, hills, museums, monuments, lakes, forests and the fjord. It is a vibrant city, excellent for shopping, cultural and sports activities. Oslo has a wide range of good restaurants and a lively nightlife. The city has become an attractive city for tourists and conferences, with a large selection of excellent hotels and congress venues.
What are a newcomer's first impressions of your city?
Over the years, we've watched Oslo, (the capital of Norway), grow from a sprawling country town, into the sophisticated metropolis it is today. Fueled by oil money from the "black gold" of the North Sea, Oslo today is permeated with a Nordic joie de vivre, in contrast to its staid, dull reputation of yesteryear, along with population growth; urban sprawl has come to Oslo. But Oslo still manages, in spite of its growing numbers, to have more green belts than any other European capital. There are still virgin forests in Oslo and hundreds of hiking trails that lead you to fjords or mountains.
No slouch in the cultural department, either, Oslo has some of the greatest museums in all of northern Europe. The only problem is that Oslo is one of the most expensive cities in Europe. Proceed with caution if you're on a strict budget. Norwegian people can also give the impression to visitors that they are reserved and not so easy to connect with.
Are these impressions likely to change?
Impressions are likely to change once you become adapted to the environment and become familiar with the language and culture.
What is the local language?
The local language is Norwegian. However, English is commonly spoken as well. A large share of the Norwegian population also speaks some German, French and/or Spanish.
How easily could I live in this city without knowing this language?
For as long as you would like, as many people here are able to communicate in English. However, It is highly recommended to anyone thinking of relocating to Norway commits to learning the language as, although many companies operate through English, Norwegian is still required.
What are good things to remember in order to avoid offending the other residents of this city?
Simplicity and nature are the core of the Norwegian lifestyle. Tolerance, kindness to each other and independence are highly valued. Criticism of other people or others' systems is frowned upon. "Peace and progress" are mottos in the country that sponsors the Nobel Prizes. Norwegians treasure their landscape, outdoor activity, sailing, cross-country skiing, etc.
How might the local weather affect my daily life?
Oslo and the rest of southern Norway enjoy an active beach and water sport season in the summer months. Oslo is, believe it or not, warmer than San Francisco in the summer. Even though Oslo is situated on latitude 60 north, you should not leave your swimsuit at home. Although this is as far north as Anchorage, Alaska, Norway owes its warmer climate to the Gulf Stream. Which keeps the fjords from freezing entirely, even in the arctic Finnmark region. Even more important are the southerly air currents brought in above these warm waters, especially during the winter. In comparison to western Norway, which has relatively warm winters, cool summers and frequent rain, eastern Norway, where Oslo is situated, is sheltered by the mountains in the center of the country and has an inland climate with warm summers, colder winters, and less than 30 inches mean annual rainfall.
The snow usually arrives right in time for a "white Christmas," and skiing conditions are excellent from January through to March. The closest downhill skiing area is less than 15 minutes by car from Oslo. Thousands of kilometers of cross-country tracks can be found only 5 minutes further to the north and west. A factor to be aware of is the lack of light during the winter and the opposite, the short nights during the summer. Many people find this the most challenging factor about Norwegian climate.
Is there anything else I should know about the overall character of your city or its people?
Norwegians have a reputation of being somewhat introverted and difficult to get to know. It is not a Norwegian habit to speak to strangers on the bus or at the table next to you in a restaurant. However, Norwegians can be both welcoming and open-minded toward foreigners. If you start a conversation, you might notice that Norwegians seem a little reluctant at first, but most are happy when someone else takes the initiative. Norwegians have a direct form of communication and often state their opinions.
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