Interview with an American Working at a Preschool in Norway

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When you think about moving abroad to work, countries like Taiwan, Korea, or Brazil come to mine. But occasionally an outlier pops up as is the case with Corinne’s ex-roommate and our friend from college, Sarah, who has lived in Norway with her boyfriend for almost 2 years.

Here’s my interview with Sarah where she shares details about her job, the scenery of Norway, universal health care, and the price of milk.

Austin: How did you get to Norway?

S: I moved to Norway to be with my boyfriend. We met in Illinois when he was home for Christmas break in 2007. He was working as a teacher in Norway and I was still in school. We did the long distance thing until I could move to be with him after I graduated. He came home the summer of 2008 and we flew to Norway together in August.

A: How did your boyfriend originally get to Norway?

S: August (the boyfriend) had a Norwegian girlfriend that he moved here to be with so he just moved into her families house and they lived together here a little over a year before they broke up. Aug started working in the school as an assistant about a year after he first moved here and then they hired him on for a year and then another year and then they offered him “fast” which means permanent. When they broke up, he had gotten the job at the school so he just found a little apartment close to work and stayed. He really enjoys the outdoors so he wasn’t quite ready to leave Norway’s beautiful scenery.

A: What is your job?

D: I am working in a preschool in Norway. I was lucky enough to get a job offer from the school after I had been here a few months to obtain a language practicum. I work with kids from 1-5 years old.

A: How did you go about getting a visa to work in Norway? Do you have an official identification card?

S: It’s called oppholdstillatelse, which means “permission” documenting that August and I would be living together as a couple (i.e. many couples in Norway are not married, but have a civil status known as samboer “living together”) and I would be actively trying to find work. I found work within 2 months of living here. I started subbing in preschools and then ended up getting a job offer. You have to have a politiattest (they check your record) in order to work with children.

The permission to stay is granted for a year and then I have to reapply each year until the fourth year and then I can apply every two years, which is what Aug does. After living in Norway for seven years you can apply to become a Norwegian citizen, but I am not 100% on the details of that. I do have an official stamp in my passport with my picture and the permission is cited there.

A: Do you have previous international travel experience?

S: No I did not.

A: What was your initial opinion of Norway?

S: That the scenery was from a dream. Our first house was right by the ocean with mountains in every direction. Pretty surreal when you go from central Illinois to that.

A: What surprised you the most?

S: How nice the people were. Everyone was very helpful.

A: What was/is the hardest part about moving to Norway?

S: I miss my family and friends. But at least I have Skype, without that I think I’d go mad.

A: Do you have a car and license?

S: We do have a car. Well it’s Aug’s, but I drive it too. I am in the process of getting my Norwegian license. I just have to take a first aid class and then a written test. It’s different depending on whether or not you have a license from before. It can be quite expensive for the classes though, about $250. But you never have to renew your license. Aug’s is good untl 2099. So no messing with the DMV haha.

A: What do you miss about America?

S: Restaurants:) I am dying for some good Chinese right now.

A: What’s your favorite experience from your time in Norway?

S: I would have to say all the outdoor adventures that August (her boyfriend) and I have been on. It has been an amazing experience to go on ski trips and just be out in the beautiful nature here.

A: Do you plan on staying in Norway for a while?

S: We’re not sure how long we will stay here – maybe a couple more years. It’s hard to tell with the financial situation and job market in the U.S.

A: What’s the hardest part about Norway financially?

S: I would say that the overall cost of living is higher. Groceries for example. Milk is about $5.00. It’s like taking the price in the U.S. and doubling it.

Fortunately, travel is cheaper if you are traveling within Europe. You can find really cheap flights on sights like http://www.ryanair.com/no

Rent is about $900 dollars a month. We rent a house, but ours is out in a rural area and that can affect the price.

A: What’s the easiest?

S: It’s easy to find work that pays well. And you don’t have to worry about insurance because they have universal health care. I would add that with having a job it is not financially difficult to live here because we make more than we would in the states. I would say that Aug makes about $60,000 as a P.E. teacher and I make about $35,000 working in a preschool 36 hours a week.

A: Have you had experience with their insurance?

S: Everyone in Norway is covered whether you are employed or not. I have used the universal health care to go to a regular check-up and to get my meds that I use in the states transferred so I could pay less for them here.

A: How would you suggest someone to find the job you did?

S: I found my job kind of on a whim, but I would suggest that if you plan on moving to a different country, that you dedicate time to the learning the language. I use Norwegian everyday at work and I would even go as far to the say that I use it more than English overall. I wouldn’t have found a job without learning the language first. I would also suggest trying to network with people that are in the field you would like to be working in.

This is a website that helps people find work in Norway: http://www.nav.no/

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Thanks to Sarah for sharing the story of her amazing journey.

Check out Sarah’s blog, Driftwood, for some incredible photos of skiing and their adorable puppy, Koda, in Norway.

If you have any questions for Sarah about life in Norway, leave them in the comments below!

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1 Comment

  1. Ananya says:

    Hi Sarah,

    It was really interesting to read your story.

    I would like to follow my boyfriend to Norway as well and am looking for jobs in pre-school.

    What kind of qualifications are required to join pre-schools?

    [Reply]

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