Friday, November 06, 2009

Norway is the best place to live in the world

According to the annual UN human development index, Norway is indeed the best country to live in. The index takes into account life expectancy, literacy rate, school enrolment rate and the country economy.

What I as a foreigner having lived for longer than one month in four different countries before and living now in Norway can say about it? Is it really the best place to live?

Below are my personal reflections on that matter which I have gather throughout past 15 months of living here, talking to different people (both Norwegians and foreigners like myself), reading books and articles about it.

Why it is (arguably) not good to live in Norway?
  • The weather can be depressive at times. Not so much sun, long and dark winters, much rain - hardly fitting an image of paradise.
  • People may not seem that friendly and talkative, hard to get friends.
  • People (especially young ones) may seem not being able to have fun without getting utterly wasted and losing their human dignity.
  • If you are an entrepreneur, be ready to be taxed heavily. Not the country to get very rich easily.
As for me, well, I am not very much influenced by the weather. In fact, I like Nordic/Baltic kind of weather much more than the one in South - I cannot really stand the heat. And I don't mind rain/snow at all.

Coming from Estonia, I do not expect to call a guy I know for couple of days a "friend". Besides, Norwegians are, as a matter of fact, much more helpful than many others.

I do not usually miss going to the parties, so as for humble opinion, people can get as drunk as they like unless they harm the others.

One cannot get very reach in Norway easily indeed. On the other hand, it's hard to get very poor here too - I am going to come to this one next.

Why is it good to live in Norway?
  • Whatever work you do - shop assistant, waiter, bus driver - you are paid as much as to be able to afford quite a decent life. And I mean it - every Norwegian can afford to go on a vacation abroad at least once a year, everyone can eat healthy and diverse food, everyone is able to have a nice apartment. If there are some poor people here, they are poor by choice.
  • Great social security - health insurance, unemployment 'safety net', pensions for older people and for people with disabilities - everything is in place and is available for everyone to use.
  • Nice green cities without excessive traffic jams or high air pollution.
  • Good education available for everyone - the level of education is rated among the highest in the developed countries by the OECD.
  • Stable economy not generating high levels of unemployment. Now, in the midst of economic recession, Norway has unemployment between 2,5 and 3 per cent (for comparison, average in Europe around 6-7%, in USA around 10%).
  • Equal opportunities for all members of society (no society can be completely equal, of course - that's nonsense) - women get roughly the same wage as men, homosexuality is not considered a disease, being a non-Norwegian descendant is neither shameful nor disadvantageous.
  • There is a lot of beautiful, unspoiled nature that is taken care of.
Anyone reading this blog post can perhaps understand what is my opinion on whether it is good to live in Norway...

If I was to dig a little bit deeper...

...what are the reasons of Norway being arguably the best country to live in?

This list is a subjective, yet is based on careful observations and analysis.
  • In my opinion, the most important, the social trust. I can indeed trust people here. I am not afraid of theft or cheating as much as anywhere else I have lived so far. That minimizes such phenomena as corruption or discredit towards the others.
  • Norwegians behave (in by far the most of the cases) in a sober and sensible way. No rush, no excessive emotions, people listen to the others. It prevents many dangerous situations and allows for a careful analysis and good planning.
  • Respect for a human life and basic human rights. Unless you behave against the norms of society (criminal, drug-addict etc), you can expect your human dignity to be untouched.
  • Quite innovative nation which strives for constant improvements. It has its traits of conservatism, but just exactly as much as needed to preserve social norms and values.
  • Effective economic and social model based on consensus. No major quarrels in politics, no big disasters in the economy (in comparison to elsewhere).
  • Somewhat luck. The discovery of the oil in the North Sea in the 1970s has definitely helped. However, even when adjusting economic performance for all non-oil&gas related activities, Norway still has one of the most effective economy in Europe.
The list can probably go on further...

...but what are the conclusions?

When having expressed such thoughts of mine here in Norway, I was accused to be over-optimistic in these respects. Well, I say - do not do mistake - I am not claiming Norway is a perfect country. But Norway is definitely the best country in many respects from what I have seen so far.

One indication: from conversations with my class-mates of non-Norwegian origin I've understood that virtually all of them would like to stay in Norway after the graduation.

Will I be one of them? Never say never. But it does not belong to my best-case scenario as for now. :)

P.S. All photos here are from my own collection - all made in Oslo and Oslo area.
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