Why it is Hard to Get a Job in Norway

Yes, it is hard to get a job in Norway, even for Norwegians.  Unemployment stats are unreliable.  In Norway at the moment the unemployment rate is 3.6%.  That sounds pretty good but  just in the last three months 11,000 Norwegian residents  have become unemployed.  The reasoning for this first slump in a two year employment growth is that 14,000 people turned 15 and made the cut to become a statistic.


Another thing to consider when looking at government stats about employment is that they include any percentage of employment as being ‘employed’.  So say a person is employed in a 20% position they are numbered with the ‘employed’.  It would be more valuable to see the stats on how many people in Norway have full time positions.  But they don’t publish those – I wonder why?  (wink, wink)


Why is it so hard to get a job in Norway?

Southern Europe competition
At the moment there is increased competition on jobs.  Since the financial problems of Southern Europe, more people from the south are trying to find jobs in Norway.  You’d think that this would excite employers to get the best employees in Europe working for them but, in fact, employers are  battening down the hatches.  Southern Europeans are seeking jobs were there are no jobs and this makes Norwegian employers withdraw for the job market game.

Over-qualified population
Norway is over educated.  It is hard these days for Norwegians to get full time employment.  Businesses have realised that it is cheaper employing part time people to keep the ship a float.  This means Norwegians tend to take further studies with a part time job to increase their opportunities of securing a management position with a full time load.  I have seen  master educated people apply for simple part time secretary jobs.  Just last year the Høgskole in Finnmark needed a part time receptionist and out of the 34 people that applied for the job (from all around the country) there where five people with master degrees and a handful that had at least two degrees.  A person with a Master degree and 20 years experience who lived in the area and spoke native Norwegian got the job.

Employing friends and family
Norway has grown up with the tradition of helping out your neighbour.  They understand that in order for small communities to survive everyone needs a job.  There is no need to look outside the community for an employee as there is always someone in need of employment in their own backyard.  Because of this mentality communities have survived but also unqualified people have gained employment just because they where an uncle, a daughter or a cousin.  The government has put measures in to try and curve this way of employing people but it is very hard to break old habits.  I have seen highly qualified people miss out on jobs because the employer has hired his fishing buddy instead.  I have seen people get hired in teaching positions because they were a brother or long time friend of another teacher at the school.  I have also seen a retired UN politician hired as a maths and science teacher with no specific background in maths or science teaching who was flown up every week from the south of the country to teach in the North.  Norwegians hire who they know.  They hire people with history in the community.  This may seem unfair but it is very wise for the survival of the community.  Why hire in a stranger who has never lived in an Arctic climate with two months of no sun, no family roots and doesn’t speak a word of Norwegian?  The chances of that person staying and making a life in the Arctic community is very slim.  Most only last a year and then go south for other opportunities or leave Norway altogether.  Having roots, history and connections in the community proves you worthy of employment.

When summer comes there is a big change over of employees.  People move, change jobs, have babies and go back study.  Employers have to guestimate what there employees will be doing and then prepare.  For example, if an employee is pregnant or coming up to retirement age the employer has to project their employment for the next year – the employees might take time off, leave or stay in their position, depending on personal circumstance.  So to prepare, employers go fishing.  You’ll find from March into spring there are a lot of job offers in newspapers and on the internet.  A fair amount of these job offers are not serious or are pending.  For example, a school might advertise for teachers in all fields.  They do not know what teachers they will need, it depends on how many pupils, classes, subject choices, retirements, leaves, etc, there will be for the next year so they advertise generally.  Later on, around May, the school has a better idea of what they need and then take action.  Sometimes schools just fish with no intention of catching anything.

Another example are tourist operators such as museums where they want speakers of other languages.  During the summer they usually have summer employees who return every year to work for six weeks on their university break.  A museum might advertise for many people in all languages but in fact they already have most positions filled from the year before and just hoping to get one or two extra part timers.

It has been said so many times that you need to know Norwegian to be eligible for most jobs in Norway, even if it specifically says it is an English speaking job.  For example, if you apply for an English language teaching position at a community college, you will still need to speak Norwegian in staff meetings, etc.  It is so you can participate in work all activities, not just the English language ones.  The other reason is that a lot of Norwegians don’t know English well enough.  It is believed that Norwegians are good at English, (since they have so many years of English language study at school), but in actuality they are better listeners of English than speakers.  When Norwegians are not confident with something they don’t want to do it.  It is understandable.  Even though you might apply for a position that specifically says you need to have good English skills, employers have to think about their other Norwegian employees who will be excluded if the workplace turns into a bilingual environment.  You also get a handful of language purists, generally from 40 years and older, who do not tolerate English in the workplace.  However, the rising generation is very accepting of English and there will likely be a shift for workplaces to become bilingual.

Unemployment and Misrepresentation
It is harder to get a job if you don’t already have a job.  Norwegian employers like people who are employed, even if it is just part time.  Some employment is better than no employment.  Employers like Norwegian history and Norwegian references.  It is highly unlikely that a Norwegian employer would want to call up your employer in the last country you worked and ask about your employment history.  Something that is in the too hard basket for a Norwegian means you might not make it to interview.  But also, international references, employment history and experiences can be fabricated.  I have heard of a couple of cases locally where employers found out their international employees lied on their resume (after working for some time) and had to commission the municipality to get them sacked.  Municipalities hold true to not sacking any of their employees so having to do so is a serious matter.  This bad experience of employing international workers has spread through the counties.  A couple of times a year I am reminded by different employees about the time my workplace had to commission the municipality to sack a fellow employee for fraud.

Remember, it ain’t all bad!

No matter how qualified you are, how much education you have or how experienced you are, getting a job in Norway is often a matter of being in the right pace at the right time.  I have known a lot of immigrants who are highly valued in their home country but who cannot get a job in Norway.  They know that what they have to give is good and important but Norway just cannot see it.  There are two things you can do: wait for luck to come by chance or to the play the game and pay your dues.

Playing the Game
Playing that game is about being smart.  Do your research.  Study employment statistics, read the paper and get connections.  Test run your CVs – don’t do one, have many.  Send them to anyone who is advertising any position to see what response you get.  And I mean every job – cook, waiter, child care, marketing, media, construction etc, that you could reasonably go for.  Remember a CV and coverletter is designed to get you an interview.  If you don’t get an interview after ten times then your CV and coverletter isn’t doing its job.  Take your CV to an employment specialist or just re-write it and send it out again – even to the same employer.  If you get a lot of interviews, great!  Use them as practice.  It doesn’t matter what you are interviewing for – a cooks job, a childcare worker, in advertising, media, whatever – see it as field research and practice your interviewing and Norwegian skills.  You don’t have to take the job, just go to the interview and you’ll certainly learn what Norwegian employers are looking for in a employee.  Then you will be prepared for when your dream job comes up.

Paying your Dues
Paying your dues is about creating a history, a life and a sure thing for employers.  Do things in the community that will get you noticed.  Volunteer on festivals or sporting events to meet people.  Arrange a course, open an art exhibition, go to community seminars – whatever your talents are.  Get involved.  Norwegians like a person who does things for their community.  It is important in Norway, especially in small communities, to be known and for your employer to have heard of you.

But when you find that you have given it your all and you still cannot get a job in Norway, always remember it is not you, it is Norway.

Watch THOR – The Glam Rock Musical LIVE!

Hey everyone!

Just a reminder: THOR – The Glam Rock Musical plays this weekend and you can watch it LIVE wherever you are in the world.

THOR -The Glam Rock Musical streams at 18.45 local time on Saturday 9th and Sunday 10th of March. Link:


This musical has been my lovechild for the last 9 months – I wrote the script/lyrics, directed/choreographed and designed (costumes/lighting/posters) etc. Dag-Jarle Nilsen is the music producer. I have my culture school kids rocking it out on stage, and yes, one did pull out so now I play the one of the lead characters – Loki. So if you want to see me strutting it out in spandex on an ice stage in the Arctic then here is your chance!

A little about the show – The story is based off Thrym’s Poem from the Poetic Edda, a series of Norse mythology writings.  Thor looses his hammer being too reckless and then finds himself marrying the frost giant Thrym to get it back.  It is a comedy with kick-ass music.

The people behind the voices are:

Jan Thore Grefstad – the voice of  Thor


Karl-Rune Rubach – the voice of Loki


And Synnøve Gustavsen – the voice of Freyja


You can also stay connected with the musical on our facebook page (mostly in Norwegian): http://www.facebook.com/pages/THOR-The-Glam-Rock-Musical/493710700686561

Trønder Rabbit in the Snow


When the sun returns it is nice to take our Norwegian trønder rabbits for a walk.  They get use to the leash quickly and are happy to stay close to us in open surroundings.  Walking the trønders in the snow gives them much needed exercise after a dark winter indoors and it helps them to keep clean with their snow-bath.

Jumbo is a very healthy two year old.  He is a perfect specimen of his breed.  His silver hairs are evenly spaced and he has a good size.  Lately in the breeding programs down south they have been having problems with trønders being too small for standard.  Male trønders are certainly more cuddly than females.  We have found males keep their young playfulness whereas females become broody and want to withdraw.  Jumbo has always had a pleasant demeanor and is very fond of us humans.

THOR – The Glam Rock Musical


Yes, even in the Arctic cold we Glam Rock too!

THOR is an original Glam Rock musical created by yours truly and Dag-Jarle Nilsen. The show will be in an outside arena on an ice stage for the Borealis Winter Festival in Northern Norway in March, and the show will be streamed LIVE to the world on Ustream – so you can watch it too!

With 16 original song tracks, the Glam Rock musical will give the audience the opportunity to experience an ice-stage musical-comedy about the Norse gods.

The Glam Rock Musical will be performed by the dance students at the Alta kulturskole (Culture School) supported by professional vocalists including Jan Tore Grefstad.  Costumes and puppetry will be a large part of the performance.  The students are certainly ready to Glam Rock Alta out of this world.

I will stop the plugging now.  This show has been my baby for over six months.  I started on the script and music last summer with my music producer, Dag-Jarle.  However, the show idea had always been in the back of my mind since a couple of years back when I first moved to Norway and was learning about the Old Norse collection of poems called Poetic Edda.  One particular poem was strikingly dramatic and comedic, and had all the main characters in it – Þrymskviða, or The Lay of Thrym.  The poem was perfect to create a rock stage musical and with the colourful characters and outlandish story it was brilliant for the Glam genre.

Even though we follow the Glam genre, the songs are still very diverse.  This is because Glam Rock progressed over 30 years (late 60s to mid 80s) and many would argue it is still alive and kicking today.  Taking that spirit, we have added in elements of smoky piano jazz, Hip Hop and even Death Metal, but the Glamminess is always present.  You can hear a sample of some of the songs for a short time only on this link: https://soundcloud.com/dagjarle/thor-the-glamrock-teaser


The boys above working hard in the studio – Altaposten

Our lead singer, Jan Tore Grefstad, who sings Thor, is a fantastic maniac with his voice.  Watching him in the recording studio, he would sing with so much power and character that he would almost keel over after a section – a lot of respect for him.  He is well known around Norway and I’m sure it is only a matter of time before he goes global.  Here is Jan Tore singing on the Norwegian version of X Factor: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IDJgvg17cHU  and singing Karaoke at a pub: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OiH600Itnyk

Making a production for an ice stage is challenging but exciting.  You have to think about the cold, and therefore have costumes warm enough that can handle ice, snow, winds, and very cold temperatures.  You have to think about the movement, especially dance.  You cannot do a ballet on ice and snow as it is too slippery and everyone has to be wearing heavy snow boots otherwise their toes will freeze off.  Making a dance performance with only dance from the hips up is a little challenging, though we have managed some samba, viennese waltz and back flips on the ice stage.


Synnøve Gustavsen (above) – the voice of Freyja

Designing the stage is very different from a theatre.  With a theatre you already have a stage and you put things in to make the set.  With an ice stage you have the space which has to be filled with snow and ice and then all carved out to make the stage and set together.  This means you can be very creative.  The ice stage is sometimes coloured with paper and light and some years we have used pyrotechnics within the ice.


(Above) Borealis ice stage 2012

I’ve worked in the Arts industry all my life in different countries and it has been exciting (and sometimes stressful) learning how Norway creates shows.  I’m used to a show taking six weeks full time in rehearsal for a three month run for professional productions.  In Norway you don’t have that luxury.  We have had six weeks of rehearsals but for only two to three hours a week.  Every second of every rehearsal is very important and there is a amazing amount of planning  and creating to have all choreographies finished for every character before rehearsals start.  It is rare to get a completely professional production team so you have to work around people’s work and school, holidays, sicknesses, and ‘oh, I forgots’.  It can drive you a little crazy but, none-the-less, it doesn’t mean we give up!  It always turns out to be the best show possible on the little time, money and people we have up here in Northern Norway.


(Above) Borealis practice 2012

On this production I am the producer, script writer/lyricist, director, choreographer, designer (- set, lighting, costumes and props), dance leader (meaning I rehearse the 40 performers), I’m making some of the costumes and props (the rest is done by a small team of dedicated parents) and will work as the stage manager on the rig and performance days, not to mention that I also have a lead role in the show because one of the dance kids had to pull out.  It sounds like I’m a little bit of a control freak but no, this is the way you have to work in Norway.  The tradition of learning to be a ‘jack-of-all-trades’ in the Arts industry in Australia has paid off.  I don’t have to worry about finding people to do things because if I can’t find anyone it is not a problem as I know I have the know-how to do it myself.  I am finding that being versatile and knowing a little about everything is important when living in Norway.  But I do have a strong base of professionals and amateurs who are enthusiastic and dedicated as much as I am so that makes me happy.


Lead dance kids for THOR – the Glam Rock Musical 2013

THOR – The Glam Rock Musical debuts on Saturday 9. and Sunday 10. March local time Norway. To keep track of the shows and the ustream time you can ‘LIKE’ the public page on facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/THOR-The-Glam-Rock-Musical/  A lot of the information will be in Norwegian for the locals (nothing that google translate won’t fix) but we will also post the important information, like the Ustream link, in English too.

Hope you can join us.

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