Wednesday, March 20, 2013

My Life In Norway vs. Spain From An Economic Viewpoint

Lately I have been thinking about how my life has transformed since I moved to Spain. It made me think of how is it that life is so much more expensive in Norway? Yeah, I know that prices are higher and all that, but that's not what I am talking about.

Life there is more materialistic. Obviously not the case for everyone, but for many it is. It's completely common among my friends to own an apartment or a house, and at least one, but preferably two cars coming with that if you are a couple. There are insurances, TV, phone & internet bills, electricity (very expensive electricity and obviously high usage of it in the cold and dark winter months), other expenses for alternative forms of heating (gas, diesel, oil, firewood etc.) Apart from all sorts of luxuries.

I just realized that I am living a much simpler life in Spain than I used to do in Norway. Sure, I pay rent, water-electricity-gas, I have internet and a mobile phone, but that's about it.

Sunset at Playa de las Canteras, Las Palmas
I don't use my phone much. In Norway I used to use my phone a whole lot more, and it was a lot cheaper. (One of those very few things that are cheaper in Norway!) Since its a little pricey here, most people I have met in Spain don't use their phones that much. There are codes for giving "free messages" such as giving a "missed call" as a confirmation, or just a way to say you are on your way or already arrived. "Give me a missed call when your plane lands" (to know you arrived safely), "Give me a missed call when you leave home" (to calculate when you'll be here/there) etc.

When people visit me from Norway, I have often asked them to give me a missed call when their plane lands to calculate when to stand in front of the door at arrivals, and I always forget this is not common there and I have to explain why on earth... Normally they just end up sending me a text anyway. They don't see the point or understand what exactly to do.

Tapas & wine in Málaga
I don't have a TV, and although I might have enjoyed watching TV in Norway I don't miss it one bit. I have so many other things I'd rather spend my time doing. (Not judging anyone, I was the one who watched TV several hours most day before.) But I have gotten used to not having it and now I wouldn't know when to find the time to watch it if I had one. I enjoy other things now. For language learning it would probably be good to have a TV but I can't really be bothered. In Norway having a TV means high bills, both for the mandatory television license, in addition to cable TV.

I don't have a car, so I don't have a car insurance and I don't spend huge amounts on car taxes and gasoline.

The insurance covering my household goods doesn't exist in this life, and same goes for the annual  travel insurance I used to pay all year around no matter how many or few travels I did. (I wanted to take it with me here to Spain but it was only valid for 45 days outside the country, then I'd have to go back to Norway before being given another 45 days. Not very practical.) When I asked friends here what kind of travel insurance they had, they just looked at me as if I was weird. I haven't met anyone who actually has that. They might buy the one time insurance you are offered when buying a flight ticket, but that's it. (And I don't know anyone who does that either.) No one has all year insurance. In Norway, basically no one does not  have it. Mostly anyone who travel, if only once a year will have a whole year travel insurance. That's a lot of money out the window, but it has just become one of those things in society that "you are supposed to have".
Why no insurance for household goods? Not that normal either here, and I have so little stuff I'd just have to take the loss if it came. Most Norwegians would call it irresponsible, I call it sensible.

Playa de Barceloneta, Barcelona
In Norway you earn a lot more than in Spain, not just in amount of money but also in the relation money and cost of life, but in Spain you (I) can live on a lot less too. It's all relative of course, but I don't need the big house, the fancy car, the huge TV and all sorts of smart gadgets. The sun provides me with energy, and the cities I have lived in themselves provide a lot of entertainment in all forms.

I was wondering why life in Norway is more materialistic than here. But I guess habits of having stuff gets created when you have more money that "just enough". Just as a cold climate  invites you to have more things to make you feel more comfortable at home, as you evidently spend more time inside the house than here in Spain.

I was happy living that kind of life before. But now I have less things, 
I spend less money, and I am not less happy, quite the contrary. 
Actually, it has been a great learning experience. 

18 comments:

  1. i experienced the same things coming from the US to norway. i am so not materialistic anymore and its shocking to me. in the US i was buying anything and everything and had it all. i have really learned to live within my means here and shockingly, SAVE MONEY. i never used to do that :)

    glad you're doing well and are happy!

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    1. Maybe it has to do with removing yourself from your habits and building a new life alltogether, more than location? It's certainly refreshing!

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  2. You are living my dream :)
    godt å høre at det er så bra som jeg tror! En vakker dag blir det min tur :) Ha en nydelig dag i solen. Klem fra meg

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    1. Det er befriende å leve slik, annerledes, og jeg merker at mange av mine nærmeste ikke helt forstår det, men det skjedde bare helt av seg selv :)
      Ha en nydelig dag selv!

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  3. It's so interesting to read the differences between being an expat in a place like Spain vs. here in Norway. While I have heard people say Norway is materialistic, I feel like I am the least materialistic living here I have ever been in my life. I rarely shop - I just can't justify the price of things, except for groceries. Same for going out to eat - we just don't do it. I would love to live somewhere like Spain with the nightlife culture and all the delicious food. We just don't have a "scene" here like that. I mean, you can go out to the bars in Stavanger on a Saturday night and it will be a good atmosphere, but it's so expensive we can't justify it.

    It is all relative...

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    1. It's a shame if you feel like the price level is stopping you from going out, but I understand it. Eating out is ridiculously expensive, and so is drinking. I think price levels go fairly well with the average income in Norway, but I am sure it's different/difficult when coming from another country and being used to something else. I love that you can go out for a glass of wine and pay €1.50 here! Prices here makes it so much easier to have a rich social life.

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  4. Interessant lesning! Nå er jeg en av de nordmennene som ikke lever som folk flest her i landet.Har ikke bil. Lite hus. Fyrer med ved. Bruker knapt tv og telefon...Lever på budsjett. Og jeg lever i beste velgående!Her hjemme går jeg nok for å være litt "rar" som lever så "enkelt" :)

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    1. Nei så rar du er :) Og jeg med. Men jammen er det helt ok å være litt rar, faktisk liker jeg å være litt annerledes, og jeg synes det er like gøy hver gang jeg forteller noen at jeg ikke har tv. Går det an det da liksom?

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  5. Jeg er enig med Line, interessant lesning! I have only lived in Sandefjord, so don't know about the rest of Norway, but here, yes, I would say that most people are incredibly materialistic. Seems like everyone must have the best car, the biggest televisions, the most expensive clothes, and the latest iPhone and iPad. I used to think it was because people have so much money but I often read in the papers about the huge amount of debt Norwegians carry, so now I think it's more about wanting to show off with the newest and the best stuff. Kind of sad, actually. Much better to live as you are, enjoying the non-tangible things life can offer, like nature, friendship, and adventure. And football at the pub. :-)

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    1. Takk Michele! It's a shame if people buy things to show off!! That is not good. I am very happy living the way I do now :)

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  6. very interesting. I rarely use my mobile phone, I have no TV, i bought my first travel insurance this year...I have no experience in living in Norway, but compare Spain and England,in my opinion. the quality of living is better in Spain, than in England. Even here is easier to get the job, pay bills, buy clothes or gadgets.

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    1. Hi Monika, thanks for your input. I guess every one of us have different definitions of what is 'quality of life', some prefer financial safety and materialistic things coming with that but I am pretty happy right here at the moment!

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  7. I totally noticed that people spent less time on their phones in Spain! You helped explain it here. Bravo to everything you wrote in this post! I'd say London is a lot like Norway (though I still love it). But Turkey (my main love) is a LOT like Spain. I really do think it has something to do with the sun being out more often! Although, my hometown in California gets a ton of sun AND is expensive. ha :/

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    1. Wow, did you notice that people spent less time on their phones? That is interesting! I also think the sun and warm weather plays a huge role in this living-more-outside-of-home. What's at home might not be as important as in Norway where you evidently spend a lot more time inside! But this does not apply for California? Hm, then the theory doesn't work?! Haha.

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  8. Actually, I wouldn't say that's the situation in Spain but in the Canary Islands!

    As someone who lives in Barcelona (and not even in the main city but in the surroundings) I find this completely inaccurate to the lifestyle we've got here.
    We pretty much never get far from our phones for too long (it's not rare to even carry a charger with you everywhere you go), to have at least one car, a few TVs (one in the kitchen, one in the living room, one in the bedroom) with their corresponding gaming platforms or media centers attached to them and maybe a few computers (well, I personally have more than people usually have -we do have less TVs at home than people usually have though-, since I'm an IT student, but still).

    Most of my acquaintances have a private health insurance and unfortunately, we're as consumerist as anyone else in this globalized world (fashion, make-up, games, books, comics, gadgets, all of this wonderful stuff we never seem to have enough).

    I got quite astonished when I read your post, actually, especially about the phone part! We even joke with the fact that people don't socialize anymore when they meet because everyone is playing with their phones (or talking to someone online), we even have a game that consists of putting all the phones on a stack over the table... and whoever takes it back pays the bill!

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    1. Hi Pepa and thank you for your comment.
      This post was all about MY PERSONAL experience, how MY life has changed after I moved to Spain. I don't pretend or try to tell anyone how economics work in this country, neither in Barcelona or Gran Canaria, I am simply and only talking about my own experience. You might have misunderstood something, but I hope this clears things up! From what other people have commented, it seems this happens to expats in other countries as well. I enjoy being more present and appreciating the smaller things in life, and me moving to Spain taught me that.

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  9. I agree with you 100%, I was traveling for almost two years before settling down in Norway and with a full-time job comes apartment, car, phone (that I use a lot), all those insurances, new clothes, new skis etc... But still, I think our lives are fairly simple as we tend to spend lot of time outdoors. Of course there's all that outdoor equipment you "need", but still....

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    1. :) I hear you on all this! In Norway you kind of need a car in most parts of the country, at least it makes life a lot easier. And a lot of all these things go hand in hand. Great that you enjoy the outdoors!

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