We moved back to Zürich from Sydney last summer to be closer to our families. After 6 months, it wasn’t in Zürich that my husband found a cool job, but in Oslo, trading big pay checks for lifestyle…
Here are the common questions that pop up when I break this BIG news!
What’s your husband’s new job in Norway
He’s started working for Kommunalbanken Norge (KBN) for a month and loves it for lots of reasons:
Progressive, open, honest start-up like culture
During the interview process he found everyone young, nice, open. The offices are brand new and modern and the hierarchical structure is quite flat. This is what suits his style, more than he has seen in Zürich in his field.
For the last 15 years he’s been working on Financial markets where it was sometimes hard to see what real value you are creating for people. KBN’s mission is to provide low cost funding to the local Norwegian government sector as well as satisfactory return on investment to the lender. Sounds like a win win situation where you help the development of useful projects for the people around you.
Family friendly and lifestyle
KBN is 100% owned by the Kingdom of Norway. Not sure if I can say my husband will be a civil servant, but his working hours are 8am to 4pm with 30 min lunch break. Every overtime has to be taken in lieu up to 12 days a week and no limit if you take hours or half days in lieu. This also counts for overtime performed remotely (from home). This will definitely allow my husband to enjoy again what he loved so much during our time in Zürich: quality time with the children, taking them to school, preparing their “goûter” (afternoon tea box), helping with homework every day… I shared last week how involved a Daddy he is.
The office is located 10 minutes walk from the posh Uranienborg/ Majorstuen area, the “Paris of Oslo” with its embassies, the French School and pretty Haussmann style buildings. Imagine, you leave work at 4pm and you’re there at 4.10pm to pick up your kids, then exercise, play with them, prepare dinner etc… how convenient! It’s so rare that you don’t have to commute at least 30 min to an hour everyday to go to work. But can we afford to find accommodation there?
Cost of living in Oslo (Norway) vs Zurich (Switzerland)
It wasn’t an easy decision to cut our combined Sydney income by 4. Yeah…4. Sigh
But we took into account a couple of things and think we can get by, certainly not building up asset but enjoying life much better, spend more time doing what we love doing while the children are still young and appreciate our help and presence. Plenty of time to change our model later when the kids’ needs evolve.
Our top 3 cost items here in Switzerland are:
- Rent: 33,000 CHF (1CHF =1 Euros) a year for a 3 bedroom located 15 min drive from the old city center, 10 min drive from the closest shop but walking distance to the French school with amazing view over the forest.
- French school (Lycee Francais de Zurich) : 24,000 CHF for 2 children (it’s almost double for children 10 years older)
- Health insurance: 15,000 CHF for the family divided into
- a compulsory Swiss health insurance that does not cover much 7,000 CHF
- an extra health insurance with max coverage (remember how they covered my 18,000 CHF bill when I went to hospital?) for another 7,500 euros
TOTAL= 72,000 CHF a year (97,000 AUD)
If you get one or two jobs, given that income tax is lower than 20%, it’s fine.
That’s excluding groceries and what we love the most: dining out! Zurich is, with Geneva, the most expensive city in the world.
I’ve created my own Big Mac Index: the Pho index: 1 bowl of pho (rice noodles, beef, herbs, broth) costs:
- 8.5 Euros in Paris
- 12 AUD = 8.5 Euros in Sydney
- 119 NOK = 14 Euros in Oslo
- 21 CHF = 21 Euros in Zürich
If that doesn’t mean anything to you, a pizza here is 20 CHF
Cost of living in Oslo?
- Rent: 1,800 euros in mortgage monthly repayment (900 if we only repay interests) for a 130 square meter 3 bedroom with all the luxury of a Parisian home: (parquet moulures cheminée) and renovated kitchen and bathrooms.
- turns out one of the perks at KBN is that we can get a home loan at a good rate without having to wait 2 years of local credit history
- Oslo is the European city with the fastest demographic growth, so the value of the house shouldn’t drop to much should we sell one day
- The French School of Oslo, Lycee Rene Cassin is only 6,000 euros for both kids!!! It’s highly subsidised by the local government, yay!
- Health Insurance: all included in the tax! Okay, you pay over 40% tax (with 10 pts returned to you when you’re a foreigner) but it covers for most of your health costs.
So when you do your math: you earn less, you spend less, you get to enjoy most of your day with your loved ones and looking after yourself. Not a bad choice? Some of our closest friends did just that by moving from Paris to the countryside.
It’s also a mere 2 hour flight to Paris, so we’v already planned to come back to attend a wedding in September and go to the Madonna concert with my best friends in December!
Norway is also the #1 place to be a mother according to the 2015 State of the World’s Mother report, based on 5 criteria: maternal health, children’s well-being, education status, economic status, and political status. The Kingdom of Norway is covering all your expenses from obstetrician consultations to the delivery and maternity and paternity leave. BUT NO, not trying for a girl, we are closing the shop and enjoying our two kiddos much more now that they are older 🙂
Now I see you coming with all these stereotypes about Sweden, oh wait, Oslo is in Norway, well they are all the same up North… 😉 And for GoT fans here’s how the question is going to sound like this:
“Winter is coming” or how will you cope with cold and darkness?
- We agreed with my husband to spend most school holidays in warmer countries like Vietnam in October and probably Dubai again in April (Direct flights from OSlo to Dubai are only 380 euros vs 500 euros from Paris or Zürich). Christmas will still be white.
- I came across this blog with great tips on how to cope with dark winters: stock up in light and sunshine while you can, get some fish oil supplements, get some fresh air, and have fire and great lighting in your home
- Decorate, as per above, home interiors are well thought through. No wonder why Scandinavian design is so popular.
Are you going to work there?
By doing what I love the most i.e. meeting, connecting people and building relationships, I started developing a small marketing consultancy business helping French speaking mumtrepreneurs here in Zürich. I can either continue remotely, or start afresh using the same model in Oslo or maybe go back to work in a corporate environment to make sure we have the means to escape the cold weather each school holidays. If you have any contacts, let me know!
What I’m prepared for is to learn Norwegian! It’s quite close to English and German, even Australian as “Cheers” is “Skål” 🙂
I’m also keen to keep a good work life balance: holidays with the kids, weekly tennis games and dance classes just like here.
How was your week-end in Oslo?
We went with the kids for a short week end in February to see if we would like it. I can’t say I fell in love with the city of Oslo but there were no show stoppers either. It was freezing and raining, so not the best experience. Similarly I didn’t find the architecture amazing except for that Paris like area. However, interiors, starting with the all wooden airport are very clean and peaceful. Our furnished apartment, Frogner House, was very pretty, luxurious and cosy too.
They felt much younger than in Switzerland. There are also very connected with free Wifi everywhere and a strong usage of smartphones and apps.
It also looked like children are king. People find kids’ mischief amusing more than anything else. I heard spanking is forbidden by law. Not sure how we’re going to deal with that one…
When you look at various reports and ranking (OECD, World Happiness Report etc…), Norway ranks between #2 and #4 behind Switzerland this year in terms of life satisfaction and happiness. My husband’s experience so far is that he find people happy with what they’ve got, easy going and direct just like Aussies.
We were happy to find a TGI Fridays. Reminded my husband of his two years in Japan and me of my 3 months in Taiwan. There are none in Australia, France or Switzerland.
We also got to try Alex Sushi, the best sushi in town as it was 2 blocks from our accommodation. It was divine with a whole degustation menu including truffle, lobster and scampi, sake, soft shell crab for the price of a Sushi train in Zurich!
There’s also a big Vietnamese community so Pho will be easy to find. That’s the most important isn’t it?
When are you moving?
We are finishing the school year here. We also have some international visitors in July so hopefully we’ll all be reunited in August, we hope in our new home!
That means you need to come and visit before then, otherwise it will be Oslo! That also means we need to find new tenants for our current apartment as we want to do the right thing by our landlords who are really nice. Here are the pics and details about our 3 bedroom apartment in Zürich.
What are your thoughts about living and parenting in Oslo?
Would you cut your income by 4 for a better life style and a bit of adventure?