10 Surprising Things About Parenting in Norway

For our Motherhood Around the World series, our first interview is with American photographer Rebecca Zeller, who lives in Oslo with her husband and three children. Here, she shares 10 things that have surprised her about raising kids in Norway…

Rebecca’s background:

Rebecca grew up in Cincinnati and met her Norwegian husband, Martin, when they were both studying abroad in France during college. After graduating, they moved to Oslo, Norway, for a year, so Martin could finish his thesis. “That first year, I really embraced the whole Norwegian way—loving winter, skiing cross country, vacationing in a remote cabin. I tried to become Norwegian. We had no kids—it was a big adventure.”

Since then, Martin’s job in the Norwegian Foreign Service has moved them to Seoul, Korea (where they had their son Jonas, 6), Northern Virginia (where they had daughter Selma, 3), and finally back to Norway in March 2012. The couple welcomed their third child this month. Rebecca works as a freelance photographer (you can see her beautiful photos of families here).

“This time around, with kids, some of the charm has worn off,” Rebecca laughs. “It’s just so cold and dark! But in many ways life is good here. There’s security—the government provides so much. Everyone gets a pension; full-time childcare is $350 a month, at the most; medical care is basically free. You don’t even have to worry about paying for college! It cost me $200 in enrollment fees to get a Masters in English.”

But the hardest adjustment, she explains, is the lack of variety. “There’s a sense that there’s just one right way to do things. And everyone does it that way. In America there are different parenting styles—co-sleeping, attachment parenting, etc. Here there is just one way, more or less: all kids go to bed at 7, all attend the same style of preschool, all wear boots, all eat the same lunch…that’s the Norwegian way.”

On pregnancy: Most women will never once see an obstetrician during their pregnancy. Almost everything is done by midwives. In the U.S., you usually see a doctor as soon as you think you might be pregnant. When I called the midwife here, she told me not to come in until I was at least 15 weeks. I got only one ultrasound. When we lived in Korea, they did 3D ultrasounds every two weeks! Here, my midwife listened to the baby with a long wooden horn that she pushes against my belly. It kind of freaked me out.

On birth: I applied to give birth at the “no drugs” unit at the hospital. (Mostly because when you apply to the regular unit, there is a possibility you could be turned away if the hospital is full and sent to another hospital you may not be familiar with.) When they say no drugs, they mean no drugs. No exceptions. You can’t even get antibiotics if you’re positive for Group B strep. Women who’ve had a baby in the U.S. know about Strep B; every pregnant woman is tested for it, and if you test positive, you get antibiotics when you deliver so you can’t pass it to the baby and make the baby sick. Here, it’s not even mentioned. When I asked about it at the hospital the nurse just said, “We don’t worry about that.” At first I was appalled, but I’ve learned that in socialized medicine, they take calculated risks, and as my husband says, it usually works.

On friendliness: People are not as overtly friendly here as in the United States—especially compared to the Midwest where I’m from. When I was pregnant in the U.S., strangers would smile at me, hold doors, offer to help. Moms struck up conversations on the playground. People don’t do any of that in Norway—you keep to yourself in public. When we lived here for the first time, eight years ago, I baked a lemon poppy-seed cake for my neighbors after they had a baby. When I brought it over, you would have thought I had handed them a severed head. They were completely shocked. I think people here tend to be stoic. There’s value to being able to “tough it out” on your own. I think it’s embarrassing to need help, so no one wants to embarrass you by offering help.

On the other hand, there’s no American pressure to be friendly and “on” all the time. It’s okay to be quiet and keep to yourself. I love getting a haircut here because I don’t feel pressure to make small talk with the stylist.

On school: Both my kids attended Barnehage (Norwegian for “children’s garden”), which is basically Norwegian pre-school and daycare. Most kids here start Barnehage when they’re one year old—it’s subsidized by the government to encourage people to go back to work. You pay $300 a month and your kids can stay from 8am to 5pm. They spend a ton of time outside, mostly playing and exploring nature. At some Barnehage, they only go inside if it’s colder than 14 degrees. They even eat outdoors—with their gloves on! When I was worried about my son being cold, my father-in-law said, “It’s good for him to freeze a little bit on his fingers.” That’s very Norwegian—hard things are good for you.

On being tough: Whereas Americans value comfort, in Norway there’s a charm and value to things being challenging. When my father-in-law vacations, for example, he often goes away to a remote cabin with no internet and just listens to the radio and bird-watches. That’s not an atypical vacation here. I think that, in a way, it’s a self-preservation mechanism. Norway is a rugged, largely uninhabitable country. The weather can be brutal. I think they’ve made a practice of glorifying those aspects of life that are really challenging in order to survive.

On playground culture: Because everyone works, there’s really no playground culture. When we moved here last March, my kids hadn’t gotten into Barnehage yet, so I was alone with them all day from March until August. There was nothing to do. There are minimal kid activities, kids museums, playgroups or classes like in the U.S. because no one doesn’t work! Kids are all in Barnehage and parents are all working.

On working moms: Women here get ten months of maternity leave at 100% pay or twelve months at 80% pay. (Actually, either parent can choose to take the “maternity” leave—it doesn’t have to be mom.) And then pretty much everyone goes back to work. Oslo is one of the most expensive cities in the world—along with Tokyo and Moscow—so women can’t afford to stay home. Also, it’s just not part of the culture to not work. If you’re not working, you’re not contributing.

On marriage: People work a lot fewer hours in Norway than they do in the U.S. For example, my husband works for the government for 37.5 hours per week (8am to 3:45pm, five days a week). That’s typical. Since both parents work, marriage partnerships feel much more equal here. Families tend to eat dinner together around 5pm. The housework is mostly divided, and I don’t know any husband who doesn’t help cook dinner and take care of the kids. I see just as many dads picking up their kids from Barnehage as I do moms.

On valuing the group: There’s a Norwegian idea called janteloven. It basically means that you’re part of a group—you’re not assumed to be better than anyone else. The American culture really values and promotes the concept of “the individual” in a way that is almost unheard of here. In Norway, the needs of the individual are subordinate to the good of the collective. To stand out or call attention to yourself is considered gauche. People here don’t boast or play up their accomplishments. When I first met my husband, we’d gone on three dates, and I thought, “He doesn’t seem ambitious—is that a problem?” But now I see that he doesn’t lack ambition; he’s just not going to step on toes or kill himself to get somewhere. That’s janteloven.

On food: There’s no real food culture here—it’s not like Italy or France. Food is much more utilitarian and there’s much less choice. At lunchtime, kids typically eat bread with caramelized goat cheese or swiss-like cheese. My husband eats it, too—almost every day.

Also, most Norwegians seem to LOVE hot dogs. They seem to eat hotdogs whenever they get a chance. They serve them at every gas station, at Ikea, at every kids’ birthday party; they grill them outside in the summer, they boil them inside in the winter. There’s no wrong time to eat a hotdog around here. Even at the airport at 6am, people are eating hot dogs.

Thank you so much, Rebecca! Your photos are gorgeous.

P.S. French kids eat everything, and babies sleep outside in Denmark.

(Thank you to my fantastic friend and writer Lina Perl for help reporting and interviewing)

  1. Wonderful article! I’m so glad you are making this a series, I can’t wait to read the next one. You are doing such great work in writing a blog that explores motherhood in a modern way. Really great.

  2. This is amazing! Thank you so much for sharing. I can’t wait to read the next installment in this series. I think we, as Americans, tend to have a hard time imagining life outside of the US. I find this intimate look into the everyday life of a family living outside of the US to be so interesting and intriguing. It’s refreshing to remember we are not the only ones on this planet and life does not have to be lived in only one certain way. :)

  3. I lived in Denmark for 5 months and I couldn’t agree with any of this more. Scandinavia is so unique in its culture & so hard to explain to outsiders. This is a perfect description. Thank you so much for sharing your life with us!

    xx Hilary

  4. As an Australian living in Norway (a small town above the arctic circle) I really enjoyed this post! My best friend sent it to me with the question – do you recognise any of this? The answer is both yes and no.

    As the mother of a 3 year old, I never felt pressured to go back to work. I also believe that the amazing arrangements for maternity leave, tax breaks and allowances for stay at home mums and dads make it possible for Norwegian families to choose to have one parent stay at home for much longer than one year. It is much less of a financial burden on families then it is in Australia, where most people scrimp and save to stay home for more than a couple of months.

    Norway also has among the lowest recorded rates of maternal and infant death in the world. I don’t believe mothers or babies are endangered by the medical treatment options offered here. My experiences with pregnancy and birth in Norway have been very positive and I have felt respected as an intelligent woman, capable of making informed decisions about my medical care.

    Lastly, to Rebecca and other Norwegian stay-at-home mums and dads. There are many options for socialising and getting out of the house during the first year. Our “kommune” offers many open barnehage (daycare centres) for babies from birth to 6 years old. We also have parents groups and swimming clubs – to name a couple of options. Get out and about!

    Otherwise, totally agree on all points regarding cheese, hotdogs and toughing it out in the cold. Sending this to my mum – thanks for a great read and beautiful photos!

  5. All of this applies to Sweden too, with one exception: they normally do not eat sandwiches here for lunch but a hot meal. They eat very little vegetables. Also schoollunches usually only consist of e.g. sausage, potatoes, rice or pasta and a sauce. An addition: kids here are overprotected by their teachers as well as their parents. It is called ‘curling’, i.e. they are sweeping in front of the kids

  6. This is a very exciting post and I’m interested to see what other countries we’ll learn about!

    What resonated with me most though is Rebecca’s observation about challenge being glorified in Norway, and her example of her father-in-law enjoying a woodland cottage without the Internet. Are we in a place in our culture where stepping away from smartphones and the Internet– and taking time to just be and be in the moment — is seen as challenging and tough?

    Grace Bonney at Design*Sponge has been exploring the incomparable value of getting away from the constant connectedness and stimuli of the online world. It’s definitely worth exploring, particularly in the context of what behavior we’re presenting as “normal” to our kids. The Internet is valuable and we all enjoy it, but in a time when it’s accepted for people to flip through their phones instead of engage with live people at a gathering, and when one-year-olds can work i-pads, we need to reevaluate the technology in our lives.

    Thank you, Rebecca and Joanna, for a post that really made me think!

  7. This is a wonderful post! So excited about the rest of the series.

  8. I’m so excited for Mondays now!!! Something to look forward to.

  9. I was absolutely fascinated by this post! I’ll be following Rebecca’s blog. I also don’t think I’d do well in Norway. Rebecca’s brave!

  10. I’m British, and like others, I find some of the comments about the lack of choice in ‘socialised’ healthcare quite surprising. I’ve never felt that I’ve lacked any choices through using the NHS – in terms of maternity, women can choose exactly how they want their birth – elective c-sections are even going to become available soon. My mother had loads of ultrasounds and a personal obsetrician with me because I was a high-risk precancy, but midwives for my brother because he was low-risk, so it really does depend on circumstances how much care you get. I think that having to pay insurance would leave me with far fewer choices because I’d have to consider what I’d be able to afford. I have family in the US, and spent a lot of time there, which I loved, and would love to live there one day. But I think that the lack of free healthcare and mandatory paid maternity leave (in the UK we get nine months) and the huge amount of gun crime in the US all mean that I would never raise a child there. Interesting post and comments! xox

    • The NHS is a fantastic organization. I think people tend to forget what a force for social equality it has been since its foundation in the 1940s. Unfortunately it seems to be under attack at the moment – the current government seems hell bent on introducing market competition along U.S. lines.

      We should value the NHS!

  11. I love learning about cultural differences- especially when it comes to childhood/parenting. Looking forward to the rest of the series!

    The triplets at

  12. Wonderful post–totally fascinating, and so well observed and written. Thank you!

  13. On the subject of antibiotics use in hospital, its a bit more complicated than just taking a “calculated risk”. Use of antibiotics encourages the proliferation of MRSA, which doesn’t do well in the presence of other bugs. And MRSA is frequently far more dangerous than the stuff the antibiotics are used to treat.

    Here is an interesting summary:

  14. Dear Joanna,

    Great guest post which made me think a lot about my home country, Denmark. In Denmark we also have the so called jantelov and though I like the idea of every human is born as an queal, I really dislike the notion about people grow up thinking they are not suppose to think big of themselves. Many aspects of Norwegian parenting is similar to parenting in Denmark. Even though I love many things about being a native Dane, the American notion defiantly appeals to me. I have visit the US several times and people are so friendly and open minded – something I miss about Danes personality.

    The US and Scandinavia could teach a lot from each other.

    Thankyou for an interesting post.


  15. I’m about to move to Izmir in Turkey with my husband and baby daughter, I am really intrigued to see what life as a mother will be like in another country. We’ve already visited once and I went to a playgroup that was basically a trip to the beach. My daughter loved it. I am nervous about leaving behind my friends and family but so excited about experiencing a completely different culture to my own. This series is making me even more excited

  16. I’m about to move to Izmir in Turkey with my husband and baby daughter, I am really intrigued to see what life as a mother will be like in another country. We’ve already visited once and I went to a playgroup that was basically a trip to the beach. My daughter loved it. I am nervous about leaving behind my friends and family but so excited about experiencing a completely different culture to my own. This series is making me even more excited

  17. What a great idea for a series – I look forward to reading more. I live in New Zealand and although I have lived abroad in many countries for 16 years of gypsylife before settling here in my country of origin, I had no idea what to expect when I got pregnant. x

  18. Calling free health care “socialised” medicine made me laugh: from a European point of view we are not considering it socialised, do you consider school or post service socialised only because they are provided by the state?

    • I’ve found the term “socialized” is viewed differently in the US and Europe. If the DC national government controls/funds something with taxpayer funds, the term “socialized” crops up.

      By the Postal Reorganization Act of 1970, the U.S. Postal Service is “a semi-independent federal agency, mandated to be revenue-neutral” meaning it should break even w/o taxpayer funds. Thus, it’s to function like a business (it’s not as it’s competitors UPS & FedEx w/o taxpayer support, so it’s not really “socialized” or funded by the state, so Americans reluctantly put up with it.

      Schools are also not considered “socialized” as they receive only minimal (~10%) national government funding. They are controlled/funded by local school boards with some matching funds from states (i.e. TN or TX) in which they reside. To be even more confusing, 7 states, like TN have no state income tax, requiring states to use other means
      (i.e. sales tax, lottery, etc.) to fund their school contribution.

  19. Enjoyed your post – it captured much I’ve seen as an American who grew up in Canada and lived
    in Norway (Trondheim/NTNU for 1 year), the UK (1 yr) and frequent visits to my Norge roots. We’re concluding 3 months in Scandinavia, mostly with relatives and friends who are so warm and close, going out of their way just as in the US. Scandinavian innovators deserve extra credit for “surviving” janenloven, once explained to me: “grass should grow uniformly, so if some sticks up, it needs to be cut down”, referring to a successful NTNU professor with a computer business, fellowship to CA etc. I’m all for encouraging innovators (e.g. Boeing, Gates, Jobs, Feynman, Cray, the Mayo brothers) an not discouraging them by “cutting them down” or taxing them to the hilt if janeloven is taken to the extreme. I’ve seen 1st hand how Sweden encourages small business innovators, and like it. We enjoy great medical care at Mayo, alongside many rural (not particularly wealthy) Minnesotans we’ve met there, and like you, seen “gaps” or worse by rationed medical care in Scandinavia. Great Blog!

    • “grass should grow uniformly, so if some sticks up, it needs to be cut down”

      That’s very similar to a common Japanese saying — “The nail that sticks up will get hammered down.” Rebecca’s experience in Norway reminds me a lot of life in Japan. Can’t wait for the rest of these posts.

    • Absolutely, Jante is in Denmark, but the book was written i Norway as the author Aksel Sandemose was half-norwegian and half danish, and moved to Norway from Denmark in 1929.
      In his 1933 novel A Refugee Crosses his Tracks he wrote:
      Thou shall not believe that thou are anything
      Thou shall not believe that thou are as much as we are.
      Thou shall not believe that thou are wiser than we are
      Thou shall not believe that thou are better than we are.
      Thou shall not believe that thou know more than we do.
      Thou shall not believe that thou are more than we are
      Thou shall not believe that thou are good for anything.
      Thou shall not laugh at us
      Thou shall not believe that anybody cares for you
      Thou shall not believe that thou can teach us anything

  20. Loving this series so far. Super fascinating and informative. I’ve got to be honest though, after reading this it made me so glad I don’t live in Norway!

  21. Fantastic post! My British and French friends spent a holiday in Norway and found the people incredibly cold… I like this idea of the jantenloven, the group over the individual, that’s really interesting! Have fun with your little guys!

  22. I just wanted to say I LOVE this series and am so excited to read more. Thank you so much for putting this together Joanna! Congrats on baby Anton!

  23. Great article! And especially interesting since I’m a Norwegian living in Norway. :) Most of it is so true – we do tend do the same things, and work short hours at work, with 5 weeks paid holiday per year. And most husbands are great at helping with housework and child care (mine included). Child care is subsidised, and health care is (for the most part) free. (And we do eat way too many hot dogs..)

    But I have to add that we are in the top 3 countries in the world when it comes to safety around child birth (USA ranks as number 39).

    Norwegians sometimes find Americans shallow, and Americans find Norwegians cold and unfriendly. But it all comes down to culture I think. My husband is from South Africa (Dutch ascendant, so very European) so he is somewhere inbetween, – so luckily we get along great. :D

  24. This is so interesting—I never knew American culture could be so different from Europe

  25. This was fascinating to read. I especially liked the part about hot dogs…made me laugh a bit. Thanks for posting!

  26. This is such a fabulous idea. Thankyou for conjuring up the idea and bringing us morsels of life in different countries!

  27. Love this series already! Would be interesting to hear about some of the similarities as well as the differences between cultures.

  28. Now I want to move to Norway… no pressure to make small talk while getting my haircut? A dream.

  29. Loved this. So glad NOT to have to eat cheese that looks like that! ;) i did have a hot dog for breakfast though. This is so fascinating. To those in the US who dont think we have cabins without internet and phone really havent been, anywhere in the US, have you? Grew up in PA going up to the poconos, no internet in cabins. Visited San Juans, same. Etc etc here in Utah tons of people have family cabins with no phone or internet. Heck, add in no running water or electricity to many cabins Ive experienced in my life…

  30. Beautiful photos! Norway looks beautiful! We just recently left Finland after living there for two years and Finns are also very introverted. Your story of bringing treats to your neighbor, much to their dismay, reminded me of when I went to say goodbye to our Finnish neighbors who lived in the house *attached* to ours. Though we often said hi in passing and they even stopped by for our Christmas party we weren’t really close. Imagine then when I knocked on their door (feeling very emotional about leaving) to say goodbye the day before we flew out and when the woman answered I unexpectedly got teary-eyed while bidding her farewell… it made her so uncomfortable I was so embarrassed and I could tell she was horrified!

  31. Loved this post! I am Australian mum who had both my beautiful boys in Sweden. Many of my experiences and impressions definitely mirror Rebecca’s. Thanks for the great read!

  32. This is so interesting. I can’t wait until the next one

  33. Veerrry interesting! It’s neat to see the contrast between the two cultures. I can’t wait to talk my Norwegian friends about some of these topics. Thanks for the read! Xx

  34. HM says...

    What a fascinating series! This is great, Joanna.

  35. So excited to read more of this series. It’s fascinating!

  36. Norwegian “brown” cheese is sooooooo goooood! I wish I could get it in Canada!!

  37. she might have as well written a story about Holland. It is the same here (and I am not form Holland), especially on the pregnancy/doctors and midwives part. They introduced obligatory ultrasound screening 7 years ago!! dont call before you are 2-3 months pregnant. I saw the doctor during the labor in the hospital for the first time when everything was over. If you are not used to it, you r freaked out.

  38. Very interesting, thanks for sharing! And just a side thought: strep B thing seems unnecessarily reckless in my opinion.

  39. Absolutely fascinating post, I can’t wait to read the rest of the series! It’s so interesting about what Rebecca said about the cookie-cutter lifestyle and there only being one way of doing things. I felt a similar idea when I was in Italy, right down to people eating the same food everyday. Love how the idea of parenting in Norway seems to go beyond the actual act of having kids, though I guess it’s that way in every country!

  40. Although I’m not a mother, this sounds like such a fascinating series!! Looking forward to hearing from all the mothers! :)

  41. I loved reading this article and I’m impressed how spot on Rebecca is after only spending a few years in Norway! I am from sweden (that blond-haired, IKEA-loving country right next to Norway) and spent my first 22 years of my life living there before I finally moved to the US two years ago.
    Both Norway and Sweden are socialist countries that value the society’s greater good over individuality. This might sound oppressive and depressing, but it actually makes a really, REALLY safe country to raise your children in. I don’t think it has ever been a school-massacre or anything of that kind, ever! Furthermore, by being raised to always put other’s wellbeing before your own, we work hard to make sure everyone around us is feeling comfortable and relaxed (even though by doing so no one is relaxed! ;)). Also, the government makes sure you can study all the way up to university-level for free – FREE!, and if you need to visit the doctor (that’s free too) or stay home from work because your children are sick, you won’t lose any income. Sounds pretty neat, huh?
    However, nothing beats the US in having the opportunity to live your life the way you want it, and not having to conform to the rest of the society. The United States of America truly is the land of the free!
    I love my home country and know that there are thousands of benefits of living there, but Rebecca is right in all of her points; one has to fit in to the cookie-cutter lifestyle and never stand out from the rest of the group in order to live a normal life there.

    As a final note: yes, we scandinavians do love our hot dogs! ;)

  42. Really fascinating! I think I said “hm” aloud at least ten times. Looking forward to the series!

  43. Wow, what a great idea for a series. I can’t wait for the next one!

  44. joanna, i wish you a happy first weeks with your new boy!

    this series is a great idea, thanks!

    and thanks for sharing your experience, rebecca! my cousin married a norwegian and lives there with him and their daughter, and i always wonder what it’s like.

  45. I could never live in a country where it was expected I throw my daughter into a daycare for someone else to raise from one year old on… NO WAY. I work freaking hard as a stay at home mom and as a volunteer in non profit organizations. Ridiculous to me that their society as a whole views “contributing” as working a nine to five.
    I guess that’s where my culture shows…I value family above all else and see children (who turn into compassionate, intelligent, healthy adults) as the greatest contribution to society.

    • I find your comment rather strange. It’s almost as though you are implying that children who go to daycare from one year old do not somehow become compassionate, intelligent and healthy adults? I think your decision to stay at home is wonderful but it’s a bit narrow-minded to assume that mothers who send their child to day care are somehow not contributing to society.

    • I’m a stay-at-home mom too, not really by choice though, if my husband + I could afford Canadian childcare we totally would put our children in it. But agree that the Norwegian view that a woman isn’t “contributing” until her mat leave is up and she has a job outside the home makes me a little sad. In Canadian society it’s not quite so bad, but I still have a tough time defending my situation to people who believe that to contribute means one must earn a wage. Raising children isn’t for everyone, but that doesn’t make it less of a contribution to society.

    • I am an American living temporarily in Norway with my Norwegian husband, and I also find your comment strange in that it implies Norwegians don’t value family/children. As an American, you live in a society that devalues family so much that it is the only industrialized country without mandated maternity leave–if you’re lucky enough to get it from your employer, good for you; otherwise, you either go back to work as early as ten days after giving birth (yes, TEN DAYS!) or you leave your job (not all stay at home moms *choose* to do it, as I’m sure you know). Here in Norway, women get a full year, and in addition, men get several months of parental leave. When they go back to work, they do so having spent the first year plus of their babies’ lives together with them, without the stress of going back to work; they do so knowing that they’re sending their children to an excellent, caring, supportive environment (and not one they have to go bankrupt paying for, like in the US, where some women decide to stop working and stay at home bc it’s cheaper than paying for child care!). They receive monthly stipends to help offset the expense of raising children, and in every way the government and the society are accommodating of parents and children. I am sorry to say this, but with all the American emphasis on family values, the proof is in a country’s laws (or lack thereof!) supporting these values–and here, Norway has the US beat in every way. I *wish* I could raise my child here for these reasons and others (no fear of random classroom shootings, etc). And, by the way, to pre-empt a tired argument: the taxes here are not as high as people insist–my husband’s tax rate is two percentage points higher than mine in the US, and I am not exactly in a high tax bracket!

    • PS- Thanks so much for this series, Joanna! I look forward to reading the posts from other countries. And congratulations on the tiny new addition to your family!

    • I agree with sookiestackhouse, but would like to add some welfare benefits we have in Norway that haven’t been mentioned:

      -4-6 weeks of paid vacation every year, in addition to national holidays. On average that leaves 190 days for working, 174 days with your kids.
      -Work days are 7,5 hours long. Except if you are nursing, then you are entitled to one hour off, leaving you with 6,5 hours at work. Many places, lunch break is included in the 7,5 hours, meaning a nursing mom only works 6 hours a day if she works full time. Some people work even less hours a week, e.g. those who work night shifts. It is not frowned upon to work part time when you have small children, in fact; if you have children under 10 years old, your employer has to accept it if you choose to work part time, and they have to give you back your full time job when you ask for it.
      -If your children are sick or need to visit the doctor, each parent gets up to 10 days a year off with full pay. If they are disabled, you each get 10 days extra a year, pluss an additional 200 days over 18 years.

      I was a working mom that put my children in daycare when they were one years old. But because of all the benefits I have mentioned, the first year they only were in kindergarten three hours a day, two of which they slept. With the youngest, I even worked in her kindergarten the one hour she was awake. :)

    • In response to Faith, just to clarify the situation on Canadian child care (i.e. provide the nuances) – yes, it is expensive (except for women who live in Quebec, where it costs $7 a day), but there are a number of child benefits that are paid to families (Universal Child Care Benefit, Child Tax Benefit and National Child Benefit Supplement (for lower income families), as well as generous child tax credits and deductions (Child Care Expense Deduction) that go a good part of the way towards paying for child care. Add to that paid maternity/parental leave for the first year and you have a more nuanced situation than you suggest. Lower income people can also receive generous subsidies or public child care spaces at the provincial level.

  46. It’s curious. I’m from Portugal, Europe. Here, we are more like you, American citizens, than with the Norwegians, who live closer to us.
    Loved the interview.

  47. I am such a fan of your blog! Thanks for such interesting series.

  48. My mom is Norwegian, so I know there is only one way: the Norwegian way. And growing up, no matter what the rest of us had for dinner, she had boiled cabbage and…HOT DOGS! So I think the fact they love hot dogs in Norway is fascinating!

  49. I love how supportive they are of women working but what do you do for 10 months of maternity leave???? The first time I was supposed to take 6 weeks but it ended up only being 4 because I was going stir crazy and the second time I did 5. 10 months is insane.

  50. Lost of true things here, just a little apropos to cost saving measures applied to children in so-called socialized medicine. You are of course free to see an obstetrician as often as you like, get a 3D ultrasound or test for and treat any strep. B, although you would have to pay for these things yourself. The government offers a sufficient follow-up during pregnancy basically free of charge – that a mother can not get anything she wants for free hardly represents less freedom of choice.

    Lars, norwegian doctor commenting on his girlfriend’s favourite blog

  51. I have to reiterate a lot of the comments above, what a fascinating series! I am so excited for more. I took a class on gender and equality in Scandinavia in college taught by a Swedish professor and all of her insights on parenting and the culture in general were just so interesting, and definitely spot on with what Rebecca shared. Thanks for the insights! :)

  52. JM says...

    Actually Kristin, I live in Canada (socialized healthcare) and have a plethora of choices concerning the birth of my children, our medical needs, etc. It is a total myth that we can’t choose which doctors we want or how we want to give birth. Midwives, doulas, home births, natural births in a hospital setting, etc. are all available options here. I really don’t know how people come up with these ideas about our healthcare system because they tend to be completely false. I suspect it’s a smear campaign by big pharma/insurance companies.

    • I agree with Kristin 100%. I live in Germany and we also have socialized healthcare and I can choose whatever I want for the birth of my baby. I have every option and there are only very little things that i actually have to pay for (for example if i want to have a private room in the hospital. But this is not more expensive than a hotel room, apr. 140 Dollar per night). Its definitely a myth that you only have very limited options.

      I didnt know that you only have contact to your midwife in Norway during your pregnancy. In Germany you have your doctors appointments every few weeks and additional appointments with the midwife.

    • Interesting what you said about the smear campaign – I know that in the 2008 election people in Britain were paid huge sums to appear on adverts in the US talking about negative experiences with the NHS. It caused quite a scandal over here, because people felt that it wasn’t representative of the NHS or the way people saw it. So I think that does go on.

    • Iz says...

      @ Miri – I live in Germany too, and healthcare is not socialised here! Socialised means the government pays for everything, whereas in Germany we pay compulsory insurance. Not the same thing.

  53. Yes! These observations are spot-on. I’m an American who lived in Norway for three years with my husband and young daughter. Reading this makes me both nostalgic for our time in Norway and glad to be back in the US.

  54. I really enjoy this new series. Loved that the first post was based in Scandinavia. I studied abroad in Denmark, and in many ways, I think the Scandinavians have it right. I appreciated the honesty that the writer shared about the pros and cons of living there.

  55. This is so interesting–a lot of the time we hear about all the great aspects of socialized healthcare and Scandinavian countries in general. This is a more honest perspective. Yes, it’s great that medical care is so cheap, but there are the “calculated risks” to consider–I don’t love the cost-saving measures, particularly applied to babies.

    • Well, about the calculated risk: You have risk in the US too. The difference is that in Scandinavia everybody shares the same risk. On the opposite, in countries where you pay for the medical care you can afford the poor will have to take higher risks, and the more wealthy can buy themselves clear of most risks.

      Of course you can pay for extra med care in scandinavia too, but you don’t have to.

  56. I love the idea for this series! I am a French Mom living in San Francisco and I would love to participate in the opposite series, foreign moms in the US ;)- kidding aside, it’s always so eye opening, can’t wait to read the one about the american mom in France!

  57. I found this really interesting and am looking forward to reading more in the series. Norway does not sound like the place for me, but it’s interesting to read nonetheless! I live in Europe when I was younger and it’s amazing how each country has different traditions.

  58. Wow…this was so interesting and very eye opening. Great series idea…can’t wait to read more!

  59. This post was fascinating! I’m Canadian and I would say we’re much more like the US than Norway (especially in southern Canada; there’s a lot of American influence here). Thanks for the reminder to ‘tough it out’ a bit more – I sometimes like things a little too cushy :P

  60. Wow! This was so interesting! I was stunned by the kids eating outside when it is so cold as well as the mentality that everyone works and parents just split the load naturally. That seems like it would take care of some of the “mommy guilt” we experience in the US about staying at home, working out of home, etc.

  61. When I never heard back on this I wondered if the posts would move forward. So excited to open up the blog this morning and see the start of the series!

  62. I loved reading this and I am excited about the other posts, too. I think its a wonderful idea. But I think its weird that you chose to pick women in the same demographic, just to see how women in the same demographic are in each country. I think that is strange, and , as always, I would love to see a little more diversity everywhere whenever possible. Since this is about American women in other countries, and American women are hispanic, asian, black, middle eastern, indian,—it seems so strange to now decide Americans are only from the same demographic.

  63. Hi! Great series! Very interesting, and I look forward to more. Just want to take Sadie’s and Lisa’s comments to one further step and point out how the socialized health care system greatly diminishes a woman’s choices and the power she has in the birthing process….I expect many of the people that support one of these concepts (I am referring to socialized health care and female power of choice over how she gives birth) support the other as well, without realizing the inherent contradictions and difficulties. To me, the problem lies in the socialized health care concept, rather than the “female-power-of-choice.” Just sharing my opinion :)

    • Having just given birth in the U.S., I have to say that for-profit medicine is also perfectly capable of diminishing a woman’s choices in the birthing process.

    • Hi Kristin! I live in Barcelona and have socialized health care. When I gave birth to my baby a year ago, I was overwhelmed with how much choice I had. Every woman is given a birth plan sheet where you can put so much specifics (who should be in the room with you, drugs or not and which kinds, do you want music, lights on or off, do you want a birthing ball, etc.). What you must also realise is that in the event that you do not want to use the public health care, you always have the option to buy private health insurance which is still not as costly as it is in the U.S.

    • In the UK (socialised health care), you can choose to give birth in a birthing centre, a hospital or at home – with two midwives – all for free, or you can choose to go private and pay more for very similar care.

      Having read American parenting blogs for a long time, I’d say that many American women don’t have the power of choice because they can only afford / their insurance will only cover a type of birth that they would not have chosen.

    • Such a hilarious post! You can choose to give birth at home here in Norway too, it just isn’t the norm (also you have to pay a fee whereas the hospital stay is free of charge). Most Norwegian women prefer the safety a hospital can provide in case of an emergency. You are free to choose to see a midwife or your regular doctor, or both for check-ups during pregnancy. Mind you, a midwife here has a two-year masters specializing in prenatal care/birth and know far more than most MDs do. All appointments at the doctor’s or midwife is free of charge throughout pregnancy and the first year of the baby, as well as annual check-ups. There is only one free ultrasound between 17-20 weeks of gestation, but most pay for additional ones from their own pockets. There ARE private doctors and hospitals here ;). There are no bills for the hospital stay for giving birth, whether your baby is alive or stillborn. We gladly pay our taxes so that everyone can enjoy free health care no matter their income and wealth. You are not tested for Strep-B because as noted above, Norway has very little resistance to antibiotics here and the medical community would like to keep it that way. Also keeps the medical cost down not to test for anything and everything like one does in the US to prevent malpractice lawsuits, but, yes, some of us pay the price.

  64. Wonderful series, very much looking forward to the upcoming posts.

    Definitely agree with the previous commenters who noted that not testing/treating for Group B strep is very scary indeed. I’ve cared for babies who have died or been completely devastated by it. Not at all something to take any kind of a risk with. I wonder how the government truly arrived at that policy.

  65. i loved this! i can’t wait for more of this series!

  66. loved reading this! and such beautiful photos!

  67. The strep B issue is terrifying. I was born with strep B before it was something that was tested for here, and I nearly died. If it hadn’t been for my mother’s absolutely wonderful obstetrician, recognizing the issues and giving me massive antibiotics, I wouldn’t be here. Not testing and agreeing to no antibiotics under any circumstances seems negligent.

    • Well, it’s not really like that. My wife is currently pregnant, and she get’s her pee tested every time we meet with the midwife. It has been about every two weeks now in the third trimester. Before that it’s every three-four weeks, or by need. We can always call and schedule an appointment if we feel we need to. Our first appointment was week 12. You can always get an appointment with your doctor as well, but they are GPs and not really specialized so that’s a bit pointless. There are always private clinics you can visit, but then you have to pay.

      My wife has been found to have Strep B bacteria, so it’s been put very clearly in her journal and she will be given antibiotics if the birth drags out. I hadn’t hear of the no drug thing either, but then again this is my first kid, so I haven’t really dealt with any of this before :)

  68. This was such an interesting read. I love hearing more about other cultures.

  69. I love this! The hot dogs part cracked me up – I noticed that when I was in Sweden – hotdogs were everywhere (as was ice cream for that matter, which I thought was fascinating, because it was still “cold” to my Texan standards)!

  70. Can already tell I’m going to LOVE this series. Great first start! How fascinating to hear about Norwegian culture, and her pictures are absolutely beautiful.

  71. I already love this series. Wonderful idea, Joanna!

  72. Incredibly fascinating to red about my wonderful country from an American’s point of view. Some things made me feel a little defensive, while some things made me beam with pride — which of course is all very Norwegian of me :)

    There’s nothing like waking up in a small log cabin in the Norwegian mountains, and looking out the window at the cold, quiet, wintery beauty, the wood-fire heating up the cabin, warm coffee pot on top…

    I’m so excited about this series, Joanna! Brilliant start to it :)

    And Rebecca; your photographs are awe inspiring!

  73. I really love this series a lot :)

  74. This is great! So interesting and very encouraging. I have a 3 year old and a 1 year old and am getting ready to go back to work for the first time. I’ve had so much guilt over it, but it’s nice to see another perspective on the working mother!

  75. Wow-this was so interesting! I’m from Norway and I’ve followed your blog for a few months now. It is so inspiring and I love how I always learn a few things, not only everyday life in the US, but other parts of the world too. So big thanks to you Joanna! I’ve always wondered how it would feel to like to be a foreigner and live in Norway so this was a great post. And props to Rebecca for even to giving a good description of Janteloven :)I’m moving with my husband and 1 year old son to Princeton this august for a year and I’m super excited about how it will be to raise my son there for a while. Can’t wait to get there and try to live a normal “american” life and experience the similarities and differences between our cultures. Looking forward to more posts and also to try out playgrounds in NYC soon. Best regards, Mie
    –Oh, and the backpacks in the top pic is Fjellreven -a Swedish brand. They are so cute and handy!
    –and most importantly: gratulations with baby Anton. He’s adorable:)

  76. I’m Norwegian and this is 100% true. I still have cravings for those goat cheese sandwiches!

  77. I’m surprised no one has pointed out that the reason schools and healthcare is much cheaper is because of it’s being paid for in taxes… As my father always says, “Nothing is free.” ;)

    • Of course it’s being paid for in taxes…but then everyone has schooling and healthcare, not only those who can afford it!

    • Right but I think that goes along with the idea of “janteloven.” I would imagine there’s not much anti-tax sentiment there because it’s important to people to look out for the collective; people pay high taxes because they know they will get a high quality of life for the whole country out of it – it’s part of the deal of living there.

    • Yes, Bisbee but the author also stated in the article that EVERYONE WORKS therefore everyone can benefit from the medical care, etc. Everyone looks out for each other because everyone is pitching in. We do not have that kind of mind set in the U.S. that’s why it would not work.

    • Julia, I am telling you, more than half the population in Norway vote for political parties that want to lower the tax-burden.

      The average yearly salary in Norway is USD 85 000 at today`s exchange rate, if you have a typical mortgage, you pay about USD 17 000 in total income taxes and Social Security. (your employer also have to pay an 14,1% employers fee of the gross income).

      In addition there is a 25% sales tax on most everything excepting foods which have 15%, and travel at 8% (books have no sales tax at all).

      This brings the total taxation up to 46% of the gross national product.

      I live in Norway, and I have never noticed the abundancy of hot dogs.
      I know that most convenience stores and gas stations sell them, but that is pretty much the same story in Sweden.

  78. As a Canadian expat and mom living in Amsterdam, it’s fascinating to read another account of expat life and parenting! Giving birth and raising kids abroad really makes you even more aware of your own cultural norms. I’m looking forward to reading more in this series.

  79. I adore this series! Can’t wait for more!

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  81. When i was a child in the north of England everyone left their babies in their prams outside while eating and shopping. It was very common. When my own children were babies I would put them outside for their afternoon nap in their pram, where we lived in Grosse Pointe, MI. Even in the winter – good fresh air – of course i always made sure they were bundled up and safe.

  82. I’m so excited for this series! My husband and I are expecting our first in about 5 months, and I’ve been obsessed with hearing about the wide range of ways to be a mother. He’s Polish, I’m Indian and we have good friends raising kids in Paris and London. Though I consider myself a pretty ambitious person and am in a rising stage in my career, all of the research has made me more eager to take a year to be the primary caregiver. I want to will it to become the new norm in the US.

  83. Love the idea behind this series. Thanks Joanna!

  84. What a fantastic read!

  85. Fascinating! Thank you for sharing!

  86. “There’s security—the government provides so much. Everyone gets a pension; full-time childcare is $350 a month, at the most; medical care is basically free. You don’t even have to worry about paying for college! It cost me $200 in enrollment fees to get a Masters in English.”

    The above makes me believe that I am living in the wrong country.

    Fascinating article, Joanna!

    • You could come to Canada… we don’t get free education but mat leave and healthcare is very similar. It’s too cold here, though lol.

    • Education is free here in Saskatchewan (well, paid through taxes), wand I agree about the mat leave + healthcare, but our childcare system definitely isn’t! If it was I would’ve gone back to work, but as it stands, my entire salary would have gone towards childcare… so I’m a stay-at-home mom, for the time being.

  87. It was really interesting to read that and compare to RussianBelarusian way of living and raising kids. I found many similarities!

  88. That sounds so different than here. Being Norwegian, I never really thought about culture like this. I love the idea of janteloven — not only is it a beautiful word but it is a beautiful theory as well. I don’t assume this would ever work in America, but if it could I’d be in heaven. If I could stand the cold, I would move there.

    • It is interesting that so many here has a positive view on janteloven. Here in Norway most norwegians perceive it as a negative limiter. If one person achieves something, for example by getting rich because of being good at business, there is a tendency in Norwegian society that this person will be looked down upon and criticized. Aksel Sandemose, a Norwegian author defined the ten rules of Jante (janteloven):

      The ten rules state:
      1. You’re not to think you are anything special.
      2. You’re not to think you are as good as us.
      3. You’re not to think you are smarter than us.
      4. You’re not to convince yourself that you are better than us.
      5. You’re not to think you know more than us.
      6. You’re not to think you are more important than us.
      7. You’re not to think you are good at anything.
      8. You’re not to laugh at us.
      9. You’re not to think anyone cares about you.
      10. You’re not to think you can teach us anything.

      This does not mean you can’t be good at business (or something else), but you should really be very humble about it and should give other reasons, for example “I was lucky with that deal”, instead of “I knew that deal was going to be good because I have a nose for such things”.

      Most norwegians think this is a rather negative trait in Norwegian society. In my opinion it is good to be modest, but one should not show false modesty. If you are really good at something, and you can prove it, then there is nothing wrong in saying so.

      More on jante here:

  89. Recently I met up with nine of my husband’s Norweigian relatives. I would kill for a $200 master’s degree or $350 childcare a month – that is the average WEEK for my two American children. Also, I do a 36-37 hour workweek…but my husband borders on 60…so it all balances out!

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  91. Really interesting! I don’t know if I could raise kids in a culture that is so different from what I’m used to even though so much of it sounds so great! Can’t wait to read the rest of this series.

  92. wow, so interesting! looking forward to this series!

  93. This was such an interesting article. I studied in Norway during law school and these things really brought me back to those days. Especially the hot dogs! It’s so true, you can get a hot dog anywhere in Norway.

  94. jm says...

    So interesting! I love the day care /school set up and that husbands do their share of cooking and child care. Life is much more balanced and equal there it seems. There is always such discussion here about whether women should work or stay at home and how they can juggle it all, as if children and balance were only their responsibility. If we had good state sponsored child care for everyone and men valued work life balance for themselves, too, that would be awesome. Throw in a Mediterranean climate and it starts to look pretty idyllic!!!!

  95. This was so fun to read, Becky, and you look freaking amazing in red lips! Thanks for this, Jo.

  96. So interesting! I love to see how other cultures do it. Thanks for sharing!

  97. What a great series and opportunity to gain perspective.

  98. Love this. But, I’m so happy to be an AMERICAN — we have so many choices!

    • I´Norwegian, and maybe that´s why I´puzzled by your comment.. How so..? I think you can chose differently in Norway too. Sure there is a norm, and certain expectations when it comes to giving birth or raising children, but I think you find that in the States too. It´s just easier to find people that think like you do in the states, I guess. We are only about 5 million people here in Norway, and that tends to make things a bit less diverse. If you believe in yourself and do what makes sense for you i don´t think it´s too difficult. I´m a mother who uses cloth diapers (rarely come across anyone else using them here) for my son, co- sleep and believe in attachment parenting. I just close my ears to certain things, and choose carefully who I listen to and talk to about things, like babies and sleep.We also have the maternity and paternity leave. A lot of time to nurse and bond with baby. That is a freedom to me. I really want this to become to norm for American parent too. All children deserve a slow and stress- free start in life.

  99. I live in Denmark and all of this is exactly the same to my experience in Denmark – it’s great – but different! So lovely to see your photos and hear of other foreigners experiencing life with kids in Scandinavia!

  100. Beautiful – makes me home sick. I’m Norwegian, living with my Australian husband in Wales. He would love to move to Norway, so when there are babies on the way, we’ll most likely move up there within a couple of years. I can’t imagine raising a child here…… Sounds dramatic, but when you’ve experienced Norway, everywhere else seems a bit too challenging in many ways – not to mention expensive. Having a child in day care here costs more than a mortgage, monthly.
    PS: You can see and obstetrician whenever and how often you want. You’ll just have to got to a private clinic and pay for it. My husband lovingly calls it Unicorn Land.

  101. I lived in Minnesota for 7 years, and my husband is from there (also has grandparents who still speak norwegian). A lot of that culture is still perpetuated with the scandinavian influence in minnesota. People take a lot of pride in hard winters, have rustic cabins, believe in public services (MN is a great quality of life state for this, especially), and people are very modest about their wealth. In fact, my husband’s grandmother, as a compliment says about people “oh they’re very common”, meaning that they are down to earth/blend in/don’t think too much of themselves. I went to St. Olaf, which is a Norwegian Lutheran college in MN, and the community values are much the same. Love it!

    • I was thinking the same thing – I have Norwegian roots and certain elements carry through, like the slowness to connect with strangers and the tough “rustic-ness.” Although, if you get away from a predominantly Scandinavian area those traits are considered snobby!

  102. I’m so looking forward to this series! I was recently in Norway on vacation for the first time so it’s exciting to hear more about the culture.
    It would be great to know also what impact language has (are kids raised bi-lingual, do both parents speak both languages, what is spoken at home, etc.), and also, what “American” values/traditions does the American parent hope to teach/pass on to their children.

  103. My fiancé is Finnish and we are planning on moving to Finland in the future. I feel the Scandinavian cultures are fairly similar and found it a very interesting read! Thanks for sharing!

    • For an American I am sure it seems similar and it probably is, but if you ask me its completely different. But but I’m from and is currently living in Sweden.


  104. This is very interesting. I love the Norwegian caramelized goat cheese, when I visited Norway I ate a ton of it.
    The Strep B thing is scary. In Canada we have socialized medicine, but every pregnant woman is tested for Strep B and receives antibiotics if necessary.
    In Switzerland where I grew up they don’t test and a friend of mine lost both her twins because of it. It’s so sad for something that can be so easily prevented.

    • Sometimes the cure is worse than the disease. Use of antibiotic ecorages MRSA, a far more dangerous thing than Strep B -it is responsible for more deaths in the US than AIDS, homicide, or empysema.

      It is virtually unknown in Norway, due to severly limiting antibiotic use.

    • Is this true? How scary! I wonder why they use them in the US then?

  105. That’s so interesting! But I gotta say, I would freak out about not seeing my obstetrician as often as I’d want.
    And I loved the idea of janteloven. People nowadays are so “me me me me”. People only care (and talk) about prizes, grades, salaries, carriers, possessions. It’s so tiring…
    Also, I love hotdog.

    I’m moving to Norway.

    • I wish you the best! I’ve a friend who just move a year ago to Oslo. He is happy living over there. He just brought his wife and three kids. Luckily he has already a job before his arriving. He met a friend who owes a business in Oslo. His friend nicely offered him to go to his house. Recently they moved to a room. According to his information, rent is very expensive, and if someone wants to buy expensive. I like it because is safety compare with other countries. The only problem is to move there without having a place where to live, or either a job. How to survive?

  106. I have been eagerly awaiting this series and I can’t wait to read more! We’re thinking of going abroad and raising our kids overseas so this is fantastic! I’ll be emailing it to the hubs. :)

  107. what an interesting series! i love this. and i love that it’s from the perspective of an american to really highlight the differences in cultures. i don’t think things like the hot dogs would come out if it was from a born-and-raised norwegian’s perspective.

  108. I live in the wrong country! I can never find a cabin without TV/internet in USA, I would love to not have to small talk at the hair salon and I could eat hot dogs . . . well, I would get sick of them fast. This is fascinating!

  109. So interesting that no one really stays at home. I love this series already. I hope you have one about Amsterdam in store. I may be moving there soon….kiddos in tow!

  110. Love this series idea – so interesting! Please keep them coming! :)

  111. WOW! This was fascinating!! I can’t wait to read more posts like this one!

  112. This was totally fascinating!!! Cant wait to read the others

  113. This is such a cool series! Fascinating, and a little funny! :)

  114. I married a Norwegian almost 2 years ago, moved to Oslo from Napa, CA, and we just found out I’m pregnant with our first! I loved reading this and am looking forward to raising our kids here!

  115. That was very interesting to read! I’m French and I don’t know that much about Norway and discovering it through parenting was enlightening. Can’t wait next Monday!

  116. This was so well written!! I went to Norway last year for a couple weeks and absolutely loved it. I could definitely see myself living there (I am from Canada and think there are some definite similarities in our cultures.) Super interesting!!!

  117. wow, i love this series! those little details are just so interesting. this post made me want to leave America, and want to stay all at the same time.

  118. Fascinating and glad to be part of Europe. Each country is slightly different but a lot of the principles are the same…and I’ve seen that horn many a time!

  119. thanks a lot for this article!
    I am a French-arabic mom living in the US, and sometimes I feel that my raising choices for my kid are really different from American moms. The most important thing is that we need to follow our instinct, culture to raise our kids. A mom always knows what is best for her kid, even if eating couscous at 2 year-old seem strange for my neighboors lol !
    have a great day!

    sihemesebaa on instagram

    • I totally agree with you Siheme, parents should follow there instinct and take the best from their own upbringing, their culture and what they believe is the best for yourself and your child upbringing.

      Dear Joanna congratulations on the new arrival he is adorable and thank you for this post, looking forward to the next one in the series, this is really fascinating.
      Kindest regards

  120. thanks a lot for this article!
    I am a French-arabic mom living in the US, and sometimes I feel that my raising choices for my kid are really different from American moms. The most important thing is that we need to follow our instinct, culture to raise our kids. A mom always knows what is best for her kid, even if eating couscous at 2 year-old seem strange for my neighboors lol !
    have a great day!

    sihemesebaa on instagram

  121. great series! really looking forward to reading more!

  122. I can’t wait to continue reading this series! But then I hope you’ll go back to Motherhood Mondays – I loved that, too!

  123. JB says...

    So interesting! I don’t have any kids, but it’s really fascinating to read about these things. I’m from Costa Rica, and have lived in NYC, a place I used to idolise. After living there for a while, I started to appreciate my country more and its own advantages. I can imagine that raising kids out of your own country can be especially challenging.

  124. em says...

    what a wonderful series! it’s always the little things that strike me, like the hot dogs :) really looking forward to more posts – especially if they are as beautiful and informative as this one!

  125. Fascinating! I am so excited to read this series, what a great idea! Ps. your new baby boy is such a doll, congrats!

  126. This is fascinating. Especially the idea of janteloven…we could probably use a bit of training in that in the US.

    • No, really, you don’t want that. I spent 8 years in Norway, I speak perfect Norwegian, lived and worked as a Norwegian, and I ended up hating the country, for very much the same reasons as people THINK that ‘janteloven’ is a cool idea. Cool until you have to live with it. If you come from a culture where any kind of individuality is valued and protected, you’ll be driven to distraction by the Norwegian obsession with ‘equality’. To give you an idea, your tax returns are published ONLINE, so that anyone can search through them. Nice idea, huh? Perhaps, but the truth is that it ends up feeling like the government is breathing down your neck the whole time. I live in Holland now, and moving here was like being able to breathe again. Be careful what you wish for: Norway is the embodiment of ‘Prism’.

  127. Norway is my favorite! I studied abroad there in college and loved every minute of it. This post made me want to go back and take my little one with me. I was lucky enough to visit a preschool while we were there, and it was fascinating. The one I went to taught everything using fairy tales. How fun!

  128. Hi–what a great post! and fabulous pictures! in the top photo–the smaller kids’ backpacks–they look really light but sturdy. what is the brand?


    • This comment has been removed by the author.

    • Sorry I deleted my reply, here it comes again.
      The backpacks are from a swedish brand called Fjällräven. In Sweden I think everyone at some point in there childhood have these (we call them kånken and everyone knows what you mean), also grownups have them since they come in different sizes and colors. I have seen them in NYC too. Hipsters seem to love the brand, I don’t know if it was on scandinavian people or if they actually sell them there as well. It’s a really good and practical bag. You can read about them here,

    • thank you! my 2 year old is constantly putting random bags on her back and getting stuck–clearly I need to get her a backpack!

    • Jcrew sells them in the crewcuts section of their website if you are having trouble finding them anywhere. They sell them in several colors. Love these backpacks! Such a great size and very retro.

    • I use a fjallraven kanken from amazon for my diaper bag – they’re fantastic

  129. I love love love this. So excited for the rest of the series.

  130. this is so interesting!! i love the idea of the “children’s garden” school…i am so, so looking forward to this series.

    • That’s what “kindergarten” means – it’s German.

  131. I have been so looking forward to this series since I read your post about looking for ex-pat moms. This was fascinating! For some reason, I found the hot dogs the most surprising. I love hot dogs, but I can’t imagine wanting one at 6am! Ha ha. Looking forward to reading more of these!

  132. Thank you for sharing! This is so neat to hear about. I see a lot of my Grandmother in this article, she’s the child of Norwegian and Finnish Immigrants. This is a great article on parenting, but also an interesting look inside the culture. Thanks Joanna and Thank you Rebecca!

  133. so very fascinating. thanks for sharing, i can’t wait for the others!

  134. Joanna, this is such a FASCINATING idea for a series.

    My extended paternal family is from Norway and it’s SO incredibly interesting to get an American perspective on the Norwegian culture. Beautiful photographs and thoughtful musings from Rebecca.

    Thank you for such a lovely post!

  135. Wow love this post…I always wondered what it’s really like to Live there after I saw a show online about how people there are very happy because of the group mindset. I can’t wait for your posts about other parts of the world!! :)

  136. So interesting! Really looking forward to reading more in this series. Thanks Joanna!

  137. I noted some similar things when I was recently in France with our eleven month old. While the culture as a whole is very child and family friendly (you get to skip to the front of most lines with a baby, there are changing stations and playgrounds everywhere, public education and day care is great), individuals aren’t as friendly or as helpful when you are, say struggling with a stroller getting on a train. It’s almost as though people think, hey, the state is responsible, and it does so much, so I don’t need to go out of my way to help. Or maybe it’s just that European self-contained thing Rebecca mentions.

    • I don’t think it’s a socialized government thing – I’m from Canada, not as socialized as Scandinavian countries, but much more than the U.S. I think it’s the way that parenthood and children are viewed in Europe in contrast to how we see it here in North America. It’s seen as more of a burden here (even from those who say it’s a blessing). Just take a look at our grocery stores and shopping malls: there a parking spaces for expectants moms and moms with strollers – in some cases, they are closer to the store than the spots for disabled shoppers! As if pregnancy and children are a handicap. It’s not this way in Europe – children are just little people, they eat the same dinner at the same time as their parents and they attend social functions, too. So going out of ones’ way to rush to a mother’s aide as she pushes a stroller would seem odd to them – she doesn’t need help, she just completing yet another rote task of parenthood.

    • I agree with Julia. People in the US are quite friendly, but they also don’t have to deal with others as frequently as Europeans in cities do. My husband and I live in Zurich, Switzerland with our 21-month-old and we are constantly in contact with others. On the tram, walking on the street. In the US, we had so much more privacy and comfort in our car. Naturally, when Americans are in contact with others, they want to connect. For me, in Zurich, I don’t want to have to connect with strangers all day long. Sometimes I want some space, some privacy and the only way to get then when surrounded by people is to stare at the ground and get where I’m going!
      Such a fun idea for a series, Joanna! I wish I could have participated. :)

    • The only milestone I see for new emigrants, is regarding housing and jobs. I do not know how easy or hard is to get a job. As sample I’ve a friend, she is going to be 64, she wants to move to Oslo. I think is not too young either too old. She looks stronger and very smart. I wonder how easy may be for her finding a job? what about housing? She can survive with her savings, my question for how long?. She speaks three languages, Spanish, Italian and English. Her professional background “secretary”. I wonder if exists any good possibilities for her to find a job and housing? She wants to move to Europe, because she loves the safety and jobs. I am trying to convince her to stay, which has been impossible. She is very friendly, a sweetheart lady. I am worrying for my fried. I don’t know perhaps I am wrong