Can You Get By With English In Norway?

Norway is a country of unsurpassed beauty with its fjords, everything blanketed in snow in winter, and the luminous green of the mountains and countryside in summer. Its fascinating culture and beauty make it a popular tourist destination, and its stable economy and favorable foreign policy draw many immigrants. If you find yourself in Norway for any reason, can you get by with English?

English is widely spoken in Norway by the younger generation, but many older people only speak Norwegian. English speakers will be able to communicate with Norwegians in varying degrees when visiting their country. Still, it is to their advantage to learn their language if they plan to live there.

English is more commonly spoken in the big cities, but not as much in the rural areas and smaller towns. Although it probably isn’t necessary to learn the language even when moving there, it will still help to adapt to the lifestyle in that country. 

Getting By With English In Norway

Getting By With English In Norway

The term “getting by” implies a certain amount of struggle. Though your goal may eventually be achieved or your destination reached, a little extra help on the side could make things happen faster and easier. Is it worth the effort, then?

The Benefits Of Learning Norwegian For Travel Purposes

As a tourist in this beautiful Scandinavian country, there is so much that is different from our own culture: the food, the art, the history, the countryside, and even the type of tourist attractions. If you are with a tour group visiting the standard sites and doing typical activities, you need not know any Norwegian unless you want to show off your newly learned vocabulary.

On the other hand, if you are touring Norway independently, though the locals will be fairly proficient in English, you may benefit from understanding a little Norwegian. Extracting information, ordering food in a restaurant, and getting directions will be a little easier if you have a smidgeon of Norwegian under your belt. Best be able to understand the replies as well, though!

In my experience, the locals speak at quite a speed, so what you may have learned from your language application on your phone or a dictionary may not bear any similarity to the gibberish that seems to be coming out of their mouths however pretty and lilting it may sound. They will probably appreciate your efforts at speaking their language and reward you with English answers.

Socializing with the locals, especially when you can converse a little, will probably endear you to them, and they may share some of the country’s wonders with you that typical tourists may experience. 

Getting By With English When Living In Norway

Moving to any country where English is not the native language can be difficult even when a large proportion of the population can speak or understand it. If you’re on a short visit, relying on the locals’ ability to understand and help you is acceptable. If you make their country your home, it will be worth learning their language. 

Employment opportunities for people with no Norwegian are typically low-paid and low-skilled positions. If you have been employed in a skilled position by a Norwegian company, people will speak to you in English, but you would likely still struggle to understand how they operate. Proficiency in Norwegian will facilitate creating better communication and team achievements.

It could also be difficult to progress in your job if you do not know Norsk. You will not easily be promoted to higher positions when you don’t understand the language of the managers and executives that you would need to work with.

We don’t realize how much literacy in our native language benefits us until we move to a foreign country. Dealing with authorities, filling in documentation, and coping with any public administration requires an ability to read and write the language. Whether shopping for groceries or doing errands, we need to respond to the given language.

So can you get by with only English when living in Norway? The short answer is yes. But if you want your move to be as seamless as possible, it’s best to learn the language. It is easier to make friends and cultivate a social life, making working with people of a different culture easier.

The Norwegian Languages

The Norwegian Languages

Norsk and Sami are the two official languages in Norway. Norsk is the official language that most Norwegians speak, while Sami is mostly only spoken by the native Sami people living in Finnmark and Troms in the north of the country.

The two written standards in the country are Bokmål and Nynorsk, which are both utilized in public administration, education, churches, and the media, and all Norwegians are fluent in both. Foreigners who want to live in the country will have a smoother transition if they can navigate the language.

The Instruction Of English In Norway

English is introduced to children in Norwegian schools at a young age, so they will have had at least a year of formal education in the language by the time they are about ten. But by this age, most children have also been exposed to English via movies, games and books available on the internet and social media.

Speaking English Is Acceptable In Norway

In some countries, speaking to strangers in English is rude, e.g., France, where the language is not prioritized in schools and most people are not proficient in it. However, it is not an insult in Norway, and people are happy to respond to foreigners in English.

A politically-charged idea in Scandinavia is whether English is a threat to their cultures and languages because it is recognized as an international language. Still, research has shown that their languages are stable and, although many English words and concepts have found their way into the Norwegian culture, there is no risk of it getting consumed by our language.


Norway has adapted as well as any other country to the necessity of becoming fluent in English, the international language. It is widely understood and spoken when necessary. So if you’re a tourist to the beautiful Land of the Midnight Sun, you can relax and enjoy the sights without Norwegian. But if you are going to make it your home, it will benefit every aspect of your life to become proficient.


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