Norway has a population of 5.4 million. Almost everyone here has his own house and poverty is practically unheard of in the country.
Our tour guide said: The Norwegian government has a very robust foreign reserve position, and if spread evenly among the people, each citizen can get around RM2 million each!
No wonder our driver-guide bragged that he was very rich. Besides a big house and big car, he said he also owns a seaside villa (numbering about half a million in total nationwide) and a private yacht (over a million nationwide)!
Additionally, each Norwegian is entitled to five weeks of paid holidays a year. It looks like the government is actually encouraging the people to go on holidays so that they can be more productive and creative when they get back to work later.
So, it is not an overstatement that Norwegian style has become the byword for Scandinavian design. It’s their exceptional creativity that makes the country’s designs so popular and sought after the world over.
As if that’s not enough, Norway is also synonymous with high income, high consumption, and high tax rates.
But why is it that with everything so “high” the people in this country are still able to lead such happy lives? The key lies with the fact they have a super efficient government and civil service team.
The Norwegians have the unbelievable fighting spirit of the Vikings inside them. They are not only perfectionists at work, they also have a strong passion for their beloved motherland.
That said, for tourists like us, it’s extremely hard not to feel the pinch of Norway’s superlatively high goods prices. A plate of fried rice with a sunnyside up plus a glass of plain water fetches RM85 at a fast food restaurant (inclusive of 27% VAT).
I asked the Thai shop assistant why it was so expensive, and her reply was crude and straightforward: Bro, it’s Norway here, not Thailand, OK?
Very much so! People living in Norway have grown accustomed to such exorbitant prices. Even a cup of Starbucks coffee and a veggie bun would cost nearly RM50!
So, don’t blame us if we have to charge more for a Norway tour. We have to pay for the tour bus, accommodation, food, admission tickets and so on, and they are all not cheap!
As a matter of fact, the local people will not feel this way because their incomes are also very high. In case you’re not aware, their salaries are about €5,200 a month, the third highest in the world. Even a fresh graduate can afford any luxury items that we will have a hard time deciding whether or not to get.
That day, we arrived at the quiet little harbor of Tromso lying within the Arctic Circle, where the sun never sets between May 21 and July 21 every year.
To our pleasant surprise, even in such a remote outpost we came to meet a young Malaysian lady on work-study at a tiny coffee shop here. She said: The hourly pay here is RM80. I just need to work an hour to buy a fried rice lunch, and visit an expensive restaurant working only for two hours!
So, you always earn more than enough to spend here. For the same amount of money you can afford a royal treatment anywhere in Southeast Asia!
Travel buddy Tan from Klang protested: A part-time job pays upward of RM8 an hour in Malaysia, enough for a plate of mixed rice there! The same amount of money can make you a king in Myanmar!
Quite true, but we in Malaysia lack the other benefits available to the Norwegians!
What I was trying to say is that the Norwegian government is expert in running the country and is exceptionally efficient.
Perhaps up till this point, you might feel unhappy that the people here have to take out 36-47.8% of their salaries for income tax and social insurance. You might also think that Norwegians will do their utmost to evade tax.
The reality is, they are more than willing to pay their dues, and have full confidence in the fairness and transparency of the taxation system. Excess payments will always be returned, often unexpected!
The thing is, if a taxpayer loses his job, he is entitled to long-term unemployment benefits. As if that’s not enough, he will also enjoy all kinds of perks until he dies. Everything from education, healthcare and public services, child and old age benefits are all taken care of by the government.
Even foreign students in Norway are exempted from paying tuition fees, and in the event of an accident, hospitalization and medical treatment for a foreign tourist will all be settled by the government. Unbelievable, right?
The government is also constantly investing in infrastructure development, including the construction of hospitals and environment-friendly projects. In addition, the country boasts more than 40 land and undersea tunnels, with more coming up soon.
We can see from here that the Norwegian government has been wholly devoted to “balanced development” so that the future generations can live in a clean, healthy and affluent environment.
You might also ask how the government comes up with the massive 130 million kroner annual budget.
The high income tax rate aside, another major source of revenue is the 25% VAT.
Additionally, since oil was first drilled in 1972, Norway was at one point the world’s fourth largest oil producer.
Besides, more than 40 million people around the world are consuming seafood from Norway every day, especially salmon. Fishery export has become one of the three largest sources of income for the country.
Interestingly, it was the Norwegians who taught the Japanese how to eat raw salmon back in the 1980s, and today, Japan has emerged as the biggest buyer of Norwegian salmon!
Do we really have a paradise-like country on this planet? Yes, it is called Norway, a country spanning 385,207 sq km with two-thirds of its terrains made up of mountains and highlands, with 239,057 big and small islands, 400,000 lakes, 1,190 fjords and 25,148 km of coastline.
P/S: SAS Scandinavian Airlines is jointly operated by Norway, Denmark and Sweden. What we never expected is that at a time the travel industry is just beginning to recover after the pandemic, the SAS pilots staged an unprecedented walkout, forcing almost 80% of flights to be cancelled, with 400,000 summer vacationers stranded at airports across Europe.
Coincidentally, our flight was also affected but don’t worry, with Lee San around, everything is a good thing!
(Lee San is Founder and Group Executive Chairman of Apple Vacations. He has traveled to 132 countries, six continents, and enjoys sharing his travel stories and insights. He has also authored five books.)