Nice place to live, but –

Reviving a blog at year’s end is the perfect excuse to roll out delayed topics and claim they are part of a typical year in review. Here are a few of the highlights mentioned last time, including various ‘awards’ recognizing Norway’s greatness, as well as the usual glance at its weirdness.

I’m not sure how many times it’s happened, but often enough that it now gets announced in the media as ‘Norway is yet again atop the United Nations’ annual ranking of best country in the world to live in’. Often enough that even a navel-gazing little country doesn’t get excited about the decision at all. In fact, it has now become part of the national obsession with debate topics. And polarity. Call Norway the best place in the world to live long enough, and Norwegians will argue against it.

The annual UN Development Program survey is based on factors such as education, literacy, life expectancy and Gross National Product per inhabitant, and this year’s rankings were based on 2007 figures. Given that Norway has been relatively insulated from the global finance crisis, there is every reason to believe that top of the table status can be maintained for another year or two.

It would be immodest to keep crowing about being the greatest place to live in the world, and far more entertaining to dispute it. So naturally, this story must spark argument here to stay interesting. Aftenposten chose a typical tack and wheeled out a few academics to shed a critical look at the indicators measured and to point out that the list is really designed to examine the laggards and determine where international aid is most needed.

Professor Svein Sjøberg from the University of Oslo wants a scale that moves away from the heavy emphasis on wealth, health and education and begins to factor in variables such as freedom of speech, democracy and transparency. Or happiness. He also argues that on the current scale Norway edges out the roughly equivalent top 20 countries largely due to oil wealth, and that there are no real grounds to go around boasting about how wonderful it is here.

One thing that Norwegians, especially politicians, like to say is that Norway is the richest country in the world. ‘How can opposition politicians allow some or other state of affairs to persist, here – in the richest country in the world?‘ The UN list does have purely GNP per inhabitant statistics, and the richest country in the world on this simple criterion is – Liechtenstein.

Nice place to live, but what about to visit? More accolades were heaped on Norway as National Geographic Traveler named the Norwegian Fjords as its top tourist destination for 2009. This was another repeat victory, the fjords topping the NG ranking list in 2004, but the latest voting gave it an even higher points total this time.

Norway is not an easy destination, as reading the article reveals; it gains points for having low visitor and tourism impact levels due to requiring ‘ a substantial investment’. Few things convince and remind Norwegians of their wealth more than their painfully expensive cost of living.

Next:  Arguing about angels, and revenge for Santa.

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3 responses to “Nice place to live, but –

  1. Pingback: Back to reality « All the moose

  2. I think that Professor Sjøberg has a point. Even though a lot of people link money and wealth to happiness, and Norway to the outsiders does seem a liberal country, the factors he mentions definitely need to be taken into consideration when dealing with best places to live.

    I know its a rather sombre note, but to look at rates of suicide in the world (albeit from 2008) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Suicide_rates_map.svg

    you can see that actually, some of the poorer countries (like in South America) maybe feel happier on the whole (or maybe its a question of Catholic faith being strong over there).

    I definitely feel that Norway isnt by far one of the worst places in the world to live. I actually enjoyed my time there, and the people I met did generally seem happy and were praising their homeland. If I had been there 60 or so years ago before they discovered their oil and the countrys wealth increased, I dont know if it would have been the same…

    What would be interesting for me is to see what the immigrants into Norway would say about it. I say that because here where I live in France there is a fair number (me being one of them!). Even though for the majority their quality of life is better, they still feel unhappy with how society is here and even express some strong hatred towards the citizens here.

    Anyway, those are my ponderings…

  3. Jonathan Tisdall

    You should have a look at the link above your comment, where a study of how people feel about living here has just been done. It was not terribly clear to me if the study extended to non-citizens or immigrants in representative numbers, I will try to check that.

    One of the things I wanted to do regularly here was moan about things from a non-Norwegian’s point of view, but: decided that first one had to have a better picture of what was normal here, and that takes a long time to tell, especially if you do it via unusual news; and I suddenly felt a bit less moany. It is a very, very comfy place to live, I will definitely get back to complaining later.

    The suicide stats are interesting, I remember that Scandinavia always had surprisingly high numbers in the past.

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