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I didn’t go to Norway for money: the story of developer Dima Titov’s relocation

Published in the Random EN group
With this text we begin a special series of materials about the relocation of programmers from Ukraine, Belarus and Russia to other countries. The developers will tell you how to find work abroad, move and adapt locally. Our first hero is Dima Titov from Kyiv. In 2017, he moved to the capital of Norway, Oslo. “I didn’t go to Norway for money”: the story of developer Dima Titov’s relocation - 1In 2017, I was in my first year of graduate school at KPI ( Kiev Polytechnic Institute - ed. ) and suddenly realized that I was terribly tired of it. Before that, I had already graduated from the Faculty of Informatics and Computer Engineering, and for me this was my seventh year of study. I decided that I just wanted to work and, perhaps, not work in Ukraine. By the time I started looking for work abroad, I already had decent experience: from my third year at university I worked as a programmer, and in terms of qualifications I was already a senior. The main development language I write in is Java. After moving to Norway, I had to learn Python, because the locals love it very much. Recently I switched to Go. Why did I choose Norway? I thought that if I move only once, then I need to choose the coolest country. I only considered Europe, since the USA, Canada, and Australia are too far from Ukraine. In Europe, Norway was the most tempting option. It is important that by that time my friends were already living in Norway, who could tell me important information for the move and share details.

Job search

On LinkedIn, I saved a search filter for jobs in my specialty in Oslo. There were a lot of vacancies, and I met the requirements everywhere: knowledge of Java, frameworks, work experience, and so on. I sent out my resume and many responded positively, right up until the moment when it turned out that I didn’t know Norwegian. It is easy for a good specialist to find a job in Norway if he knows Norwegian. You need to know the language at least to level A2. Of course, I didn’t know Norwegian, and so I looked for vacancies where English was sufficient. There were quite a few of them. It should be noted that middles from other countries are rarely hired in Norway: you must be a senior with at least two years of experience. After 2.5 months, I found a position at the University of Oslo - they were looking for a developer. I was scheduled for a remote interview, we communicated quite simply: I told him what projects I had worked on and what technologies I used. My employers paid a lot of attention to my diploma, oddly enough. In Ukraine, there is an opinion that a diploma is an unnecessary piece of paper that no one can give in to. And for Ukraine this is true. But those who interviewed me went through a list of my assessments right during the interview. And I was very lucky that the KPI diploma that was given to me had a version in English. Moreover, I was asked to submit my thesis itself, but it was only in Ukrainian. Since I published articles in international journals during my studies, I offered to submit them. As a result, employers read them and asked questions about them. A little about the place where I got a job. This is the University of Oslo, Faculty of Informatics, Department of Bioinformatics. Developers were hired there to write software for scientists. Scientists are engaged in genome sequencing, projects related to human immunity. As a result, I received an offer, signed it remotely via email, went with it to the Norwegian Embassy in Ukraine, and opened a visa.


I would like to note that if you have an invitation to work, it is not difficult to obtain entry documents. My first working day was scheduled for the first of July, and I was supposed to arrive by this time. Then, on the spot, already in Norway, I applied for a temporary residence permit (residence permit for those who work). Temporary residence permit is given for one or two years. The first time I was given permission for a year, then for two. After three years of residence in Norway, you can apply for permanent residence. I recently received it. Everything is automated here. A reminder comes from the system: “Your permit is about to expire,” you can send documents online and reissue them.


You need to have a certain amount of savings for moving, as there is a lot of bureaucracy here. For example, I opened a bank account for 3 months. Accordingly, I could not withdraw my salary for 3 months, since I did not have a card. I had to live off my savings. If we talk about the first three months, then this is about 3 thousand euros for housing and 3 thousand for food and minor expenses, the price of a flight ticket and the price of a visa. I think it’s ideal to have up to 10 thousand euros in savings, so you’ll definitely have enough for everything. I had less, but at first I lived with friends.“I didn’t go to Norway for money”: the story of developer Dima Titov’s relocation - 2


Accommodation in Oslo is not easy to find if you are on a limited budget. I was very lucky: again, for the first two months I lived with friends and all this time I was looking for an apartment. I walked around and looked at apartments, and the landlords looked at me. I looked at a lot of apartments, many simply did not contact me, some did, but the apartments were so-so. After 2 months, I finally found the option where I have been living for three years. Often Norwegians simply rent out empty apartments, a box that they have to fill themselves. Therefore, I was lucky that everything was already in my apartment. There is a so-called deposit here. When you sign a contract with a landlord, you open a joint bank account for two people and you need to put money there in the amount of three monthly payments. This bank account is designed in such a way that no one can withdraw money without a second person. The deposit is made so that if a person moves out after a year or five years and the apartment needs renovation, money is taken from this deposit to fix the damage.


At the University of Oslo everyone speaks English, I'm lucky. However, as soon as I moved, I immediately began to learn Norwegian, later enrolled in courses that were offered at the same university, and then went on to other courses. As a result, I improved my Norwegian and passed the exam to obtain permanent residence (for this you need a level of Norwegian A2). I don’t know Norwegian very well, because many people speak English, and in principle you don’t need to use Norwegian. For the first couple of years I didn't speak Norwegian to anyone. Now I can communicate with the staff in Norwegian in a store or cafe. I changed my job and got a job at a company. At my second job I was told that they mostly spoke Norwegian, but there was no problem switching to English. I hope that now I will have a chance to improve my Norwegian language, as I will have more practice.

Salaries, taxes

I had a very good salary in Kyiv. When I moved to Oslo, I received approximately the same salary. It turns out that I lost money: the salary is the same, but the prices here are at least three times higher. The minimum salary for a developer in Norway is 57 thousand euros per year, 73 thousand euros is the average, 90 thousand euros is the maximum, but this is without taxes. That is, the minimum salary of a developer per year is 35 thousand euros (if taxes are subtracted). This is quite enough. For example, I have been collecting money all the time I have lived in Norway. On the one hand, I don’t deny myself anything, on the other hand, I basically don’t need much. I have housing, clothes, food, sometimes I buy some gadgets. Some people move in pairs; it’s more difficult there, because, for example, a wife or girlfriend may be unemployed for some time. But even if I didn’t move alone, my salary would be enough, but most likely I would break even without any savings. Since I was alone, I managed to save some money. Therefore, now I am already planning to buy an apartment. I managed to save up the down payment to get a mortgage. The tax system in Norway is proportional. The more salary a person receives, the higher his tax rate. I received a low salary, my taxes were approximately 30%. By the way, despite the fact that I worked at a university and my salary was not considered high, it was still decent. This is a salary on which you can live. Private companies, of course, pay more. Accordingly, if a person moves to a higher-paying job, the tax rate will be higher. For example, 40%. If the salary is very large, then almost half may go to taxes. Norway's economic model is Scandinavian socialism. There should not be very low and very high salaries in Norway. The state is trying to make sure that all people are middle class. That is why those with small salaries pay small taxes. Those with high salaries pay high taxes. One can argue with this; someone thinks that if he is a great specialist, why does he earn the same as a bus driver? By the way, my first salary was not high and the bus driver received about the same, maybe a little less. I, too, was indignant at first, but then I realized that, in principle, this was not bad. Here all people feel much better than in many other countries. Whatever profession you choose, you can afford a good standard of living: dress, pay for housing, have a vacation, and so on.


There are two types of leisure activities in Norway: hiking, when people go out into nature with tents, or sitting in a bar with alcohol. I don't really like hiking, sometimes I go out, but not often. It’s difficult with alcohol here - it’s very expensive, the government is fighting alcoholism and, for example, you can’t buy anything in the supermarket except beer and cider. Any alcohol stronger than beer is sold in the only state chain of stores throughout the country. Drinking here is expensive, and so is the bars. In Kyiv, my friends and I went somewhere almost every Friday, here I can’t afford that anymore, it would be wasteful. That’s why I fell in love with fishing very much here: now I live by the sea and can fish there. I do this throughout the warm season: from spring to autumn. There are many people here who go fishing. Moreover, if you fish in the sea, you don’t need a permit, but if you fish in a river, you need a special card, which costs money. But there is a nuance: now you can’t catch cod. If I catch a cod, for example, I have to release it.“I didn’t go to Norway for money”: the story of developer Dima Titov’s relocation - 3


Norway has compulsory public health insurance. If a person is a resident of the country, he automatically has health insurance. Each person is assigned to a therapist (family doctor), he can be changed, there is a website with a rating of doctors, you can change the doctor if you don’t like him. If something hurts, a person first goes to a family doctor, and he either writes a prescription or refers the person for further examination to another specialist. An appointment costs about 20 euros, you buy the medicine yourself. But there is a “but”. This scheme works if a person spends up to 300 euros per year on treatment. If more, then the state pays for everything else. That is, if a person is seriously ill with something and needs to spend a lot of money, then he will spend only 300 euros, the rest will be covered by the state.


Norwegians are rather closed people; they take a long time to decide to let a new person into their social circle. At the same time, they are as polite as possible and love to talk. Norwegians mostly make friends with people they met at school or university. It is difficult to penetrate the Norwegian circle of friends, but it is possible. I have good relationships with my colleagues. When I left my previous job, my team lead wrote to me: “We, of course, cease to be colleagues, but we do not cease to be friends, so I hope that we will see each other for beer when COVID passes.” The majority of my friends in Norway are Ukrainian immigrants.


I didn’t go to Norway for money. If you calculate the ratio of salaries to prices, I lost three times. At the start I received a salary here, as, for example, I would have received in the Kiev EPAM. My purchasing power has decreased several times. Accordingly, you need to understand that I did not come here to earn more. I didn’t feel very comfortable in Ukraine. This dissatisfaction consisted of small nuances: broken-down highways, state clinics, and so on. In Norway everything is much more stable and better. Many of my friends criticize Norway, saying that it is boring here. There are few places to hang out here. I’m comfortable, I’m basically a homebody.