Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Norway vs. the US in Driving

A drivers license.  Something I never knew I took for granted until I moved to Norway.  Now, I am facing a nightmare of a test and potentially thousands (yes, thousands) of dollars!!

So, in the US, it is quite simple to get your drivers license (it was 12 years ago at least).

Step one: Turn 15 and get your drivers permit.  Log the appropriate number of driving hours with a licensed driver and study for the drivers test.

Step two: Turn 16 and go to the DMV.  Take the drivers test and pay the $21.00 fee. If you fail its ok, you can take another one on the spot.

And done, you have a license.

My test went a little like this...

I was 16 and my mom said "Lizzie, it is time to take your driving test".  I did not want to because I had not practiced as much as I would have liked.  Plus, the only car we had to take to the test was a manual, and I didn't know how to get past 3rd gear in a stick shift!  Mom won and we went to the DMV.  I took the written test and only missed the road sign question (no crossing, what is that??).  Then came the driving test.  We went around the block for about 10 minutes, all while the car was screaming "change gears!!".  I sat through a right turn on red, forgot my blinker, and stalled the car when I tried to park it.  But passed.

In Norway, things are NOT as simple and certainly, NOT as inexpensive.

I am lucky because I got my license in the states, so I don't have to go through the normal steps to get my license in Norway.  All I have to do is take the practical exam within a year of moving to Norway.  Well, a year is coming up way too soon and I have learned that the test is not as simple as you would think.  Plus, it's nearly 3000KR ($530).

What I've learned about the practical driving test in Norway

  • It takes nearly an hour!
  • They will ask you questions about the car and driving that you have to answer correctly.
  • They will direct where they want you to drive, but "trick" you by saying things like "turn left" when they know the left turn ahead is a one way, going the wrong way.
  • They are VERY strict!
  • If you fail, you have to start from square one!!!

What is square one you ask??
  • Many, many hours of required lessons by driving instructors including slick road driving and CPR.
  • A difficult written exam.
  • 15,000-30,000KR ($2500-$5000) from beginning to end, depending on where you take the test!

Why is it so difficult??

This is a two way road, one requiring driving skills more advanced than those on a Colorado highway.

I filled out the application to transfer my drivers license after I came back from the states and I didn't hear anything in return.  I did take my time to actually apply, so that is my own fault.  But, finally when I did get in touch with them, I learned that there is a waiting list for the test, and they may not have any availability before my January 5th (1 year) deadline.  And the woman I spoke to told me "and if you fail the first time, you have 4 weeks probation before you can start again and you'll have to start from the beginning".  

Basically, she thinks I'm going to fail? Awesome.

So, my best bet is to take the bus outside of Bergen to the driving company early tomorrow.  Hopefully there, they will be able to give me a date for a test, either in or out of Bergen before my year mark.

And once they do (and I will fight hard for it!!), all I will have to stress about is passing!!!


  1. good luck lady!!!! i am probably the only expat who hated driving and hasn't made this a priority LOL. it's going to come back to bite me in the butt when i have to pay 30,000kr ;)

    hope all goes well and im sure you'll show that lady you can pass the first time :)

  2. Takk Megan! I can't say I've made it priority with only 6 weeks left to complete the exam:) Ahhhh! I just got a call from a driving instructor who said I should take classes as soon as possible because "too many americans fail the driving test in Norway". I can't wait to prove them wrong and pass with flying colors!!!!!

  3. you'll do it for sure! just study and practice of course :)

    it's sooo hard for me to prioritize it b/c i hated it sooo bad in the US and oslo's pub trans is amazing. but i need to b/c my career field often comes with having my own car for sales calls (the job i originally landed in oslo that UDI wouldn't allow me to have came w/ a company car for me). i guess the roads on the east side are a little less daunting and more similar to the US than western norway. if that doesn't encourage me, nothing will ;)

    well good luck and im sure when the time comes, if it does, i can get some pointers from ya ;)

  4. So how did it go? What was it like, and what did they ask? I'll be taking the test soon. :(

  5. Hi Casey!! In the end, I was more nervous than I should have been. I have been driving in the states for years and had loads of practice here. After taking the test, I felt silly having paid for all of the lessons. I would have been fine with one double lesson and studying the information sheet they have at the driving school. The instructor introduced herself and asked a few starter questions, "who was allowed to sit in the passenger seat", and also asked if I wanted silence or to chat during the exam. She explained we would drive around and she would instruct me on where to go. We drove a simple route, parked in a Rema parking lot, got on the highway, went around a few roundabouts, then went back. She wrote notes for a while, then finally told me I passed. Then, that was it! I'm sure you'll be fine. Especially if you know the right hand rule and have practiced in Norway. Let me know if you have any other questions!! Good luck!!

    1. Thanks for responding... last August! I ended up needing to wait awhile, and I'm taking the test next week. Now some months later, I found this post again and your response. That was very helpful, and I feel very confident. I've had lots of practice and gotten used to the right hand rule.

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