Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Why do you have to read stuff like this here and not in your newspaper?

.... because what you really NEED to know doesn't sell newspapers. If you buy and read newspapers full of guff you don't need to know, whose fault is that?

I've been following for some time this story about an English couple, Paul Hodgkinson and his wife Andrea who tried settling in Norway. It's tragic. The URLS below will tell you most of what you need to know about their plight  ...... my situation is briefly summed up after that ...

If you're new to this blog, a quick summary of my situation in Norway is :

Worked and paid taxes in Norway for 23 years
Owned a house in Norway (only house I've ever owned) for 15 years
Have a 14 year old Norwegian son of whom I have shared custody

UDI (Norwegian Immigration Service) refused to renew my Norwegian residence permit 6 months after my son was born because my work sometimes (146 days work in Norway, 53 at sea) took me aboard Norwegian registered boats sailing out of Norway which they interpreted as me not being in Norway for more than three months at a time and therefore, I didn't need a residence permit so they wouldn't give me one (which is where this piece of information from the Skatteetaten ... Norwegian tax ministry ... web site is pertinent)
"Persons who are resident in Norway are as a rule obliged to be members of the Norwegian National Insurance Scheme, cf. the National Insurance Act section 2-1. A person is deemed to be resident if his/her stay in Norway is intended or has lasted for at least 12 months. It is a condition that the person in question has a residence permit in Norway. Membership applies irrespective of the employee’s citizenship and the employer’s nationality.”
Of course, National Insurance Contributions are still included in my tax assessments so I am regarded as a tax resident of Norway, National Insurance Contributions are taken from me but I am entitled to nothing in return ... no regular doctor, no social security, no "dagpenger" (dole), "sykpenger" (sickness benefit) or even money to look after my son if he lives with me permanently.
The EFTA Surveillance Authority ruled Norway's administration of benefits to foreign workers illegal in this 2011 ruling 
Since then I have kept my presence in Norway legal by not being here more than 3 months at a time
After my unsuccessful attempt to renew my residence permit, I was obliged to sign off the Norwegian "folkregister" turning the only house I owned into my "holiday home" as far as the Norwegian state was concerned.. I then spent years trying to deal with the tax implications of running a business from "a holiday home" (not necessarily legal)
440,000-+ Norwegian Krones (about £50,000) worth of taxes deducted from my gross turnover (30%) paid to Norway between 1989 and 1997 were awarded ZERO pension points. Bear this in mind if you're thinking of being self-employed in Norway. 30% of your GROSS turnover ... not your wages or income AFTER EXPENSES.
Just after that, my application for a tax card was refused because I didn't live in Norway. This put me onto a special tax regime for foreign workers where taxes were deducted at source even though I still "lived" in between contracts with my son at my Norwegian house on what I'd managed to save.
In 2009 I was one of about 20 foreign workers  working in Norway through a Norwegian firm based in Sarpsborg called Elite Music run by Elise Høvik and her daughter Ywonne Skjønnhaug (also uses variations on that name .. "Yvonne" ).  The hotel in which I worked in April 2009 paid Elite Music the appropriate fees and Elite Music didn't pay me. The same thing happened for the May 2009 contract. It was then I contacted NAV (the Norwegian Social Security / benefits department with this email ....

"I have not been paid by Elite Music for work done at ***********  Hotels who say they have paid Elite Music. Elite Music's contracts say "Godkjent av Arbeidsdirektoratet".
It seems about 16 workers are owed about 1,000,000,00,- by Elite Music. Elite Music staff are now working at *******  Booking who have been appointed exclusive booking agents for workers into ********* Hotels.
I have a 10 year old son in Norway and have a bolig lan (mortgage) I have to pay every month as well as money to support my son who lives with his mother who is depressed and long term unemployed through sickness.
Can you help me and the other artistes get paid? We are all just getting deeper and deeper into debt."
This email was ignored. I re-sent it to them a year later .... this generally how things work in Norway ....

I visited the NAV office near to where I was working. They told me to contact the police in Ostfold (Sapsborg area) . This achieved nothing. 

By September 2009 I was owed a total of 100,000,- Norwegian Kroner and had been living in Norway by drawing money out of Norwegian cash points using a British credit card and using that to pay my maintainance (due even though my son chose to spend most of his time with me when I was "home")

By February 2010, I'd eventually got my hands on papers and deciphered them and forensically worked out Elite Music had been "creaming off" some of my tax deductions for years and doing the same with the other foreign artistes. This created an accounting nightmare since I couldn't produce a Norwegian tax return for 2007 until I had INCLUDED into my Norwegian tax return the expenses included in the invoices to Elite Music which they HADN'T declared to Skatteetaten.

I notified Skatt Vest of the months work in 2007 Elite Music had not declared to them and waa told it was too late to appeal against the tax assessment for 2007 (including National Insurance Contributions of course) they'd imposed on me. However, in November 2010, they sent me a letter (confidential) telling me how to manage the debris of the accounting chaos Elite Music had created with advice on how to fill in my tax returns for 2007, 2008 and 2009.

Not only can I not find any evidence of Elite Music or the people who ran the business being prosecuted for stealing foreign workers wages and taxes, I can't find any evidence of ANY Norwegian company being prosecuted for stealing foreign workers taxes and / or wages.

If you have any evidence of this, please send it.

I have never recovered from 2009's eventa which, of course, were ultimately set in motion by me being stupid enough to accept work on a Norwegian boat in 1999 which justified my residence permit not being renewed..

This is why I am about to lose my house as the fines and interest due for late or non submission of accounts combined with the loss of work to regular customers who themselves were obliged to use future budgets to deal with the trouble Elite Music caused for them .....has proved fatal to my business. My ex can live on benefits in Norway where there is no work forever. If I am not to abandon my Norwegian son to a depressed Mum and try and avoid being "an absent father", I have to keep a house where I have never worked to keep contact with him and try and live of what I've saved. The reality is, without access to any benefits, I've been living on money I should have saved to pay my restskatt and it's the tax department taking my house.

Of course, I don't have any right to live in Norway to collect what's left of my Norwegian pension anyway so I would have to leave soon anyway.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Why you shouldn't be a foreigner in Norway

This is similar to another post. I thought this one had been lost due to a PC failure ... if you read the other post and think this is too similar, sorry to waste your time .....

OK, let's simplify this ... apart from the fact that foreigners are rarely welcome unless they're tourists spending money (you're always going to be seen as a foreigner taking a native's job ... unless you are unique ... like Bruce Springsteen ...) how will you actually be administered, even somewhere like Norway.

1. You work in Norway and have national insurance contributions deducted from your income which entitles you to benefits when you are ill or out of work ... ahh, no ... not in Norway because ...

" . A person is deemed to be resident if his/her stay in Norway is intended or has lasted for at least 12 months. It is a condition that the person in question has a residence permit in Norway." ...

but what if you don't have a residence permit?

At the moment, you may not "need" a residence permit (EU - EAA citizens etc.) and are merely required to "register" ... if you apply for a residence permit because you are having national insurance contributions deducted from your earnings and don't have a residence permit .... you are paying into a scheme of which you cannot be a member. If you are merely "registered", are you classed as having a residence permit? Superficially, not being required to have a residence permit may seem a "bonus" and attractive ... you can just turn up in Norway, register and get a job cleaning dishes in a hotel ... but what happens if you ever need anything in return for you national insurance contributions?

After 23 years of paying tax in Norway, after my wages and tax deductions were stolen by a Norwegian firm (Elite Music, Sarpsborg) selling me to clients, I found myself broke, with my son living with me (his Norwegian Mum was particularly depressed) and with no work because the Norwegian companies I'd worked for had also lost most of their next year's budget because  of Elite Music. I got Social Security payments for about 6 weeks because my Norwegian son needed to be warm and fed. That's all I've had in 23 years of paying taxes here.

This is how Norway does it ... one department (Skatteetaten) takes the money from you or your employer takes taxes from your wages. If they don't pass it on to Skatteetaten, will they be prosecuted? Ask Skatteetaten ... don't take my word for it .... ask them who they have prosecuted for not passing on to Skatteetaten tax they have deducted .. ... go on ...

So, that's it ... special rules for non-Norwegians .... they're everywhere ... I can only assume if you think coming to work in Norway is a good idea you really haven't done your homework.

Why do you want to come to Norway? It's beautiful? You can come for a holiday .... you like the people (they ARE nice people) ... you can come for a holiday ...... like many other places, they can be friendly to foreigners but it's a delicate country and society in many ways and just one or two foreigners moving into a small community makes a difference and, of course, you're presuming the local government know how to administer foreigners trying to settle in Norway .... you might be the first they've seen ... they'll be more used to foreigners in the cities in Norway but can you afford to live there?

So you REALLY want to move to Norway?

You have to understand 1. Why do you have to read this here? 2. There must have been a lot of complaints from foreign workers in Norway denied benefits to trigger the EFTA Surveillance Authority's cases against Norway regarding the way the foreign workers' work, taxes, national insurance contributions and "residency" was being administered by the Norwegian State and 3. Norway can continue creating new rules that apply only to foreign workers that, even though they may ultimately be ruled "illegal" by the EFTA Court, will have served their purpose by helping Norway subsidise the cost of the 1.2 million Norwegians residents on some kind of benefit by taking national insurance contributions from foreign workers whol will be forever denied benefits.

First of all read this ..

then understand this ....

" . A person is deemed to be resident if his/her stay in Norway is intended or has lasted for at least 12 months. It is a condition that the person in question has a residence permit in Norway."

Now you may have already learned the UDI web site says if you are an EU / EAA citizen you "don't need" a residence permit and merely need to register so, if you apply for a residence permit, you'll be smilingly told "oh, you don't need one". Despite me having a son in Norway, my only house in Norway and most of my work in Norway, my application to RENEW my existing residence permit failed because my work took me out of Norway occasionally meaning I was in Norway less than three months at a time so I therefore didn't NEED a residence permit even though refusing to renew my residence permit stopped dead in its tracks any progress I'd made towards permamnent residence in the nation of which my son was a citizen but I wasn't.

Obviously, to merely assume that Norway could, even if it wanted to, assimilate you, as a foreign worker, into it's welfare, health, tax and civil systems is wildly unrealistic. If laws were merely being badly or wrongly interpreted by Norwegian civil servants, it might be another matter but looking at official Norwegian web sites and the ways the laws are drafted and worded shows quite clearly the intent and thinking behind them. 

So one part of the Norwegian government (Skatteetaten) takes tax and national insurance contributions from you ... or authorises your employer to do that then UDI makes sure you don't have a residence permit so you cannot be part of the Norwegian National Insurance Scheme ... (see above) and just to make sure, NAV has the rules mentioned by the EFTA Surveillance Authority ruling you should have read above ..

If your tax deductions are stolen, will the Norwegian firm that took your taxes and didn't pay them to Skatteetaten be prosecuted by Skatteetaten? Ask Skatteetaten for examples of Norwegian companies they have prosecuted for taking foreign (and Norwegian) workers' tax deductions and merely stuffing them into their pockets ... go on!!! ...... ask them here ...

So, if you think you're going to be protected by international or EU laws that forbid Norway from having rules that stop foreign workers getting benefits in return for the National Insurance Contributions deducted from their wages, think again ... even if the current rules are rescinded by the Norwegian State, other laws that can also ultimately be ruled illegal by the EFTA Survaillance Authority can be drafted which will take a few years of operation to generate complaints to the EFTA Surveillance Authority who will then spend a few years going through their procedures by which time yet more laws designed to serve the same function will exist and so it will go on ...

Now if you are refused benefits after the bar in Ibiza in which you have been working goes bust, you can sleep on the beach. When you're refused benefits and haven't been paid in Norway, where do you sleep, even in the height of summer, where, if you're lucky, you may wake up with hypothermia? Outside of summer, you may not wake up at all.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Stuff that doesn't reach the media

More to come .....

Thinking of moving to Norway? Here's my story ...

My story is incredibly convoluted and boring to this just taking a passing interest so, here’s my story in Norway as briefly as is workable.

I worked in Norway, legally, with work permits for 9 years, paying tax in Norway and obliged to stay out of Norway for 3 months each time I left the country. Then the rules changed and I worked in Norway for more than 6 months in a year and an attempt was made to move me off the foreign workers’ tax scheme onto the main tax regime for Norwegian citizens and residents. That failed when Trondheim kommune simply refused to accept me as a resident. By this time, I had a tax card and had met a Norwegian girl and we’d bought a house in the Norwegian countryside (it was affordable), I got a residence permit, registered myself as a business, still had a tax card and was still moving things over to Norway from the UK so I may not have been in Norway for more than 3 months at a time.

The next year started with me flying to Bodo north of the Arctic Circle to work the day my son was born in Norway. The label on the suitcase of receipts from the previous year I’d mailed to myself in Bodo (I needed to work on my tax return) came off before it had travelled far from my “home” and was returned back to the sending post office. They phoned “home” to tell me it had been returned but the house was empty as my girlfriend was still in hospital with my son. The local post office then remembered I was working in Tromso and sent the suitcase there.

I’d given up having my post forwarded by the post office since it seemed it wasn’t anyones’ job at the local post office to attend to such things and what after a month’s worth of post had been forwarded to the very disorganised place I’d just left, I never had my post forwarded by the Norwegian post office again (they also “lost” another suitcase about four months previous to the one going to Bodo). It seemed the routine was to ignore the forwarding instructions for a month then realise the post should have been forwarded, panic, send the post without looking at the date forwarding was supposed to end and decide it was best to just leave it in the postboks. Even if post DID reach where I was working, it then had to run the gauntlet of perhaps well meaning bosses who would collect post for me but, before they could give it to me, end up going out for a night on the tiles and forgetting they ever collected my post. On a couple of occasions, I was in bosses’ offices and recognised the envelopes my Mum in the UK used to forward post amongst a pile of papers and would ask if that was post for me. They usually say “no” and have look and say “oh, it is! How did that get there?”

The problem with owning a house where it transpired there was no work for me and no business renting out to tourists is that, even though national insurance contributions were included in my tax bill, I wasn’t entitled to unemployment or social security so I had to keep working and that meant travelling further and further away from the house.

February, a month or so after my son was born, my residence permit was due for renewal. I filled out the form enclosing the only contracts I had showing how I was going to support myself in Norway. These were three contracts on a Norwegian registered boat covering 68 days. As usual, all the contracts for the land based jobs covering 146 days arrived after the application was sent. April came and there was no reply to my residence permit application and I was aware I may have been “living” in Norway illegally and I signed off the folkregister. The application to renew my residence permit was refused on the grounds that I didn’t need one since I wasn’t in Norway more than three months at a time. My work and circumstances didn’t change for the next 14 years so I kept my time in Norway legal by not being in the country for more than three months at a time yet somehow juggling being a Dad with having no work where my son and girlfriend lived.

This didn’t actually do the relationship with my girlfriend much good. She became depressed and went onto high doses of anti-depressants (50% of all Norwegians will suffer from depression and / or anxiety) and eventually we broke up but she, being Norwegian could carry on living in the middle of nowhere in Norway as a sick single mother on welfare benefits. I now had to :-

  1. Not be in Norway more than 3 months at a time
  2. Work more to cover the cost of paying a mortgage on my own
  3. Pay child benefit
  4. Somehow manage to find time and money to be “home” and have shared custody of my son living on “savings” since I had no entitlement to social security or unemployment benefits

I was blissfully unaware at this time that £50,000 worth of tax deducted from my wages had not been awarded any pension points in Norway and that a Norwegian company had been deducting taxes from my wages and only paying some of them to Skatteetaten. As far as I know, the people running Elite Music, Sarpsborg, Ywonne Biering Diana Skjønnhaug and her mother Elise Høvik were never prosecuted but the consequences of their “administration” of foreign workers taxes has been disastrous.

In my own case, since I’d signed off the folkregister when my un-renewed residence permit expired, I wasn’t registered as “living” in Norway and was on a foreigners’ tax schedule, all my mail was going to a PO Box in the UK I had kept after I “moved” to Norway. Mail from that PO Box went to my 80 year old Mum in the UK who did a much better job of forwarding mail to me than the Norwegian post office ever did.  She forwarded post to the postboks I had in Norway which I eventually collected when I went back “home” to my house in Norway to enjoyed some of my shared custody of my son.

The Norwegian tax return is, of course, designed for people who “live” in Norway. Since my residence permit renewal had been refused, I hadn’t had any idea where I had “lived”. The only thing I knew was that I owned a house in Norway, worked there, paid taxes there, had a son there but had a British passport and wasn’t supposed to be in Norway more than three months at a time (as an EU citizen, I was at least entitled to that).

The Norwegian Tax return asked me to enter the km travelled between “home” and work. Work was rarely the same place more than twice in a year and keeping in Norway less than three months at a time meant I sometimes went to jobs in Norway from the UK after one of my scheduled trips out of Norway to avoid being there illegally. This made me worry my distance calculations might be challenged as being fraudulent but, quite apart from that, since “travel expenses” were included in the invoices I sent to Elite Music, until I knew which months of work in Norway Elite Music had declared to Skatteetaten, I couldn’t know which travel expenses to declare and which to exclude.

About a year after I’d told Skatt Vest to send paperwork regarding my taxes to the postboks in Norway, papers where still being sent to the UK (I had to keep on paying for the PO Box in the UK just to make sure I didn’t miss any post from Skatt Vest, it was the only post arriving in it) and that included the papers showing what tax and work HAD been declared to Skatteetaten / Skatt Vest and what taxes HAD been paid to them. In February 2010 I finally managed to understand these papers and wrote and email to Skatt Vest (in which I told them I was travelling that day 7 hours away from my postboks to work) saying I had found details of the months Elite Music hadn’t declared and paid tax on enabling me to know which travel expenses could be entered on the 2007 tax return. They replied by letter to my postboks whilst I was in Sandefjord telling me I had three days to appeal against the 2007 tax assessment AT MY LOCAL OFFICE (where on earth was that? I didn’t even “live” in Norway?) and the Elite Music issue might be something I’d should bring up with the tax collector. 9 months later, I finally got a letter from Skatt Vest telling me how I should accommodate some of the chaos created by Elite Music in the 2007, 2008 and 2009 tax returns.

This chaos continued for years (and is still ongoing) and in the summer of 2010, I finally managed, when I was “home” to visit, 40 minutes away, my “local tax office” (Skatt Vest … I never work in the Skatt Vest area but I have to visit their offices .. I went into a Skatt Ost office and was told they couldn’t help me because I was a “Skatt Vest customer”) for advice on how to fill in my tax return for 2009 since I had no idea how much of the tax deducted from my wages by Elite Music had actually been paid to Skatt Vest. I was in the office for about 2 minutes whilst the receptionist told me they know nothing about foreign workers’ taxes and I needed to contact the office that had told me to contact my local tax office. I was literally being sent round in circles.

I am far from being alone in experiencing these problems. Over 20 foreign workers were unpaid by Elite Music in 2009 (including me … by September 2009 I was owed about £12,000 for work I’d done through Elite Music who had also been underdeclaring my work to Skatteetaten and not paying all taxes they’d deducted from me for a few years). On top of this, a neighbour who wanted to build a mini hydro electric plant had brought a case to “rationalise” the rights to water in the area which somehow involved me and produced kg of paperwork in legal Norwegian Nynorsk and Bokmal I couldn’t afford to have professionally translated and, the tax return asks if I have an income from water rights / hydro-electricity, a question to which I don’t know the answer until I get all the paper translated.

On top of this, every year, lightning fries my ADSL modem meaning I come “home”, collect my post then find I’m not online. I get online just as it’s time for me to go to work again. My house suffered water damage whilst I was away at work in 2009 and 2010 (20 months later, I am still waiting for the insurance company to organise someone to come and fix the open pipes to the septic tanks where toilets used to be. A snow plough drove through my broadband and phone intake one year then the next Hurricane Dagmar wrecked the telecommunications infrastructure so I am now dealing with a backlog of tax problems and a backlog of insurance cases on top of a load of paperwork surrounding the building of a hydro-electric plant I need to decipher.

A Norwegian could cite stress as a reason for taking a year off on benefits to plough through this stuff but, after paying tax to Norway for 23 years and owning a house here for 15, I’m still not even entitled to a regular doctor let alone any benefits even if I’m ill. Norwegian friends kindly suggest I’m of an age now where I should be going to see “my doctor” to get this and that checked. I’ve never had a doctor in Norway. I don’t say anything. I’d be wasting my breath. They can't do anything to change the system that governs my life here. I miss the UK!

I’m posting this “as is”. Sorry for any typos!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Getting English TV in Norway

You need a free to air satellite receiver, the best LNB you can get and a fairly large dish.

If you look at, you can see the footprints of satellites and the dish sizes needed to receive transmissions. Err on the side of better too big than too small. Too small may simply be a waste of time. The signal will be weak enough with a big dish overpowered by neighbouring satellites and will need careful adjustment. If you're handy with concrete or drilling into rock, fix your dish that way. Forget motorised systems. They're too prone to wear and tear. Set your dish up perfectly then set it in stone!

The dish needs to be pointed at 28.2 degrees east to get the transmissions from the cluster of Astra and Eurobird satellites there. When you have BBC World, Bloomberg and CNN, you're close (or pointing at the 19 degrees E Astras). Tune the satellite dish until the signal for these is as strong as possible then look for BBC1 (stronger than BBC2, 3 & 4). If you're getting shopping channels like paversshoes, you're also pretty well tuned in. You'll also get some free, mild porn or swingers / gay chat sites. It's a pain but if you have kids, spend a bit of time deleting these. It won't take long. If you don't, it's a bit like using the top shelf of a newsagents as a babysitter.

If you're into techy stuff and have the right gear (old PC with a serial port, right cable, popular receiver etc.) you can sometimes download firmware hacks and flash your receiver to get scrambled premium channels until codes change. I've only updated the firmware on my receivers to make them as up to date as possible so I know nothing about getting paid for channels.

Get a smaller dish pointing towards the Sirius and Thor sats to get Norwegian radio and SOME TV content.

In theory, if you're sick of Norwegian broadband venders, you could get your broadband from the UK via satellite, again, with a big enough dish.

If you want to watch BBC iPlayer outside of the UK, there's some buggy software that gives you a UK based IP address. I've tried it but thought it allowed too much garbage to come through the portal it opened in the firewall so I undinstalled it. I think it's called expatshield or something like that.

Good luck!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Norway, DNA, depression, anxiety and the best country in the world in which to live

I had a flash of lucidity last night, insight into life, Norway and everything (thank you Douglas Adams).

If statistics are to be believed, despite being “the best country in the world in which to live” 50% of Norway’s population will suffer from “depression” and / or “anxiety”. That could be regarded as a pointless piece of research since I reckon you can take any group of people anywhere and they will all have different degrees of anxiety about aspects of life but depression? What IS depression? I’m reluctant to give clinical psychiatric diagnoses of life’s inevitable ups and downs,

I see countries as being like people. I know very unhappy rich people and happy poor people. Maybe Norway’s apparent wealth has moved its perspective somewhere “strange”. Norway WAS the poorest country in Europe until oil was discovered there. Oil brought wealth and wealth brought ….. people who like money? People who are motivated by the pursuit of money which was, according to Jesus, the root of all evil? Not everyone can handle wealth.

Norway is undeniably pretty but Norwegians go for holidays or even choose to live in countries from which economic migrants seek new lives in Norway. Norwegians dream of the sun perhaps even seeing it as a cure for their “depression” whilst people from sunnier climes dream of a car, an apartment, healthcare, education for their kids in Norway even if their skills are average.

I wondered years ago about the alleged Norwegian tendency for depression as I have many years experience dealing with and reading about the use of venlafaxine hydrochloride (a psychiatric nurse told me I knew more about its contraindications than anyone she knew). I’m not in the medical business at all but had a deep personal interest in knowing what the implications venlafxine hydrochloride use and abuse might have on the life of my Norwegian son. There is the simple theory that Norwegian DNA has a tendency to be depressive because those Norwegians that weren’t depressed sailed away to sunnier climes thousands of years ago and new DNA wasn’t attracted to Norway until it became rich from oil, a pretty sad story really. Norway could be seen as the poor kid who became popular when they won the lotto attracting the “wrong kind of friends”.. It must be hard for any country or person to deal with the reality of sudden wealth but I’m struck by the slippery nature of wealth. Wealth needs “storing”, “protecting” and “tending”.

Everything is worth what you can get for it and trust is a commodity that seems to be dwindling faster than the west’s access to rare elements. When, for example, Norway “buys” Regent Street in London (or was it Bond Street?) it trusts the property will, in real terms at least hold its value (bearing in mind the migration of retailing to the internet, I’d have thought owning the Hindi, Mandarin, Hispanic and Portuguese net domain equivalents of “” or even “” would have more potential for growth).

There is no rule that having a lot of money is any prophylactic against future poverty. The world is full of people who have found their pensions didn’t buy them much in their old age since the west’s system of banking and money creation means currencies are constantly devaluing and inflation is a fact of life. If you are 18 years old now, you will sound like your grand-parents one day saying “£8 for a loaf of bread? The world’s gone mad”. Like a man smiling because his bowl has a few more grains of rice in it than the previous day, can Norwegians ever learn to be happy simply because it’s more fun deciding to be happy? Forget the money, the brand of clothes, the version of smartphone you have, the car you drive … how happy has any of this made you? … but if your concept of happiness has always been based on these things, conceiving of “another kind of happiness” may be impossible. Norwegians learning to be happy for no reason might be a good insurance policy for Norway’s oil fund losing its value.

So, to try and pull all these threads together, did those in Norway who were not depressed, who had the energy to leave, go with the Vikings as far as Corsica or to the US to Minnesota etc. leaving a pool of DNA with depressive tendencies behind? or, did the depressed leave, so fed up with the Norwegian climate? The 500,000 or so foreigners living in Norway now, what attracted them to Norway? Do they have any character traits that share common threads of DNA? If they were motivated by money to come to Norway, has Norway experienced its native depressive DNA being heavily mixed with “wealth seeking DNA”? Does this create a “tendency towards happiness”?

It’s this dichotomy I can’t work out. … if Norway really is “the best country in the world in which to live”, why ARE 50% of them depressed and anxious? Is it because they have something to lose? Their wealth? The poor have the luxury of an “happy-go-lucky-YOU-CAN’T-TAKE-IT-WITH-YOU” attitude and can be wildly happy for tiny triumphs whilst the already wealthy or hyper-ambitious need more substantial reasons to celebrate.

Personally, I don’t care where I am, what I’m doing or who I’m doing it with as long as I’m happy. My life has already been a triumph since I have a great son with whom I have a phenomenal relationship which will withstand the trials of separation as I seek somewhere outside of Norway (probably my native UK) where I will have permanent residency rights to grow old and settle. I also have a great love in my life with a girl I met years ago. For many good reasons we cannot be together but our love thrives despite the distance or the lack of prospects of us ever being together as if the love has its own life and owns us.

The Chinese say what you own eventually owns you and Norway’s wealth seems to have taken some of its inhabitants down a material cul-de-sac. Far better to be owned by a love that puts a smile on your face every day for free than the nice car you only think you can afford because the person who worked out the credit deal said you could.

Read “Thinking of Working Abroad?” by Warren Michael Davis. It may well vaccinate you against any latent desire you may have to leave your home town, nation, race, community and family to be a lone, lost soul fighting a bureaucracy that was never designed with your interests as a priority.

Choose happiness!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Just been on the phone to the council where I come from in the UK to get on their council housing list. I can apply online apparently. If my son wants to live with me permanently (he's old enough to decide in 6 months), I have to get permanent right of residence somewhere and, as I think I have said before, I still don't have that in Norway and can't apply for another 4 years. I suppose there are many definitions of the word "visit" but the Norwegian State's definition of the word "visit" doesn't match mine. I have never been able to work out which part of the Norwegian State decided the only home on the planet I've ever owned is a "holiday home" which I merely "visit". This suggests I "live" somewhere else and my son is just visiting me at a house I own and visit. It also means my tax returns assume I am in Norway for about 6 months a year when I am, of course, in Norway for more than that and have been for the last 15 years. Since UDI refused to renew my residence permit 6 months after my son was born (because I didn't need one because my work took me out of Norway therefore I wasn't in Norway for more than three months at a time and as an EU citizen I could come and go between Norway and wherever freely as long as I didn't stay more than three months). You can spend 360 days a year in Norway but still not be in Norway for more than three months at a time.

Apparently I can wait 8 years to get a council flat in the UK.

It doesn't really matter what Norway's future is like, it's not my future. I have no right to die here but I AM struck by a few things regarding Norway.

Out of a population of 5 million, apparently 1.2 million are on some kind of benefit and 1.5 million are working. To me, that makes democracy a waste of time here. Turkeys don't vote for Christmas and people doing nicely out of a benefit system and civil servants working for one of the biggest and most expensive governments (pro rata) in the world will vote for whichever political party will look after them. It's a bit like "gerrymandering".

Many people seem to think Norway has a bottomless pit of money upon which it can draw and that reminds me of rich dynasties that have disappeared, empires that have crumbled and rich people who have lost everything. The most massive wealth can be spent if you go at it hard enough and if enough generations have lost the work ethic and / or not bothered to learn any skills they can sell to the rest of the world. The future is bleak. The illusion of "riches" merely encourages profligate behaviour and laziness. I can't help thinking Norway has got itself into a bit of mess. The productive foreigners have other places they can go, Norway's own potential for growth is doubtful unless it's built on ever increasing amounts of debt, foreign investment follows growth, should Norway invest its "oil fund" in Norway (risking overheating the economy) or where there is growth happening at an impressive rate abroad?

Wealth needs "storing", like energy, water, food. Weath can be stored in currency, resources .... I don't know how much of Norway's wealth is stored in ways that are sustainable. If Norway is buying bonds paying 5% interest over 10 years issued by governments controlling currencies that are declining in value by 15% over 10 years, that's not a great way to store wealth but what are the alternatives?

Like someone who thinks they have put enough money aside for their old age and discovers their pension is paid in a currency that has lost its value, Norway may find its oil fund isn't as much of a prophylactic against poverty as it imagined especially if extreme weather gives the country's infrastructure a sever kicking with greater frequency.

Monday, July 9, 2012

I realised someone in my position can't get on the council housing list in the UK too early so after I've got my son fed and watered I'll get some letters off to the UK.

My son's been a bit quiet. He can't help overhearing the shouting matches I've been having with DnB Insurance. Everyone seems to be on holiday so getting hold of a lawyer is a farce. A holiday. Imagine that. I can't.

Since I tried settling in Norway my routine has been trying to stay in work in Norway enough to pay for this house whilst not been in Norway too much to be here illegally but since my Norwegian ex was depressed for years, I would come back here, dump some things then take my son to the UK to see my family and give my ex a rest and leave Norway re-setting my "can't-be-in-Norway-more-than-three-months-at-a-time-meter", My son and I would then come back to Norway, I'd dump him with his Mum and go off to work again. I wasn't entitled to any benefits between work contracts anyway.

Finding the £50,000 worth of tax deductions were awarded no pension points was a blow. I don't want to repeat myself but after paying tax here for 23 years, my plan is to leave. Once a country has proved you're never going to be "one of them" you only have a small amount of time to re-establish yourself in your native land where you can collect what there is of your Norwegian pension and claim a pensioner's council flat and social security can lead.

After having your wages and taxes stolen in Norway ( Elite Music, Sarpsborg) and no pension points awarded for £50,000 worth of taxes deducted from your gross turnover, paying taxes there for 23 years without ever being entitled to unemployment or sickness benefit or a regular doctor, you risk ending up over 50 years old, like me, owning a house in Norway, having a son in Norway but having no permanent right to residency being very tired deciding to dismantle the home you share with you're Norwegian son rather than have it repossessed and sold for nothing leaving your son with nothing to inherit. Not a nice decision to make especially when your insurance company is still "talking about" about fixing your house 18 months after it froze in Norway's coldest November ever whilst you were on one of "must not stay in Norway more than 3 months" jobs on a ship.

Friday, July 6, 2012

... not to mention dealing with extreme weather here

I haven’t even mentioned the problems I’ve had with DnB Insurance. How do you run a guest house when, 18 months after the damage was reported to DnB insurance, what toilets still work need to be filled with buckets and where there used to be toilets with an s bend keeping the smell from the septic tanks from entering the house there are only now pipes leading to the septic tanks stinking out the house in the warm summer meaning, even when they’re muck spreading nearby, when you open the window, flies, fly IN to your house, not out of it?

I should point out this is the first time I have claimed on any insurance policy since I was knocked off my bike when I was 17, 34 years ago.

In December 2010, I returned to my house to find the whole house frozen from the coldest November on record in Norway (the extreme weather experiences nearly everywhere is something anyone thinking of moving to Norway should consider, more of that later).

As I got the house up to a habitable warmth, leaks appeared and there was some water damage. I dealt with the immediate emergencies and reported the damage to DnB insurance. After a while (there were a LOT of houses with similar problems) an assessor came to the house and stayed for 5 minutes, a plumber came a few weeks later and assessed the damage, I waited for details of when the repairs could take place, made a few calls, sent a few texts, heard nothing. messages, texts and emails were ignored. Eventually, in September 2011, 6 months after the plumber had been to look at the damage, I got an email from the case handler who said he was waiting for a report from the plumber. My reply to the case handler got no reply but was bounced. It seems it was one of last emails he sent before he left DnB insurance. The bounced email suggested I send the message again to (or something like that). I did this and got no reply. I took a job working on a boat in December 2011 and phoned DnB from there telling them I was getting sick of being ignored and wanted an email from the case handler explaining what they were going to do. There was no point in calling me since there was no mobile signal in my cabin aboard the boat. I heard nothing (typical of DnB incurance's reluctance to reply to you at all let alone put anything in writing). Eventually DnB insurance gave the case (which HAD been "lost") to a new case handler who promptly went on "father's leave".

In 2012, the whole charade started again with the same assessor ordering the same plumber to come and assess the same damage they’d assessed a year earlier. In May 2012 a plumber came with 3 new toilets. Three broken toilets were removed, one was replaced, two not, leaving two open pipes leaking air from the septic tanks into the house. The whole house has lower water pressure meaning the one toilet that DID, over time, refill itself now needs filling exclusively using buckets of water. There IS HOT water in the kitchen now so I don’t have to carry THAT in buckets into the kitchen as was the case for 15 months and I now know the dish washer wasn’t wrecked by the extreme cold (though I’m not sure if I’m damaging it running it on low water pressure and still handwash). I also have taken away the garden hose run from the cellar up the stairs through which water entered the washing machine (on a good day). That’s progress but living like this is exhausting and time consuming.

So, I’m camping in my own house facing my second summer with no income from renting rooms to tourists. Thank god I have a normal 13 year old son who hates showers as much as he hates Hotel Caesar! He’s still happy to come here but obviously, I'd like it to be nicer for him and am scared he won't want to come as much.

It was the same plumber who came to re-assess exactly the same unrepaired damage a year later who said the report had been sent to DnB April the previous year. In may 2012. just over a year after the plumber first came to look at the damage, a plumber came and got hot water into the kitchen again and removed the broken toilets whilst fitting one of the replacements. 18 months later, I have holes into the ground where there should be toilets with an s bend stopping the smell from the septic tanks coming into the house.

The extreme weather bit. You’ve seen what the UK is like with extreme weather. Norway’s already extreme climate is now even more so. The winter of 2009 was the coldest on record. The water used to drive the hydroelectric plants was frozen so electricity was expensive. This is one problem you can’t mitigate for. Very cold weather needs heat which needs wood burning or electric heating. The colder it is, the more heat you need, the more demand, the higher the price per Kw produced by less water as more of it is ice.

2010 had the coldest November on record. A month that is normally not that bad became a very early cold snap. There has also been record snowfall and for many people with flat roofs, keeping the roofs free from snow became a daily job. A neighbour’s workshop roof collapsed and many other people had similar problems. On top of the roof clearing, there was also the issue of being offline after a snow-plough drove through the broadband and phone connection by the road. There was no sign of it under the huge amount of snow that was being cleared around the clock. Around twice a year or more you can expect to have the broadband cut off due to events such as these or strange ice on the wires, poles being flattened etc. or having your modem fried when the power goes off momentarily then comes back on with a vengeance. Printers last about 2 years in such conditions and if the electricity goes off whilst your desktop PC utilities are defragging the hard drives over night when you’re asleep, you find you spend days becoming a data recovery expert.

In December 2011, Hurricane Dagmar caused even more damage locally. Electricity was off for days, I had no broadband for about 3 weeks then went away to work for about 18 days. When I came back I had broadband but the reality is the amount of time you have, at "home" with a functioning PC, electricity to drive it, broadband to connect it to, an ADSL modem that hasn't been fried, a wifi that works and all the servers on all the web sites are also online and not down because of natural disasters makes trying to run any business in the provinces of Norway a farce and, of course, with Oslo being one of the most expensive cities in the world in which to live, the provinces may be the only place in Norway someone from the UK could afford to settle bearing in mind how badly their Sterling is performing against the Norwegian kroner.

Norway's beautiful, the weather is dramatic, the people are marvellous but, only for quite a small minority of foreigners does trying to settle here make any sense. It's a shame but that's the way it is. Anyway, if you have enough "get up and go" to contemplate coming to Norway, stay where you are. Your own country needs you!!

Sorry if this post is a bit disjointed. I'm not in the mood to proof read it. Maybe when I'm less stressed.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

I've repeated myself a bit here. Sorry for that. I'm mentally exhausted.

The house goes on the market with more gusto today. It has been for sale for a while now but not in the hands of a professional seller. Better to sell than have it repossessed. I'm not well, have no right to a regular doctor in Norway, no right to social security, had my taxes and £12,000 wages stolen by Norwegian employers (Elite Music, Sarpsborg) and been obliged to pay the taxes again which, of course you can't do from wages you haven't been paid and I never recovered from having to pay my child maintainence in Norway and mortgage and live with my son between contracts by drawing cash out of Norwegian mini banks.

Please don't come to Norway to live for more than 3 months a year. it will wreck your life as it has wrecked mine and others.

For now, I'll try an enjoy my last days in Norway with my son, eat myself well (living on bean and lentil sprouts but bought some food yesterday for my son) I know how precious the great memories my Mum in the UK gave me and I want him to have some too.

Despite everything, I'm lucky. My son will soon be old enough to decide who he wants to live with and I can make a life for us in the UK where we will both have residence rights whereas in Norway, even though I've worked and paid tax in Norway for 23 years, it will be another four and a half years until I can even apply for permanent residency and I can't go on like this more than a feww weeks.

I've tried to get the Sivilombudsman to create some leverage with Skattvest and NAV but that was a waste if time with Skattvest merely saying they never received the critical, unanswered fax I sent them in 2008 (I have the original safe of course, I'm not going to send that as evidence though I attached a scan) so like every other unanswered fax, letter and email, if skattvest are merely going to say 2we have no record of ever receiving this", it's another waste of time.

From thinking of moving abroad by Warren Davis.

" ...... This only came to light when the company (Elite Music, Sarpsborg) went bust owing a load of foreign workers their wages. Some of the workers returned to places like Bulgaria, heavily in debt, having been paid no money at all after, at their known expense, traveling to Norway, working for three months, not being paid and having to borrow the money to get back to Bulgaria from where they had to try and chase the money they were owed and explain to the Norwegian tax authorities why they couldn’t afford to pay the tax demanded, plus interest and fines, in letters that greeted them when they got home on wages they’d never been paid anyway. They then had to find the money to pay for international phone calls to call the Norwegian tax office who could easily take an hour to answer their phone and a year to answer emails and letters”.

“I also discovered around this time about 440000+ Norwegian Kroner worth of taxes I’d paid hadn’t qualified for any pension points in Norway contrary to what I had believed."

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Hmm .... how to conjure up something tasty out of nothing?

My son wants to come to me next week, I have loads of stuff advertised for sale, nothing's selling, no work, no entitlement to social security or unemployment benefit, no money, can only just feed myself (thank god for chickens making grass into eggs) ... what can I make out of what's in the cupboards that he'll think is worth being here for?

Monday, June 25, 2012

If this is what Norway's like ....?

I've been working in Norway for well over 20 years. I've had a house and a son here for well over 10 years yet only had a residence permit for 1 year. The renewal of the residence permit was refused just after my son was born (in Norway to a Norwegian mother) because I'd done 68 days of work on a Norwegian registered boat sailing out of Norway and wasn't in Norway for more than 3 months at a time and therefore didn't "need" a residence permit. I keep my presence in Norway legal by taking work outside of Norway, making sure I am not in Norway more than three months at a time returning to my house in Norway where I stay with my son until it's time to go and work again.

When I first came to Norway in the 80s, I was paying £1,000 a month in tax and believed that was going towards a Norwegian pension. Eventually I learned none of about £50,000 worth of tax deductions had been awarded "pension points". As I'd also recently discovered a Norwegian company administering my wages had not been passing on to the Norwegian tax authorities all the tax they had been deducting from my wages (a practise not untypical in Norway for foreign workers) I wondered if the tax that had been deducted at source earlier in my career in Noreway had been paid to the tax collecting authority and emailed them ... I got no reply, I waited a month, emailed them again, I got no reply so I phoned them and was put through to a woman who listened to my story and said "right, so you've imported a car?" ... I continued emailing and then, almost exactly a year after my first email, I got a reply and about 10 days after that, I got details of the taxes that HAD been paid to the Norwegian state by my Norwegian employers. I haven't had time to check yet to see if any was "stolen"

Not content with "losing" my tax deductions, it was about this time the Norwegian tax authorities started taking an interest in the tax regime the employers were using to "lose" my tax deductions (and those of many other foreign workers with whom I have had contact) and the employer "lost" my wages as well and went "bust" later on.

I'd first tried to claim social security in Norway when my Norwegian girlfriend was pregnant so I could avoid going away to work leaving her isolated. Despite paying Norwegian National Insurance contributions, I was apparently entitled to no support nor unemployment benefit. Nothing. When my wages weren't paid, I asked again if I could have any help. This was refused again and I lived by drawing cash out of Norwegian minibanks using UK credit cards. The Norwegian tax authorities then asked me to pay again the taxes that had been stolen.

At the moment, I am obliged to pay tax to Norway on wages I earn outside of Norway yet have no right to permanent residence, no right to a regular doctor, no right to social security and owe the tax authorities about £20,000 for back taxes plus fines and interest on what was "lost" by the Norwegian employer (who, as far as I know has not been prosecuted and still lives in their nice house) since my son and I have been living on whatever I have managed to save from contracts.

Amazingly enough, I know other foreign workers who have come to Norway and have had a far worse time than I.

Countries with high taxes (I receive tax demands for 45% of my gross turnover in Norway) only make sense if they go towards a welfare system to which you have access so that if the taxes make you poor, the welfare system makes you less poor by giving back to you some of what you have paid in taxes ... or even more. I found this link on another blog about living in Norway

If you have no desire to settle in Norway and will not be working there for enough time for the Norwegian authorities to claim you "live" there, it's a nice country with fine people that needs "migrant workers". However, their system is designed to make sure you remain a "migrant worker".

Having a house in Norway, even if it's the only house you have and it's your home, does not entitle you to a residence permit. Having a child in Norway that lives with you in your Norwegian home doesn't entitle you to a residence permit. Paying tax in Norway and National Insurance Contributions doesn't entitle you to a residence permit and, in my experience, any children you have in Norway will only inherit from you debt and a tendency to be bullied at school because their father isn't Norwegian ... and that's coming from a white Caucasian male with only British ancestry going back 4 generations.

Feel free to ask questions. I'm busy trying to build a future for my son and I outside of Norway but will answer what I can when I can.

My main advice for now is don't even think of coming to work in Norway because ...

1. There is a high chance your wages will be stolen. I'm far from the only foreign worker I know who has had their wages stolen. People can offer you great contracts worth a lot of money if they have no intention of paying you anyway. Having a contract is no guarantee you will be paid. It is only a guarantee you will probably feel legally obliged to complete the contract and, when you're not paid, be unable to afford lawyers and accountants to a) get paid and b) deal with demands for tax on the money you were never paid in the first place. Work it out ... you pay to get to Norway, you work, don't get paid, go home, find a tax demand and then have to hire people, from abroad, to sort the mess out for you. If you think that's progress, you must be desperate.

2. There is a high chance tax deducted from your wages, if you're paid at all, will not be paid to the tax authorities. This will generate demands for tax plus interest plus fines you will have to try and fix from abroad at huge expense.

3. If you are not paid, how will you get "home"? What rights will you have lost by working abroad? As you will see from the link above, Norway (and other countries) try and avoid supporting foreign workers financially even if their laws are illegal. Countries do this because ... they can .... and no-one can really stop them.

Stories about foreign workers' problems don't sell newspapers as well as celebrity gossip which is why you have to read about this here and Norway isn't exactly going to make itself popular by collecting data on the number of foreign workers' corpses scraped off the frozen streets every winter.

Look at it this way ... where YOU come from, foreign workers tend to do jobs the natives don't want. Right? They're treated badly yet blamed by the lazy and unemployed for taking jobs they never intended doing in the first place because their life in benefits is better than they'd have ... for examply, picking potatoes, packing salad, cleaning government offices, working in abbatoirs ...

The smart thing is to stay where you are and either work your way up the social ladder, MARRY your way up the social ladder or scam the welfare system knowing it's subsidised by foreign workers who pay into the national insurance system that supports you but from which they can't claim any support.

humans are still territorial, tribal and primitive. Stick with your own class, clan, trive, ethnic minority .... where you belong. There is strength in numbers and it's better to play at "home" than permanently away, on your own deprived of help from family, friends and the community that surrounds you now.