Christmas without butter?! Norway's perpetually uncertain butter supply
Is it Christmas without butter? Norway may offer lavish social benefits from universal healthcare to generous parental leave, but it doesn't have enough cows to produce enough butter.
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For example, to protect Norwegian cheese producers the government recently increased import taxes on foreign cheese by 277 percent. I guess I’ll be buying homegrown cheddar.Skip to next paragraph
Saleha Mohsin is an American journalist living in Norway with her British husband, Faisal, and their two-year-old son, Mazen. She grew up in Ohio and worked in London, where she wrote for the popular British tabloid The Daily Mirror and Businessweek. Her experiences as an expat living in Oslo are the basis of her Edge of the Arctic blog.
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But perhaps Norway has taken it too far. In the case of butter, the government was naively trying to rely only on its own farmers, whose cows have more snow than grass to graze on. It could easily get it from neighboring Denmark (a major exporter of butter) but Norway’s trade barriers not only make that difficult, but they also raise the price of domestic products. So what does everyone do? During the butter crisis last year they did some crazy things – like buying butter in online auctions for four times the price.
Besides that Norwegians do what they call a harry tur, or “trash trip,” to Sweden for cheaper groceries. The two countries share a border yet Sweden’s more relaxed business environment means that items are generally 40 percent cheaper. A growing trend amongst my budget-smart friends in Oslo is to make the one hour and 40 minute drive to a shopping center in Strömstad, Sweden. Last year Norwegians spent 11.5 billion kroner ($2 billion) on the other side of the border, according to Statistics Norway.
Clearly, locals aren’t happy with some of the drawbacks of protectionism.
My post, Norway’s dirty secret, provoked an insightful discussion in the comments section about socialism in Norway and I hope that conversation continues. Of course there are downsides to living here but they pale in comparison to the benefits. I don’t mind finding things out of stock from time to time (even if the reason is absurd), if it helps keep unemployment at 3 percent.
I’d still like my own cow though.
The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best family and parenting bloggers out there. Our contributing and guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor, and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. Saleha Mohsin blogs at Edge of the Arctic.