This has been hanging over my head for months, and it’s caused a great deal of pessimism and anxiety in the past few weeks while I’ve been preparing. Now thankfully it’s over, and I couldn’t be more relieved.
I normally make good use of Oslo’s public transit system, so I don’t have any real need for a driver’s license at this point, but Norway lets you exchange a valid Canadian license for a Norwegian one just by taking a road test, as long as you do it within one year of becoming a resident in Norway. I procrastinated and came very close to missing that deadline. I finally got my butt in gear after a sinister warning from a fellow Canadian I met on a bus. He had been here for six years, and all he could say was “Get your driver’s license.” He missed the deadline and never ended up getting it.
After one year, you can still exchange the Canadian license but then must also take some special courses such as first aid and winter driving. After two years, the Canadian license is no longer valid and you’d have to start out as a brand new driver, which is what had happened to the guy on the bus. Norway’s public transit system is quite good and well developed from what I’ve seen, especially compared to home where the infrastructure is entirely planned around everyone having their own vehicle (yet the government still insists that driving is a privilege, not a right). It would be doable to go without a license here, but it is definitely something I want to at least have the option for in the future, and it will be helpful for my job as well. It will also be great to finally have legitimate Norwegian ID instead of carrying around my passport, residence permit, and tax card just in case.
Getting a driver’s license in Norway is not cheap. I ended up spending well over 8000 NOK ($1200 CAD) altogether, and this got me 2 driving lessons plus a 45 minute warm up just before the test, rental of a school car for the test, and various fees at the traffic station. I can’t imagine what I would have spent if I had to take actual courses too.
The whole experience though, was surprisingly pleasant. The people working in Statens vegvesen (the traffic office) are a whole lot nicer than most of the Service Ontario workers I’ve met for similar purposes, and my examiner was very friendly and relaxed as most Norwegians tend to be. We actually had a pretty enjoyable drive, with nice conversations even though I was shitting bricks nervous. The worst part was just waiting for the guy to come out at the beginning, after that it was very smooth and was over quickly.
I think this test was easier than the one in Ontario (although that might just be because this time I already know how to drive and just had to adapt to a slightly different set of rules). In Ontario, I remember having to parallel park, do a three point turn, and some other technical stuff. This exam was mostly just driving, and didn’t require any fancy parking or technical maneuvers. We just drove around in a few different areas, and backed in to two different parking spots and that was pretty much it.
We covered a couple of things that weren’t covered in my lessons (like where to place the safety triangle on the road if you have to pull over) and driving on twisted and narrow country roads, but common sense and previous driving experience were enough to get me through it without any negative feedback.
The examiner was concerned primarily about safety, which boils down to speed, staying aware of people and vehicles, placement of the vehicle (eg in roundabouts) and communication with other drivers. Those were much more important than how straight my parking was. I was fortunate to have had a great driving instructor who gave me a lot of pointers for things like this and prepared me for a much more challenging test than what it was in reality.
Overall I’m just really happy that this is finally over with! What a relief 🙂