How a wish came true: Working as a general practitioner in Norway

For Maarten Theunissen from the Netherlands, the process of working as a general practitioner in Norway started with a meeting about Scandinavia organized by BKV. This is an easy opportunity to get acquainted with Norway and Sweden. Together with a group of fellow doctors, he listened carefully to how his wish could become reality.


And then it started
For a wish to become reality, several things must happen. BKV put Maarten in touch with Dignus Medical and one of the first steps was to provide two references. “And then it was a bit of a wait.” says Martin.

Learning the language
After the reference check was done, Maarten could get to work himself. He started with the free language course Dignus Medical offered. “Learning the language took approx. 13 months. You learn the language with a teacher through video calls and an online learning portal that explains Norwegian grammar step by step. I had 45-minute online lessons three times a week and took the online course by myself.” According to Maarten “Norwegian is not a very difficult language. The sentence structure is the same as in Dutch. I would describe Norwegian as a mix of English, German and Dutch. It is difficult at the beginning, because everything is new, but at a certain point you grow into it.”

“Of course, the best way to learn the language is when you have arrived in Norway and you have to speak Norwegian all day. The Norwegians all understand that you come from abroad. It’s no problem if you occasionally use an English word in between. They all really appreciate the fact that you even speak Norwegian!”

Land of Rules
Norway is a country of rules, Maarten found out. An application for anything in Norway often takes quite a long time, sometimes even several months. Like for instance his citizen registration, arranging the “fødselsnummer” (your Norwegian social security number) took two weeks. You can arrange this as soon as you live in Norway. It is smart to take this into account in advance since you need this number to open a bank account or for the identity card that is needed to be able to work.

A wish came true: Maarten is now working as a general practitioner in Norway.


With nice weather on the terraces!
Norwegians are social people; they are always up for a chat and like to tell you about their lives. “Currently I work near Mandal in the south of Norway. When the weather is nice outside, everyone goes out, the terraces are full, and you meet plenty of people during a walk,” explains Maarten. Social life is important to Norwegians. You are not expected to spend long hours at work – when it’s done it’s done and you go home to enjoy your afternoon and evening.

How it works
The Norwegian health care system is very similar to the Netherlands. The general practitioner in Norway has the same gatekeeper function as in the Netherlands. Patients in Norway come to the GP with similar complaints.

“The biggest difference is the workload. I now have 20 minutes per patient and my working day is from 8am to 3pm.” Another difference is that more procedures are performed in the clinic. Such as intravenous medication or removing of a melanoma. Reports of illness also go through the general practitioner instead of a company doctor.

“I work in Norway as an locum GP which is quite normal here. Ranging from a week to a year. Everything is possible. A subsequent observation is waiting for you. But you can also take a few weeks off in between.”

Tips from Martin:

  • Listen Norwegian radio. For example In the beginning you’ll understand 10%, but that increases quickly.
  • Watch 113 on NRK to improve your medical Norwegian. This is a show that follows the Norwegian ambulances/paramedics. You learn many medical terms and non-medical terms that are often used in daily life.
  • Plan plenty of time for everything. Like your medical registration, learning the language and requesting your personal number/social security.


This article was first published by Lizeke de Clerck – BKV

Dou you want to know more about your opportunities in Scandinavia? Please contact Head of Research Monica Salater at +47 479 74 104 or

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