Before anything, gender equality reaches out to drunkenness in Norway. So don’t expect Norwegian women to drink a little and leave all the fun to the men. The French saying “A bottle of alcohol is ugly in the hands of a woman” probably never existed here. Everyone gets wasted. So when I say “Norwegian” I mean women AND men.
The first thing you can expect from a drunk Norwegian is sudden happiness and an ease to socialize. Once I overheard a Norwegian who had just arrived in a party say “Oh damn I don’t know anyone here, I need to get drunk fast”. That says it all: quite uncomfortable in any kind of social situation which doesn’t involve people they’ve known since kindergarden, alcohol gives most Norwegian the power to chat freely with strangers without any internal boundaries. I am not saying Norwegians are anti-social, of course when they win in the Winter Olympics or on 17th of May it’s another story.
The second thing you can expect from a drunk Norwegian is promiscuity often leading to sex. Wait a second I didn’t say Norwegians are promiscuous, not anywhere any time, but on a Friday or Saturday evening in bars, or in julebordet, or in after-ski parties: if you wait until alcohol level gets high enough, making-out and sex are likely to happen a lot. Between colleagues, friends, people who’ve never met each other and haven’t exchanged a single word. It’s called “Norwegian seduction”. Note that an alcohol-free version of Norwegian seduction is also possible, through internet dating. I don’t really understand how Norwegians, who tend to avoid any kind of awkward social situation, can wake up naked with someone they haven’t shared their name with, but it still happens a lot.
The third thing you can expect from a drunk Norwegian is emotion sharing and sudden intimacy. Also not very likely to happen in everyday life in Norway. Suddenly a colleague who never even says “hello” starts sharing life secrets and emotions about his/her divorce, or gives huge declarations of love or friendship. Do not expect any of this to survive the night: The next day the same Norwegian sobered up will not start saying hi or make any mention of whatever he or she said during what you thought was a great moment of connection and intimacy. Haha and you thought you had made a new friend.
In the end, as a foreigner (unless you are Finnish, then Norwegian seem extravert even when sober), the difference of personality between sober and drunk Norwegians is confusing. First because in a lot of non-Nordic cultures people feel comfortable enough in social settings for not having to get drunk. We look forward to meeting strangers as they are potential new friends. Norwegians usually assume French, Spanish or Italians are already drunk when they meet them as they talk to everyone in a party, when in reality they drank one glass of wine and ate a few peanuts. It is therefore hard for us to imagine that others need a lot of alcohol to ease up (believe it or not, we don’t).
Second, the Norwegian code saying that “what happens in Julebordet stays in Julebordet”, or in general terms “whatever happens when we are drunk is not to be spoken about” is very difficult to understand and follow. If I meet the guy who spent an hour telling me about his break-up and how sad he feels the day after the party I want to give him a big hug. But he will just ignore me, run away from me in the tbane and hope I don’t remember anything he said. This leads to many misunderstandings when we, foreigners, think we really bonded with someone and made a new Norwegian friend when actually not at all.
But hey, sometimes one needs to chose between cultural integration and social life in Norway vs. a healthy liver. So you might as well embrace it all and start binge drinking. Find a Norwegian coach, buy lots of condoms, learn Østlandsk after-party amnesia, and have fun!
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