The Definition of “Fun” for a Norwegian


You and I have fun while lying on a beach with friends, stuffing ourselves with chips in front of a movie or going to play curling. All of those things also enter the category “moro” (fun) for Norwegians, but there are so many other things which are fun for them and not at all for the rest of the world. This gap is striking when winter comes.

Example: do you find it fun to ski 45 kilometers while carrying a child behind you with a harnais attached to your waist? Do you think it is fun to go hiking and camping for three days when it is -10 degrees outside? No, when it is minus temperatures you want to stay in your bed, watch a movie, drink warm chocolate, and dream of that beach you’ll be lying on next summer. Many Norwegians on the other hand will come back from a week end where you did all these unhealthy things and tell you how beautiful the sunset was at 3pm from that amazing mountain. “Well it would have been beautiful at least if there hadn’t been that snow storm. And then (a story my colleague Torbjørn told me), I woke up at 4am because I was scared my kid had gone too cold, so I had to check his temperature under the ullundertøy. This week end was so much fun”. What? THAT is fun? And you even bring your kids to such crazy things? (Note to the reader: that is how the definition of fun is passed on to next generations).

But it isn’t just in the winter, the gap between fun for Norwegians and fun for others also expands to the summer. Example: Most people want more comfort in their holiday than in their real life: a swimming pool for example, or a beach down the road. Stuff you can’t afford in your real life or don’t exist where you live. Well, Norwegians, one of the richest nations of this world, like to go to their hytte where there is neither electricity nor running water. (Read more about this in Take me to your hytte part 1 and part 2). A summer with an average of 19 degrees and sun one day out of three will have been experienced as an amazing summer. Because it means they didn’t have to light themselves with a candle while playing cards all day waiting for the rain to go away. Not everyday at least.

Sometimes when a friend tells me about something fun or great they did, I feel like asking “Are you sure the right adjective here is “fun”?”. Because usually that involves a lot of physical effort as well as poor hygiene while, for example, going on a 10 day hiking tour with 3 underwear. I can’t stop wondering: what is the fun thing about having muscle pain for 3 days, sweating under the rain or waking up in the snow and having to make breakfast outside without losing your gloves.

There is only one word to it, I guess: nature (or friluftsliv as they would call it). The truth is, despite this slightly cynical blopost, the true fun for Norwegians is not linked to the muscle pain (although bragging about their sports exploits is always gratifying) or the lack of hygiene facilities in a hytte. It is all about enjoying nature, its beauty, its peacefulness and its purity: the water is cleaner, the air is purer and the noises of a bird waking you up is always nicer to the human ear than a big truck going backwards going Beeeepppp Beeeppppp.

So next time, try the nature and the muscle pain instead of the chips and the beach. I know, it takes more energy, but you’ll feel refreshed, a little more Norwegian, and it is so much, well yes, fun.

A Frog in the Fjord: One Year in Norway Book

11 thoughts on “The Definition of “Fun” for a Norwegian

  1. Well, “fun” as “sense of humour” seems not to be a universal concept. My American colleages also talked this days about “how fun” would be participate in a marathon in town while the air is so polluted and extremelly hot outside… Ah, and the still need to pay an inscription fee…

  2. I have to say I absolutely love your blog!!! It’s been an inspiration to start my own blog as well since I am also moving to Oslo in a few days 😀 Like you, I have been fascinated with some of the things I have seen and been told by Norwegians! Keep up the good work! I hope to read more posts!

  3. Hi,
    I really like your blog. Do you have a post about household budget and grocery shopping? We are moving to Norway in November and have a family of six. My husband is an engineer for Aker. I would like to get an idea of monthly expenses for groceries and household items. Could you possibly post your receipt and what typical grocery items cost, like bananas, apples, olive oil, lunchmeat, nuts, potatoes, chocolate, etc. We are all looking forward to the adventure.


    1. Dear Emily
      I haven’t written any post about household but I can already give you a couple of advice when shopping in Norway: 1-learn a little Norwegian language as some have bought things thinking for example it was pate when it was catfood. You will need some norwegian literacy to do your grocery. 2- prices vary from one shop to the other, sometimes for the exact same product. Kiwi and Rema 1000 and probably Rimi are cheaper than for example Meny.
      I guess it is by trying that you will learn, and you will get tips from people who have a family
      best of luck

    2. If he will be an Aker engineer that means he’ll make a lot of money, even in Norwegian standards, so you’ll be fine 🙂 At least if you are working too. Surviving on one pay (even if it’s high) in Norway is not easy or even adviceable, it basically robs you of any chance at a social life! “All” Norwegians work.

  4. I assume the temperatures are in Centigrade in your blog post here?

    I wouldn’t want to winter camp in -10 degrees C but I will say that CAnadians living in the prairies, would consider -10 degree C. winter temperatures to be mild. But in Vancouver, British Columbia (site of 2010 Winter Olympics), that’s just perfect (not too cold) for skiing and snowshoeing, etc.

    For Toronto same as Vancouver.

    Meanwhile here in Alberta we get -30 to -35 degree C. winter days at least several days per winter. (Sigh and that’s something no local considers “fun”.)

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