Annoying things (some) Norwegians do

A Frog in the Fjord: One Year in Norway Book


1. You know how some media say the biggest problem of the 21st century will be the lack of clean water? Norwegians usually let the water run for many long minutes before they take a glass of water from the tap because it has to be cold. Very cold, like glacier water temperature. While the rest of the world is saving drinking water Norwegians just want it at the right temperature.

2. Whatever achievement you managed to make yourself proud of (dived at 12 meters deep, skied for more than 10 km, swam 3 km) there will always be a Norwegian around to let you know he/she did double or triple that “achievement”, and repeats it every week. Janteloven says they can’t say they are better than everyone else so they find other ways to do exactly that: tell you how much better they are than you.

3. You are in the street/metro and recognise someone you know. Most Norwegians will pretend that haven’t seen you at all and will walk away while talking on their phone or suddenly shuffling something in their bag. It’s not that they don’t like you, they just don’t want to have to lose 5 minutes of their life pretending to be interested in whatever small talk you’ll have together. Yeah okay, they don’t like you.

4. Norwegians to whom you say you come from this or that country will politely ask you why you live in Norway and for how long. Then if you tell them how wonderful Norway is and why they will smile in content. They knew that already but they are glad you also noticed that their country is the best in the world.

5. No matter how bad a meal in a restaurant may be, Norwegians will never complain. Even if served a bowl of rotten vegetables, they will eat in pain and pay the 150 NOK or more the meal was supposed to be worth. French people on the other hand are known to complain in restaurants if the food is cold, or bad, or not at all what I ordered. If you, foreigner, want to complain, your Norwegian friends will want to hide under the table with shame. I mean you give me a glass of water back because it was too warm for your taste but you don’t complain when given really bad food. Why??

6. Have you ever had the strange feeling of getting out of a long tiring meeting and being told the conclusion of the meeting is that there will be another meeting? Welcome to working in Norway!

7. Spring has just started and we’ve had 3 days of sunshine. I am as white as an aspirine but somehow half the people I meet in the street are more tanned than me after a whole summer in the sun. How is it possible they got this tan just in the past 2 days? Norwegians need to show a perfect tan, all year long, even if that means taking pills that make them orange and get skin cancer in Syden.

8. Norwegians rarely get angry, in public at least. Instead they will send subtle signals that they disagree or are annoyed instead of saying it clearly. Exception of Northern Norwegians who are usually much more direct, of what I saw at least. It becomes very confusing for foreigners who are usually able to identify angry people by their yelling and angry faces. On a positive side though, this does make Norway one of the most peaceful countries on the planet.
9. Most of us were taught to save electricity by shutting lights when we leave a room, especially if we leave it for many hours. Not Norwegians: they basically always leave all lights on, even when they leave their office for the weekend or a long holiday. “This is not Versailles” would have said my dad: electricity costs money and it is energy. We save it, full stop. “But our energy is clean” is the answer you’ll get from Norwegians.

10. All Norwegians have been used to sleep outside as a baby. This means that as adults they sleep with windows open (whatever the temperature outside, yes including negative temperatures) and usually without heating in the room in order to feel the cold on their face while their body is feeling warm under the dune. Now this is fine, even proven to be healthy (that’s what they say at least). But for the rest of us who are not used to falling asleep by -2 degrees it’s very rough and the source of endless discussions with our loved one.

The most annoying ones are, in my eyes, what are called the “Bærumgutter”, i.e. rich kids who became spoilt adults. Sorry, it’s true: their water needs to be colder than anyone’s, they complain so much and so loud in restaurants just enough to make even French people ashamed, brag about whatever achievements they’ve had and which car they bought and sometimes don’t even let you pass with your bicycle because they are driving a super fast (and expensive, and flashy) car. So in the end, the most annoying Norwegians are the most “unorsk” of them. I hope that’s a consolation for all the Norwegians reading me 🙂 See here for information on the Wonderful things (most) Norwegians do.

P.S: As a note, it seems this applies mostly to Oslo and its Østlandet surroundings, and that in smaller cities or villages, in the North of Norway and other places people react completely differently to the situations described above.

69 thoughts on “Annoying things (some) Norwegians do

  1. You totally should call out the people who break the Jantelaw. It’s part of what makes the country a nice place. It also means that you have to brag indirectly which is always fun. You’re not great at something you’re just very not bad at it. 😉 Yes, that’s how you brag. Can you do X? I’m not bad at it = “I’m very competent at it, but I’m not going to say that I’m better than you, because I’m not trying to brag.”

    Then again, I’m from Bergen. (Imagine your country had a city that was the second largest, a port city that had traditionally traded more with the rest of the world than within it, and basically had their own culture and their own traditions, and would loudly tell everyone who didn’t like it to shove it. Especially when the students encounter the dreaded buekorps.)

    1. And they say that people from Bergen are the loudest in the country.

      Don’t take offense. Was born in Bergen myself. So according to my uncle, I’m half Norwegian and half Bergenese. 😉

  2. 3) It’s not that they don’t like you, but they don’t like or are not used to be running into people without preparation. Let’s face it, Norwegians are not clever at small talk, so when they need it they have to prepare. Besides, Norwegians while being alone they are doing stuff they are not proud of and when they run into people they know they feel like being caught. For instance, eating junk food. They may travel across the city to their favorite “gatekjøkken” to do their secret stuff. Running into you don’t feel good you can imagine. Specially when not being prepared for lying. There are thousands of things Norwegians do that they don’t want even their kjæreste to know. The best thing you can do is things like this: “I also have a crazy relative in this hospital I am embarrassed to know. Don’t you worry I won’t tell anybody.” Then the air is cleared for a conversation.

  3. This is pretty hilarious and accurate. About point 3 though, most likely they don’t dislike, it’s just extremely frightening to run into someone you know in public, and pretending to not have seen them is a somewhat accepted way of avoiding the horror of small talk (most people don’t take it very personal).

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