illustration: Kristine Lauvrak

Weird things Norwegians do

En frosk i fjorden_FB
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Disclaimer: “Weird” does not mean “negative”, some of these strange things are very positive and should be exported to the rest of the world 🙂

1. You are telling a great story to your Norwegian friend/colleague. He or she will start making strange sounds: aspirations with the mouth as if they have the beginning of asthma. No panick, this just illustrate how interested they are in your story, and it means “yes, I agree, carry on with your story”. Nothing to be disturbed about.

2. As soon as Autumn comes, Norwegians enter some kind of telys hysteria, lighting them everywhere at any occasion. It is what I call the “endless need for koselig”, which I define as an inner summer that Norwegians create for themselves to feel like it’s warm all year long no matter the circumstances. (see How to make things Koselig)

3. Most Norwegians won’t mind spending 2 minutes sending an sms to bid for an apartment 300.000 NOK over the tagged price, but they will drive several hundred kilometers in a day to Sweden in order to buy a bottle of wine 50 NOK cheaper than what it would have costed in their own country.

4. Some people, especially from Trøndelag in my experience, will show massive enthusiasm and excitement by a simple “Det var bra”. That means anything you did, said or cooked was outstanding. True friendship and compassion can be shown by a single tap on the back. Love could be the lift of an eyebrow. Or the quiver of their moustache. Lift of an eyebrow + moving moustache + smile = I love you will you marry me.

5. Norwegians have great fish, potatoes, moose and reindeer meat as well as berries and many other fresh products from the mountains and the sea. However, on a Friday evening, the big night for eating something special with friends and family, they will prefer eating beans and corn from a can and minced meat; calling it Tacos.

6. Despite mostly speaking perfect English, most Norwegians have not understood that the question “How are you?” is simply a polite form of “hello”. After being asked “how are you?”, some Norwegians might actually start telling you how they really feel. That his wife left him and his dog just died.

7. Norwegians can complain about a lot of things in their country: bad roads, lack of cantines in Norwegian schools, the quality of the salmon industry in Norway, the oil money not being spent adequately and so have you. If you, as a foreigner, raise a single criticism against Norway, they will be shocked that you dare say their salmon is bad or their roads could be better. Wait a second, isn’t that what you just did? I was just agreeing with you!

8. Most Norwegians, including many doctors, generally believe that 90% of diseases can be cured with one or a combination of these three elements: physical exercise, Tran (codliver oil), and ibuprofen/paracetamol.

9. Memory is something tricky. In Norway there are rules about what is allowed to publicly remember: anything that happens between colleagues during julebordet (Christmas party), afterski party or seminars while we were all drunk is something everyone remembers but everyone pretends never happened.

10. Unlike in the rest of the world, Norwegians will leave you the keys to a remote little wooden hut and expect you to be honest, write down your name to receive the bill for the nights you stayed there and clean behind you for the next people coming. This is, I believe, the most marvellous strange thing Norwegians do and that I would like to create a movement called “honesty” that I will export to the entire world.

11. Someone you know just ignored you in the bus? Totally normal, this person is pretending they haven’t seen you/haven’t recognised you in order to avoid having to live through the awkwardness of talking to you for 3 minutes. Last night I saw someone I had met once and thought “No, I am a foreigner, only a Norwegian would ignore this guy”. Then followed 4 minutes of horrible awkward conversation which I just about survived with dignity, thinking next time I’ll look at my shoes and do like the rest of them.

12. It is called “Irish goodbye” but it could be renamed “Norwegian goodbye”. You are part of a group sitting in a pub, in a living room on any other social place having a good time. Suddenly someone disappears without saying goodbye and you might assume they went to the toilet/have a smoke. No they went home or to bed without saying goodbye. The question: were we THAT boring??

13. The black thing going down that man’s teeth is not a gum-disease, it is løssnus. Instead of smoking, Norwegians and Swedes use this pocket of tobacco they put under their upperlip, which also makes an unusual bump on one side of their mouth. Try kissing a man with løssnus! By the way I am not saying cigarette is better. Still gross but less weird because a bit more common in the non Scandinavian world.

14. What is the budget per family on sports equipment and clothing for every year? It seems to me anyone here starting from 6 years old has all the necessary equipment to go hiking in the mountain (gear for winter + summer), cycling, swimming, slalom skiing, langrenn skiing, running and sometimes klatring and other hobbies. Despite this stuff being very expensive some renew it every second year or every year. At that price no wonder some of these guys put on their full kondomdrakt to go pick up oatmeal from the store.

15. When planning to have a baby, Norwegians will not look at astrology like Chinese or Indians. They will try to make sure their baby is born before September 1st in order to get a secured spot in a kindergarten for their baby. My colleague even did some acupuncture in order to deliver her baby just before the due date for this matter.

The interesting thing here is that after a few years in Norway, the things that seemed strange at first become completely normal. I actually told my mum, who lives in South of France and who was worried for me as winter is coming in Norway, that there is “no dårlig vær, bare dårlig klær” (no bad weather, only bad clothing). And the first thing I do when arriving somewhere outside of Scandinavia is to worry about finding knekkebrød in the stores. Who knows, in a few years I might even start growing a moustache and move to Trøndelag. Everything is possible is our strange world!

This text was published in Norwegian in today’s VG: Kronikk: Nordmenns mange rariteter

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200 thoughts on “Weird things Norwegians do

  1. i am norwegian so those who know what this mean is norwegian Hei jeg heter Ruben bor på lade i trondheim og jeg liker å spille fotball og å spille video spill

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m Norwegian and this is spot on! Of course it’s generalizing and you are not supposed to take it personally. Also, this the perspective from a foreigner, actually her own perspective, and it is just different from yours. We Norwegians should maybe losen up a bit about ourselves by not taking everything so personally and maybe even smile a little while reading humorous pieces like this. She’s a brilliant writer and observer!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I agree completely with Kristin Jain. Felling hurt by reading this probably sa… No, I will not get into that. Dear Frog in the Fjord: I hope getting someone writing such angry comments as Domaas above dissuades you from blogging. I (being Norwegian) found it amusing, to-the-point, and an interesting piece of observation to read.

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    1. If you really were, you wouldn’t have shouted like this. Unless you still live like we did a couple of centuries ago, in farms scattered around the hillside of the fjords. Then you wouldn’t have power and would need to either row to the other side or shout at all means possible.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. It’s very true!!! But then again all countries have their stereotypes. I’m Norwegian and have been living in the U.K. and in Munich, Germany and man they have their own stereotypes as well. Funny thing is that you see these “odd” behavior only if you are a foreigner 😂😂😂😂

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  2. Having lived two years in Norway over 40 years ago as a student, it seems many of the idiosyncacies you mention have not changed which is why I love Norway and Norwegians – though perhaps Norwegians wouldn’t feel comfortable using the word “love” in such casual context.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I am norwegian and none of these things are true. To prove it; Hallo jeg heter Nils Lakseberg og bor i Norge. Jeg er født i Bergen og oppvokst der. I know that these things are lies and that these are racist to norwegians. I hope that the creator of this text revises it, and that these lies are removed. Since i am Norwegian, I do not wish for lies to be spread so people think we are dumb, weird or fall in love by raising our moustaches. LIES!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Love this. Remember when I was 17 and an exchange student in Australia I feared going to the shop for a while because the cashier would ask me “how are you”. It felt extremly intrusive like “what are you so interested in my personal life for” until I understood it was only a hello and the only answer expected was “fine thank you” and maybe “how are you” in return.

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  5. “How are you”-reply: “I am fine thank you. How are you?”

    The polite form of “hello” you are talking about is “How do you do” where a proper reply is simply “How do you do”.

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  6. I can relate to all your points in this post. my husband and i moved to Norway from the UK in august 2016, we have bought a farm in the western fjords . I have started writing a blog about our farming life in Norway. It was great to find yours which will help us learn more about the culture from a foreigners point of view.

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  7. Can someone please tell me what a kondomdrakt is? Ive google it. It seems to be aa super hero costume… but why would people go to the store dressed like a superhero… I dont understand.

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    1. Kondomdrakt – broken down: kondom = Condom, drakt = suit or clothing. Eg tight fitting clothing. I would think it translates into something like “a tight fitting sports outfit”.

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  8. Candles ( not telys) Panic (not panick) Canteens (not cantines).
    But otherwise it’s true enough. I think Norwegians will not walk after having had a drink. And they will have seatbelts on in bed. And always wear two and not do it at all.

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  9. @Kristin Jain. It’s not about me not having humour, it’s like of course I can laugh of stuff like Lilyhammer, because they hit the nail on the head with their stereotypes. But this isn’t correct for a huge part of the Norwegian population, therefore it’s not funny and gives the wrong impression to foreigners.

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  10. @Kristin Jain. If it’s supposed to be anywhere near funny it has to be more specific for some groups, because e.g. in the circle of friends I’ve been not saying goodbye would be completely unheard of, and people would be like “what’s wrong with that guy”. She also almost portrays herself as a researcher that researches Norwegians, and it seems impossible to me that she’s been here for a long time and have met a representative group of Norwegians. Norway is a country with huge cultural differences between the groups here. That’s something that’s proved e.g. by the fact that there are so many dialects, because historically people in the cities and villages had little contact because of all the fjords, mountains and hills. So there are huge differences between people in Norway. Even in Oslo there are gigantic differences between the eastside and westside when it comes to the most eastside-ish and westside-ish people. So it’s just silly to be that generalizing, even if some of these things have a little truth to them, it just gets to silly. So it actually doesn’t have any research or humour value at all, because it’s just wrong, so it’s not about me not having a sense of humour or any self-irony, it’s about this just being silly. And that bugs me.

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  11. Well, in Poland it’s called English exit, not Irish goodbye. I guess it’s connected to the II WW 😀 I’ve spent some time in Norway, and the way Norwegian children are being brought up is just… in Poland you teach children to be polite, and have respect for others, expecially the elders, to be a decent human being, to have a sense of responsibility, so I was really shocked when I saw how Norwegian children act like.

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  12. Alright I’ve decided to come back to this generalising, discriminating text. So, first of all, even though you (the author) meet some weird Norwegians, remember that we are very different, and some of these things you appear to have misunderstood. As endsgallery (great comment by the way) commented on before, you appear to not have been in Norway for a very long time, and you portray yourself as some kind of expert on us, but, as we can see through your text, you don’t understand most of what we do (even though you managed to get something right). So I’ll start dismantling what you said;

    1. What? I don’t know if you researched this on your asthmatic friend dying of boredom halfway into your “great story” once, and you managed to warp it into something positive, or something else, but Norwegians don’t do that. Like ever. That probably means that we have a lung disease or about to have an asthma attack.

    2. You clearly don’t understand this one. Some Norwegians (especially those living further north) come into what we call an autumn depression, which is because autumn is Norway is just rain, no holidays really, and is quite mundane. I know several people who have this (as its autumn here now), and the telys (A little candle) thing is about trying to get it cosy, or koselig. And we don’t light fifty or forty candles, maybe one or two. Most of us don’t want summer all year, because the Norwegian summer is like 15-20*C degrees at best.

    3. Nope, that’s just a blatant lie, and a negative one, at that. We are pretty similar to other people here. In the USA, some things are cheaper across the state border. Maybe you drive there to get lunch one day, and then shop a little, until you come back. That is pretty normal. And then you tell us that we are doing something wrong because we do the exact same thing. (Oh and most of us don’t overbid like one of your test subjects probably did. That’s just not clever).

    4. Well yeah, most of us are a bit subtle with things. But your “a quiver of the moustache + smile + blinking = he will marry you” sounds like something out of bad internet ads. And those things you mentioned before, is quite generalising, as those things, like a blink, can mean A LOT of different things.

    5. Pretty close. We like eating good food. All humans do. And on a Friday evening, when the weekend has begun, most humans celebrate a little. Maybe they have cake, maybe they take a long bath, or make some international food. The fact that you have never heard of mexican food is revealing of your limited knowledge when it comes to this. Some Norwegians eat pizza on this day (please tell me you know what that is), some eat Mexican food on Fridays, and then again some prefer having beef on this day.

    6. Most Norwegians, even though they don’t like to admit it, are pretty bad when it comes to English. The millennial generation too (people born from 2000-). As I am Norwegian, before some angry commenter tells me “you are wrong. You write good English, and you are Norwegian. How can you say that Norwegians speak bad English?”, I would like to inform this person that I (this sounds like bragging, it isn’t) went to an international school for some time (I swear it isn’t). The phrase “how are you” means how are you, not “hello”. The phrase “how do you do”, on the contrary, means “hello”. As a wise man once said “you English no good”

    7. That’s a terrible point. (Before anyone gets angry about this, I’m not defending these people, merely saying what these people might think)We complain a lot, yes. But as a visitor, you don’t pay taxes.

    Okay, on to my point. You have probably never experienced the state of any of these things, and probably just chiming in to complain about something you don’t have any idea about.

    8. Still lying? Apparently. This is not true. We use ibuprofen and paracetamol against headaches, stomachaches and to dampen fevers. Not against diseases. We have one of the better medical systems in the world, so there is no reason for us to cure anything, or believe that we can cure anything, with mild prescription-free medication.

    9. This one just shows us that you like telling stories about anything everywhere. You don’t normally talk about awkward moments with people, because that makes for awkward conversation.

    10. This, even though it’s positive, is in most cases not true. This does happen, but normally you have paid a smaller sum beforehand, and pay the majority afterward.

    11. This just telles us, yet again, that talk you too much, and tell too many stories about you. This a bit like everywhere else in the world. If something awkward happened between you and a friend, and you see that friend on the bus the next morning, you don’t go over to them and start talking about the awkward thing.

    12. Leaving without notifying someone that you are in fact leaving. Ever consider that these people leaving, might be tired, wanting to go to sleep. They might feel drunk, and want to go home. Maybe they want to snuggle up with their hundreds of tiny candles, quivering their moustaches, blinking their eyes and having asthma attacks (Ha ha ha). Or maybe they were bored from your long, “great”, stories. People can leave a table without notifying. Wow.

    13. “Weird” depens on your point of view. Cigarettes are viewed as disgusting, and the smoke they spread is awful for people’s lungs. This is called passive smoking. Snus, or snuff in English, doesn’t affect others lungs.

    14. I don’t see why you wouldn’t have the gear to go hiking at the age of 6. Yes, we like sports, and yes, we spend money on it. Most of these things aren’t renewed every year, and a climbing harness, costs maybe 1000 kr. (Which is around 125 Euro). Skiing gear is a bit expensive, but there are multiple price classes. You can find package deals for boots, skis, and staffs at around 1500 kr (or around 180 Euro)

    15. What does a spot in a kindergarten have to do with astrology?

    In conclusion, I would like to inform all readers who made it this far, that I’m almost done. I would like to inform the author that she clearly hasn’t done much research, has limited knowledge about why people do things, tells too many boring stories, is practically unable to view things from a different perspective than that of her own. Anyone deciding that this comment shouldn’t be taken seriously due to the author of this comment’s (me) age, should tell themselves that everyone, even teenagers, can criticise liars for discriminating, and causing others to believe things untrue about anyone.

    Thank you, reader, for making it this far.

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