illustration: Kristine Lauvrak

Weird things Norwegians do

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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

220 thoughts on “Weird things Norwegians do

  1. Yes, that’s it. I talked the same with my Spanish friend about Chineses. All the shocking things when we see them many times they become normal.
    I like this Norwegians and their weird funny things.

  2. Thanks for posting that – I do enjoy reading your blog.

    Can I ask a question – in 8 you talked about Tran – I’m coming up with all kinds of unusual sites when I Google ‘Tran’ – but I don’t think they’re the same kind of Tran that you’re talking about. Could you explain a bit?

    1. Tran can be found in a many variations, one and most similar is the “drinking” Tran, but you also have pills of it. Basically it is Oil from the Fish liver, Rich of Vitamin A & D. It’s a weird nasty taste (ofc) But it really do help with your health! If you ever come and visit Norway, Just buy a bottle of “Tran” mmmmm Delicious!

      1. There are adults who are permanently traumatised from childhood by the taste and won’t go within ten feet of a bottle, so I’m not sure if “miss” is the right word. It’s supposed to be awfully healthy, though, and today you can find somewhat more palatable (flavoured) versions, or buy it in pill form as already mentioned. But I think a lot of people stop taking it as soon as they don’t have to do what their parents say anymore. 😉

        My Mum used to fill a tablespoon with tran, then add a “yolk” of Sana-sol, a sweet-tasting vitamin supplement, in the middle to make it easier to take. 🙂

    2. Tran is fish oil. Filled with vitamins A-E and Omega 3. Not really too common for Norwegians to eat/drink this every day. but still a very popular product.

    3. I grew up as a Brooklyn-Norwegian – and was given a tablespoon of liquid Tran (cod liver oil) every day. I was hardly sick one day during those years.

  3. I absolutely identify with these! I lived in Norway until I was 15 and then moved to the U.S. where I tried to awkwardly fit in and convince people I wasn’t stuck up or unfriendly, but was just Norwegian. Thanks for thus lovely post!

    1. I like your comment. We have a Norwegian grand daughter, and some years ago was visiting us in Liverpool UK. travelling to town by bus we were sitting on a long seat of five passengers at the rear of the bus, and she ask how we would get past the other people,so said we would say excuse me please, her reply was, oh! we would say move yourself.Now this sounds really unfriendly,but Norwegian, great people.

      1. That sounds a bit rude to me too:) I would simply say unnskyld, which means excuse me. But maybe I’m more polite than most norwegians? With exceptions, I think many norwegians is a bit like cavemen on that area. It’s ok to hold doors and let people through and so. Help a stranger. Also to use thank you and please. Smile. Little things, that makes a big difference.

  4. Wholeheartedly agree with no 6 :). “How are you?” such a meaningless question if not given a detailed answer. Why even bother to ask somebody if you expect a default “fine”. Bothered to ask then bother to listen 🙂 Russians are just the same in this case.

  5. I have actually lived in Brazil myself, so I can totally relate to what you say about adjustment to a new culture. After a while I stopped worrying about driving without seat belts fastened, felt like it was completely normal to shower four times a day and so on. All these things one finds strange in the beginning will seem so completely natural after a while, it is quite weird to think about!

  6. Absolutely loved reading it!
    Im a norwegian who now lives in Ireland, and the norwegian blood in me makes me say and think alot of weird stuff as well. But reading this atleast explains it a little better to me – Im not weird, Im just norwegian! 🙂 haha

    Thanks for a good read!

  7. For a Norwegian having moved out, I just realised I have exported some of these traits. Like the awkward ignoring on the bus, I might suddenly awkwardly ignore anybody I know until they give up, or start that awkward conversation.

    Also my memory is strange, I have serious problems remembering what happens on work and what happens on parties.

    Also I do not take medicines until I am so sick my wife manages to force them down my throat.

  8. That’s so funny, true and a good read. I should make the ‘opposite’ blog post as I just moved to South of France from North of Norway and are looking at the french with fresh eyes. Keep blogging 🙂

  9. I’d never thought twice about the “mhm”-sound we make while listening to others until a foreigner pointed it out to me earlier this year.

  10. I love this blog! I married a Norwegian this year and moved to Norway from America. I find so much gentle humor in these insights, and recognize them very much. The one about the doctors in Norway….. Absolutely! I feel like a coddled hypochondriac here who probably needs to sneak that dose of Aleve and Benadryl I brought here from the States for my allergies and occasional muscle aches. Ha ha! Keep writing!

  11. Fun post to read
    Norwegian here 😉
    re – no. 1 – there is a whole vocabulary of sounds you can make. One is the aforementioned “mhm” which means “I understand” or “carry on”. There is also the agreeing “jahhh” which is to be pronounced with an open a (as in: bath) but you must draw your breath when making the comment turning it into a sort of whisper. Another peculiar intake of breath which is a more recent addition (i believe), consists of a shooing sound. Actually it is only the beginning, the “sh” sound while sucking in air. This is best performed in appreciation of a predicament or of some hard luck the conversation might stray into.
    I know – it’s crazy – but it’s culture 😉

    1. Hahaha! Yup, Norwegian here as well (married to an Australian, and living in Australia). My husband constantly teases me about my inhaled ‘Jahhh’, ‘mhm’, and my other (perfectly normal) sounds.

  12. My Norwegian boyfriend just committed the number 12 last night. I thought it was weird but reading this made any good sense!

  13. hehehehe…. You brought back some funny memories … one of which was something called what sounded like a ‘schnotteboller ‘?? ( that’s as near to it as I remember – Well … it was over 25years ago … so how it’s spelt is anyone’s guess) I must admit though I loved the country and the life there (even the ‘Stavanger special’ rain ) and if I could have had the rest of my family there I would have been very happy to stay …..

  14. There is some other important things to talk about here! I am a Typical Norwegian who live up North.

    First thing is that

    1# When sitting on a bus if you’re alone and there is an empty seat aside of you, we allways put our bags there soo no others can sit beside us.

    2# This one is on the the bus aswell. If you are unlucky not having a bag beside you so you can take that other empty seat, and a stranger or somebody you “know” sits down, We ALLWAYS no matter what, plug our earphones in to avoid any akward situations! 🙂 hehe.

    Conclusion of Norwegians.

    Let Nors be Nors, we can’t do nothing about it! We’re weird in many strange things,
    but the funny thing about North Norway called “Troms” & “Finnmark” Is that we have swearing natural in our language when having any conservations, and if you tell to a cop in duty that he’s a “Hestkuk” or Horsecock you can’t get a fine or go to jail for it ^^ Love being a Norwegian! <3 -Faith

  15. Hehe…priceless 😀
    Just to add one more of our peculiar behavior :
    On the bus, in an aditorium or anywhere there are rows of seatings, we always sit as far away from the front as possible…and not close to anyone else. I have been to several meetings where the 2-3 first rows are always empty.

    1. I experienced the same thing in Wisconsin. My fellow moviegoers complained about some people seating in front of us and not “respecting the rule of personal space”

  16. Norwegians also look very kind, but they care more about rules than about real people. If you have made a 1 euro private phone call from your work’s phone, you have misconducted to their values and they can dismiss you. This happened not in Norway, where the unions are powerful but in branches abroad.

  17. Number 8 is so true! Why ask people how they’re doing if you don’t wanna hear the answer in the first place?! Always annoyed me a lot. I guess I’m a stereotypical Norwegian when it comes to this one. Haha.. ^^

  18. I’m finding that I’m a bit of an unusual Norwegian. I love meeting people I know on the bus, and I’m always friendly and keeping eye contact with people I know. I do this with strangers as well – if one of them goes against all odds and talks to me.
    I also hate potatoes more than anything!

  19. There is one missing conversation quirk, I think. MmmmmM! It is a coversation filler. Especially at formal meetings, but also in informal settings. This is after a good point has been made, and no response follows. I think it is a slightly notched down version of number 1. Kinda like, “I agree, but I think more should be said on the subject, but I have no clue what more to say. So, let’s move on, shall we?”

  20. The idea behind #12 is that you don’t want to break up the party. Often when you say goodbye others will tag along. It is good manners to discreetly say goodbye to the host though…

  21. As a Norwegian, I gotta say; I LOVE THIS POST! Hahaha! I recognize myself in almost every description:) the way you portray “us” is hillarious! I’m probably gonna walk around and “fnise i skjegget” all day long after this, so thank you 😀

  22. Re #4, as someone from Trønderlag i have never thought about this, but I totally see it. This was hilarious. Thank you 🙂

  23. Great post. We usually don’t have beans on our tacos, we just used minced meat for everything. Everything else sounds true to my Norwegian ears.

  24. You have trøndersk flirting down to a science, you’ll fit right in here. 😉

    It took me a few months to stop answering “how are you?” when I moved to the UK, even if I knew how it worked (it is in the basic conversational skills we learn in English class as children, though you wouldn’t think so when you hear us go on about our dead relatives and life crises). My brain just automatically categorised it as a question, and questions must be answered! Eventually I managed to build a “finethankshowareyou” reflex, but it still feels weird.

    Norwegians just say “hi”. Or less. We like simple (or non-existent) conversations, okay!

    And you can blame the Old El Paso brand for the “taco tradition”, I think. Don’t get me wrong, I’m as addicted to the stuff as the next person, but I know it’s about as authentic as British curry.

  25. I don’t suppose you have this post in French too? Might make the inlaws in Quebec understand more the madness of the country my wife has moved to :p

  26. #12 happens among Filipinos too. But those who make the quick escape better prepare for some serious ridiculing the next time the group meets up… especially if they didn’t leave their share of the tab!

  27. We norwegians actually have a word for the stuff you put on a sandwich, like cheese, bologna, jam.. It’s “Pålegg”, which literally means “Onput”. “I need some onput for my sandwich”.

  28. It is not we who do weird things, it is YOU who haven’t gotten used to it yet. Men ikke vær redd, du lærer det nok snart, mon ami. J’aime bien ce que Vous ecrivez. :). Ouais je sais mon Francais c’est pas bien. Merci. A toute a l’heures.

  29. I think number 10 should of been included in your article about wonderful things norwegians do. Anyway, congratulations on your series about what wonderful, weird or annoying things norwegians do. I think you managed to catch the quintessence of Norway !

  30. Except for the tran thing (puke!), everything listed here also holds true for Finland. But, unlike Norway, they have it all – just ask Monty Python.

  31. Hello, I’m your opposite, a viking among the frogs. This is funny to read. Just for your info, though, one of the phenomenons you mention, is universal, not Norwegian. I firmly believe most people in the world will sometimes, or often feel the need to critisize our own parents and home country. But if our partner or friends agree too much, we get touchy and defensive of them, no? Maybe politicians is an exceptions. No French look offended if I critisize president Hollande, it seems. Italians don’t defend Berlusconi. I would never defend Erna & co. But, if I start expressing my feelings about “la fessée” in raising children or other education methods in France … Oh là là !

    Another thing: If I behave correctly and politely – as usual, off course – I will hear no negative comments about me being foreign, but when once a year I raise my voice to critisize someone for parking on the pavement where my son bikes, and if I’m not able to present my critisism in a polite way, if I’m actually being rude (just once a year ;), THEN, I’m rude BECAUCE I’m foreign, not because I’m just rude or in a bad mood. That makes me even angrier 😉

  32. I lived in the states for three years, and grasping the conscept of how are you took me like 2 seconds. You’d have to be an idiot to not understand that it’s a greeting.But for norwegians, if you are asked something you answer! 🙂 In the states i made it a point to give everyone a very long and detailed answer when ever some random store clerk or shop asked me how i was hehe

    1. Hi Od
      thanks for your comment, I just made a few modifications for non-Norwegian speakers to understand everything. I will make sure I do this everytime now, thanks for the tip 🙂

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