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

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196 thoughts on “Weird things Norwegians do

  1. Hi! This is a response to the questions about Tran (fish oil). One of the reasons many norwegians take this during winter is because its contains a lot of vitamin D. Most people get what they need of this vitamin from the sun, but because we have little sun during winter we need an extra source for this. Tran is one alternative, but a lot of people prefer omega 3 capsules to avoid the taste 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. 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.

    There is absolutely NOTHING BETTER than sticking it to the all mighty and ever-present tax-system. You simply cannot put a price on it, hence, we happily drive very far to buy goods, normally taxed to the extreme in Norway, at a lower price in another country ^_^

    Liked by 2 people

    1. This speaks to me. My husband is half Norwegian(we live in USA). He looks for sales constantly and will travel miles to get cheaper eggs or milk or cheese or hamburger. Evan upon occasion buying round steak that was cheaper than hamburger and grinding it himself.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. As a Norwegian chef this warms my heart especially!
        Self grinded meat for burgers always taste better! 🙂

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      2. “Awww that warms a norwegians heart! We are kinda like the scots.”

        Wasn’t allowed to reply to Holberg.

        We’re not kinda like the Scots. The Scots are the result of the viking age, with pillaging and raping and whatnots. We are men! And men save for a rainy day.

        OT:
        Also we’re kinda cheap/brilliant since all of our national dishes is leftovers in the rest of Europe. Have you ever tasted half of a sheeps head (and this sheep lived a happy life in the mountains of Norway. Whith THAT VIEW) soaked in salt until it’s rock solid, then watered down until you don’t die of dehydration by sight and boiled for six hours? It beats a goose force-fed tuber all day…

        I say we put on our mythical horned helmets and give Europe another Viking Age:D (Without the pillaging, raping, killing, stealing, etc. Because who are we kidding? We’re the best in the world…)

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      3. You misunderstod that one. They are.not looking for sales, they avois the Norwegian tax system by shopping in Sweden (Norway and Sweden are two different countries).

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    2. And it’s not only wine we want in Sweden either, but also dairy products (since they get taxed like shit, think foreign cheese is at 300%). Stupid Norway has to “take care” of their stupid farmers.

      Liked by 3 people

  3. #1 – A form of backchanneling
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Backchannel_(linguistics)

    “A non-lexical backchannel is a vocalized sound that has little or no referential meaning but still verbalizes the listener’s attention. In English, sounds like “uh-huh” and “hmm” serve this role. Phrasal backchannels most commonly assess or acknowledge a speaker’s communication with simple words or phrases (for example, “Really?” or “Wow!” in English).”

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      1. I think you answer “I am fine thanks, how are yo?” withouth elaborating any more. Could that be correct?

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      2. If you are in the store and a clerk asks you that, you could answer answer “I am doing great, I found for sale!” or “I could be better, you don’t have in stock.” or just “I’m doing all right.”

        Anywhere, including at the store, you can answer “I’m doing great/okay/not so good because the weather/can’t sleep/sports team is winning.”

        And it’s always polite to end with “And what about you?” or “How about you?”

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  4. Hahaha love this. I’m sure that every norwegian that reads this, including myself, will laugh and totally agree with u.
    Exchange student in Norway –> you’re doing it right. Thumbs up.

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  5. Wow, you have such a sharp eye and you write so well! Such a joy to read.

    Reading between the lines, it appears a certain moustached Trønder has a soft spot for you!

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  6. “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.”

    Well, what do you expect, that Norwegians suddenly became English with English traditions?

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  7. Love the way Norwegians are, even got used to their escaping without a word, and noaturally each Friday 90 % of population (adult and teen population) is drunk :-)) Love this land

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    1. Well, infact a very liw percent of the Norwegian population get drunk on fridays, the numbers are much worse here in the UK.
      I lived in Norway (Bodo, way up north) for six years and never experienced Norwegians leaving without a word…

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  8. It was a wonderul read. My sister is married to a Swedish guy and they’ve lived in Norway for some years now (we are Argentinians) and as I read it was like listening to some of her first comments right after moving to Norway! Some others I’ve experienced myself. Nirwefians are just adorable!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There’s one thing Norwegians and Finns will always agree upon: We envy the Swedes, who have the best neighbors in the world!

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  9. So this confuses me: if you buy that much outdoor gear (and its way more expensive over there) and you pay a ton in taxes….how can you afford this? How much does a 30 year old college graduate make? Just curious 🙂 Also, engaging post (as usual)!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It isn’t about the earnings. Norwegian tax is not that high (compared to the rest of Europe) and there isn’t much saving going on. Norwegian pension system is very good so why bother saving for retirement!

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    2. We often hand things down in between siblings and cousins (but noone outside the family – that makes it weird). And we make a decent sum of money. Minimum wage is about 44000 EUR a year, I think.

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      1. our family gives clothes to other families (we’re friends with) when the clothes don’t fit anyone anymore.

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    3. How much you might earn of course depends on what you’re job is. According to ssb the average monthy pay from Jobs that require a college degree is 55 600 Nok (about 8100 usd).

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      1. 55600 Nok average salary are you sure?? that would mean that the average yearly income in Norway is gross 667200NOK, I thought it was more around 450000NOK, I think I need a chat with my boss 🙂

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    4. The Honest answer would be… we’re filthy rich. But we don’t like to say that out loud.

      Norway is one of the most wealthy nations on earth, with a ridiculously generous welfare system, insanely high income rates. We do have higher taxes than for example the united states. But again, we don’t have to buy half the insurance, hospital and medication is insanely cheap and relatively good. My Mother has had cancer twice. Probably cost us about 50quid. They even give you money back for the petrol you use on the way to the hospital.

      So, naturally we get to spend our money on shit we don’t really need but, might come in handy one day…or not. If it’s on sale, we’re going to buy it anyway.

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      1. The country might be wealthy, but you’d never know that it you ever drive here, but the people aren’t, it’s so expensive here that it must be really tough on anyone living on the average wage, anyone earning less must be in a real pickle.

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      2. Pension is actually pretty good, as far as my relatives go. Most of them only have a little ekstra saved for retirement. although, if you don’t have an education or can’t get work in your field than you might struggle a bit later on. There’s no indication that people struggle a lot economically in old age. As far as i remember, the average life span in Norway is 81 years.

        It’s hard to really fuck up in this country, you can make a lot of mistakes before you’re in any real trouble. As long as you don’t just sit on your ass for no reason.

        Norwegians per say are not necessarily insanely rich, but the stability of your finances should be pretty good. Even so, compared the rest of the world, Norway has something like the 4th or 5th wealthiest population in the world per capita and the same with the GDP(BNP)

        You would never know coming here though. The oil capitol of Norway, Stavanger mostly builds new or renovates old typical norwegian white coastline houses for people to live in. There are norwegians everywhere you go in Norway, even with such a harsh landscape, people still live in every nook of the country. It’s still very decentralised.

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    5. Thanks for all the insights, everyone! I guess if you don’t need to save for retirement then your money goes a lot further. Btw, Odin, your English grammar is totally fine but illustrates something me and my friends find very amusing: Norwegians love to say their English isn’t good when its really near perfect– Jante modesty?

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      1. You do need to save for you retirement even here, the govt pension isn’t that great, most company pensions only last for 10 years, what happens if you make it past 77, with only a govt pension, you’d better hope you had smart kids who are making a decent salary.

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  10. Great observations. I don´t know if you or anyone else have commented on another rarity norwegian do: Either if you saw a person yesterday or ten years ago, when you meet again a common greeting will be: “takk for sist” meaning literally, thank you for the last time we met. I interpret it as, it was nice to say you last time we met, and it´s nice to see again. It´s a great greeting.

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  11. Very funny! As a Norwegian I can really se that these things might bee strange at first.

    I have to answer the question about Norwegians leaving without saying goodbye. Its because we don’t want to ruin the mood, if I spend 10min leaving the party, taking a lot of attention, then we would all focus on me leaving instead of having an good time. If many people come and go all the time, then it would all be about saying hello and goodby all the time. I am really annoyed when someone makes a big “I-am-leaving-scene” at my gatherings or party’s. Just leave silently, and the good times we spent together is enough.

    About that memory thing, that was good information to me, as a talkative Norwegian I now se that for everyone’s sake I should shut up 😉

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  12. “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.”

    I sincerely hope you’re not implying they’re wrong.

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  13. 11. Someone you know just ignored you in the bus?

    Hihi, i did this today! At the shoping center, an old colleague from several years back, passed by and i turned away. I wasn’t in mood for talking for 3 min.

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  14. “how are you?”is not just a polite question in British English..and if you ask someone this, they will answer it. “How do you do” however , is continuously misinterpreted as needing a response ..when the correct response to this in (British) English is simply “How do you do” . As a British Norwegian I stillfind it incredibly rude when an American shakes my hand and says “hey, how are you” by way of introduction. I guess that makes me weird too..although to me, when someone puts their hand out and says “hello, I’m Bob” the correct response would be to also give my name. Even in Norwegian:-, when someone says “hei, hvordan går det?” they DO expect an answer, even if it’s just a short, and not necessarily true “Bra” ( good).

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    1. One guitarist from Norway goes to a recording studio in Los Angeles and presents himself , Hi I am Bent ….the other guy says …..so am I ,,,, how funny is that ??

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  15. Indeed, what exactly IS the correct response to being greeted with “Hi, how are you?”??????? This has been bugging me for years! Do you ignore the question completely and anwer simply “Hi” (or something similar), or is the correct response mirroring it (answering “Hi, how are you?”) or do you say “fine, how are you” (even if you are not fine). Any way, greeting people with this empty frase – “Hi how are you (implied: we both know I don’t care)” – is quite a sad way to meet people, in my opinion… but the english language has loads of other beautiful things to make up for it! 🙂

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    1. In England we don’t admit to having feelings so unless it is family or a very close friend you lie when someone asks how you are. “Fine, thank you, how are you?” would be the standard response. It is funny though breaking that convention from time to time, the look of horror on an English face when they realise you are answering literally is very entertaining.

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    2. Hi, there how are you? I’m from canada and we say this almost every time we say hello to someone. If a stranger or a sales person says this to me, I normally responded , hi, I’m great thanks. If anyone I know on a personal level asks me. I would tell them how I was and what was new in my life. To be honest though Canadians don’t really complain and most people just say ” their good thanks, how are you?

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  16. I am a Norwegian raised in Canada. Love these aspects of the life. Great read and very humorous and insightful. I was three when I came here but I do travel miles for a bargain even with the price of gas. 🙂

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  17. As a 36 year old Norwegian, that’s the worst article I’ve ever read, both by content article counted grammar. I would suggest article counted trip to the Job centre for some career advice..

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  18. Wow! “Her traff du spiker´n på hodet!”. I am norwegian, and I think you are spot on! I have to go find some telys now. Makes it a little bit more koselig. It is so much fun reading your texts. Well done! (:

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  19. I don’t really agree with the majority of these. Doesn’t everyone do the first one? I mean it seems a little rude not to show that you’re paying attention. Going “Mhmm” seems like the polite thing to do. Number 2 I feel like other people do as well. Or light scented candles etc. That’s what I see people from other countries do as well, coupled with Pumpkin Spice stuff. The third one I can kind of see as being true. Number 4, how does one even move the mustache? I guess it’s a northener thing. Number 5, ewww. Beans for taco? Eww, that has to be a family thing where you were. Eurgh, beans.. Never experienced anyone eating beans with taco. I also don’t think most Norwegians have perfect English. It’s quite irritating to hear most Norwegians speak, though I guess this goes for any country where English is not the primary language. Number 7 I agree with entirely. I’m kind of guilty of this myself. Number 8 as well, though I don’t actually take any of the things, nor do I exercise much.. Isn’t Number 9 something the entire world does? Are we just more accepting? I mean friends of course do tease each other about the things and that, but I’m assuming you’re referring to more than just regular teasing? I can’t say I quite understand number 10. Like is it the cottage of a friend, or is it someone renting the place? If the former, why would you receive a bill? You have to pay your friend for the stay? If the latter, then I’m pretty sure you rent it for a given time that is determined at some time before you get there.. It seems pretty strange if not. Number 11 is as true as it becomes. I guess number 12 is pretty true as well. Number 13 though… Løssnus is -not- common, and most people think it’s quite disgusting. Regular snus is much more common, and considered less disgusting. Number 14 I’m not quite sure about tbh, I only know one family that is like that, though I suppose I can see it as being sort of true. Generally clothes are handed down in the family though. Last one is pretty true I guess. All in all, I think the article was quite inaccurate, though it was a good read nonetheless.

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  20. Hvorfor skriver du ikke på norsk oftere fjordfrosk? Jeg antar at de fleste av leserne dine er nordmenn, og kronikken din i VG ser for meg perfekt skrevet ut. Jeg kjenner meg som vanlig igjen i mange av beskrivelsene dine.

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    1. Hei Gaute
      jeg kan skrive på norsk, men ikke så bra at jeg kan beskrive ting på en morsomme måte. En person oversatt min artikkel fra engelsk til norsk for VG…men jeg har en plan å skrive oftere på norsk. Det kommer snart 🙂

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  21. LOL. I could not stop laughing. It’s soooo true. You made my day 😂 going to send it to my friends. Best description of us Norwegians ever.

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  22. The article is interesting from the viewpoint of how positive thinking and writing can canalise a lot of mind chatter and lets say alleviate some pain about the weirdness. It would be also nice to see some lines on how they are when they go abroad.

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  23. #12 Leaving without saying Goodbye! That is because the Norwegians have discovered that when someone starts to leave the party; everybody is leaving. And of course, as beeing nice people as we Norwegians are, we don’t want to break up the party only because we need to go home.

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  24. I have lived in Norway for six years now and I think this was spot on and very funny. I have also turned a bit Norwegian without realizing it. Love this country more and more by each year because I understand it more and things I used to find rude and weird, are just part of the every day life now 🙂

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  25. Seriously??? A lot of this is just bulls**t! Seriously, a lot of these things isn’t common norwegian “habits”, or whatever you wanna call it!
    Tenk litt før du skriver masse tull som bare får Norge til å se ut som en gjeng med tullinger! Mange av de tinga der er bare piss som ikke stemmer!

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  26. just a comment to nr. 12.:
    if you do leave a good night with friends. you do so quietly. Because, if you do say goodnight and goodby, you are most likeley to break up the good time for all. And no one wants to be the one starting the breakup of the nice time. When one start leaving and say so, most of the group will follow. “Yes, its late and time to go, better start heading home too”.
    and You can do it the other way. You do know the host are polite and dont send his visitors home, but surly would like to go to bed now. Then you do say goodnight and break up loud and polite telling goodbye to each and all. Whitin 30 min the host are probably alone and heading for bed.

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  27. I’m Norwegian, and reading all about you who don’t know what Tran is and wondering how it tastes like and everything, I was forced as a kid to take a tablespoon of this everyday before breakfast and as I got older I started to refuse. I hadn’t tried it in like 13 years before I tried it at my sisters house cause my niece wanted me to, and i seriously puked! It tastes like fishintestines! Blærrrh…

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  28. i believe ths snus is healthier than a cig because you don’t get tare. did you know that icelanders has a kind of snus that they sniff through their noses instead of putting it under their upper lip?

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  29. I believe the statement about being given keys to the hytte, write your name is about the many cabins belonging to Turistforeningen (the hiking assosiation). It is a members club but it sort of acts like it is the state 😉 But yes, it was actually a national scandal when a man was found not paying for food etc on the cabins.

    Most people don’t have beans in their tacos but minced meat, salad vegetables, cheese and, of course,lots of sour cream! Norwegians will use sourcream with anything, as a dip, as a sauce, on waffles…

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  30. “How are you” has a Norwegian counterpart:”Hvordan går det med deg?” which means exactly the same as How are you? another more common expression is “Hvordan går det?” (How are things?”), and most Norwegians would not give their epicrisis as answer.

    About ghosting (abrupt sorties):

    “You’re going to tell me it’s rude to leave without saying goodbye. This moral judgment is implicit in the culturally derogatory nicknames ghosting has been burdened with over the centuries. The English have been calling it French leave since 1751, while the French have been referring to filer à l’anglaise since at least the late 1800s. As with other cross-Channel insults—depending on your side, a condom is either a French letter or la capote anglaise, syphilis the French disease or la maladie anglaise—the idea is to pin unsavory behavior on your foes.

    Here in the U.S., the most-used term seems to be Irish goodbye, which, due to unfortunate historical stereotyping, hints that the vanished person was too tipsy to manage a proper denouement. Dutch leave is a less common, but apparently real, variant. (I picture someone taking a couple pulls on a vaporizer, scarfing too much bitterballen, and stumbling into the night.) And then there’s the old, presumably Jewish joke: WASPs leave and don’t say goodbye, Jews say goodbye and don’t leave.

    But religio-nationalist slurs aside, is it really so bad to bounce without fanfare?”

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    1. That line about Jews saying goodbye and not leaving is so true! Especially in Israel, where you take 1/2 an hour to say goodbye, then a bunch of people leave together, then when you get to whoevers car is the closest, you stop and say goodbye for another half hour. Lol. I would LOVE to do the stealth escape and just sneak out without saying goodbye, but it would be seen as INCREDIBLY rude, antisocial, and the sign of some mental disorder.

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  31. Lovely observations allround, but I just wanted to point out that most of us were taught UK English, even Queens English, were on greets the other person with a polite “how do you do”. This only requires a smile and a return of the same phrase. For some reason or other, this non-committal form has been replaced with the forced intimacy of the Americans. “how are you” still surprises me as An uneccesary complication of something as shallow as half a bath tub. Anyway -this explains the mystery.

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  32. Great post, but it appears to be one topic you forgot to include: The Norwegians’ total lack of “queuing culture”. In recent years it has improved somewhat with the machines generating queuing numbers,but when these are lacking it can be truly annoying to experience people making their way ahead of others who have waited for a longer time.

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