How to offend Norwegians during Christmas time

Illustration: Ole Johnny Hansen - copy or reproduction of this illustration is not authorized unless agreed with its author and afroginthefjord(at)gmail(dot)com
Illustration: Ole Johnny Hansen – copy or reproduction of this illustration is not authorized unless agreed with its author and afroginthefjord(at)gmail(dot)com

Norwegians, as you’ve understood through this blog, have many traditions and cultural norms they follow on regular days of the year. B during what they call “høytider”: Easter, 17th of May etc. there are even more traditions and rules.

So this is not an article to give the keys to foreigners on how to offend Norwegians (although it might do that too I admit). It is more of a way to make Norwegians see how many rules there are, and how random they might seem to people from the outside. It is also to show foreigners you might want to read a few things about what to do and not to do during Christmas time before doing stuff that would be okay in your own home. For example in Norway showing up unexpected on Christmas eve in not an option, in my house in France it would be no problem.

Here are a few ideas to make your Christmas in Norway a tiny bit more interesting this year:

1. Arrive at a Christmas party in a Norwegian family unshaved, not showered and badly dressed. Explain to the head of the house that no thank you you are not hungry for this delicious ribbe and lutefisk (traditional Christmas food) because you just ate a Grandiosa Pizza.

2. At julebordet (Christmas party at work) take pictures and videos of your colleagues and boss in their most embarrassing moments and screen them at the entrance of your office on the following Monday morning. Or even better, tag them on Facebook. (The unwritten rule being: what happens in julebordet stays in julebordet)

3. On Christmas eve, sneak in behind houses and eat (or get your bird, hamster or dog to eat) the rice porridge families have put out for the julenisse.

4. While eating julegrøt (Christmas rice porridge), find the whole almond and eat it in front of a child, who is just saying goodbye to a marzipan pig. If he starts crying, tell him to toughen up. Norwegians are not sissies. (If you don’t understand why a crushed almond can make a child cry I am afraid I can’t explain here but you can read my next blogpost and find out).

5. Laugh at Tre nøtter til Askepott and say the only dubbing voice in there is ridiculous.

6. Invite Norwegians for a Christmas dinner and order sushi. Tadaaa!
(The rule being: only traditional food for Christmas, no exotic stuff like curry, sushi or tacos).

7. When arriving in the home hosting you for the Christmas dinner, blow every single candle off one by one, explaining to the owner of the house (probably your parents) that you recently read that telys (teacandles) are very dangerous for our health. Lots of nanoparticules of pollution that we breathe, and bad for the forest because of the palmoil they contain. No koselighet this year.

8. Enter a restaurant or a Christmas dinner in a home and explain that you would like to eat a typical Norwegian Christmas dinner, but it needs to be vegetarian and gluten-free. Good luck with that, you will probably end up eating a mix of the light sirup from the lutefisk and some cabbage.
(Question: where are the Norwegian vegetarians during Christmas time and what do they eat? Snow?)

9. Complain when opening your Christmas gift. Not a Norrøna jacket AGAIN. Jeez do you people ever have any imagination?

10. Enter the pepperkaker baking competition in your local town and bake a giant Swedish flag with little pepperkaker Norwegians as slaves (or IKEA cashiers) of the rich Swedes. Wait, we are in Norway? But that’s kind of part of Sweden right?

11. Bonus: How to be a bad parent during a Norwegian Christmas: Decide to feel free on Christmas eve and get a babysitter to go out that evening (you monster).


If you don’t want to offend anyone during a Norwegian Christmas, arrive well dressed, hungry, in a good mood, say nice things about how koselig this dinner was and how good the food tasted, how wonderful your gift looked and how entertaining Tre nøtter for Askepott was (for the 112th time).

For your information, and to prove that all these things are very particular to Christmas in Norway and not anywhere else, I showed this list to my mum and she did not get offended a single time. “Why would you make rice porridge?” she asked, “And who is this Norrøna guy?”. Exactly.

God Jul!

P.S: Please welcome the talented illustrator, Ole Johnny Hansen, who kindly made this original illustration for this article. Those colourful things the family is eating are little bears given to children in Norway for them to get all sorts of vitamins.

A Frog in the Fjord: One Year in Norway Book

14 thoughts on “How to offend Norwegians during Christmas time

  1. Well, come on: who arrives unshaven and unshowered when they’re invited to dinner.:)
    I have seen announcements here in Oslo for a vegetarian Christmas party where they also meditate and play relaxing music – but I would go for ribbe myself. Christmas is a time of traditions afterall.

  2. Almost all your ideas, except 5 and 6, were just describing generally impolite behavior in my book. And I’m half swedish.

  3. Who watches “tre nøtter til aksepott” for any other reason than how ridiculous it is? My personal favourite is the step mother’s hang-glider hat. The “voices” performed by the marvellous Knut Risan are a treat every year.

  4. Are all of these really “Norwegian rules”? If it’s normal to show up dirty and dressed like a slob when invited to dinner, be ungrateful for christmas presents, or leave your kid at home with a sitter on Christmas Eve (which equals Christmas Day, as Norwegians eat Christmas dinner and open presents on the 24th) in France – well, then I’m glad I don’t live there. I do find Tre Nøtter til Askepott hilarious, though (but I still love it)!

  5. Hey, I’m a Norwegian VEGAN. That’s right! And we eat vegisterkake (, Nøttestek ( – and a bunch of other stuff! It’s very possible to be a Norwegian vegan (or vegetarian) at Christmas, but telling your family you’re a vegan is quite challenging. (“Fish is vegan, right?”)

    And also: Tre Nøtter Til Askepott is the best! (My Brazilian fiancé doesn’t understand it, but he is willing to oblige me.)

  6. Rule 12: Do not give a Christmas gift as a joke or spoof. I once gave a mauve and orange grill suit to my brother and he – a grown up man – almost cried. He was pissed off the whole evening even after he got the real, very nice gift.

    1. Oh, my, yes! I once got this really huge box, and inside was a smaller box, think russian nesting dolls, and in the very end there was one lozenge!!! I was so disappointed! I don’t remember my real gift. That was my sister for ya! 😉

      On the other hand, I once started crying because my (adult) brother (he was 17 year older than me, and I was like 4-5), got socks or somesuch, but it came in a box for a toy car, and I was afraid he was disappointed, so I cried on his behalf. Oh, well…

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