More Weird Things Norwegians Do

Three years ago I wrote a blog post entitled “Weird Things Norwegians Do“, where I described 15 strange things I had noticed here. Now that I have been here a little longer, a few things have been added to the list. As before, “weird” does not necessarily mean “negative”. Some of these awkwardness should be adopted elsewhere in this world (but not the grilldress, hopefully).

1. The Norwegian definition of “intimacy” is different than from the rest of the world. In Norway it is not considered intimate to sleep with someone for one night while both persons are drunk. However, to drink a cup of coffee together 3 days later in broad daylight is considered like a much bigger step in a relationship and in intimacy between two persons. Another step at the level of intimacy just before marriage is to go to IKEA together. So in Norway, to exchange body fluids is not intimate, but to argue in front of a JOKKMOKK IKEA table is extremely intimate. Also see the rules of The Norwegian “Art” of Seduction.

2. Norwegians love to refurbish their kitchen every other year with the best designer gadgets and the colour of the month. But they mainly use that fancy kitchen to warm up ready-made Fjordland meals and Grandiosa pizza. But doesn’t it look good? More Annoying things (some) Norwegians do here.

3. Norwegians love everything (good and bad) that foreign media or celebrities said about their country and fellow Norwegians. Those who say nice things about Norway get honoured with a new name in the Norwegian press, Norges venn. It is because Norwegians love to read about Norwegians (why do you think I wrote a blog and a book about it?).

4. It is -5 degrees and you are afraid to catch a pneumonia, meanwhile Norwegians will leave their children to sleep outside, especially if they are babies. To build their character. After all, if they don’t die of it, it probably can only make them stronger. And resistant to pneumonia.

5. Everything which was not produced or checked or trained by a Norwegian company or authority is seen as of of lower quality than Norwegian. That applies to doctors, teachers and electricity installations. One wonders how this world has hung together until the Norwegians showed the way…

6. The one thing that makes a Norwegian scream of joy is opening an avocado and finding it beautifully green and intact inside. Others would say peace on Earth but you know, avocadoes are cool too. More Wonderful things (most) Norwegians do here.

7. When a mini ray of sunlight comes, Norwegians will sit on a rock, on a bench or even stay standing in that ray of sunlight with their eyes closed, just enjoying the moment as if it were their last. It is called solveggen. The wall of the sun.

8. Any name of a person in a newspaper absolutely needs to be followed by their age in brackets. Except if you are very famous, like Erna Solberg, and then it is not needed. Why? No idea.

9. A friend is telling you about a movie, and then suddenly says “terningkast 5!” and you wonder what on earth he or she means? In Norway, any review of a movie or a book will not be rated with stars like in the rest of the world. Here they use a dice and show how many of the 6 dots it got on the dice. Then they say it in a regular conversation, and even translate it to “dice 4” in English and expect everyone to understand.

10. You think Norwegians have no humour and you are wrong. They don’t laugh out loud or tap each other on the back when they think something was funny, they probably have a straight face like other days, but they are totally cracked up inside. Tough love, but you’ll eventually know how to recognise it. Look out for a face cramp. There is even a typical Norwegian humour.

11. Norwegians habits especially regarding how to raise children cannot be questioned under any circumstance. Putting your kids to bed at 7pm, not giving them limits and feeding them exclusively with sausages, bread and havregryn have to be the greatest things. Otherwise Norwegians wouldn’t be doing it, right? Check here on How to be a bad Mother in Norway.

12. Norwegians will respect all laws to the dot. With two exceptions: 1- when going home from Sweden with extra liters of alcohol above the allowed quota, and 2- when driving a bicycle. For some reasons when on a bicycle Norwegians will not respect any (I mean none) rules of the road: going through red lights, cycling on pavements, in areas where many people are walking, not notifying when turning left or right. Something they can learn from the Danes!

13. In public places you are expected to have eyes behind your back. If you are standing in their way of a Norwegian in the supermarket or in any other public place, they will not tap on your shoulder lightly and tell you with a smile “excuse me”. Instead they will patiently wait behind you until you turn around and see them, jump by surprise, and let them go ahead. You made them lose a seconds minutes of their lives, but that look of guilt on your face was worth it.

14. When looking at purchasing or choosing the best bottle of wine or alcohol in general, Norwegians will not look at the age of the wine or its quality. The best choice is obviously the one with the highest percentage of alcohol. As a French, my skin crawls to this fact of Norwegian life. See here for What to expect from a drunk Norwegian?

15. The Hytte Life has many rules. One of them is that whatever classy or hip clothes you are used to wearing in your everyday life, all of them can be replaced with one set of woollen underwear and grilldress available in your cabin’s closet. Untouched since 1970, except every time you need a dry change of clothes.

16. Regular human beings have enough time to work, take care of their kids, and meet their friends. Not Norwegians. They have this thing called tidsklemma which makes them run from one appointment to another without managing to enjoy anything they are doing.

17. The sun is shining, it is the 14th of June. Summer holidays are just around the corner. Life could not be better. And then your Norwegian colleague says “Only seven days until the days get shorter again”. Some Norwegians have the art to be party poopers. But guess what, that was maybe a joke! As explained above, Norwegians do have humour!

Much more of The Frog in the fjord in my new book En frosk i fjorden – Kunsten å bli norsk. Soon in English!!

This article was published in the Norwegian newspaper VG under the title Enda flere norske rariteter on the 18th of June 2017. I have a chronicle there on Norwegian culture since October 2014.

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11 thoughts on “More Weird Things Norwegians Do

    1. Not 100% spot on, though. After 35 years here I think that some of these weird things are a bit overdone for the sake of a book. I agree that cyclists seem to think they are above the law, but cycling on the footpath is actually legal as long as you “adapt” your cycling to take account of the people walking on the footpath; in many cases I prefer that to risking my life together with an 50 ton artic. Looking forward to shorter days – and snow in particular – is not party pooping; some of us really think that life is better midwinter at -5C! But Norwegian “public” humour (e.g. TV) is definitely a bit special when viewed with English eyes. Too much noisy slapstick and little subtelty! Strange, when my Norwegian friends all really appreciate understated English humour.

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  1. Number 5 is really stupid. And it’s not about “having a lower quality than Norwegian”, what it’s about is that the quality control system in Norway actually is quite strict with the consumer watch dogs, eco-friendly watch dogs and authority watch dogs, and in absolutely all types of products there can be serious safety hazards. And you also have a better chance of getting your money back from Norwegian companies and get help with the refund from the state. While in other countries they might tell you to just go and fuck yourself and you have nowhere to go to for protection. So actually that is a major reason to rather buy in Norway, because then you can actually be more secure that it’s safer. Especially Mattilsynet are all over companies that produce food, and still even here in Norway there is so much bad practices. So think about it, when it’s like that IN Norway think about how it is in other countries! In e.g. the Philippines waitors at some places even don’t think it’s something wrong with ants crawling on the table in the restaurant. And especially things you put on and into your body is something you should be very skeptical about how’s producing, and so is electrical equipment. And actually over 50 % of the world’s population are afraid to get scammed while buying online, so it’s not a “Norwegian” thing. In USA the absolutely best selling argument is “made in USA”, and actually Norwegians aren’t that patriotic at all. So even in Norway you are far from “in the safe” when it comes to buying products, and stuff like moisturizer from a bad producer can destroy your skin forever. I think that if I went to France and made a page like this being so generalizing people would have come with blue cheese and wine bottles to throw at my house. Or wait, that’s not France anymore. Stereotypical French in 2017 is being a hairy guy in Adidas clothes from North-Africa eating McDonalds food.

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  2. There is really so much stupid with what you’re saying that I don’t know where to start.

    1: Of course, if it’s an one night stand, it’s best to leave it like that and not raise any expectations. It’s not a “Norwegian” thing. One night stands aren’t a Norwegian phenomenon, believe it or not.

    2: Many Norwegians are brilliant and amazing chefs, that make excellent and exclusive food. I for example hate Grandiosa and don’t even thinks it qualifies to be called a pizza with it’s thick crust.

    3: Why would any Norwegian “love” bad things any foreigners say about their country?

    4: I don’t know where you got that from, but it surely isn’t about all Norwegians. You would rather loose your kids to the child protection services quite quickly if you did that.

    5: I already answered this one.

    6: What? I mean, really, where did you get that from? And of course no one likes a mushy avocado.

    7: As if it were their last? Norwegians are absolutely not the kind of people that “live every day like it would be their last”, quite the opposite Norwegians think in the long term.

    8: Is it that peculiar to you that it’s interesting to know how old someone is? In many cases that is of interest, and says a lot about the person, e.g. for an achievement. Do you think they should rather write “entrepreneur got his company valued for 100 million kroner”, than “entrepreneur (22) got his company valued for 100 million kroner”?? That has a much higher news and sensational value than some dude in his 60s getting it.

    9: Is that really a hard concept to grasp? There are only 6 sides on a dice, and of course when you are in another country, it’s you that have to adapt, not they.

    10: I think it’s rather you that have a really bad sense of humour and have wishful thinking that they’re laughing inside. Because that is absolutely not true in any way, Norwegians laugh out loud if they think something actually is funny. Actually Norwegians are far from the toughest crowd for comedy and they even “comfort laugh” so they can even laugh even if they don’t think it’s funny just to not hurt your feelings, and if no one laughs the joke is so bad that it’s not even good enough for “comfort laughing” because it’s so akward.

    11: This is also really something that is far from true for all Norwegians. And look at Norway and how many decent people there are here compared to other countries. So someone must have done something right with their upbringing to.

    12: This is not only naive, but it’s just silly. You must mistake bureaucrats working in the state for being representative for all Norwegians, where everything has to go by protocol. Also not a Norwegian phenomenon. And not only has black labour become a huge problem that is so big that even the Norwegian builders and craftsmen are suffering bad from it, but out on the countryside people drive like crazy.

    13: This isn’t just something in Norway, and yes, I do feel that way, but it’s also completely normal if you are a routined city person to not be in the way all the time and think about who’s behind you. E.g. people that walk quickly in a crowded place and just suddenly stop full stop are really annoying people. So yeah, when being in an urban environment you also have to think about the people behind you, not only for your but others safety actually.

    14: This is something that is true particularly for young Norwegians, not all Norwegians. People in the “drink to get drunk”-period in their life think like this.

    15: What’s actually called a grilldress isn’t what most people wear. People in tacky “grilldresses” are usually found at campingsites. There’s a difference between grilldress and sweat suit or jogging pants.

    16: Well, this can be partly true for some, but still it’s not for all. So it’s gets to silly to say it’s like that for Norwegians. I mean have you ever heard about cultural differences? Norwegians are very far from one big homogenous group. And also Norway is has the happiest people in the world after judging by many criterias. You have to realize that not all people think enjoyment is synonymous with sitting in French designer clothes at cafés while laughing of celebrity gossip either. There are several ways people get stimulated.

    17: There are “Debbie Downers” in all cultures that come with this kind of negative statements. It’s not a Norwegian thing.

    So all in all, have you ever been to any other country than France and Norway? Because it seems like you think that normal human nature and personality types is something that can only be found here. It seems like you’re like a really local village kind of person that has little knowledge about how people are in the world, and you’re everything but funny. Some Norwegians call this spot on, but it really isn’t. It’s extremely generalizing, and it seems like you’ve gotten all your assumptions after hanging out with some young Norwegian people, that aren’t representative for Norwegians. Norway has huge cultural differences.

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  3. It’s not like the cultural differences are super huge. But there is an especially big difference between people in the far north and far south. Also the difference is quite big between east and west. If you had any real information from statistics you would know that Norwegians are very divided in opinions and lifestyles. So you’re really missing completely with huge generalizations even though some is teue for certain groups. That’s why it becomes too silly.

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  4. Actually what you’re doing is a common logical shortcoming. Because to make real statistics you have to have questioned at least 1000 people from a certain population in at least different age, gender, income and education groups that are representative for the population. Still people make huge generalizations for a group after the actions of some few in a group. That’s just what racism bases on ignorance is all about. And you’re really aren’t on point here either. Everywhere there is so much more to people than petty generalizations. But I guess that’s what many want, they just want to put people in geoups and think they know everything about them before they actually know them. So yeah, if you are just trolling you got a big customer in me, but I think you’re actually thinking this to. It’s not only trolling.

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  5. This was not 100% spot on, quite the opposite. I will not spend time arguing against all the points raised but it is obvious that the author adopts the same attitude as most French expats coming to Norway, critisising and generalizing everything after a few weeks. However, when expats have to return to France, then they start realizing that Norway is not so bad after all. There are pros and cons in Norway like there are in France – maybe the perspective from the author would be more objective if she had been French – Norwegian like I am.

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