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.