Survival Guide for Foreigners in Norway during the Winter Olympics


The Winter Olympics are finally over. Hasn’t it been a blast? The answer is yes, if you are Norwegian. For us foreigners living in Norway things can look a bit differently.

Here are a few tips I have developed for foreigners to survive Winter Olympics when living in Norway.

  1. Buy earplugs. You will need those not to die of a heart attack when Norwegians beside you start screaming of joy without any warning when their sports heroes win.
  2. Be open-minded. Most Norwegians believe that the whole world watches the Winter Olympics and is super-interested in all these competitions on snow and ice. They could not care less that your country has never had snow long enough to have anyone even think of building a pair of skis. You will need to learn all the names of sports and heroes of their national sports although your own country might not even been competing. Get over it. You’re in Norway.
  3. Be patient. You usually calm Norwegian partner just spent 10 days standing 30 centimeters from the television screaming and jumping when a Norwegian sportsperson gets close to the finish line? Under the Winter Olympics the shyest and quietest Norwegian can flirt with the border of insanity. They can suddenly show emotions such as sadness, anger, disappointment, joy and pride 200 times more than on regular days. It goes over just after the closing ceremony of the Winter Olympics. See Why do Norwegians lose it during the Winter Olympics for further explanation on this phenomenon.
  4. Be happy on Norwegians’ behalf. It’s not like your country is leading with most medals in the competition, right? They work hard and endure winter 70% of the year. There has to be something in it for them!
  5. Pretend you know all the different sports of the Winter Olympics. Like something I thought was called lav tempo (slow tempo) which is actually called lagtempo (team pursuit speed skating). Or the rules of fellesstart which has rules that require a PhD. People speeding on skates at different times and winning points. No way of understanding who won by just looking at the finish line. When the Norwegian Sverre Lunde Pedersen did not get qualified for the finals, Norwegian journalists said it is because even he did not understand the rules.
  6. Try to entertain yourself, by for example watching sports no longer in competition such as Ski ballet. Hard to beat Micheal Jackson’s moonwalk on skis.… or with expert comments from Olympics in the 1980s and 1990s here.
  7. If you are a boss in a Norwegian company, I advise you let your staff watch Winter Olympics during working hours (at least during lunch time), to avoid having problems with trade unions and potential riots (I am joking, but pretty sure a few could suddenly be on sick leave to watch the games). Every time there is Winter Olympics the tag “work conflicts” appears on articles about Norwegian companies and state-run offices refusing to let their staff watch the games during working hours.
  8. Try avoiding asking this question to Norwegians. “If you Norwegians love the Winter Olympics so much, why doesn’t Norway organise the games?”. It will raise uncomfortable debates as to where their heart lies. In 2013-2014 Oslo was a candidate to host the 2022 Winter Olympics. The Progress party (far right) asked for a referendum, but when it came out that the people had voted in favour of the Olympics, the city town hall (led by the Conservatives) voted against. Some call it double morale, I call it “one of these things which are hard to understand in Norwegian politics”.
  9. Remember to say bad things about other nations’ doping habits, but always find excuses for the Norwegians found guilty of the same thing. There is something in Norway about their ski heroes never being guilty. See here for a blogpost I wrote about this during the “Johaug and he doping lip-balm from Italy” scandal.
  10. Learn the colour of the Swedes when competing: usually a bright yellow suit. It will come in very handy when the Norwegian will win over the Swede and you will then know when to scream your content a little harder than usual. In the unfortunate event that a Swede wins over a Norwegian, you can say something like “It’s fine to leave them a few crumbs”. About this “ski war” between Norwegians and Swedes read more here.
  11. If you are from Sweden yourself, I advise you go home for a holiday during the Winter Olympics and avoid bragging about your medals when coming back to Norway. If you want to keep your friends, that is. And your life.
  12. Hold your breath and nod when Norwegians around you explain that based on this competition, it is now obvious that Norway is the best at everything in the whole world. “Of course you are Bjørn” is the right answer. Not “Right. When is the last time you won an international football competition again?”. Winter sports is the only thing they have, let them have it.
  13. Since they are so happy during the Winter Olympics, try using this momentum to make deals with your partner. For example. Marit Bjørgen just won a new god medal, and just when your partner is screaming of joy ask “Hey, you wouldn’t mind clearing the snow off the car for the next 3 weeks would you?”. Of couuuurrse darling!!
  14. Enjoy the fact that Norwegian winners party with karaoke and not with champagne and prostitutes like the French football stars like to do. I mean, there is even a “normal people” feel to the way they answer interviews. The guys just won and they have a calm voice and explain how they managed because of hard work and their team.
  15. Note that some winners might brag a bit more than usual though. Do not be irritated about that. Usually all Norwegians, except for Petter Northug and a few other funny birds, are humble about their own wins and talents. But be aware that during the Winter Olympics this skill of not feeling like one is better than others might fade away. Again, it will be back again after the closing ceremony of the Olympics (not for Petter Northug and Co. I’m afraid there it is a permanent damage even a closing ceremony of the Winter Olympics cannot cure).
  16. Try to see the positive in all this. Norwegians often seem a little depressed and not very outspoken, especially in the winter. That’s usually when they decide to go to their cabin and ski alone and be happy they met nobody during their holiday. But because of the Winter Olympics and all these wins see how happy they look! And they aren’t even (that) drunk!
  17. Listen to the Norwegians expressions translated to bad English by those being interviewed. Like Marit Bjørgen and her “Relay is relay”. And that means….?
  18. If you want to know whether there are wars in the world, or whether Trump is sending a bomb on North Korea, you might have to read newspapers from your own country. Because on Norwegian media there will mainly be coverage of the Winter Olympics under every angle: the wins, the almost wins, interviews of parents of those who won, counting the medals, etc.
  19. Use this opportunity to learn words linked to this kind of skiing-competition-that Norwegians-love-to-win that you’ve never heard and which are untranslatable to your own language, such as medaljejubel, smøresjef, gullguttene, gullbragd, gullfølelse og Klæbo-klyvet.
  20. Use this opportunity to get better at understanding the Trøndelag dialects. Most Norwegians competing in ski sports are from there and will therefore explain in interviews how they felt when they won etc.
  21. Maybe your country won a few medals, and you can therefore be happy about that. But try to keep that happiness inside, and not show it too much, especially if he/she beat a Norwegian. For the Swedes who decided not to go home, be extra careful in expressing that medaljejubel.

This is going to be great! The closing ceremony, I mean.

Another Ski ballet picture to put a smile on your face.



This article was published in VG under the title Overlevelsesguide: Vinter-OL for utlendinger on the 25th of February 2018.

A Frog in the Fjord: One Year in Norway Book

5 thoughts on “Survival Guide for Foreigners in Norway during the Winter Olympics

  1. I know this is meant like a humorous input. Of course I’m shouting when Norway wins. I’m Norwegian! I also applaud when Sweden, Finland or Denmark win, as well as all other athletes who manage to win after an impressive performance. Maybe the thought of only being 5 millions, and still do well enhances the feeling of success? France didn’t do too bad either, in these olympics. Martin Fourcade is a great athlete. He’s born in Perpignan, which makes it more impressive. Not too many “Biathlon” genes there. I’m more worried about the way the French handball women’s team celebrated their victory lately. To step on the losing part seemed more important than to celebrate their own excellent performance. The approach to success in sports are different in the different countries!

  2. Twenty one is “a few”?? They are all very useful tips and explain some marginally acceptable behaviors very well. I’ll be there in a few months and still expect to hear about the great performances of the Norwegian athletes. There were a lot of terrific performances by all the athletes, but especially the Norwegians.

  3. The part about doping was under the belt. You could have dropped that part when you had no intention of being fair. Norwegian sports men are probably the less doped in the whole world. Besides, the conviction of Johaug was not anywhere near fair. You may ask any foreigner you like who has insight into the story. Well, you may not ask any french – they are inflicted by Arab morale: everything is okay unless you get caught and then nothing is okay.

  4. Norwegians have a lot of things to be proud lately. One of these is winter sports. They really did fine in the Olympics. Now they are on the top. And i wonder which nation would have behaved differently after such success. A small nation having lived for decades under the shadow of the rest Scandinavian countries is quite normal to act this way. And don’t forget that when we come to sports, suddenly the temper of all peoples worldwide come to some extreme acts.
    We should be happy i think, that Norwegians do not behave the same way regarding all the rest achievments they managed the last period. Imagine if they acted the same way about financial, social or educational topics!!!

    So there is really nothing you can do about it.
    Because there is no problem with it. It’s completely natural bahavour. It’s just life.
    Only maybe what you are doing!!
    Make fun with them, laugh at them, make comedy with them, “play”with them like small innocent kids, with love and understanding, just the way you always do.

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