Why do Norwegians love inneklemte days so much

A Frog in the Fjord: One Year in Norway Book

This article was written in Norwegian for NRK Ytring on the 05.05.2018 under the title Inneklemt-fest, and later adapted for this blog.

May is a widely expected month for many Norwegians, because of something called inneklemte dager. Now this is a bit of a strange word to translate to English. “Klem” is a word used in different words. It can mean “hug”, and I really wondered for a second whether these inneklemte days were days where Norwegians give lots of hugs to each other. In contradiction with regular days where they barely speak to their neighbours. Then I thought about it again. Those are not called inneklemte dager, they are called nattspiel, and they don’t happen just in May but every Friday and Saturday evening in Norwegian cities where public places sell alcohol.

The word is also used in tidsklemma which is what Norwegians call the fact that they are running around double booking their evenings and trying to achieve everything in their 24 hour days. It is also used in inneklemte dager, which means “the working days squeezed between days where we don’t need to work”. For example a Friday 18th of May squeezed between a Wednesday 17th of May (a bank holiday in Norway, as it is the National Day. For more information on this day, read here and here) and the week end. Or a Monday right before the Tuesday 1st of May (Labour day), etc. In French it is called “faire le pont”, but I don’t know the English word for it.

Every year it is a big game to find out how few days off one can take to have the longest week ends possible. As early as June 2017, NRK already predicted a “inneklemt party” for Spring 2018. Whatever that means. There is even a website called inneklemtedager.no which informs you of all the inneklemte days, which can be calculated until the end of times.

When does inneklemt season start?

The inneklemt season in Norway begins each year with Easter holidays and ends at the end of May. In a calendar where a regular person like me just looks a few bank holidays here and there, a Norwegian looks like a holiday lasting up to 11 days at Easter (see here for more about Easter in Norway). There will be even more opportunities for long weekends in May. In total there are 10 bank holidays between Easter and the end of May, with many inneklemt days depending on the year.

Many Norwegians also believe that every Friday is an inneklemt day. Therefore, it is allowed to leave around 2pm every Friday or do not get to work at all and take a day off. It’s a day of work before two days where one does not work, so I understand the confusion. But don’t get too excited, Fridays are not counted as enclosed days in this context.

For those of you who are still a little confused, here are three key social rules that Norwegians follow on inneklemte days :

1- Maximizing and enjoying inneklemte days requires a lot of planning. Long weekend for next spring is scheduled for Christmas already for some. One needs activities when it’s dark outside and one is bored in November and December. Maybe that is the key to surviving the long and dark winter, the wait to holidays in the light (promising sun would oversell it). People know if they are going to have a long weekend or a weekend weekend for May 17th, and make strategies to get the most out of the day with the least days off. It is about maximization the actual days one takes off from work (holidays or avspasering) to have the most time off, in addition to the five week vacation one receives annually.

Skiing, a preferred activity during inneklemte days

2- Alcohol is important before long week ends for two reasons: it is going to be a long week end, usually without any compulsory driving (no driving = the right to drink a lot of alcohol, especially if one is having a koselig time at one’s hytte), and second reason: Vinmonopolet closes early before long week ends. This is why Norwegians plan where and when to get enough alcohol to properly enjoy those days. If there is a long weekend in the cabin, go for a little harry trip to Sweden on your way there or the weekend before. If you cannot go to Sweden you should know when Vinmonopolet closes in order not to be like me, stuck in the front of the shop because I did not know it closed earlier before a Christian holiday (or some other reason). If you go to the Syden (a term that includes many countries where the sun shines, the beer is almost free and easily available, see here for more info) then the international flight will provide a starter, and the all inclusive will supply all your needs once you are off down there.

Illustration: Kristine Lauvrak, all rights reserved © Kristine Lauvrak & Frog in the Fjord
Illustration: Kristine Lauvrak. © Kristine Lauvrak & Frog in the Fjord

3- The reason why you are not working is not important. Bank holidays in Norway can be of several reasons: religious (mainly Christian), national (such as the Constitution Day on the 17th of May), political (Labour Day). Who cares why we are off, as long as it does not fall on a Saturday or Sunday, which steals an inneklemt opportunity from Norwegians. Like last year for example, where we had very few long week ends compared to 2018. Who cares why, the main point is to figure out whether you will go on a cabin trip, a week end abroad or visiting friends and family elsewhere. In France, one works the second day of Pentecost without getting a salary. It is called “solidarity day” by the government since 2004, and the salary goes to a fund to help old people. I’m pretty sure that many Norwegians who never saw the inside of a Church since their baptism would not be too happy about this kind of decision. “Do you accept this?” asked a friend. Well, it’s not like we have a choice. The government made this decision just after a heat wave that killed over 10.000 people in France. Many of them were elderly who had been left alone by their families who had gone on holidays.

I am a bit surprised that the 8th of May, day of the liberation from the Nazis under WWII isn’t a bank holiday (it is in France). But then the whole month of May would be free in Norway, as they have the additional 17th of May. In France we even have the 11th of November because of WWI, and the 1st of November (Day of the Dead). And the usual Christian bank holidays, although Norway does celebrate more than the French especially during Easter.

Should the inneklemt party be over?

Some believe that bank holidays should be worked in Norway. For example Hans Geelmuyden who leads a big PR bureau wants to give employees 1 additional week of holidays per year, so that they can take those days whenever they like, including their own religious holidays for those who are not Christian for example. He wants people to stop taking all these long week ends at the same time. Fair enough. But do you want Labour Day to disappear when demonstrations grow every year and the Labour Law is giving weaker protection for workers? How many Norwegians will accept to work on the 17th of May? Because let’s face it, not everyone goes to their cabin during all these bank holidays, many actually go to Church, 17. mai tog with their kids and labour demonstrations. Without the National Day blueberry and strawberry and bunad sellers would go bankrupt. And nobody wants that right?

Or shall we get rid of the Christian days because almost nobody goes to Church anymore except a few in Southern Norway? Then there will be revolt in the Bible Belt. Nobody wants to watch angry Christians.

We have to keep the bank days, and the days of the week. We deserve free days after a dark winter, and it applies to both employees and employers who deserve to go to the mountains and have time with their family, friends and nature. All the days we spend on days that are squeezed in between bank holidays and week ends are not stolen. People actually take from their own holiday days, or from additionnal hours worked previously (also called flexitid). We have been working to take time off. My personal opinion is that the reason Norwegians do not complain when retirement is later and later is because society allows the balance between work and leisure in Norway. Free from work is what makes us still happy to get to work every day, and effective. The next inneklemt days are the 18th of May. If you take that one off you have a 5 day week end.

Happy inneklemt party!

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