Many many years ago (in 2013) I wrote a blogpost called How to make Norwegian Friends. Although there were lots of great tips there, such as joining activity groups and mingling in parties, this pandemic changed a few things. If you are feeling lonely in Norway as a foreigner, or are just willing to make local friends, but you are wondering how, I will try to give you some updated tips here. Keep in mind that social distancing is key. Although many social events can happen digitally, if you do meet people in person, respect the rules set by Norway’s Public Health Institute found in English here. In some cases one has to wear a face mask, rules may differ depending on where you live in Norway, check FHI for more info.
1- Meet people outdoors
In Oslo new restrictions from the government say we cannot meet more than 10 persons per week outside of those living in our home. In the rest of the country it is not that strict. It is still allowed to go for walks in the forest, or in other open spaces.
Just make sure you respect social distancing rules and latest regulations to prevent spreading the virus.
2- Join activities
The other basic principle of making friends in Norway also still applies, i.e. joining activities, berry picking or hiking, where friendliness is there despite the absence of alcohol. This will ensure probably long lasting friendships as you meet people many times and with an alibi (whichever activity you are doing). This can be fjord bathing in the Oslo fjord (see this great article on Visit Oslo), hiking (check the Facebook groups such as Hiking in Oslo and become a member of DnT). Note that cabins are gradually opening, so it is still possible to go with friends to cabins.
3- Volunteer and feel useful
Many volunteering programs are still running with an increased need to help those who are alone. Finn.no has something called Coronahjelp where you can offer your help (taking dogs out, bringing food to people in quarantine) while not necessarily meeting people in person, and frivillig.no is a website where one can become a volunteer either locally in your neighbourhood or in your city. It is everything from helping refugee women with their English skills to volunteering with the Red Cross. All these organisations respect all updated health regulations.
Be sure that you are not alone feeling lonely. Many Norwegians are suffering from social isolation and loneliness, and the winter creeping in on us is not helping. Helping others may be a way to feel better together.
4- Stay healthy during the winter
Regular advice to stay mentally and physically healthy through this winter is the same than other winters. Your body needs exercise and vitamin D. You might want to take Tran (cod liver oil) and many training centres are still open- otherwise a run in the forest is free and allows social distancing. Remember that being sad, angry and depressed does not help to make friends, whether they are Norwegian or not.
Read more on How to survive during your Winter Depression.
5- Invite your colleagues to digital social moments
Whether it is on Teams, Zoom or elsewhere, working from home does not mean one does not do “fredagspils” or “fredagsvafler”. (Friday beers and Friday waffles, where colleagues go out for a beer once in a while).
You can either bring it up yourself or ask someone who has been in your office a long time, to have these digital Friday happenings so that colleagues do mingle outside of work. Remember it is still allowed to meet people in real life, so you can also invite a colleague for a coffee outside your homes.
6- Find out what is happening in your city and more
In Oslo, Visit Oslo‘s website is great to keep yourself updated on what is happening. Taking Norwegian classes online is also a good idea, in order to integrate better and have more chances of making Norwegian friends. And if it gets too tough out there on your own, find a group of people from your home country or other foreigners (plenty of groups on Facebook) to vent your feelings and have some social contact.
7- Date Norwegians online
If you are single, there are some dating apps out there which can make you meet people. Tinder, Happn etc. I never said it was easy to date a Norwegian but at least you can give it a try. Of course this is a bit tricky because dating can potentially lead to activities which go against health regulations. And the Minister of Health just said one night stands was not advised now. Platonic relationships can be cool and build a momentum am I right?
8- If you have kids
If you have kids, parents of other kids, birthday parties (in small groups) is always a great way to meet new people. Participate in dugnads and make sure you are part of things and Norwegians will appreciate it. Visit Oslo has a special page for kids’ activities.
So in other words, the current circumstances are extraordinary but the basic principles don’t change. If you want to meet people you will manage! I promise it is worth it. Remember that you can always ask for help Norwegians do seem busy but if you say you are lonely and need company people will snap out of it and invite you to their homes or for a coffee outside. You might even be soon invited to a traditional Norwegian Christmas with more fat and aquavit than you can handle.