Local Tips to Survive a Norwegian Winter

Some of you think winter has come already in Norway. Haha you fool. This is just the beginning. A little snow does not make a Norwegian winter. It is going to get colder, and it is going to get darker. You’re going to need a bunch of things to survive this, and keep your emotional and physical health intact. Remember that last year it snowed in Oslo in May and it can snow in July in the north. So winter has just started.

1. Do light therapy

Those who’ve been here a while will mostly agree: the hard part in a Norwegian winter is not the cold but the darkness. So go outside as much as you can especially when the sun is out. This helps to avoid seasonal depression.

Even a few rays of sunshine in your eyes and on your skin can really help. It is usually not enough, so you can buy “light therapy lights” one hour max per day while working for example. Other do very minimal UV light sessions (5-10 minutes).

2. Keep warm, and dry

Depending on where you come from, and what kind of weather you are used to dealing with, Norwegian winter weather can be a challenge. Note that a Norwegian winter is not always just cold. There can be a lot of wind, rain, then snow, then storms, then icy pavements and more snow.

Depending on where you live in the country, weather conditions are different. If you’re living in Sørlandet (Kristiansand for ex.) temperatures are higher, but there is more rain than in the North, if you live in Alta or Tromsø where it is way colder, since much closer to the North Pole.

To face the cold, you’ll need to buy woollen underwear, or ullundertøy. You’ll also need other stuff made of wool, such as woollen socks, hat, gloves and even soles to put inside your shoes to keep you insulated from the ground.

If you are still wondering what “ullundertøy” is, it is what our current Norwegian Prime Minister is wearing on this picture.

For more, read my 10 tips to keep warm in the winter.

3. Exercise, ideally outside

Skiing, ice-skating, glacier climbing, jogging. Whatever it is, getting physical activity outside is one of the best investments you can do during the winter, both for your physical and mental health.

Why do you think Norwegians like skiing so much? It makes them be outside, enjoy this wonderful nature they have available, while being active and hence not being cold. Skiing is the perfect sport because it is cheap if not free (it is free to ski, and if you don’t have skis you can get some from a place called BUA).

You’ll need to be very smart about what to wear when skiing or exercising outside. Don’t over dress, else you’ll sweat and get cold.

If you cannot handle the cold, exercise indoor and go to saunas, ideally with a hop in a lake, fjord or in the snow just after. Great for blood circulation.

Extinct sport of ballet skiing

4. Make friends, be social

Easier said than done, right? It is cold and people are in their homes lighting candles and making everything “koselig”. How on Earth can you make friends during the winter?

Here are a few tips:

  1. enrol in group activities to meet new people
  2. accept EVERY invitation you get to drink a coffee, a julebord (Christmas party), a skiing trip even if you don’t drink beer, and hate skiing (you can drink tea and learn to ski 🙂
  3. become a volunteer, enrol on frivillig.no to volunteer experiences near you
  4. invite people to your home. One of the best ways to know Norwegians is to make that first step, for example by inviting them to a traditional Christmas dinner from your own culture. They’ll love it!

5. If nothing works out: Drink & Travel

As I previously wrote, there is another way to survive a Norwegian winter: Syden Sex Alcohol, aka SAS (not the airline).

Syden is the place Norwegians to on holidays when they crave the sun: anywhere where there is sun and cheap alcohol where there is a direct charter flight (Greece, Thailand, Spain etc.). Sex, well, that helps to fight a depression right? And alcohol, that makes you forget it is even winter. The website to find “leftover” charter flights from Norway is called restplass.no

Good luck! A picture from Syden to make it through the winter.


A Frog in the Fjord: One Year in Norway Book

3 thoughts on “Local Tips to Survive a Norwegian Winter

  1. Nice try. There are however a few activities one cannot avoid at winter time in Norway:
    – Changing the wheels of your car if you have one. Waiting till the first ice or the first snow on the roads always provide infuriating excitement
    – Making sure you will be seen by others, mainly cars, when walking or bicycling. The “refleks” is a local icon, the OL medal of winter time,
    – Preparing Xmas or the “Season holidays” as it as become politically correct to say. The shops have already stocked related items since mid-October and the Xmas atmosphere will grow and grow with decorations, lights and preparation of gifts and food. You had a piece about Xmas food which shows how serious stuff this is. The length of the Xmas period usually amazes outside Norway where people enjoy an evening and a day plus the Boxing day for some, compared to the 3 official ones here.
    – Planning new Year’s eve fireworks, although this activity has been toned down now that authorities have come to their senses and organize communal events. In the cities, that night could look like a war zone.
    – Looking at the Milky Way in clear crisp winter nights (outside cities that is),
    – Organizing the “Vinterferie”, winter holidays in February, during which skiing is almost compulsory.
    No time to get bored at winter time in Norway.

  2. Syden can ble pretty expensive as you have to travel further than the Med to get proper warm weather…

    What helped the most for me, is to have a dog. Norwegians love animals, and so many have dogs nowadays. Suddenly I got Norwegian friends, could enroll on courses and events with dogs. Just a shame they are yet not allowed in pubs, cafees and such. I hope it will happen soon 🙂

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