7 things you should know about Norwegians when travelling to Norway

This article is also available in: Dutch

Travelling abroad always teaches you something new. Something special. Whether you eat a local meal for the first time, find out about a certain type of music or meet people from a totally different culture with completely different habbits.. Even if you don’t go too far away from home, you will always find differences in lifestyle wherever you go.

When we travelled to Norway our very first time, one of the first things we noticed was how comfortable it is to be around Norwegians. They don’t judge. They don’t expect. They don’t put you under social pressure. And that feeling is amazing.

To help you get in touch with Norwegians when you go on holiday, I made a small list of 7 things you should know about Norwegians when travelling to Norway.

1. Norwegians don’t do small talk

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Norwegians socialize around so called ‘frame activities‘. They form social bubbles with their sports friends, charity organisations they work for etc. These bubbles don’t interact with each other and that makes it very hard to connect with a Norwegian as an outsider. It’s not that they want to be rude or that they dislike you, they just don’t have a frame to communicate with you. And even when you do become friends with a Norwegian, you are more likely to play a game with a friend than discussing the news. As you are more likely to walk in the mountains with an acquaintance than to talk about your feelings with them.

2. Norwegians don’t say ‘hi’ to everbody

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In a lot of countries it is considered normal to greet people everywhere you go. And say goodbye when you leave a shop, the bus or the office. In Norway, it is considered weird to randomly greet or say goodbye to people. There is a big exception though: it is the complete opposite in a bar or pub when there’s alcohol involved (also known as Helgefylla).

3. Norwegians need and really like space

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Norwegian people really appreciate their space. They need their space. Lots of it. When you are in another country than Norway or in a touristy surrounding, you can spot them very easily. They leave space when they sit down at a table, look at a landmark or do whatever. They try very hard not to disturb others. They do not touch. They need both physical and psychological space. Respect that.

4. Norwegians are very independant

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Norwegians are raised to become independant and self-sufficient. If somebody drives you home from work on their route home; that’s okay. If they have to drive into another direction than they were supposed to go, it is not considered okay. Norwegians rather walk home in that case. If you give a round at the bar to a couple of Norwegians, don’t expect them to buy you a beer later. They won’t. Behaviour like this isn’t considered rude, it’s considered independant.

5. Strangers are dangerous

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Norwegians teach their kids to be very careful. They teach them that strangers are dangerous. Children should always be sceptical and not talk to people that they don’t know. They should also walk alway when somebody talks to them without a reason. It is nothing personal, they do this to protect kids from a potential risk. That’s probably how Norway earned their title as one of the world’s safest countries.

6. No luxury = luxury

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A lot of Norwegians own a so called Hytte. A place to get away from your job, neighbours, society or even your friends. There is no electricity, no internet, no water, no TV.. And YES, this is a luxury for Norwegians. It’s not that they can’t afford a normal house, this is considered as luxury. If you give it a try, you will understand.

7. When Norwegians are in the mountains, they are free

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One of the most important things to remember is: once you’re in the mountains, everything changes.

“When Norwegians have the possibility to escape, they feel free. They greet. They small talk. For no reason. There is an organisation to frame all of this. It is called ‘Den Norske Turistforening’ (The Norwegian Trekking Association).”

And it’s quite contagious. :)

The Social Guidebook to Norway

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The illustrations above are made by Nicholas Lund and come from The Social Guidebook to Norway. This book is a tool to help foreigners adapt to their host society and Norwegians to better understand the challenges foreigners might experience. It uses humour and a series of simple illustrations from their popular Facebook page. The project behind the book is called MONDÅ. MONDÅ was founded in 2013 by Julien S. Bourrelle, the writer of the book. The project connects great people. They believe it is not about creating diversity, but about benefiting from diversity. They increase competiveness of business by improving communication within multi-cultural environments.

“It is not about what you see, it is about what you perceive.”

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Meet Julien. Julien is a Canadian rocket scientist (for realsies), has lived in five different countries and adapted his lifestyle to each local culture through learning the social norms, national values and languages. As the first foreign board member of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, he founded MONDÅ from his great passion for inter-cultural communication. He even received a TOP 10 award from HRH Crown Prince Haakon of Norway as an international role model in the Norwegian working and social life.

And he published a brand new second book to take socializing with Norwegians to a whole new level!

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The Social Guidebook to Norway – Friendships and Relationships. Once again illustrated by the brilliant Nicholas Lund:  This book will teach you everything about becoming friends, flirting, dating and even marrying a Norwegian! In a hilarious way, that is.

The funny thing is that we always feel more at home in Norway than we do in the Netherlands. It’s a feeling that we can’t really explain. Maybe you should just go see for yourselve. You’ll find how liberating it is to be amongst Norwegians. And don’t forget to buy Juliens newest book to read while you’re on the plane!

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