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42 things every foreigner must learn about Norway

It's not easy to understand these ice-cold Vikings, but we're giving you a handy guide.

Norway, the way to the north. A land of fjords, taxes and beautiful mountains. Planning on going, or just planning to meet a Norwegian? We’re giving you this handy guide to avoid the worst pitfalls. Please share it with anyone who has anything to do with Norwegians and Norway.

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1. Tipping is not a city in Norway

Service is included in your bill. It is common courtesy to round up your bill, but a tip of more than 10 per cent is just not normal. It actually means you have to explain to Norwegians that service is not included when they visit your country. Don’t be afraid to do so, they won’t mind as long as the alchohol prices are low (see further on).


2. Norway isn’t expensive

For the people getting their wage from companies based in Norway, that is. As a tourist it’s something entirely different. Don’t criticize, though, they won’t go for that. What goes on inside of your head is ok, but even if a Norwegian says something is expensive you shouldn’t agree. As they say in Star Wars: It’s a trap!

3. Norway loves football, skiing and everything they win

Chess? Yes, after they got Magnus Carlsen. Curling? Yes, when they won the Olympics. Team Handball? Oh, yeah. Skiing? Of course. Norway never wins in football (soccer), but they compensate by choosing a team in the Premier League.

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4. No touching please

Norwegians are very, very into Personal Space. Don’t sit down at a table where a Norwegian is already sitting, don’t touch a Norwegian you don’t know. Never kiss on the cheek. Handshakes? Ok, but keep them to a minimum.

5. Sex, please

Oslo is called the one-night stand capital of the world, and Norwegians tend to be more open minded when it comes to sex than many other cultures. Even more so than those make-believe swedish blondes from your fantasies. It has mainly something to do with Helgefylla (see later on).

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6. Don’t mention the Swedes

The Swedes kinda occupied Norway for 100 years (sort of) from 1814 to 1905. And after that the Swedes beat Norway in almost everything from clothes to car-making and the Eurovision Song Contest. Until Norway found oil. Norwegians still see themselves as a little brother, and no – Norway is not a city in Sweden.

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7. But do mention the War

The second world war, that is. Norwegians like to tell stories of their exploits and how they fought bravely against the German occupation. Just nod and say that you’ve heard it was very impressive, and that the American president told the world to look to Norway.


8. Alchohol is expensive in Norway

Well, sort of. It is not very expensive to buy a bottle of wine at the government controlled liquoer stores. It is expensive to buy out on the town, and it is impossible to get cheap beer except from the Polish immigrants (Norways largest immigrant group)

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9. You have to be 18 to buy beer

The legal age of buying and drinking beer and wine is 18. For stronger stuff the age limit is 20 years. Most Norwegians are well travelled in the ways of alcohol before the age of 18 due in some part to Hjemmebrent (moonshine).

10. Don’t buy a round for your newfound friends

Buying a round of alchohol? Don’t. If you come from the bar with 8 beers and your new friends finish them they will go to the bar one by one after your round – and won’t come back with a beer for you. Accept it.

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11. Norwegians and Samis

The indigenious people of Norway are called Sami. They have their origins in the northen parts of Sweden, Russia, Norway and Finland. The Sami are known for their rich culture, distinctive music and art. Norwegians are not. And, yes, Norwegians did the same to their indigenious people as everyone else.


12. Taxes are a way of life

The income tax is at least 28 per cent, VAT or sales tax is 25 per cent. You also get TV tax, fuel tax, plastic bottle tax, sugar tax and probably oxygene tax (we don’t know, but are guessing here).

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13. … but Taxis are not

Taxis are so expensive that it may sometimes be cheaper to hire a car for the same distance. Try to look for public transport. Uber is illegal.

14. Don’t wear shoes inside

Take them off if you visit someones private home. Remember clean socks. In a very twisted logic it is socially accepted, in many parts of Norway, to wear socks in your sandals.

15. And when it comes to the Swedes again…

Many, if not most, of the barmen and hotel employees you’ll meet will be from Sweden. They are were much like Norwegians except service-minded, smiling and very friendly to strangers. Hope for a swedish barman.


16. The Norwegians are not unfriendly

Norwegians are just sceptical, and impulsive as soon as they have thought things over. Whenever you actually befriend a Norwegian (which is hard, except from on Helgefylla (see later)) they become friends for life. Not exactly like dogs, but not that different either.

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17. Sun in the summer? It will be supercrowded

If the sun shines in June and July every park, beach and places to drink or eat outside will be flooded. Norway normally has two winters: One white and one green. Whenever that green winter starts to feel similar to a real summer everyone goes outside. It’s very nice.

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18. Helgefylla is something you need to understand

Because of the somewhat strict alchohol regulations (state monopoly, no alchohol for sale on Sundays in shops, high prices) Norwegians tend to concentrate their alchohol consumption in a shortest possible time space. Helgefylla is almost like spring break in the U.S., except every weekend. On Helgefylla Norwegians become friendly, outgoing and very open-minded and love to ask the foreign taxi-drivers where they originally came from.

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19. How Norwegians cure diseases

Most Norwegians believe that diseases can be cured with one or a combination of these three elements: physical exercise, tran (codliver oil), and headache-pills.

20. The Norwegian Hand

The sentence: Could you please pass the (…whatever, like salt or ketchup or the likes of it) is not understood in Norway and almost only used in Montebello in Oslo. Instead Norwegians use their worldfamous Norwegian Hand. This means an outstreched hand over your plate of food to grab whatever is situated right next to you. Don’t worry, it’s not rude (of course it is rude, but not to the average Norwegian).

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21. Norway has legal gambling

It’s government controlled. The entire profit is distributed to culture and sports.

22. Don’t talk to Strangers

Norwegian never talk to a stranger on the bus, on the train or on the tram. In a bar or a pub it’s the other way around, especially during Helgefylla.

23. Norwegians live everywhere

There is a Norwegian TV show called “Where nobody could think that anyone could live,” but they actually do. You can drive for an hour straight into a forest and find a small house, or be in a boat in a fjord and not see anyone for hours until you stop on a small rock in the middle of nowhere and out pops a Norwegian who actually lives there. Yes, they have cities – but they also have something called Distriktspolitikk which is very important to a lot of Norwegians.

This hotel is almost as Norwegian as anything in the world, it just might be trolls living right outside

24. The national pasttime is Skiing

Would you believe that they also rollerski on the roads if the snow melts? (We could say when, but there are some parts of Norway where you can ski during the summer – remember that part about the green and white winters?). Norwegians want you to know that they are born with skis on their feet. They’re not, though. The first skis are given to them for the baptism.

25. Cabins

Norwegians love their cabins (Hytta). The best cabins have a required ski trek of 30 minutes to reach it, has outdoor toilets, no electricity and no water (you melt snow). Some Norwegians fake the Hytte-tradition by installing electricity, WCs and have running water. Beware of these unbelievers, they might make your holiday liveable.

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26. Jesus does not live there anymore

Norwegians became Christians by force by Olav the Holy (they should have seen that one coming) from 1015 to 1028, and still use some of the old Christian rules like closed shops on Sunday and public holiday based on Christianity. Norwegians are not Christian, though. If you step inside of a church on a Sunday it will almost always be half empty. Up until some years ago it was illegal to dance on some public (Christian) holidays. The relationship between Jesus and Norwegians are almost like their relationship with the EU.

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27. Norwegians are blonde

88 per cent of Norwegians have blue eyes or green eyes, the highest in Europe. 75 per cent of all adult males have light hair (which means something other than very dark, and includes red). It is a myth that Norwegians have red hair, that’s mostly Irish and Scottish people. It was the Celts who probably had the red hair and the Vikings brought it back when they farmed and settled in England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland (i.e. raped and pillaged).

28. Grandiosa

This is the national dish of Norway. They might try to convince you it’s Fårikål (Sheep boiled with cabbage), but most Norwegians – understandably – does not eat that. They eat something that is quite similar to, but not quite, pizza. It’s more of a frozen dough with cheese and something that is not far from meat. If a Norwegian ask you if you want some it’s ok to say no.

29. Norway and the EU

Norwegians have rejected EU membership twice in referendums, but Norway have implemented more EU directives than any other EU member state. It’s almost like their relationship with Jesus. Not that we are calling EU son of a deity, it’s just that they follow the rules without believing.

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30. The Pension Fund of Norway is extremely large

In september 2014 the valuation of the fund was 857 billion dollars, holding one percent of global equity markets. The fund owns the largest number of European shares that any other entity (an average of 2,5 per cent of every European listed company). The Oil fund has a quite large list of companies they do not invest in. For instance Lockheed, Airbus, Boeing, British American Tobacco and Wal-Mart. And Norway owns Regent Street in London.They’re still pillaging, now just somewhat more civilized.

31. Norway is Socialdemocratic

The politics of Norway is based upon a socialdemocratic principle, which means high taxes and a welfare state (free medical treatments) and so on. Sometimes Norway is called the last Soviet state, which is somewhat untrue. Just somewhat.

Norway has also hotels on the beach, just look here

32. Norwegians read more books than any other country in the world

In per capita, that is. Books are also tax-free. Every easter Norwegians read thrillers (detective stories, mostly), and in the summer they read, well, the same. Norways best selling author is a former finance analyst and pop singer, Jo Nesbø.

33. Every spring you must look out for Russ

Russ is teens finishing school at the age of 18/19. Through the month of May, until the National Holiday on the 17th, they drink and party every day. This coincides with their final exams, which is one of the reasons that Norway – in spite of their public schools – have many private schools that lets students take their final year once more. As far as anyone knows the word has nothing to do with Russians.

34. Norway and the US

There are around 5 million norskamerikanere (Norwegian-Americans) in the USA. About the same amount as Norwegians living in Norway. Norway is a very secular country with liberal (many americans would call it almost socialistic) views. The Norwegian-Americans are one of the most religious ethnic groups in the US, and tend to hold very conservative views in politics. That said, people like Iggy Pop and Matt Groening also have Norwegian ancestry.

This hotel is situated on probably the most beautiful beach in Norway

35. Norwegians placenames

The Vikings really liked to get around, and settled wherever they could find farmland or steal farmland. A lot of names of cities and places around the world therefore have old Norwegian names (like Normandy or Dublin).

36. Norway have more English speakers than Canada

Around 78 per cent of Canadians speak English. The number for Norway is 86 per cent.

37. The Largest Deep Water Coral Reef is in Norway

It’s outside Lofoten, and is called Røst Reef. It is 40 kilometers long by 3 kilometers wide.

38. Oh, and you must learn what Vorspiel and Nachspiel is

You know the thing about Helgefylla, and the high alchohol prices? Before you go out you go to a Vorspiel to drink alchohol, and after everything closes you go to a Nachspiel to burn Grandiosa in the oven.

The coolest hotel in Norway is in the old Opera house (yes, seriously!)

39. The King of Norway is 1/4 Danish and 1/2 Swedish

His father was King Olav V and his father again was the Danish prince Christian Frederik Carl Georg Valdemar Axel who became Haakon VII. His mother was Princess Märtha of Sweden (who in turn was half Danish). The King is also 1/4 English (His grandmother was Maud of Wales). It gets hard to understand we know, Crown Prince Haakon will become the first modern king of Norway born with two Norwegian-born parents if he becomes king. This is not a topic of conversation you should start with a Norwegian, neither is the history of the Crown Princess Mette-Marit.


40. Fellesferien

Everyone is on holiday from the second week of July until August. The government closes, doctors are in Spain and all offices are semiclosed. Come back in August for business.

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41. There is no Authority

Well, there is – but Norwegians don’t generally go for that. A boss earns a bit more than their employees but you won’t spot the boss by walking into a office. He or she might be the one in the Metallica-shirt and Adidas-sneakers.

42. Don’t complain in Restaurants

We’re not kidding. Even though the bacon was burned, the steak overcooked and the Wine corked a Norwegian with self respect will never complain in a restaurant. Might have something to do with the high prices of alcohol and food in restaurants.

This is the hotel where diplomats stay in Oslo, you’ll see why