If ‘stoic’ wasn’t a Greek word, then the Norwegians would definitely have invented it. The modern descendants of the Vikings are so polite and, well, stoic, that they will never openly show their frustration at something you did, or make you realise they’ve taken offence with something you said. But as more and more tourists flock to Norway’s breathtaking fjords and picturesque cities, even the Norwegians are growing weary of certain faux-pas. Here are some of the things you’d be advised to avoid, both for the locals’ sake, but also to make the most out of your trip to Norway.
Did you know you can now travel with Culture Trip? We have plenty of European itineraries you can choose from, including Spain, Italy, the UK and Portugal – all curated by our travel experts and led by our Local Insiders.
Destinations Unlocked:Let our travel expert Stefano help you find your perfect Culture trip
Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
Expect to buy strong alcohol at the supermarket…
Alcohol in Norway (anything stronger than 4.7%) is regulated by the state, and only sold through state-run vinmonopolet shops. This goes way back to the 1920s prohibition and the more recent attempts to curb the high alcoholism rates in the country – Norwegians will tell you that the laws are actually way more lax nowadays. You’ll be able to find a vinmmonopolet in almost every city (big cities like Oslo have several), just be aware of their opening hours: they’re open from 10am to 5pm from Monday-Wednesday, 10am to 6pm from Thursday-Friday, 10am to 3pm on Saturdays, and they’re closed on Sundays.
…or even beer, at certain hours and certain days
So what about alcohol that’s less than 4,7%? Sure, you can buy beer and various ciders at supermarkets and grocery stores, you just need to check your watch first. Grocery stores and supermarkets are only allowed to sell alcohol before 8pm on weekdays, before 6pm on Saturdays and not at all on Sundays. Some holidays are off the table too, when it comes to alcohol purchasing: Ascension Day, Christmas and New Year’s Eve, Easter, Pentecost, the public holidays of 1st and 17th May and, perhaps not surprisingly, voting days. Make note of these days and restrictions beforehand, and you’ll be fine.
Say anything negative about the King, ever
We agree, democracy is great. But unless you’re a direct descendant of Maximilien Robespierre and the concept of a king somehow feels like a personal affront, you would be advised to not make any assumptions about Norway’s constitutional monarchy. Kings and the Royal Family in Norway have more of a ceremonial role, with the elected government at any given point having the actual power (no King has vetoed any laws since 1905) – and perhaps that neutrality is what makes them so respected and loved by the public. The current King, Harald V, is especially beloved: not only is he the first Norwegian-born prince since Olav IV in 1370, but also, at 80 years old, remains sharp, good-humoured and inspiring. We challenge you to watch his speech about inclusivity, love and equality, and not be inspired too.
Get a taxi without checking their budget first
Taxis in Norway are safe, clean and respectable. They’re also a luxury. Getting a taxi from the Gardermoen airport to go to Oslo can cost you anything from $60 to $150, and the tariffs per km vary depending on which city you’re in and which taxi company you’re using. Very rarely will you see a local taking a cab, and that’s only when they have an emergency, or someone else is covering the taxi fare (for example, many schools will hire taxis to transport children who live in rural areas).
Drink publicly on a weekday
As you may have surmised from the above paragraphs about alcohol purchase, Norwegians have a tricky relationship with alcohol. Because of the state monopoly and their predominantly Lutheran past, consuming alcohol on weekdays is still rather frowned upon – but it is culturally okay to binge-drink on the weekend. Of course, if you have a glass of wine at a restaurant with your dinner on a Wednesday evening, no-one will bat an eye. But if you plan on partying or taking a bottle to the streets, better wait until Friday night when the whole country will be drinking with you.
Only eat at burger places and pølse (hot dog) stands
True: Norwegians are so in love with hot dogs, that they’ve made sure you can find them everywhere. Also true: Norway has amazing burger places. But it would be a real shame not to experience traditional Norwegian dishes, or the modern Nordic cuisine at its finest. Restaurant Kontrast in Oslo and Lysverket in Bergen are just two of the many examples of places that need to be on your to-eat list.
Assume everyone speaks English
The level of English spoken in Norway is, indeed, exceptional – especially among younger people. But although most of the time you won’t experience any problems, not everyone might be able to understand you. Bus drivers, for instance, are often older and only speak Norwegian. And there are also many immigrants who speak fluent Norwegian, but will understand only basic English. If you’re looking for directions, wondering if you should take a specific bus or trying to buy something at a grocery store and English is failing you, show them a map, a place or a photo of the product on your phone. That should be enough for you to be able to communicate.
Try to buy train tickets with cash
Although this is not a problem in big train stations like Oslo S, where the ticket vendors accept bank bills up to 500 kr (approximately $50), the ticket vendors in almost all local train stations accept either coins, or card – and there is no physical ticket offices where you can buy them instead. What you can do though, if you only have bank notes on you, is choose a wagon with a conductor (they’re clearly marked). In these wagons, you will be able to buy your ticket on board, although it will cost you about 25% more.
Try to use cash everywhere that says kort and not kontant
Speaking of cash, Norwegians are not fond of it. Not only is having all that paper not environment-friendly, but also transactions made via cards are safer and easier to verify for tax reasons. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a place that doesn’t accept most credit cards and debit cards, whereas there are many places that only accept kort (card) and not kontant (cash) so you should prepared for that possibility.
Carry an umbrella, instead of wearing a raincoat
Don’t get us wrong: Norwegians are not going to snub you if you choose an umbrella to protect you from the rain. They will look at you with sympathy though, when the rain stops in five minutes and you have to put your umbrella away, and when the rain starts again five minutes after that, and you have to open your umbrella again! The weather in Norway is unpredictable, especially during spring, summer and autumn (in the winter, it’s either snowing, or it’s finished snowing!). During the course of a single day, rain can start and stop about 20 times – so it’s understandable that Norwegians don’t consider umbrellas very practical. Better invest in a raincoat that will allow you to keep exploring this beautiful country, and keep both of your hands free so that you can take photos.
Make any comparisons with Sweden, out loud
Both Norwegians and Swedes are civilised, polite Scandinavians… and both believe they’re better than the other. Sure, Norwegians are not blind to the fact that certain things are better in Sweden (many of them routinely cross the borders to buy alcohol and groceries at cheaper prices, for instance), but that’s for them to begrudgingly be aware of and for you to pretend to ignore. Sure, alcohol is more expensive in this country, but have you seen the fjords?
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.