Norwegians are pretty homogeneous when it comes to cultural habits. So if something is considered a proper Norwegian thing to do, everyone is probably doing it. Some of these habits are born out of love for the environment, others out of financial necessity, but in most cases you won’t be able to resist them for long. And why should you?
We love you, Oslo, but you’re probably the only city in the world where the excuse “running late because of the traffic” is just not usable. And that goes for the rest of the country as well: even during heavy snowstorms, buses and trains run (mostly) on time, and the cars are never that many to cause what could be described as “traffic” by anyone who’s been in New York, London or Istanbul. Combine that with the fact that Norwegians are very punctual, and you’ll realize your only choice is to start arriving on time, or even five minutes earlier.
It doesn’t matter if waiting for you in the living room is just your cat or a dozen dinner-party guests. Shoes stay at the entrance, only socks allowed inside – every Scandinavian knows that, and you’ll learn it too very soon. Don’t worry, most houses have floor heating. Plus, that way you won’t carry snow and mud inside.
After you see more than 10 Norwegians (or groups of Norwegians) with their plastic or glass containers out in the woods picking mushrooms or berries, you’ll realize not only is it a normal thing to do, it’s also the smart thing to do. Norwegian nature’s bounty is astounding during foraging season, so much you’ll find yourself with enough mushrooms and berries for the rest of the year. Bring enough Tupperware.
Sure, it would be nice to have a beer with your dinner – but what time is it? Alcohol in Norway is a complicated thing, what with anything heavier than 4.7% being state regulated and only sold in state-run vinmonopolet shops that always close earlier than you’d expect (and if you think of buying a beer in the supermarket, it better not be late in the afternoon). It is also very expensive to drink outside, with the average drink costing 12 euros or more at a bar, and not to mention the strict alcohol policies and steep fines when it comes to drinking and driving. All in all, apple juice with dinner doesn’t sound like such a horrible idea, now does it?
Norwegians are so passionate about recycling they’ve even turned it into a form of exercise. Plogging, aka jogging while you pick up any litter you find to recycle afterwards, may have started in Sweden, but here people use it as a way to clear up forested areas. Even if you don’t feel like plogging anytime soon though, you’ll definitely learn that plastic goes in the blue bag (that you get for free at the supermarket), food compost in the green (same) and that cans and plastic bottles are all returned at the “pant” machines at the supermarket. Recycling in Norway is just so easy, you won’t have any excuse not to do it.
You’ll learn that lesson the hard way, during your first winter in Norway: we do not take the sun for granted. Ever. When you spot these first rays out of your window, you’d better go out and make the absolute most of it, because you just don’t know when you’ll see it again (hint: in the winter, the sun makes a cameo from 9:30am until 3pm in the south, and is completely absent in the north). So soak up that sunlight while you can and make sure to take your vitamin D supplement the rest of the time.
Norway has so much salmon that it convinced the Japanese to eat it (and this is why salmon sushi became a thing). Fish has been a staple of Norwegian cuisine since the country was too poor to even have a “cuisine” – and is now being reinvented as a key ingredient of the modern Nordic diet. It won’t be long until you’ll start eating smoked mackerel on toast for breakfast, and your body will thank you for it.
For all the obsession Norwegians have with all things healthy, numbers don’t lie: frozen pizza, specifically Grandiosa, is the number one preferred food in the country. The reasons for that are both economical (it’s probably one of the few food items you can buy at a supermarket that costs less than 3–4 euros) but also cultural: gathering the family to eat pizza on the weekend is considered coselig, aka cosy. Netflix and Grandiosa tonight?
How do you know someone is a tourist, not a local in Norway? They pay with cash. You were doing it too, at first, until you realized how easy it is to buy all your tickets for trains and buses through the app, pay for your food at even the smallest hole-in-the-wall deli with a card and Vipps your friends your share of the brunch bill. You’re also being eco-conscious avoiding all that paper and making it easier for the state to check what businesses are really making, so good for you.
Nothing spells local than replying “nei, takk” when asked if you want a receipt or a bag at any shop, from the local supermarket to the poshest boutique. Apart from the ecological reasons (all this paper and plastic usually goes to waste), refusing the receipt implies that you trust the shop has actually charged you the appropriate amount. Refusing the bag means you don’t have to pay extra for it – all locals bring their own bags, anyway.
A healthier way to smoke? Those are definitely fighting words, but Norwegians like to believe snusing, aka the habit of putting a satchel of wet tobacco in one’s mouth, is a healthier alternative to smoking and definitely less annoying than vaping. Plus, smoking in all public spaces has been banned since 2004 and a pack of cigarettes costs around 12 euros.
Astronomical cost of everything + alcohol restrictions = first dates can’t rely on booze to get things going. Instead, you’ll find yourself meeting your potential flirt for activities like skiing, hiking and sailing. There’s even a Norwegian meeting app, Turvenn, that will match you with people to go on a hike with. Or, if you’re on the less adventurous side (and shudder at the thought of falling and embarrassing yourself), you’ll meet for a coffee and a stroll, or for a Netflix-and-chill. We wish you the best of luck.
Do you know what happens when you cross the border to Sweden by train, or by car? Nothing – and, most probably nothing (there are cameras that monitor activity, of course). Do you also know that because of the difference between Norwegian and Swedish crowns, shopping in Sweden is a legitimate way of saving money? Of course you do – that’s why you’re on your second grocery trip across the border this month.
A 40-euro dinner and a 20-euro cab ride home? That’s a steal! A beer for less than 9 euros? Are they sure they’re making profit from their business? Pretty soon, this will sound like you. After living in Norway for even a couple of months, you get so accustomed to how expensive everything is here (said dinner and cab ride would cost you around 100 euros here instead of a total of 60) that you just feel like a millionaire when traveling abroad. Just watch it, big spender, because you’ll still have to fork for the train ride back from the airport when you return.