When visiting the Land of the Vikings, you will witness many things that will bring you a sense of awe: fjords that have inspired works of art, tunnels that go on forever, arctic archipelagos… and then there are some things you won’t quite be able to make sense of. It can’t be helped – every country has its own little quirks, things that seem bizarre to an outsider, and Norway is no exception. Thankfully, this article will prepare you so that you can react gracefully when faced with any of the below.
It sounds like the beginning of a joke, but it’s actually a very serious issue in Norway. Collisions with elk happen more often than you can imagine (the number used to be around 18 a day over the past 6 years) as the poor animals roam about, in search for food. The warning signs on the roads have attained a somewhat cult status nowadays, with tourists taking pictures of them. This has had an unfortunate side-effect: seasoned Norwegian drivers are so used to them that they’re not actually slowing down. Bottom line is: be prepared to see an actual elk crossing the street, and be ready to slow down. This is not a drill.
You know that stereotype about Norwegians? How, if left to their own devices, they will just ski everywhere – even to the supermarket? Well, it’s a stereotype for a reason. See, it’s called ‘dry-land skiing’ and it’s actually a way for them to practice for when winter comes again. It involves the usual ski batons, but instead of the regular skis, Norwegians don their roller skis. You’re kindly advised not to stare at them as if they’re demented, and not to get in their way (these things can go really fast). Come winter, when you’re admiring their moves and wondering how they do it, you will look back at this moment and nod knowingly.
Elk are not the only thing you need to be on the lookout for when you’re driving in Norway – Santa is known to suddenly appear as well, although that phenomenon is mostly isolated in Santa’s hometown, Drøbak. Although the warning signs are mostly there to enhance the city’s character, there is a Santa in Drobak (well, technically, he’s Santa’s cousin) and you can find him at the Tourist Information Office by the main harbour. He visits in November and stays through December to monitor all the mail that is sent to Santa Claus, but he will stop by once in a while during other times of the year as well – so if you’re lucky, you might get the chance to take a selfie with him. Just don’t run him over!
This is another isolated phenomenon, this time limited to the Svalbard archipelago, but a phenomenon nonetheless. Polar bears roam free, so when you leave one of the settlements, you’re required to have appropriate scare devices to ward off a possible bear attack.
The Norwegian Royal family is actually famous for being super chill. Prince Sverre Magnus, the grandson of King Harald, actually ‘dabbed’ (yes, the awkward dance move made famous by Drake) during an official ceremony for the King and Queen’s birthday celebration. And like many eco-conscious Norwegians, Crown Prince Haakon and his family frequently travel around on their bicycles. So next time a kid tries to race you, make sure it’s not actually the future King of Norway.
If you’ve ever watched an episode of SKAM, Norway’s hit teen drama series, then you probably know what we’re talking about. The tradition is called russefeiring and takes place every April until Norway’s National Day on May 17. Basically, groups of students get together, buy a bus or a van, and subsequently roam the streets (of mostly Oslo and Bergen) on it, partying and getting drunk, all the while wearing glaringly red overalls. The idea is for high school graduates to celebrate the end of their school years and blow off some steam before their final exams (although you will be excused if you raise an eyebrow at the fact that the partying actually happens before the exams and not after). Don’t worry, it’s okay to stare a bit in this occasion. Everyone will be too drunk to notice.