Are you visiting Norway, the land of mountains, fjords, strange vowels and midnight sun? Here are a few things you should know about Norwegians before you get there…
1/ Norwegians are panoramically spoiled.
I grew up there, but whenever I’m visiting Norway I am awestruck by the natural splendour of the place. I mean… The mountains. The fjords. The islands. The glaciers. The midnight sun. Make sure you bring your very best photography equipment or you’ll regret it!
2/ Norwegians aren’t polite.
Please don’t misunderstand – we are very friendly and hospitable! People told me so all the time back when I was working as a tourist guide in Norway. We’re just not linguistically polite. We’re not good at ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ and ‘I’m sorry’ and ‘excuse me’ and ‘would you mind’ and all that. Similarly, we don’t really do small talk. In fact, most of us don’t speak to strangers at all if we can help it. To us, not bothering someone unnecessarily is considered polite. Leaving people be is how we show consideration for them.
After years of living in the UK, talking to cashiers and random passers-by has become second nature to me. Consequently, when I am visiting Norway, strangers think I am weird and overly talkative. If you find Norwegians a little terse, please don’t be offended. It is nothing personal, it is just the Norwegian way. (If you’re interested in this topic, you might enjoy reading the research paper Was Malinowski Norwegian? Norwegian Interpretations of Phatic Talk by Kristin Rygg.)
3/ Norwegians aren’t used to being cold.
Ironic, right? Well no, not really. Not if you think about it. Norwegians more or less invented technical clothing, and with all the natural waterfalls (and high incomes, cf. fact no. 7), electricity is inexpensive. Accordingly, there is really no reason why you would ever get cold – unless you spend all day making snow angels, that is. So please don’t worry about visiting Norway in winter!
4/ Norwegians like their coffee black and they drink A LOT of it.
If you’re visiting someone’s home, you should be prepared to drink a lot of black coffee. In 2013, Euromonitor reported that Norwegians consume 7.2 kg of coffee per person per year – which makes Norway the world’s second biggest coffee-drinking nation, only beaten by Finland.
5/ Norwegians love to practice their English!
Norwegians learn English from a very young age and they love getting a chance to practice! Moreover, Norwegians are actually the 4th best non-native English-speakers in the world. As a result, there is no need to worry about language barriers when you are visiting Norway.
6/ The Norwegian vowels are actually easy to pronounce.
Speaking of languages, Norwegian is a particularly vowelicious one. We don’t have an A-Z, we have an A-Å. That’s right, we have three additional vowels at the end of our ABC. While I don’t think I ever could have learnt to speak Norwegian if I hadn’t grown up in Norway, the additional vowels are quite easy to pronounce. The æ sounds like the a in ‘carry’, ø is the vowel noise you make when you say ‘bird’, and å is like the o in ‘morning’. Easy-peasy!
7/ Norwegians are quite affluent.
The cost of living in Norway is so high, you might want to bring a ladder. Joking aside, make sure you have access to plenty of money. Norwegians have high salaries, so stuff costs more. Airports are always expensive, and you do NOT want to pay airport prices in Norway! My top travel trick for visiting Norway is to bring a few packs of Scotch pancakes. They’re cheap and taste delicious even when untoasted. Best of all, they’re sealed in plastic, so they keep for days!
8/ A Norwegian’s home is his mountain cabin.
Ok, not quite, but we certainly do love them! In fact, four out of ten Norwegians own a mountain cabin or a holiday home. In addition, we all have access to the 500 cabins owned by The Norwegian Trekking Association (DNT). Cabin life is a Norwegian concept (cf. #hytteliv) that you probably have to be a native to fully understand. Norwegians adore their mountains and think it’s perfectly rational to spend several hours hiking up a mountain just to admire a spectacular view. It is in such moments that I feel certain I must be adopted.
9/ Norwegians are pretty keen on boats as well.
The Norwegian coastline is a whopping 83,000 km long, thanks to all the beautiful fjords. There are quite a few islands, as well. More than 50,000, to be more precise. As a result, every fourth household owns a boat (cf. #båtliv) – although in some areas it is actually every third household. Boats are probably as important to Norwegians as mountain cabins – I guess it’s some sort of genetic memory from the Viking Age.
10/ Norwegians are born with skis on their feet.
So the old adage goes, but I’m living proof that this isn’t true. Still, we’re pretty good at doing stuff with long, thin planks of wood strapped to our lower limbs. At the Winter Olympic Games, Norway has won 329 medals (118 gold) — by considerable margin more than any other nation. So says Wikipedia. Norwegians enjoy spending several hours skiing up a mountain (using the extremely slow-going fishbone technique), simply to turn around and spend the next 5 minutes going downhill at dizzying speeds. The mind boggles.
11/ Norwegians are funny!
A cold climate doth not a cold people make. Norwegians have a great sense of humour, and Norwegian comedians are starting to make a name for themselves abroad. Perhaps you remember the hit song The Fox (What Does the Fox Say?) from a few years back? That was actually just a joke from the Norwegian brothers, comedy duo and chat show hosts Ylvis. They have lots of similar videos – they are all in English and the production value is really high. You can find them on YouTube. (The Cabin is one of my favourites, and the video might give you a little more insight into fact no. 8.) You may also be familiar with Daniel Simonsen, a Norwegian comedian who had his own clip show on Channel 4 (still available on YouTube).
12/ Norwegians are the happiest people in the world
Finally, if you’re visiting Norway, you’re visiting the happiest country in the world. Yup, this year we pipped the Danes to the post and are back in the lead. This is probably due to the fact that Norwegians can rely on a most excellent state healthcare and welfare system. However, I think it’s all the coffee, boats and amazing vistas. Mountain cabins, candlelight and Scandi Noir. Hygge isn’t a solely Danish concept, you know. All Scandinavians know how to make life extra cosy. Long and cold winters with little or no daylight make it vital to find ways to enjoy yourself indoors. We are now experts at it.
Now that you understand us Norwegians a little better, I hope you’ll have fun visiting Norway!
Love, Neens xx