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Norwegian expression of the day: Hæla i taket!

Why, to Norwegians, kicking your heels in the ceiling and chewing on the wallpaper means you're throwing the ultimate party.

Norwegian expression of the day: Hæla i taket!
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know hæla i taket?

Because it’s the best way to describe Norwegian behaviour on May 17th, Norway's national day.

What does it mean?

Hæla i taket – 'heels in the roof' – is a Norwegian expression that people use to say that a party is going to be ‘lit’. 

If you add on tenna i tapeten – 'teeth i in the wallpaper' – then you're really going crazy.

Hæla means ‘heels’ – hæl is ‘heel’ and hæla is a (slang) variant of the plural version hælene – and i taket means ‘in the roof’.

So basically when Norwegian says hæla i taket og tenna i tapeten, it's an invitation to go wild. Really wild.

May 17th

As you may know, slippe seg løs – 'let loose' – is not Norwegians' strongest feat.

Southern Europeans especially are often shocked over Norwegian cultural stiffness, which translates into a national phobia of dance floors that can only be cured by clutching a gin and tonic.

But there is one exception to the rule, and incidentally it's this very weekend.

Søttende mai, which is how you pronounce May 17th in Norwegian, or Norway's national day, is coming up on Sunday.

To Norwegians, this is perhaps the best day of the year.

Kicked off with a champagne breakfast around 8 am (hæla i taket), followed by a marching band and children's parade with people shamelessly roaring national songs (hæla i taket!) while wearing national costumes that look like a crossover between a farmer's dress from another century and a Santa's elf (hæla i taket!).

If you're in Oslo, you might gather outside the castle and wave to the royal family, before continuing the party downtown, having as many ice creams, hot dogs and drinks you can possibly master (hæla i taket!).

In short, May 17th is a day for chucking your inhibitions up on the shelf, and not taking them down until the next day. 


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Norwegian expression of the day: Pølsevev

Norwegians share a national love for sausages - even if they know it's nonsense.

Norwegian expression of the day: Pølsevev
Photo: Jessica Loaiza on Unsplash

Why do I need to know pølsevev?

Because it’s a common expression that, when translated directly, it makes no sense.

What does it mean?

Pølsevev is put together by two words, pølse and vev. Pølse is Norwegian for ‘sausage’ and vev means ‘tissue' (not in the paper towel sense, but the tissue that's in skin).

It allegedly comes from the idea that sausages are made of those leftover pieces of meat that were too poor quality to use for anything else, and the pølse, by looking delicious, is something making out to be something it's not. 

Pølsevev is therefore an old school Norwegian way of saying that something is nonsense or to use harsher invective, 'BS'. 

For noe pølsevev! – What utter nonsense!

Other English equivalents would be 'gibberish', 'baloney', or 'rubbish'.


Sludder og vås – nonsense and nonsense (another common expression)

Snikk-snakk – chit chat

Tull – rubbish

Tøv – nonsense 

So do Norwegians hate sausages?

Not at all! 
You might be familiar with the Danish pølse, those thin, scarlet signatory hot dogs that the Danes love. The Norwegian pølse-craze is lesser known internationally, but it's not less true.
Eating pølse in Norway is an old ritual comparable to eating fish and chips in the UK.
Go to Norway during the May 17th National Independence Day celebrations and you will not be able to miss the many pølseboder (sausage vans) selling pølse i lompe (sausage in a traditional Norwegian wrap) or pølse i brød (regular hot dog) with ketsjup, sennep og sprøstekt løk – ketchup, mustard and fried onions – and, if you're lucky, potato salad (potetsalat).
The pølse is also a mandatory accessory to any ski trip. In winter, the slopes are filled with lycra-clad Norwegians devouring sausages during breaks.
Of course, Norwegian pølse-habits are changing. Even simple park barbecues now feature vegetarpølse and fancy bratwursts that make the basic grill or wiener seem slightly dull in comparison (grillpølse is the one you barbecue and wienerpølse is the one you cook in boiling water. If someone asks you, grill eller wiener? during a dinner party, this is code for what kind of sausage you'd prefer.)

Still, its simplicity has aways been a key feature of the pølse, and it might be a part of the explanation as to why so many Norwegians still are mad about it today.

Convenience stores sell pølse. Petrol stations too. Pølse is a legitimate road-trip snack. It's also one of the ultimate dishes to serve during a nachspiel (after party). It's cheap, easy to cook and extremely delicious (just beware of the ketchup spillers).
The sketch below mocks those who try to turn the pølse into something more complicated than it is, by ordering a string of different variants of the mustard, ketchup, bread and lompe (the wrap, remember).
Sophisticated pølse? Well, that's just pølsevev.