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Norwegian expression of the day: Lønningspils

Need an excuse to grab a beer? Norway has plenty. Here's one of the most celebrated ones.

Norwegian expression of the day: Lønningspils
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know lønningspils?

Because, to Norwegian, this monthly event is nearly so sacred that it would merit a holiday of its own. Norwegian’s actually have a lot of different sayings which express scenarios in which they might want to sip a nice cold beverage. Whether it’s outside, on pay day, in the park or on a Friday “types” of beer in Norway, besides the usual line-up of lagers or IPAs. 

What does it mean?

Lønningspils means ‘pay day beer’. Lønning means ‘pay’ and pils is slang for øl, which means ‘beer’.

In Norway, people often celebrate that joyous occasion it is to see the fruits of your labour being virtually transferred into your bank account by going out for a drink with colleagues.

But why would you need that big of an excuse to go out for a beer with your colleagues? Don’t Fridays do it for people north of Denmark?

Well, yes, they do, we have fredagspils – Friday beer – too.

But remember that alcohol is terrifyingly expensive in Norway. An average pint easily costs you around €9. 

In fact, in the whole world, only Doha (Qatar) and Dubai (UAE) has higher average beer prices than Oslo.

So if you ask a colleague, skal vi ta en øl etter jobb? – want to grab a beer after work? – a couple of days before lønningspils, don’t take offence if they say, jeg ville gjerne, men jeg har så lite penger på kortet – I’d love to, but I have so little money left on my card (kortet is Norwegian slang for ‘bank account’).

Of course, they may be wriggling themselves out of your offer, but it could also truly be that they don’t have the money to go for a drink that day. 

But mostly, lønningspils is a concept invented so that people can grab a drink or six without feeling guilty about it after. You earned it.

Other kinds of pils

We like having an excuse to go for a pils in Norway. It suits our work-hard play-hard identity we like to think we have (we really don’t).

There are therefore several occasions reserved for pils:

Utepils – outdoor beer, for when the weather permits it

Pils i parken – beer in the park, for when the weather permits it

Fredagspils – Friday beer, just because, you know, it’s Friday

(Going for a pils is not necessarily synonymous with having a beer, you can have any kind of drink. Just like ‘grabbing a beer’ in English doesn’t necessarily imply your drink being a beer.)

While not a beer exactly, the expression lille lørdag, or “little Saturday” is seen as an opportunity to grab a bite to eat or go for a beer to mark the middle of the working week. 

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For members


Norwegian expression of the day: Katta i sekken 

If you've bought something online that's completely different to what was advertised, this Norwegian saying should help sum things up. 

Norwegian expression of the day: Katta i sekken 

What does it mean?  

Katta i sekken means “cat in the bag”, unlike the English expression where having something in the bag is great, you don’t want to find a cat in your sack, metaphorically speaking. 

The expression describes a scenario or situation where you’ve bought something that is different to advertised, underwhelming, or if you’ve been ripped off and paid way more than the item is worth. 

It’s used as a verb, for example, Å kjøpe katta i sekken, (To buy a cat in the bag). Also, note that it’s typically the slang katta that’s used rather katt, or katten. 

The term dates back to the middle ages, and a possible origin of the phrase is the story of Till Eulenspiegel, where a cat is sewn into a rabbit skin and sold as a hare. 

Several languages use the term or have their own version of the expression. However, some languages will refer to a pig in the sack, like Swedish, while others use cats as metaphors for the unwanted item. In English, the closest expression is “A pig in a poke.” 

What about ‘letting the cat out of the bag’? 

This term can get confusing in its similarity to “letting the cat out of the bag, ” which means revealing a secret. In Norwegian this is: katta er ute av sekken. 

You may hear someone say something like Fikk du med deg det Vilde sa? Jeg antar katta er ute av sekken. This means: Did you hear what Vilde said? I guess the cat’s out of the bag.

Therefore, if you hear someone talking about cats in bags, it’s best to pay close attention to ensure you’ve listened to the expression correctly. 

Use it like this: 

Jeg kjøpte en telefon på Siden det ikke fungerer, kjøpte jeg katta i sekken.

(I bought a phone on Since it doesn’t work, I bought a cat in the bag).