Expat stories: How I made my Norwegian friend

Many foreigners living in Norway struggle to make friends with born-and-bred Norwegians. We spoke to three who have successfully made the connection.

Expat stories: How I made my Norwegian friend
Ariba Khan, from Pakistan, and her Norwegian friend Annika

Ariba Khan and her Norwegian friend Annick Nielsen

Ariba Khan met Annick shortly after she arrived in Norway in 2010 with her husband, who had been brought to Norway from Pakistan by the telecoms company Telenor to run their international service centre. Annick first helped her husband settle in Norway and then when Ariba came a few months later, she helped her. 

“She hasn't worked with my husband for years now… but we still meet… talk our hearts out and just know we have each other,” Ariba says. The two are planning to meet up for a meal and a chat in Oslo after the autumn holidays are over. 

Annick has been extremely welcoming to the Pakistani couple, inviting them over for a Norwegian Christmas lunch a few months after they arrived, and also doing huge amounts to help Ariba settle. 

“We laugh out loud. My first Xmas in Norway was celebrated at Annick’s. It was very cosy. She arranged a very typical norsk jul for us.”
But the friendship has continued since then. “I have been invited to her house many times. I've met her Mom, her kids and some of her close Norwegian friends.” 

Ariba says that in her experience, Norwegians respond well to people who are friendly to them. 

“I think a lot depends on your own personality. I’m a warm and funny person,” she says. “I can totally break the ice and that’s what has always worked for me with Norwegians. I think they are closed people but with people they open up to, they are truly sincere and helpful.” 
She said that she thought foreigners who struggled to make Norwegian friends often simply didn't take the time or make sufficient effort. 
“The problem is that people back off when they see a cold, reserved Norwegian. They don’t take those extra steps to relax them. You need to try. They are a reserved nation.” 
She said that in her experience Norwegians also responded well to people who are straightforward. 
“Norwegians are not pretentious, and when they can see that the person they are talking to is also very a basic human and no pretence, they open up immediately.” 
Ben McPherson (left), with Peder Anker (centre) and Ben's wife Charlotte Lundgren. Photo: Private 
Ben McPherson and his Norwegian friend Peder Anker
Ben McPherson met Peder through a friend of his Norwegian wife, and the two immediately hit it off and were soon drinking and talking through the night.
“We find the same things funny and we laugh a lot,” Ben says, adding that Peder “lives this international life that I can only envy”, spending half his time teaching at New York University and half back in Oslo. 
Their friendship is mostly based around alcohol-fuelled late night chat, but not always. 
“Last time we saw each other we did a 30-kilometre hike with with another very close Norwegian friend of mine,” Ben remembers, “and I quite like that. I like being pushed outside what I would normally do myself, which is probably sit around on the sofa, watching television.” 
Ben says that, apart from their propensity to drag you out on this sort of outward bound adventure, he didn't feel that there was much different about befriending a Norwegian. 
“I've never found Norwegians difficult, although obviously, there are difficult Norwegians. But I've never found making friends harder in Norway than I find some other places,” he says.
“There is a sort of strange thing where Brits buy into the myth that people are a bit cold and reserved, and I think the worst really, I could say, of most of the people I meet is that maybe they're a bit shy sometimes,” he adds.
“One of the comments that I see a lot … is that people say 'don't expect them to invite you to their homes', but that's never been my experience.”
Peder argues that Ben's sense of humour trumps any national cultural differences. 
“When I first met Ben he gave me a good laugh, which to me is the very entry point of a friendship. Then he gained my respect as someone with good insights into my town, perhaps better than those I had myself,” he remembers. 
It was their hikes that sealed the friendship, he believes. 
“The true sign of friendship in Norway, though, is taking part in the national sport: hiking in the mountains. Only then can you be fully accepted into society and be accepted among friends. And Ben is (or became in Norway) a die-hard hiker, a necessary condition for a true friendship in Norway.” 
Ben McPherson and Peder Anker on a recent hike. “Ben is the good-looking one,” Peder writes. Photo: Private
Mithila Mehta and Kunal Shah and their Norwegian friends Markus Gundersen & Marthe Bodahl Lunde
Kunal, from Mumbai in India, met Markus because they both work at the software company NTI in Oslo.
“It was easy to become friends with him given his outgoing personality and humour,” Kunal remembers.
“In general, we got curious about each other’s lives, careers and passions.” 
Kunal Shah and Markus Gundersen on the slopes. Photo: Private
The friendship moved outside the office in the winter of 2018. “He took it upon himself to teach me skiing! So a lot of ski time. Followed by a few dinners. Then Markus and his partner Marthe invited Kunal and Mithila out to their country cabin for their “first authentic hytte experience”. 
“In time, the two of us and our partners (Marthe & Mithila)  became very good friends. We celebrated our first 17th May (Norwegian national day, ed.) with them,” Kunal says.
“Markus and Marthe are default for us when it comes to sharing personal news outside of immediate family. We’re blessed to have them as friends as we experience life in Norway.” 
Marthe Bodahl Lunde (with Mithila Mehta and Kunal Shah in background). Photo: Private
Mithila says that the four share “an especially funky sense of humour”. 
“I think the four of us met sometime in Oct 2018, and since then have bonded over beer, The Office, a shared love for dogs. Both of them are incredibly interesting and also very global in their thoughts and approaches. So it's a natural fit as friends.” 


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How and where to get the cheapest fuel in Norway

Norway is leading the pack when it comes to the sales of new electric vehicles. In fact, nearly 60 percent of all new car sales in this country are electric. But for petrol and diesel car owners who have yet to make the switch, knowing when and where to find the cheapest fuel can end up saving you thousands of kroner.

A petrol station in Norway in 2021. Refuelling your car is a pricey business in the Nordic country, but there are ways to limit costs.
A petrol station in Norway in 2021. Refuelling your car is a pricey business in the Nordic country, but there are ways to limit costs. Photo by Malik Skydsgaard on Unsplash

Why is it so expensive to fuel up?

Fuel – gasoline, petrol and diesel — is an expensive monthly bill for many. Norway typically has some of the highest fuel prices in Europe. The at-times sky high prices are mainly due to taxes on fuel imposed by the government, as well as the usual international market factors.

The Norwegian Competition Authority or Konkurransetilsynet recently stated that it is perhaps now more important than ever before to be aware of the ever changing fuel prices.

We have registered price differences of 2-3 kroner in the same local area. There is undoubtedly money to be saved by following along,” said Marita Skjæveland, deputy leader of the Norwegian Competition Authority’s energy section to broadcaster TV2.

The average price to fuel up between the months of July to October this year was 18.8 kroner per litre (2.26 dollars or 1.94 euros). 

READ ALSO: Five things that are becoming more expensive in Norway (and why)

Does it matter which day you fuel up?

As of writing, routinely fueling your vehicle on a specific day of the week will likely no longer save you money. 

“We see that the players in the market still raise prices two to three times a week, but that it happens on different days from week to week,” Skjæveland told TV2. The competition analyst added that by the end of the year, fixed price increases may also happen over the weekend. As such, it’s important to stay updated not only on the weekdays, but on the weekends as well.

Previously, Sunday evenings and early on Monday mornings used to be known as the cheapest time to fill your vehicle’s tank with petrol or diesel.  This is now a practice of the past. 

Where can I find cheap petrol prices online?

Hunting for the cheapest fuel prices in Norway is quite common. It’s also a normal discussion to have with your neighbours and colleagues. So don’t be worried about appearing ‘cheap’ if you want to talk about the high price of fuel. Or share which local petrol stations you have noticed to be less expensive. 

You can check Facebook for groups that are committed to informing the public on where to find the cheapest petrol stations. 

For Oslo and its surrounding areas, you can try here, and if you live in or are driving through the south of Norway, check here.

Drivestoff is an app designed to compare prices of petrol stations you will drive by on your journey so you can plan ahead to get the cheapest fuel. You can find more information and download the app here.

You can also save money by looking for a queue of cars at a petrol station. Yes, it may be just busy. But oftentimes, a queue is a signal for cheaper petrol prices. 

Memberships and credit cards can save you money on fuel

If you’re in the market for a credit card, look for one that might save you money on fuel. Credit cards such as 365 Direct and Flexi VISA will give you good discount options at all petrol stations. If you have a particular station you always fill up at, such as a YX, you can sign up for the company’s credit card to receive discounts on fuel. 

There are also benefits to be had if you sign up for a credit card or a drivstoffkort or “fuel card”.

A drivstoffkort is a special credit card which you use to pay when refuelling your vehicle. The cards generally only work at the stations run by the company to which the card belongs. Different deals and types of card are available, depending on the company.

Specific deals on credit card and drivstoffkort discounts can be found (in Norwegian) here

You can sometimes use membership cards with grocery stores or real estate organisations to give you discounts on fuel. For example, the Coop Medlemskort will save you 45 øre when filling up at Circle K petrol stations. Trumf kortet, which is associated with the chains Kiwi, Meny, Joker and Spar, gives you bonuses when you fill up at Shell stations. OBOS members receive a 27 øre discount on petrol and diesel at both Statoil and 1-2-3-Automat stations. 

Where can I get the lowest priced petrol?

Petrol stations in Norway are extremely competitive. There is no one company that is known to sell gasoline or diesel cheaper than the others

Like many other goods, fuel prices around Norway will rise and fall with demand. Typically, fuel stations located in mountainous towns or areas that heavily rely on tourism will have more expensive fuel. If you’re on holiday in such a town or area, and can wait to fuel up when you get to a more trafficked motorway, it will likely save you money. 

Petrol stations that don’t have employees on location tend to be slower at increasing their prices to match the competition. So if you know you’ll be passing by an ubemannet or “unstaffed” petrol station on your trip, it may be cost-effective to wait and fill up there. 

Consider how much time you want to invest

Joining the hunt for cheaper fuel may not be for everyone. It is time consuming, and admittedly hard to achieve due to the ever-changing prices. If you are not dependent on your vehicle for your daily commute and don’t often drive long distances, fueling up at your local gas station may be the best choice.