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The Norwegian habits foreigners might find strange

A few things normal to Norwegians might raise eyebrows if you’re not used to them, writes Agnes Erickson.

The Norwegian habits foreigners might find strange
Ice cream: a great way to celebrate May 17th. Photo: Lukas from Pexels

Noticing different habits and routines in other countries is a part of the charm of being a foreigner. It opens your eyes to new ways of living, makes for an excellent conversation starter and can help with the integration process. 

Like other cultures, Norwegian habits are engrained so deep into society it might come as a surprise to citizens when a newcomer points out something they find odd. 

Here are a few habits that are specific to Norway that you may find peculiar at first. 

Bringing your own alcohol when attending a party

When you are invited to a meal or gathering in a Norwegian’s home, it is customary to arrive with your own alcoholic beverages. Because of the high prices of alcohol in Norway, it is not expected for hosts to provide alcoholic beverages for their guests.

This may come as a surprise watching others keep their drinks close by and pour it for themselves the first few times, but it will soon appear ordinary.

Table manners

You will not see much surprise in Norway when a person reaches across others to take an item from the other side of the table. The action is in fact so normal that it has been given its own name: ‘the Norwegian arm’.

Standard Norwegian cuisine is set up for diners to plate up their own meal whilst sitting at the table with others. This makes for reaching across the table a routine at mealtimes.

It also may come off as brash to not receive a please or thank you when asked to pass an item at the table. Norway’s culture tends to not rely heavily on pleasantries, so people are more direct in conversation.

Norwegian guilt

If you are from a country with milder temperatures and repeated sunny days, it may come as a surprise when you hear a Norwegian express their guilt for not being outside when it is nice weather out.

So common is this feeling that it too has its own name: ‘Norwegian guilt’. This is an expression used to describe the bad feeling Norwegians have if they are indoors when it is sunny out.

The weather is temperamental in this country and during the winter months, the days can feel like they drag on in the darkness. This is certainly where the Norwegian guilt stems from if one is not enjoying the sun when they actually have the opportunity to do so.

Wearing wool head to toe

On the flip side of the weather coin, Norway is an active country and the locals believe bad weather is not an excuse to stay inside.

There are plenty of nations that experience the same freezing, below zero winter temperatures as Norway and yet, they have not made using long wool underwear a part of their dressing routine.

Putting on long wool pants and a wool top as the “first layer” before pants and a top is custom in the winter months. It may feel thick and bulky at first, but it is extremely helpful in staying warm throughout the day, regardless of the outdoor activities you might engage in.






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Norway’s love for ice cream and hot dogs on National Day

The food choices on May 17th, Norway’s National Day may come as a surprise to newcomers.

After all, parts of the day appear to be very formal. It is common for residents to dress up in a suit, dress, or the traditional bunad, only to feast on hot dogs and ice cream throughout the special day.

According to ScandinavianTraveller, as many as 30 million ice creams and 20 million sausages are sold and consumed on May 17th.

The typical Norwegian diet is health focused and rich in nutrients and some might find these staggering ice cream and hot dog consumption statistics hard to believe until they have witnessed it for themselves. 

READ ALSO: Celebrating May 17th in Norway: A guide for first-timers


Julebrus or Christmas soda is a soft drink that is made and sold in Norway for the days leading up to Christmas. Different regions of the country have their own recipe and it is common to have a sense of pride over the julebrus from the region you grew up in and claim it is the best of them all.






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The strange Norwegian phrases

The Norwegian language is full of phrases that when directly translated, make no sense in other languages.

For example, tag deg en bolle  (‘have a bun’) is a Norwegian phrase used to (rather bluntly) ask someone to stop talking.

Skjegg i postkassen is a Norwegian phrase used to describe someone who has cheated or was caught doing something embarrassing.  When directly translated in English it means, ‘beard in the mailbox’.

Meanwhile, helt Texas (‘completely Texas') is an expression Norwegians use about a situation that is disorganised, bewildering and chaotic.

Hearing or using these phrases can be confusing or strange at first, but will normalize with time. 


Member comments

  1. While waiting for the ferry at Gryllefjord, we struck up a conversation with a local – an older gentleman, who as it turned out, spent time in Chicago, which is our home. He imparted this advice to us, “There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing,” – advice that has served us well around the world!

  2. While waiting for the ferry at Gryllefjord, we struck up a conversation with a local – an older gentleman, who as it turned out, spent time in Chicago, which is our home. He imparted this advice to us, “There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing,” – advice that has served us well around the world!

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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.