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How to get along with your neighbours in Norway

How to get along with your neighbours in Norway
Being a good neighbour in Norway is about much more than taking your shoes off. Photo: Jon-Eric Melsæter
Being a good neighbour in Norway is about much more than taking your shoes off and trimming the hedges. Here's how to make the best impression with those living nearest to you. 

The dugnad

The dugnad can be described as a communal gathering that brings individuals together to achieve a common goal. Dugnads are often hosted in housing blocks or neighbourhoods as a way to clean up and maintain the communal areas. You can expect to be asked to paint, clean gutters and rake among other common chores. It’s not mandatory, but if you want to get to know your neighbours better and help out, the dugnad is the perfect event to accomplish both of these wants.

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Keep it down

Sure, being considerate by not making too much noise is basically an international rule for that good neighbours need to respect. But it’s so important in Norway, we feel like we really need to emphasise just how much Norwegians appreciate the quiet. If you are new to Norway, you may be surprised at how generally more quiet public and private areas are. To be a good neighbour, be extra considerate between the hours of 10pm and 7am. And don’t do any disruptive chores like mowing the lawn or loud renovation projects on Sundays or on public holidays. 

And when you know it will get a little loud

If you are going to have a party, renovation, or major construction work going on, it would be wise to give your neighbours a nabovarsel, or “neighbour warning”. At times, a nabovarsel is demanded by law if you plan on having on-going construction projects. It is not a requirement to let your neighbours know if you are hosting a party that will likely run late into the night. Though giving warning either on the neighbourhood’s Facebook page, or on a written note posted in a common area is always considerate and often appreciated. 

Know where to draw the line

This isn’t a metaphor. We’re talking about your property line. A lot of properties in Norway  are not a perfect square and blend seamlessly into one another making the end of your land and the start of your neighbours sometimes hard to distinguish. To avoid future conflict (or extra time spent mowing a lawn that isn’t yours), take the first step and reach out to your neighbour to make sure you are in agreement about the division of land. 

Klippe Hekk 

Norwegian comedies often portray poor lawn maintenance as a common reason as to why neighbours fight. It’s funny to watch on TV, but there aren’t many laughs if you are dealing with this conflict in reality. To avoid any tense moments with your nearest neighbour(s) make sure you klippe hekk  or “cut the hedges” to ensure any trees or bushes do not encroach on your neighbour’s property. 

If you have fruit trees along your property, pick up the fruit that may have fallen on your neighbour’s property. But ask for permission first before you cross the property line.  

READ ALSO: Seven things foreigners might find surprising about Norwegian social culture

Find out the best way to communicate

No matter what your housing situation is, there are likely many methods of communication you can use if you have a question or concern regarding your home and the area surrounding it. From single-family homes in small towns, to apartments in the center of the nation’s capital,  a lot of neighbourhoods have created Facebook groups or other ways to communicate important information and with each other through social media. There are also housing associations which host meetings for residents to attend in-person. So if you’re new to the area, ask around and find out how you can best stay connected and informed within your neighbourhood’s community. 

Don’t show up empty handed

If you’ve RSVP’d yes to an event that is being hosted by one of your neighbours, then don’t show up without having something to offer. It doesn’t have to be a large or expensive donation. Hosts are often happy when gifted flowers as a show of gratitude. Many bring communal snacks or side dishes to share. And almost everyone brings their own alcoholic drinks. If you’re unsure about what to take with you, then send the host a message beforehand and ask what would be most helpful to bring. 

And show up on time if there is food involved

Culturally, Norwegians aren’t particularly punctual for more relaxed social occasions. The classic Vorspeil  or “pre-party” and Nachspiel or “after-party” have more of a ‘come when you can make it’ mentality. But if your neighbour, or anyone else you have a connection with, has invited you to a dinner or an event that revolves around food, then make sure you show up at the time they have asked you to arrive. 

Take off your shoes

It is not custom to wear shoes in Scandanvian houses, and this is true around all of Norway as well. You can choose to do what you like in your own home. But if you ever find yourself walking through your neighbour’s front door, take off your footwear immediately to avoid any uncomfortable stares. Or perhaps even a firm request to take off your shoes. 

Figuring out the winter logistics

The freezing cold winters in Norway can take up a better part of the year. So there are a few winter logistics you might want to have sorted out. Shovelling snow for example. Find out if it is a shared responsibility to shovel snow away from common walkways or if the job is outsourced. For bonus points, offer to do the shovelling yourself if you have the time.

If you plan on being away for a long time during the winter months, you might think it is wise to save money and energy by turning off your heat. But if you live in a building or complex that has shared heating, then keep your home heated to a minimum of 10°C to prevent the shared heating system from malfunctioning due to frozen pipes. This will keep your neighbours from having  to deal with any repairs, extra costs, and temporarily cold homes while you are away. 

Useful Vocabulary

nabo – neighbour

fellasområder – common areas 

borettslag – housing association 

rolig – calm

nabofestneighbourhood party 


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