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NORWEGIAN TRADITIONS

Nine ways to improve your life in Norway without even trying 

Sometimes, it takes a few small tweaks rather than big sweeping changes to make life easier. With these tips, you can make a big difference to your quality of life in Norway.

A train in Norway.
Train journeys offer an excellent way of seeing some particular scenery, without having to exert yourself too much. Pictured is a train on the way to Flåm. Photo by Abbilyn Zavgorodniaia on Unsplash

There are so many things that make Norway an excellent place to call home, including the standard of living, abundance of spectacular scenery, and high salaries, among many other things.

However, moving to another country comes with plenty of bumps along the way, and it can be hard to settle at first, or even later on.

Luckily, regardless of whether you are new to the country or have been here a while, there are many things you can do to improve life in Norway without having to reinvent the wheel.

Embrace the food…

Norway may not be blessed with the same internationally revered cuisine as France or Italy, but learning to love the food can help you feel a lot more at home.

You can do this without having to go anywhere near fermented fish or a sheep’s head, we promise.

Instead, start small, find your local favourites and learn to enjoy them. For example, a hot dog from a convenience store can become a guilty pleasure on a Monday night, fish burgers could become a mid-week staple, and kjøttkaker could become a firm favourite when you’re craving some comfort food.

And, of course, this extends to the local confectionary. We are firm believers that the chocolate here trumps anything found back in the UK.

…and the eating habits

Welcoming new eating habits with open arms will help you feel more settled and offer an excellent opportunity to strike up conversations and get to know people better.

Firstly, there’s taco fredag (taco Friday). Let’s not question why Norwegians eat Mexican food on Fridays or why they use tortillas instead of taco shells. Instead, let’s breathe a collective sigh of relief that rakfisk fredag (salted and fermented fish Friday) doesn’t exist.

If you’re finding it a bit tricky to make friends, inviting people over for taco fredag might be a reasonably easy place to start, and you won’t need to be a whizz in the kitchen to impress your guests either.

If Mexican food isn’t your thing or doesn’t feel Norwegian enough, then you could perhaps make a Norwegian style breakfast with eggs, pålegg (toppings) and bread. One way of sparking up a lively debate would be to ask friends or colleagues what the best pålegg is.

Buy an Ostehøvel 

The Swiss have army knives, and Norwegians have their trusty cheese knives. This is an essential piece of equipment for any Norwegian kitchen and one you’ll likely bemoan not having if you choose to move away.

The cheese knife is a nifty little invention that lets you cut nice thin, uniform slices of cheese. If you want to make life that much easier, we’d recommend opting for a plastic one, although they don’t look as nice.

Seriously, if you are reading this, live in Norway and don’t own one already, go out and buy one.

See the sites (while sitting down) 

Norway is home to some spectacular scenery, and to see some of the very best you don’t need to go on a 12-hour hike.

Instead, you can see some of the best sites you have to offer while sitting down. This can come in the form of a road trip that takes you down the Trollstigen or along the Atlantic Road, or by hopping on the train and taking either the Bergen line or the Flåm Railway.

These more laid-back methods for seeing some of what Norway have to offer will help you fall in love with the country without having to stress about blisters, midges or whether it might rain or not.

Stay informed (with The Local, hopefully) 

Since you’re currently reading The Local, chances are more than likely that you already stay up to date with what’s going on. But keeping on top of current affairs over your morning coffee or daily commute is the best way to feel more integrated into Norwegian society and learn more about what makes the country tick.

Spend time outdoors 

Norwegians live and breathe for the great outdoors, and it’s no wonder. We all, of course, are aware of the fact that Norway boasts terrific scenery. However, you might not have known that spending two hours a week in nature is associated with better health and well-being.

Luckily, you don’t have to put too much effort into this in Norway either. There are plenty of forests, fells, and footpaths to roam. It doesn’t matter where you live either.

For example, if you live in the country’s largest city, Oslo, all you have to do is hop on the T-bane to Songsvann, and you’ll be greeted by a stunning lake and plenty of footpaths to get your steps in.

Adopt the two-duvet system

This will make your house feel a bit more Nordic. It also comes with some added benefits. For couples who want to get the best night’s sleep possible, experts recommend separate duvets.

This is because most sleep disturbance comes from being at an uncomfortable temperature or having a shared duvet pulled away from you.

Get to know the neighbours

This is especially important if you are living in a housing block. But getting to know the neighbours will improve your life in a few different small ways.

Firstly, most neighbourhoods or apartment blocks will have a community group or page online. Residents can warn one another of construction noise, when waste is being collected and other useful information. In addition, many of these groups will have announcements for events such as dugnads, activities the whole block or neighbourhood is invited to, or sweepstakes and predictions for big events such as Eurovision.

Getting to know your neighbours will help make you feel an active part of the community. 

Learn to love winter 

Winter is at the bottom of many people’s list of favourite seasons. But the colder months are an opportunity to experience some of the best things about life in Norway.

Winter offers an opportunity to stay active and get involved with winter sports, see the northern lights or book a cabin trip for an idyllic and relaxing short stay. 

READ ALSO: Five things you need to learn to love about winter in Norway

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For members

MAY 17TH

What you need to know about Norway’s May 17th celebrations this year 

For the first time in three years, Norway will mark its national day of celebration, Constitution Day, without pandemic restrictions. This is what you need to know about May 17th.

What you need to know about Norway's May 17th celebrations this year 

What is May 17th? 

“Syttende Mai”, as it’s known in Norwegian, is Norway’s national day and marks the signing of the constitution on the same day in 1814, which declared Norway an independent nation. 

How is it celebrated?

For many, it begins with a large breakfast with friends or family. The breakfast is a typically Norwegian one, consisting of bread, rolls, spreads (or pælegg), and baked goods. 

Breakfast begins typically quite early, and it won’t be uncommon for the meal to be accompanied by champagne. 

The day is celebrated in pretty the same way everywhere across the country. 

The main feature of the day is marching bands and children’s parades through the town, city or village centre. 

These haven’t been as prominent in recent years due to the pandemic. However, you can expect a return to form this year as a record number of kids have signed up to take place in the children’s parade in Oslo this year

The parade in Oslo is the most iconic. Children parade up to the palace and wave at the royal family. 

The kids’ parade is followed by a worker’s one and then a russetog, consisting of final year high-school students who have spent the last month or so partying. 

People will then either eat out, grill at home, or have family dinners. 

What’s with the costumes?  

If you have spent any time in Norway, it is almost without doubt that you will have seen or at least heard of a bunad

The origins of the bunad has its roots in the period of national romanticism in Norway in the 19th century. This period led to an interest in traditional folk costumes in Norway and countries such as Germany. 

Folk costumes were worn in Norway a long time before the period of national romanticism, however. For example, in Setesdal, southern Norway, a tradition of folk costumes stretches back to the 14th century. 

READ MORE: What you need to know about Norway’s national costume

Do I have to wear a bunad

Not if you don’t want to. Which, to some, will be a relief as they are incredibly expensive. 

Although, you will be expected to dress smartly if you have been invited for breakfast, unless stated otherwise. 

A smart pair of trousers and shirt for men is recommended at a minimum if attending an event. Local men who don’t have a bunad may opt for a full suit and tie. 

Women are also expected to dress up for the occasion. 

What else do I need to know? 

If you are visiting Norway, you may find it hard to find a place to eat as many restaurants will either be closed or fully booked for a special May 17th menu.  

Also, getting about may be a bit of a hassle as roads will be closed for parades. In Oslo, people are being asked to avoid the National theatre T-bane stop. 

As it’s a public holiday, supermarkets, shops and state-owned wine monopolies will be shut. On the plus side, that also likely means that you’ll have a day off work too. 

Flag-waving is a big tradition, but there are a few general rules. If you hoist a Norwegian flag on May 17th, it will need to be taken down by 9pm. 

Additionally, if waving a small flag, you shouldn’t point the flag toward the ground because it is rude. 

And finally, while the celebrations may be strange for an outsider, Norwegians are very proud of the day and its traditions. To avoid making any potential social faux pas, you should avoid poking fun at some of the traditions. 

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