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The unwritten rules of taking public transport in Norway

Frazer Norwell
Frazer Norwell - [email protected]
The unwritten rules of taking public transport in Norway
There are some social norms you should know about before you take public transport in Norway. Pictured is a tram in Oslo. Photo by Gunnar Ridderström on Unsplash

Public transport is probably the best way to get around Norway's larger cities, but before you hop on, there are some social norms that you should know about when taking a bus, tram or train. 


When taking public transport, there may be only one real rule- pay for your ticket- especially since pandemic restrictions such as facemasks and social distancing have been scrapped. 

However, there are several unwritten rules and social norms you'll be expected to follow in Norway to be considered a polite and courteous passenger. 

READ MORE: Five Norwegian social norms that may be strange to newcomers

Don't make small talk with other passengers

Norwegians, generally speaking, aren't great lovers of small talk with strangers. There tends to be a sliding scale of when small talk is socially acceptable in Norway. For example, when out in nature, hiking, or sharing a ski lift, you may find the locals more willing to engage in chit-chat. They may even be the ones to strike up a conversation about the weather or conditions. 

Public transport is at the other end of this scale, and small talk may be seen as bothersome or annoying. Some Norwegians may take exception to your attempts to socialise and find it intrusive. 

This may mean taking a crash course in non-verbal communication when sharing a seat with other passengers. Many locals will signal they want to get up with their own routine, and without uttering a word, whether its slowly leaning over to the stop button or beginning to get their possessions together a few minutes before the next stop, they are letting you know they'd like to get up. 


Keep a distance from others

This applies when waiting to get on public transport and once you're aboard. It isn't commonplace to see strangers sharing a bench at a train station or a seat at a bus station. It's normally one person, couple or family per seating fixture, even when its raining. 

The same applies to once you are aboard, with the exception being trains with prebooked seats and during rush hours. 

When it's quiet, you'll also be expected to sit at least a row of seats away from the next closest passenger if you can. 

Don't talk on your phone or make much noise of any kind

This will be a written rule on some train services that will have a "quiet carriage" but is a social norm elsewhere. 

Generally speaking, passengers will find it rude or obnoxious if you are talking on your phone, playing music aloud or having a loud conversation. 

The exception to this rule, in Oslo at least, is late on Friday and Saturday nights when people are going to or returning from clubs, bars and parties after a few alcoholic beverages. 


No food allowed

A common theme of the rules of taking public transport in Norway is to try and make the journey as bearable as possible for others around you.

One way of doing that is to not eat on public transport. So as much as you are looking forward to the sushi or poke bowl you've just picked up or the boiled egg you've forgotten to eat for lunch, you should save it for when you get home as other passengers won't enjoy the smell. 

Other foods that should be avoided are those that leave crumbs and stains. 

Offer your seat to elderly or pregnant passengers

This is common courtesy wherever you are. However, it might not appear as obvious in Norway. 

This is because passengers who may have trouble being on their feet for the duration of their journey probably won't ask for your seat directly. After all, they want to avoid small talk, so they may not explicitly ask unless desperate.

Therefore you should generally offer your seat to elderly or pregnant passengers because while they might not say anything, they will find it rude that you haven't offered up your seat. 



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