SHARE
COPY LINK
For members

TRANSPORT

The unwritten rules of taking public transport in Norway

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. 

A tram 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

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. 

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members

NORWEGIAN WORD OF THE DAY

Five Norwegian words which help sum up May 17th

Norway's national day, May 17th, which marks the signing of the country's constitution, is a unique celebration with plenty of traditions. Here are five words that help explain the occasion.

Five Norwegian words which help sum up May 17th

Champagnefrokost

Breakfast the most important meal of the day. This is no different in Norway, and on May 17th, the meal that people enjoy the most or put the hardest work into if they are hosting (but not any literal blood, sweat or tears, hopefully) is breakfast. 

May 17th normally begins with a champagne breakfast to kick start a day of festivities. The breakfast is typically held relatively early so that people can head out to join in with the celebrations, although some will do it afterwards as a kind of brunch. 

This won’t be your typical Norwegian breakfast. Instead, the canned leverpostei is likely to be parked in favour of more upmarket and luxurious sandwich toppings. 

Barnetog

An event that typically follows the breakfast is the childrens’ parades all over the country.

The word literally translates to ‘children’s train’ but refers to parades. Kids up and down the country will typically participate in parades, usually with their school classes. This will be through the town or city centre. 

The most famous of the childrens’ parades is the one which sees kids in Oslo make their way up Karl Johan Gate Street to wave to the royal family who watch on from the palace. 

The parades usually end with a russetog. The russetog is a procession of russ students. Russ is where final year high-school students in Norway party in the lead up to May 17th. 

This parade maybe isn’t as wholesome as the kids’ one as the students tend to look a bit worse for wear after a month of partying. 

Bunad 

On Norway’s national day, you’ll see plenty of locals dressed in their national costumes. 

The day is so closely associated with the bunad that the national costume could be seen as a symbol of May 17th. 

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, there is a tradition of folk costumes that stretches back to the 14th century. 

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

Nasjonalsangen

This means the national anthem or song, Norway’s national anthem is Ja, vi elsker dette landet (yes, we love this country). It was only adopted relatively recently, in 2019. 

While Sønner av Norge, was considered the proper national anthem up until this point, Ja, vi elsker dette landet was considered more of a de-facto national anthem and certainly the anthem of May 17th. 

It was first performed publicly on the 50th anniversary of the signing of the constitution, giving the song an incredibly close link with the country’s national day. 

If you do fancy brushing up on the lyrics, just remember it’s typically just the first and last verses that are sung. 

Flagg

This one may not be overly beneficial in expanding your vocabulary, but there is no May 17th without the flags. Most apartments in Norway have a flag holder on their balcony with Constitution Day in mind. 

Not only will the majority of houses and apartment blocks have Norwegian flags on display, but most people also heading out will be carrying flags. 

The flag mania doesn’t stop there, as most breakfast tables will be adorned with flags or decorations depicting the flag. 

One rule would be to ensure that you don’t 

SHOW COMMENTS