Norwegian word of the day: Matpakke 

The humble 'matpakke' may be a simple word to learn, but the daily tradition gives a big insight into Norway.

Here's why you need to know about the humble matpakke. Caption Photo by Francesco Ungaro on Unsplash / Nicolas Raymond/FlickR

What does it mean? 

Directly translated, this means “food package”. What it actually means is packed lunch. It applies to any meal you bring with you to work, pack for your kids to take to school or take on a hike. 

However, while it may mean packed lunch, it’s typically referring to the traditional bread with some kind of pålegg combo and accompanied by some sort of fruit or veg. Pålegg in itself is a unique and almost untranslatable word. It means “on-layer” but refers to anything you’d put on top of a slice of bread. 

This encompasses everything from smoked fish to peanut butter and cheese and meats. To learn more about pålegg, click here

The slices of bread and spread are normally separated with matpapir (food paper) to stop them from making a mess and sticking together. 

Why do I need to know this? 

The matpakke is a part of many Norwegians’ daily routine. Some would even go as far as to call it a tradition or rite of passage. 

Many will have the same packed lunch over and over again with little variation. Why Norwegians do this isn’t clear, and as Norwegians aren’t overly impressed with my habit of combining butter and mayo on the base layer, they may take exception to me asking. If you do know, get in touch! 

One explanation for this may be that eating out in Norway is expensive, meaning many are unlikely to eat out most days. 

Another explanation is that for all of Norway’s work-life balance and generous salaries, the typical lunch break is only half an hour. 

Use it like this

Jeg har pakket to matpakker til oss for turen i dag.

(I have packed two lunches for our trip today.) 

Hva har du på matpakka I dag? 

 (What do you have on your packed lunch today?)

Lise, skal du være med å spise lunsj I kantina I dag? 

(Lise, are you coming to eat lunch in the canteen today?)

Nei takk, jeg har med matpakke.

 (No thanks, I have my packed lunch) 

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Norwegian expression of the day: Grevens tid 

Is it a good thing, or a bad thing, if you manage to do something in the "counts time"? Let's find out. 

Norwegian expression of the day: Grevens tid 

What does it mean? 

As mentioned in the intro, “grevens tid” literally translates to the “count’s time”. The count’s time means arriving at a good or lucky moment or achieving or preventing something, typically at the last minute. 

Catch a vase just before it hits the ground, or make it to the station just in time to catch your train? Then you did it in the count’s time. 

The term is said to have originated in Sweden and refers to Count Per Brahe Dy, who became governor of Finland in 1637. It was customary for a count to arrive late to events during the period. This is because, typically, the highest status one held, the more likely they were to come later. 

However, these days the saying isn’t used to describe when someone arrives “fashionably late” to use an English expression. 

Use it like this: 

Nå kom du i grevens tid 

(You came just at the right time.)

Du kom i grevens tid, jeg skulle akkurat til å ringe!

(You came just at the right time, I was just about to call you!)

Nå kom du i grevens tid! Vi skulle akkurat til å spise! 

(You came just at the right time, we are about to eat!)