Norway Explained For Members

When can you talk to a stranger in Norway without annoying them? 

Frazer Norwell
Frazer Norwell - [email protected]
When can you talk to a stranger in Norway without annoying them? 
Waiting for the bus, is certainly one place in Norway where it isn't okay to strike up small talk. Pictured is a somebody waiting at a bus stop in Norway. Photo by Vidar Nordli-Mathisen on Unsplash

In Norway, it can be seen as rude and intrusive to start a conversation with a total stranger. Except, that is, in certain well-defined circumstances. Here's our best stab at what they are.


Those more used to countries with plenty of chitchat or small talk are usually in for a culture shock when moving to Norway. Norway's locals, with some exceptions, aren't particularly well-known for their chatty nature. Instead, they have a reputation as being a bit more reserved.

Small talk in shops, public transport, taxis, and restaurants is a no-go a lot of the time. 

Some mistake this for Norwegians, perhaps being cold or a bit rude. However, it can more fairly be described as a cultural difference. See, Norwegians tend to place a heavy emphasis on privacy. It's an ideal which is quite revered by the majority of Norwegians. 

This doesn't just apply to their privacy (not wanting to be talked to) but also to others. Norwegians see your privacy and the assumption that you aren't in the mood for small talk just as important as their own. 


So, what can come across as unfriendly and cold is thoughtfulness and showing respect for your boundaries. 

However, just because small talk is less common, it doesn't mean that it never happens. In general, striking up a bit of conversation with the locals is acceptable under a few conditions—some of which we'll describe here.

When do you think it's acceptable to strike up small talk with a Norwegian? Let us know below.  


When they are out walking their dogs 

Owning a dog is the gateway to a world of small talk and chitchat that you never thought possible in Scandinavia. Admittedly, all the talk will be about the dogs, but if you've committed to a canine companion, we're sure you won't mind this. 

The dog walk offers a controlled environment that meets the "unwritten" social rules of small talk. First, the parties have something in common, there's an easy exit from the conversation, and it's likely just a quick bit of small talk. 

In almost any dog park in Norway, the owners will know much more about the dogs than their owners. 

Over time 'the regulars' might move onto other topics like the weather and whether they have any plans for the weekend. 

At the playground with their children 

This follows more or less the same rules as the dog park. Parents will strike up brief conversations with other parents. Like the dog park, the strangers have something income, have something to focus on outside the conversation and can (pretty much) leave the conversation if it gets too awkward. 

However, this could lead to actual friendships in the long run as you may find your child and their child play together often and thus arrange play dates. 

On an organised tour or event

If you've signed up for a guided tour or a limited group activity, think museum tour or cooking class, it's Ok to start a conversation with the other participants. The reason for this is the length of the tour controls the time of the interaction, and, perhaps more importantly, you have a third external event to focus on if the conversation gets awkward.  


While hiking, swimming or skiing

This can be hit-and-miss and be harder to judge when it is considered appropriate. Most opt for a straightforward and polite "hei". Although sometimes some might strike up a conversation about the weather, conditions or the activity. 

While not super-chatty. Norwegians tend to relax and let their social guard down a bit more when in the great outdoors. Given how active the typical Norwegian is, maybe being out in nature makes them feel more at ease. 

Most will opt for a simple "hei", but others may initiate a brief conversation. If you are swimming in a lake or river, it will either to ask about the temperature or to warn you. 


When skiing, you can expect a brief overview of the weather, conditions – and, if you are lucky – how many times they've managed to hit the slopes this year. 

If you have the looks of a novice, you can expect a kind forewarning of any potential hazards you may be about to encounter. 

Hiking will generally focus on how lucky both parties are to be in such a beautiful country and how nice it is to get out. 


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