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Norwegian habits For Members

Five Norwegian rules foreign residents should try not to break

Frazer Norwell
Frazer Norwell - [email protected]
Five Norwegian rules foreign residents should try not to break
There are a few rules in Norway that you should try your best not to break. Pictured is Norway on May 17th. Photo by Marta Matwiszyn on Unsplash

Life in Norway as a foreigner is much easier if you stick to some of the country's most ingrained rules – written or unwritten. 

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Question Norwegian's sense of patriotism or be overly critical of Norway

Generally, Norwegians are very patriotic people. They are proud of the nation they call home and fellow Norwegians that make a splash on the world stage. 

Rightfully, they have plenty to be proud of, given the fact that living conditions in the country contribute to the locals being among the happiest people in the world. 

The largest national outpouring of patriotism and national pride is on May 17th, where flags are hoisted, locals dress in their traditional national costumes and parades are held to celebrate Norway becoming an independent country. 

Such intense displays of patriotism and national pride can seem incredibly strange to outsiders. Culture clashes can also occur when pointing out shortcomings with the country or questioning whether things are actually so great. 

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Being critical of Norway, even if you love the country and plan on spending the rest of your life here, can oftentimes upset or offend the locals (particularly if you don't know them well) due to their deep sense of national pride.

However, this isn't to say everyone in Norway is sensitive about criticism of the country or being questioned about why they are so patriotic. On the contrary, some will find it amusing or even enlightening to hear an outsider's perspective. 

Furthermore, while there's nothing wrong with seeing things with a critical eye – it's only natural the locals get offended if you have nothing constructive to say about Norway or are overly harsh with your assessment of the local's national pride.

Upset your neighbours 

Being a good neighbour in Norway comes with a lot of requirements. There are a number of spoken and unspoken rules, as well as the obligation to show up to the seemingly "voluntary" dugnad days. 

When it comes to courteousness surrounding noise, most blocks will have their own noise rules. As a rule of thumb, there should usually be no loud music or DIY past 8pm on weekends and 10pm on Saturdays. On Sundays, some neighbours may react strongly to music, lawnmowing or DIY, while others won't be too bothered. 

If you plan on hosting a party, you should typically forewarn your neighbours. Most neighbours prefer to keep to themselves, so you may feel as if you are invading their privacy if you constantly try to strike up more than the typical "hei" if you meet them. 

Then you will need to have plenty of etiquettes for the communal laundry room. You must book a time slot before using the washing and drying machines and clean up afterwards. 

This includes wiping out the detergent slot of the washing machine and removing your fluff from the dryer. Your neighbours can see which apartment booked the laundry room, so they'll know it was you if you overrun or leave the laundry room a mess.

Use dates instead of weeks 

Much like the rest of Scandinavia, people in Norway use week numbers rather than specific dates. This custom began in the 1970s when Monday was made the first day of the week rather than Sunday. 

Such is the mass adoption of the system, the majority of Norwegians know the week number they are in and the week numbers of all their holidays and important dates. 

Using terms like "the second week in July" or "the week commencing Monday, July 18th" will only be met by a question about the week number.

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Week one is always the first week in, which Thursday is in January. This means that the number of weeks in a year can vary, because 52 multiplied by 7 is 364. As such, week 53 sometimes appears at the tail end of the Norwegian calendar.

Skip paying fares and generally try and avoid paying for things

The majority of public transport in Norway is open, meaning there aren't turnstiles or checkpoints to check if users have valid tickets on them. 

Instead, travellers are trusted to purchase a valid ticket before getting on. You can't buy your ticket onboard, and if the ticket inspectors find you, you can expect a heavy fine. 

Ultimately, not paying a ticket when (in Oslo, at least) there are hardly any inspectors on board may not seem like the worst thing in the world. But, a lot of Norwegian society is built on the mutual trust that everyone wishes to do the right thing. 

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Not buying a ticket is therefore seen as a betrayal of this trust. Such is this trust, people selling homemade goods may sometimes leave them outside their homes and rely on people to pay digitally for what they take. 

In general, trying to pull a fast one to save a few kroner will give many a poor impression of yourself. 

Bash the food customs 

Many Norwegians will point to the country having some of the world's best foods and highest quality ingredients, even if supermarket shelves are full of frozen pizzas and not much else. 

Norway doesn't have the culinary heritage of France, Italy or Japan, but people will soon get upset if you constantly trash the food. 

Questioning the reverence of liquorice is one example. While the majority of the world may find it disgusting and its appearance in foods ranging from chocolate to ice cream an aberration, Norwegians love it. 

There are also quite a few other food-related mistakes you can make, ranging from needing to take proper care when constructing your sandwich to wielding your cheese slicer like a complete beginner.  

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