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Five things that surprise foreigners who move to Bergen

Robin-Ivan Capar
Robin-Ivan Capar - [email protected]
Five things that surprise foreigners who move to Bergen
If you didn't research living in Bergen before moving there, you may be surprised as you adapt to life as a Bergenser. Photo by Tom Vanhoof on Unsplash

Bergen, Norway's second-largest city, has a lot going for it. However, if your general impression of it is based on sunny photos of Bryggen found on most tourism-oriented sites – you're in for a surprise.


Located on the coast of western Norway and situated between seven mountains, Bergen is surrounded by beautiful scenery.

With a population of roughly 285,600 people, it is Norway's second-largest city, and it boasts a proud and rich history, with numerous historic buildings and museums.

The city has a vibrant community of international citizens, built up mostly of students and foreign workers, and is widely known as one of the safest cities in the country.

However, in case you didn't do your homework on living in Bergen before you relocated, there are some things that will likely surprise you as you slowly start becoming a "Bergenser" (a Bergen local).

Here comes the rain again

If your impression of the weather in Bergen is based on sunny photos of Mount Fløyen and tourists basking in the sun at the Bryggen wharf found on the state-funded tourist guide Visit Bergen, you're about to have a rude awakening.

Bergen gets approximately 230 rainy days a year, and it is commonly referred to as the "rain capital of Norway." That means you'll have to prepare for precipitation year-round.

The first thing you'll need to do is invest in waterproof clothes. Go for quality and functionality, and expect your wardrobe upgrade to be pricey.

Once you have all the necessary weather-proof clothes in your closet, you'll be able to fully grasp the meaning of Bergen's two unofficial mottos: "There is no bad weather, only bad clothes" and "Those who wait for nice weather never end up going anywhere."


The (sea)food and the fishing

Exploring local cuisines is one of the numerous joys one can experience after moving to a new country. Norwegian cuisine may surprise foreigners with its focus on seafood, especially when it comes to traditional dishes like lutefisk and rakfisk.

Leaving the delicacies which are an acquired taste (like lutefisk) aside, there are several more mainstream dishes and food culture that you'll likely find peculiar.

One example of this is the Bergen fish soup, or Bergensk fiskesuppe, a beloved traditional dish in the city that offers a unique and flavorful experience, particularly for foreigners from Mediterranean countries. This soup is made by combining a variety of ingredients, including fish soup stock, heavy cream, white vinaigrette, white wine, and various types of fish, such as cod and salmon.

The prevalence of sushi culture in Bergen can also come as a surprise to many. Sushi is sold in abundance throughout the city, ranging from stores like Meny and Rema 1000 to sushi stands in malls, to all-you-can-eat sushi chains like Sabrura, and even high-end sushi restaurants such as Red Sun and Nama.

The overall obsession with fish food is unsurprising, given the fact that the fishing in Bergen is known to be excellent. The city's location provides a unique marine environment that attracts various fish species. Some popular fish species in Bergen include pollock, cod, and mackerel, among others.

Fishing is also an important industry in the city and surrounding areas, with many locals and tourists enjoying fishing trips and seafood restaurants offering freshly caught fish.



Sunny days (like the one pictured) are a rarity in Bergen. Photo by Sandro Kradolfer on Unsplash

The (infamous) Bergen dialect

If you moved to Bergen from eastern Norway – or invested in your linguistic competencies by going to Norwegian language courses – you'll likely have difficulties understanding Bergensk, the local dialect. Why is that, you ask?

Well, in a number of foreign language schools (even those in Bergen), the Norwegian language taught is very close to the eastern, Oslo dialect.

READ MORE: Bergensk: A beginner's guide to the Bergen dialect

So don't be surprised if you're unable to understand the locals in Bergen even if you reached B1/B2 - even Norwegians from other parts of the country can sometimes have problems understanding Bergensk.

The key obstacle you'll face is likely to be pronunciation. Don't get disheartened – expect the transition to the dialect to take a couple of months, and take the time to polish your language skills regularly.

Not that cold

For a lot of people, the mental image that comes to mind when one mentions Norway is that of snow and sub-zero temperatures. While that is definitely the case in northern Norway, the climate in Bergen is surprisingly mild (despite the constant rain).

Due to its coastal location and the surrounding mountains, Bergen has a particular microclimate with relatively warm winters and cool summers. The average temperature in Bergen ranges from 1-2°C in winter to 15-16°C in summer.

This mild climate – coupled with the surrounding mountains - makes the city a great location for outdoor activities such as hiking and skiing, especially on those rare sunny days!

Pssst! Don't be surprised if you see the locals leaving work early to make the most of a sunny day; it's a thing.


Excellent public transport

Compared to cities of its size in other European countries, Bergen is often lauded for having an excellent public transportation system.

Getting around the city is easy, as both the buses and light rail (Bybanen) are quite reliable. The Bybanen, in particular, is very handy, as it operates on dedicated tracks from the city centre to the airport and beyond.

Skyss, the local public transport company, operates both the buses and the Bybanen. There are multiple ticket options available, including single tickets (priced at around 40 kroner), day passes, and weekly or monthly passes, which are usually purchased via the Skyss app.

The nice thing is that the Skyss transport options are integrated, so a single ticket can be used on both the bus and the Bybanen.



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