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Key things you absolutely shouldn't do on May 17th in Norway

Frazer Norwell
Frazer Norwell - [email protected]
Key things you absolutely shouldn't do on May 17th in Norway
Here are some mistakes you should avoid on May 17th. Pictured is a Norwegian flag. Photo by Max van den Oetelaar on Unsplash

May 17th is one of the most important days in Norway. The celebration of the signing of the Norwegian Constitution is fraught with a few faux pas that are easy to make as a foreigner.


Forgetting to do the shopping or leaving it last minute

This advice has more to do with the run-up to May 17th than the day itself. May 17th is a public holiday in Norway, which means, by law, most shops will be shut. Many restaurants will only be accepting set-menu bookings or will be closed.

Therefore, if you don't get in enough food by the 16th, you will likely need to head to the nearest convenience store to get what you need.

Even if you are aware of the closures, don't leave the shopping until the last moment as the shops will be packed with your fellow last-minute shoppers. You may also find the selection limited.

Should you head to one of Norway's wine monopolies, you may also find that the queue is so long that you may need more time to buy what you want.

Expecting transport to be normal

Don't even begin to dream of being able to drive your car near the centre of the town or city you live, as it will likely be closed off for pedestrian traffic and children's parades. You can also expect public transport to be disrupted, either with a reduced timetable or for it to be busy. However, there is a certain amount of charm to hopping on a bus and seeing it full of people wearing their national costumes.


Not knowing the flag rules

May 17th is the most famous flag day in Norway. Essentially, Norway has a set of rules that govern when you can fly the Norwegian flag and how.

While you won't be slapped with a prison sentence or face deportation for breaking them, it is considered disrespectful to break these laws.

For starters, if you live in an apartment block, you likely have a flag pole already. On May 17th, most of your neighbours will have the Norwegian flag on display. You will need to erect this after 8am and take it down by 9pm.

Keeping the flag up after 9pm or after dark is considered to be lacking in respect. Several other rules also apply to flags, both ones you'll hoist and smaller ones you will hold in your hands.


Generally, they should be treated with respect and never touch the ground. Furthermore, you should never tread or walk on a flag, nor should you use nails or anything else to attach flags to decorations.

Pointing small handheld flags to the floor may also be considered a no-no, but this isn't an official flag rule.

Be overly critical

Now seeing thousands of people in national costumes line the streets to wave flags and celebrate their nation may cause quite a bit of culture shock.

That's because, for many, it will actually be quite unusual. Again, however, there is an appropriate time and place for things. So while most Norwegians wouldn't mind answering a few questions about May 17th or listening to observations about how strange it is – it is probably best not to be too critical of a very important day for many people.

If you have any questions or wisecracks, it is best to save them for a few days before or after May 17th itself.


Not taking time to enjoy things

While we've filled this article with the mistakes you should definitely avoid, one of the biggest mistakes is not taking the time to enjoy it.

Whether it's the BBQs, the ice creams or (probably) the champagne breakfasts, Norwegians are especially easygoing on May 17th.

There is generally a jubilant atmosphere in the air, and people are in good spirits. The locals are typically all too happy to share the day's traditions and customs with newcomers.

Therefore, try not to worry too much about the mistakes you could make and focus on enjoying the day instead. After all, May 17th may be the absolute best time to be in Norway.


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