Norway Explained For Members

Five Norwegian passive-aggressive habits and how to handle them

Robin-Ivan Capar
Robin-Ivan Capar - [email protected]
Five Norwegian passive-aggressive habits and how to handle them
Typically, if you respond promptly and genuinely, most folks in Norway will react positively, act in good faith, and drop the passive-aggressive vibes. Pictured is a man sat on a bench in Tomrø.Photo by Daniel Vogel on Unsplash

While Norwegian traits of indirect communication and politeness generally make for pleasant social interactions, they can also give rise to passive-aggressive behaviour.


Contrary to the descriptions you might stumble upon in blogs focusing on life for international citizens who moved to the country or catch on National Geographic, life in Norway isn't a constant pursuit of luxurious living standards while chasing the Northern Lights.

In a culture as polite and indirect as Norway's, passive-aggressive habits are, unfortunately, woven into the fabric of everyday life.

Many Norwegians tend to prefer these subtle manoeuvres over engaging in direct conflict, whether it's dealing with neighbours, co-workers, or the education system.

Keep in mind that communication is the key to resolving passive-aggressive issues. And fret not; with enough patience and a firm grasp of these habits, you'll be able to detect them and seamlessly handle such situations.

Announcing small issues to a larger group or authority figure

One of the more widespread Norwegian passive-aggressive habits is announcing minor issues to a large group or someone above you (for example, a neighbour complaining about the noise coming from your flat to your landlord or posting it on a public homeowners' forum) instead of addressing you directly.

This behaviour is often caused by a desire to avoid direct interpersonal conflict.

Whether it happens in kindergartens (a kindergarten staff member might bring up at a meeting that there have been ongoing challenges with certain children), schools, or workplaces (a colleague approaching your boss at a company meeting over an issue related to you instead of addressing it directly), it can be disconcerting to those unfamiliar with this approach.

The key to handling it is to stay composed – and not take it personally.

Do: Talk privately and calmly with the person about the issue after the "public announcement." This can help build a better relationship, making them more comfortable approaching you directly in the future if they have any concerns.

Don't: Get into a heated confrontation in front of everyone, as it could make things worse. This is especially true if you let your emotions take over.


The use of "we"

Norwegians use the word vi, meaning "we," in their interactions quite a lot. To outsiders, it can come across as chilling, especially when employed in a passive-aggressive manner.

The use of "we" lets Norwegians present a complaint as if it's about shared norms instead of a straightforward confrontation.

An example could be Vi rydder opp etter oss etter bruk av kjøkkenet på arbeidsplassen ("We clean up after ourselves after using the kitchen at our workplace") or Vi kaster ikke søppel i andres søppeldunker i Norge ("We don't throw trash into other people's bins in Norway.”)

If you find yourself on the receiving end of such a statement, try acknowledging it without taking it personally.

Do: Recognise common expectations and show your readiness to align with them moving forward.

Don't: Take "we" statements as personal criticisms or invitations to argue about your actions.


The silent treatment

After unintentionally stepping over a social norm, it's not uncommon to receive silent treatment from a fellow neighbour or colleague in Norway.

For instance, skipping the regular dugnad events in a housing block, or having a loud party without prior warning, you might earn weeks of disapproving silence from your neighbours.

In such situations, it's essential to be aware of cultural norms and customs. Apologising for unintentional transgressions, and adapting your behaviour can help restore relationships and prevent further passive-aggressive behaviour.

Do: Pay attention to cultural norms and traditions, apologise if you unintentionally cross any lines, and adjust your actions accordingly.

Don't: Brush off the silent treatment or underestimate its significance, as it could strain your relationships in your local community.


Passive-aggressive words

Norwegians have words in their language, such as overraskende (surprising) and uvanlig (unusual), that they might use to convey passive-aggressive messages.

Examples include: Jeg ble overrasket over at du bestemte deg for å la døren til fellesvaskeriet stå åpen. ("I was surprised that you decided to leave the door to the joint laundry room open.”) or Det var overraskende at du ikke ble med på dugnad i forrige uke. ("It was surprising that you didn't join the neighbourhood voluntary work initiative last week.”)

READ MORE: Norwegian expression of the day: Dugnad

If you encounter these words in conversation, it's crucial to recognise that they can have a passive-aggressive undertone.

Do: Recognise passive-aggressive words and respond with an open mind and a willingness to understand the other person's perspective.

Don't: Counter with more passive-aggression or disregard their words.


Mowing your lawn or trimming your hedges

A unique passive-aggressive habit in Norway involves neighbours mowing your lawn or trimming your hedges if they feel you haven't done it often enough by their standards.

You might be slightly shocked to see a neighbour taking such measures to express their discontent the first time it happens.

Don't overreact.

READ MORE: How to deal with noisy neighbours in Norway

Do: Have a chat with your neighbours, get a sense of what they expect, and try to reach a middle ground that suits everyone.

Don't: Verbally attack them or disregard their concerns.

The key "do" is to approach these situations with patience and open communication.

Steer clear of responding aggressively, as that only makes conflicts worse, and don't brush off passive-aggressive actions, as they can strain relationships.

Typically, if you respond promptly and genuinely, most folks in Norway will react positively, act in good faith, and drop the passive-aggressive vibes.


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