Unspoken Rules of the Norwegian Society
Do`s and Don'ts for International Students in Norway
It is highly recommended for all international students to get familiar with the present article and use it as a guide to Norwegian social protocol. Now that the initial excitement and thrill about being a student in Norway were calmed, it is time to talk about the unspoken rules existing in the Norwegian society.
Unspoken rule №1:
Never tell a Norwegian that Kit-Kat is tastier than Kvikk Lunsj. For your own safety do not even try to compare them in front of Norwegians. Probably there are some of you who have not tried Kvikk Lunsj yet and have no idea what this is all about. So Kvikk Lunsj is the name of a four fingered chocolate bar produced in Norway by a factory called Freia.
It looks like Kit-Kat, tastes like Kit-Kat, has almost the same ingredients, but still it is better and different. Different just like Holland and the Netherlands, Marilyn Monroe and Norma Jeane Mortenson, Northern Lights and Aurora Borealis.
Unspoken rule №2
Avoid «small talk» with strangers. When you wait for a tram at the bus stop or stand in the queue at the store, do not try to entertain yourself with an innocent conversation with a person next to you. Norwegians will most likely feel uncomfortable and start wondering in their head what your real intentions are.
Unspoken rule №3
Do not ask a Norwegian why he is not tall and blonde as the Vikings in TV-series or on book illustrations. The results of a recent research showed that there were Vikings who were of medium height, had dark hair and dark eyes. Everyone was special and this is beautiful!
Unspoken rule №4
Try not to say that Norwegian breakfast or «matpakke» is boring. Norwegians are used to have a cold breakfast that usually looks like several pieces of bread with butter and different things on it, like ham, cheese (Norwegians LOVE cheese), including brown cheese (brunost), fruit and berry jams, chocolate paste etc.
In many cultures it is more common to eat various breakfasts every day, but not in Norway. That is why you as an international student may consider it pretty boring to have bread and something on top, but please do not hurry to inform Norwegians about it. Instead, you could give them a hint by sending some links to food blogs on Instagram or just invite a Norwegian over for breakfast and cook something delicious from your national cuisine.
Unspoken rule №5
Do not depreciate the Vikings. Norwegians are very proud of their Viking heritage. We cannot deny that in the world the Vikings are famous for their ferocious character and violence against other nations. As it was said in one of the episodes of The Simpsons: «If your idea of a first date is burning down her village, you just might be a Viking».
However, this should not make us think less of the Vikings. Many of them were talented merchants who traded with the whole Europe. These people were fearless warriors who were not afraid of death in the battle as well as skilful craftsmen, whose ships and tools we admire even nowadays.
Unspoken rule №6
Do not get offended if your Norwegian guest does not bring anything to your party. Unlike in other countries, in Norway there is no tradition to bring a symbolic gift to the hosts of the party. So you should note that your friend is not rude, he is just Norwegian.
Unspoken rule №7
Always bring your own alcohol to social gatherings at someone`s house. Norwegian hosts might offer you snacks at the party, maybe 1 or 2 beers, but definitely not more. Alcohol prices in Norway are enormous, that`s why it is expected that every guest brings the drink he wants. Your friends are not greedy, they just live in Norway.
Unspoken rule №8
Violating against personal space in Norway is considered a moral crime. You might have already noticed that Norwegians prefer to sit alone in the public transport or benches in the park. So in order to observe social rules on personal boundaries it is better to ask a person if you can sit next to him.
Unspoken rule №9
Never say anything bad about hytta. This is one of the things that Norwegians love with all their hearts. A hytte is a small, isolated house in the woods or in the mountains that usually does not have water, electrical heating, bathroom or other facilities. Sounds lovely, doesn’t it? But this is what makes hytta so special to Norwegians. It is the place where they come to get away from everyday life and stress and spend some time with the family.
Such information detox help Norwegians to recharge for upcoming working days. They are surrounded by nature and enjoy every single second of their time there. Norwegians go hiking, fishing and swimming in the streams. Such experience is worth a couple of days without a hot shower and YouTube.
Unspoken rule №10
Do not boast in front of Norwegians. Equality is not just a sound in Norway, it is almost a Norwegian motto. From the first days of life Norwegian kids are taught that everyone is equal and that no one is better than the others. It might be amusing to you to read about Janteloven or the Law of Jante, which is cited by many as a reason for Norwegian society being the way it is. Its main idea can be described by one sentence: «You are not to think you're anyone special, or that you're better than us».
In reality it is not law and it is definitely not set forth in any Norwegian legislation. Its author is a Danish-Norwegian writer Aksel Sandemose, who created 10 principles, which can help international people to understand the Nordic way of thinking. Despite the satirical character of the rules that Janteloven contains, their essence is serious and important– in Nordic countries everyone should be equal and any kind of discrimination should be eradicated.
The former king, Olav V, used public transport without any bodyguards, saying that he was just like 5 million other Norwegians. If the king did not boast, neither should you. However, this rule does not apply to job interviews…or Tinder.
Please note that this article is humorous in nature and does not intend to change your way of thinking. In order to understand the society better you just need to get to know more about Norwegian culture, history and politics. If you want to make friends with Norwegians, just be yourself and do not make things too complicated. All the borders and stereotypes exist just in our heads.
So do not let this stop you from enjoying your time in Norway. Show people what a great person you are, and they will definitely appreciate your honesty and openness. Surely, the rules listed are written just for fun and are not subject to a mandatory observation. Except the one about Kvikk Lunsj. Never say that Kit-Kat is better. Seriously.