They say that a country is characterized by its people, and that the people are shaped by the country’s customs and traditions. People living within the same borders often tend to think and act alike, which means that they have conformed to the unwritten norms and rules dictated to them by the societies they live in. Different continents have different ways and traditions, and although people hailing from the western world share similar culture and social norms, each country has certain traits and characteristics that differ slightly from the others. My own country Norway is no exception. Below I have listed a few points that might help the reader of this page better understand how the average Norwegian view himself/herself and why they act and behave the way they do. It is not a complete list but it’s a good start.
Food stores are not allowed to stay open on Sundays, but petrol stations and kiosks selling groceries are.
This means that you are free do your grocery shopping in ordinary food stores from Monday to Saturday, but you have to go to a petrol station or a kiosk on Sunday if you want to buy groceries
You can only by wine and liquor from special liquor outlets called Vinmonopolet.
There are normally only one or two Vinmonopol in each city, depending on its size. Some people living in the countryside will have to travel great distances just to buy some liquor or a bottle of wine.
The Swedish border trade
Because food prices in Norway are amongst the highest in the world many Norwegians living close to the Swedish border travel to Sweden on a regular basis to buy groceries there. Estimates indicate that this border trade amounts to roughly US$ 2 billion each year. Needless to say, prices are a lot more affordable in Sweden.
Norway has some of the highest petrol prices in the world, even though the country is one of the biggest oil exporter in the world.
This is a sore issue with the average Norwegian, and they will go on for hours complaining about the useless politicians that are robbing them blind. But then again they keep giving their votes to these same ‘useless’ politicians in every General election.
Toll roads have popped up all over the country.
The Norwegian Government, which is one of the largest exporter of oil in the world, thought it would be a good idea to introduce tolls on several of the already existing roads in Norway, apparently to reduce the country’s CO2 emission and to help fund new roads. Most Norwegians however sees this toll as nothing more than an extra tax the already heavily taxed Norwegian tax payer will have to pay.
Infrastructure projects has not been given the go-ahead because the Government believes that it could ‘damage the economy’ by pushing interest rates up.
As a result, one of the richest nations in the world has only got 300 kilometres of four lane motorways, major traffic congestions in its biggest cities because of a lack of road upgrades and the country have several dozen public buildings that are in dire need of repairs.
DUI offenders have to go to jail.
People that are caught driving under the influence are sent to jail for 30 days, have their driver license taken away from them and have to cough up a hefty fine of 10 percent of their annual income. They are allowed to get a new licence after a year, provided they pass the propper tests and exams which in some cases will knock them back another US$ 5000 – 7000.
Speeding fines are in some cases stricter than the fines given to people caught with small personal amounts of class A drugs.
Excessive speeding will land you a prison sentence, the loss of your driver licence, a fine equivalent to 10 percent of your annual income, and having to pay for a new drivers licence. A 10 kilometre over the speed limit violation will cost you approximately US$ 500.00 + demerit points. Junkies caught with small amounts of heroin in their possesion are only given a US$ 250.00 fine.
Norwegians rejected EU membership twice in referendums, but the country have implemented more EU directives than any of the actual EU member states.
The various political parties are staunch EU supporters, and as a consequence they have signed various binding treaties with the EU and implemented numerous EU laws and regulation even though this is contrary to the text of the two latest referendums. Several pro-EU politicians have argued for a third EU membership referendum to be held.
Norway are subsidising the agricultural industry.
Farmers are being subsidised by approximately US$ 3 billion each year by the Government, and they are only allowed to sell set quotas of milk and meat each year. The subsidies are the reason behind the exuberant prices that the Norwegian consumer has to pay for dairy products, hence the Swedish border trade.
Norwegians love frozen pizza.
The Grandiosa frozen pizza is unofficially named as the Norwegian national dish and each year Norwegians consume 20 million Grandiosa pizzas in addition to all the other frozen pizza brands on the market.
Traditional Norwegian seafood dish, and by some considered a delicacy. This delicacy is basically a fish that has been immersed in lye and rinsed in water.
More like a Norwegian phenomenon than just a hunt. The entire world protests Norway’s ‘barbaric’ whale hunting, but Norwegians generally view this as very unfair criticism and an insult to their way of life and culture. Most patriotic Norwegian will patiently explain to any hapless foreigner who brings up the subject the various ‘scientific’ facts and the need for the whale hunt. Mention Greenpeace and Sea Shepherds in this context and see the look of hate start appearing in the eyes of the average Norwegian.
Norwegians love telling Swedish jokes
Norway used to be under Swedish rule, and the Swedes are by many Norwegians viewed as the ‘impolite’ big brother that always thinks he knows best. The Swedes on the other hand sees Norway as the dimwitted little brother. As a result a rivalry has developed between the two Scandinavian nations. For Norwegians this involves ridiculing Swedes in jokes, celebrating when Sweden looses a football match, fails to win any gold medals in the winter Olympics, and most importantly, celebrate when Norway beats the Swedes in the annual Euro vision song contest.
Literally meaning the communal holiday. It is the time of the year, second week of July, when most Norwegians take their four week summer holiday. This is a logical choice as the weather normally should be at its best during this time of the year. Everything slows down in this period, even the reporting in the media. It’s also somewhat of a joke with some Norwegians that the weather is at its most appalling during this time, and that the weather only improves after this four week period has come to an end.
Literally meaning ‘weekend binge drinking’. It is a well established tradition in Norway, where people go out to bars and nightclubs on Friday and Saturday nights and get absolute hammered.
Norwegians are by some considered to be quite rude and impolite. But this is a misunderstanding. In Norway it’s not considered rude to bump into someone at the supermarket and not apologize. Equally it’s not considered rude not to smile back at other people on the street or on public transportation, nor to say thank you.
Because the winters can be quite cold and snowy in Norway, many Norwegians are passionate skiers. Cross country skiing is considered a national sport both among the old and the young. Some people take it one step further and buy roller skis, so that they can ski even in the summertime. Seeing people roller skiing along the roads in Norway in the summer months is quite a normal sight.
For the hopeful foreigner who has learned some Norwegian and wants to practice their skills while on a trip to Norway, dream on. The hundreds of different dialects in Norway are so totally different to written Norwegian that even natives sometimes have difficulties understanding people from different parts of the country. Norwegians will also automatically switch over to English if they suspect that they are faced with a native English speaker trying to speak Norwegian.
Literally means friend of Norway. This phrase is given to any celebrity that has visited Norway more than once and who hasn’t ridiculed the country or the people living there. Bruce Springsteen would be considered a Norgesvenn simply because he has visited the country twice.
People that own a TV have to pay a yearly licence fee of approximately US$ 300.00. Failure to pay this fee will result in a hefty fine.
It’s illegal in Norway to buy sex, but not to sell sex. That means that a female prostitute will not be prosecuted for selling sex, but a male customer will.
The Monty Python movie ‘Life of Brian’, was banned in Norway when it first came out in 1982. It was considered blasphemous at the time.
Boxing was banned on TV up until the late eighties, because the director of the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation at the time, Bjartmar Gjerde, considered the sport immoral.
Prime minister took out sick leave because he had mental problems.
Prime minister Kjell Magne Bondevik took out sick leave because he felt that the media treated him too harshly. After a couple of weeks he returned back to office. During and after his illness he was on anti-depressants.
Prime minister was drunk on live TV.
Another prime minister, Jens Stoltenberg, was drunk on live TV while giving a speech. In his TV appearance Stoltenberg can be seen snickering and struggling to pronouncing some of the words in his speech. Colleagues of the prime minister tried to tone it down, claiming that the prime minister only had a few drinks for dinner before his TV appearance.
Prime minister referred to Gabon’s president Omar Bongo, as ‘Bongo from Congo’.
Former prime minister Thorbjørn Jagland, admitted jokingly on a live TV talk show that he himself and staff members in the Norwegian Foreign Department had given the president of Gabon the nickname ‘Bongo from Congo”.
Sponsored national media.
The Norwegian Government gives financial aid to all the newspapers in Norway, called ‘pressestøtte’ (media support). The aim of this aid is to support small newspapers that wouldn’t be able to survive without this financial backing.
Norwegian Crown princess.
Norwegian crown prince Mette Marit, wife of Norwegian Crown Prince Haakon, was a single mum when she married Haakon. In a press conference a couple of weeks before the wedding Mette Marit admitted to having led a ‘chaotic’ life before she met Haakon. At the time newspaper articles surfaced in the media claiming that the crown princess had been abusing drugs and participated in a private sex tape.
The Euro vision song contest.
National pride was finally restored when Norway won the Euro vision song contest for the first time in 1985. The group that won the contest, Bobbysocks, was awarded the ‘Peer Gynt Prize’ for their achievement by the Norwegian Government.
Satanic rockers torched several churches in Norway in the early 90’s. All in all 7 churches burned to the ground in these attacks.
Former labour union boss, Gerd Liv Valla, was fired from her position in 2007 for having bullied staff.
Princess Martha Louise.
In 2007 Princess Martha Louise started a private school in Oslo, Astarte education. Some of the subjects on the curriculum are ‘Healing’ and ‘Reading’. She also teaches student to communicate with angels.
Discovery of America.
Most Norwegian will claim Viking explorer Leif Erikson, the first European to set foot on the American continent in 1003 as Norwegian, even though he was born in Iceland.
Doom and Gloom.
The Norwegian Government spent US$ 7 million on the construction of a doomsday vault (seed vault) on the arctic island of Svalbard. The purpose of the doomsday vault is to preserve plants seeds from around the world in case some of them should become extinct.
Many police stations in Norway are only manned during office hours, because of inadequate funding from the Government. Many of the police stations are closed during the weekends. People in need of police assistance are urged by an automatic phone message to contact the station during office hours.
National football team.
Most Norwegians will be more than happy to inform you that the Brazilian national football team has never defeated the national Norwegian football team. This is a source of great pride and joy for die hard Norwegian football fans. The two teams have only played each other three times with Norway winning twice and drawing once.
The members of A-ha, Norway’s only international successful music export are considered national icons in Norway. Norwegians are also quick to point out that the group had several top ten hits, and that the group wasn't a one hit wonder who’s only real success was the song ‘Take on me’.
Farmers think that it’s absolutely outrages that bears and wolf are killing their sheep while the sheep are grazing up in the mountains during the summer months. Several farmers have been known to illegally hunt wolf and bears because of this.
National self esteem.
Most Norwegians love to talk about Norway to foreigners, and anyone who don't agree with them that Norway is a beautiful country are considered to be either weird or slow or a combination of both.
Most Norwegians think it is odd when someone start talking or smiling to them on the bus.
And finally, did you know that one of the most popular cheeses in Norway is brown?