Monday, May 4, 2009

Some peculiar facts about Norway and Norwegians.

They say that a country is characterized by its people and that its people are shaped by the country’s customs and traditions. People who live within the same borders often tend to think and act alike, which would tend to suggest that they have conformed to the unwritten norms and rules imposed on them by society. Different continents have different ways and traditions, and although people hailing from the western world share a common culture and social norms, each individual country has certain traits and characteristics that differ slightly from that of the others. My own country Norway is no exception. Below, I have listed a few points that might help the reader get a better understanding of how the average Norwegian view themselves and why they act and behave the way they do. It is by no means 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 visit a petrol station or a kiosk if you want to buy groceries on a Sunday.

You can only by wine and liquor from special liquor outlets called Vinmonopol.

There are normally only one or two Vinmonopol per city, depending on its size, which means that some Norwegians, i.e those living in the countryside have to travel great distances just to buy a bottle of liquor or a casket of wine.

The Swedish border trade

Because food prices in Norway are amongst the highest in the world, many Norwegians, and especially those living close to the Swedish border, travel to Sweden on a regular basis to buy groceries. Estimates indicate that this border trade amounts to roughly US$ 2 billion per year. Needless to say, prices are a lot more affordable in Sweden.

Norway has some of the world's highest petrol prices, despite being one of biggest oil exporters in the world.

This is somewhat of a sore issue with the average Norwegian, and they can go on for hours complaining about the useless politicians that are robbing them blind, but then again they give their votes to these ‘useless’ politicians year after year.

Toll roads have popped up all over the country.

The Norwegian Government, which is one of the biggest exporters of oil in the world, decided that it would be an excellent idea to introduce tolls on several of the major roads in Norway. They justified this highly unpopular decision by claiming that it would help to lower the country’s CO2 emission, and by promising that the proceeds would be earmarked to build new roads. However, most Norwegians consider this toll nothing more than an additional tax that they, the already heavily taxed Norwegian tax payer have to pay.

Infrastructure projects have not been given the go-ahead because the Government is worried that this might ‘damage the economy’ by putting upward pressure on interest rates.

Consequently one of the richest nations on earth has only got a total of 300 kilometres of four lane highways. Needless to say, this lack of essential and necessary road upgrades has resulted in major traffic congestions in and around the bigger cities. This unwillingness to spend money is also the main reason why Norway has so many poorly maintained public buildings that are in dire need of repairs.

DUI offenders are jailed.

Motorists caught driving under the influence are jailed for 30 days, have their driver license taken away from them and have to cough up a hefty fine which constitutes roughly 10 percent of their annual income. They are allowed back on the roads after a year, provided they pass the proper driving tests, which in some cases will knock them back a further US$ 5000 – 7000.

Speeding fines are stricter than the fines issued to people caught with small 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. You will receive a US$ 500 fine if you are pulled over for driving 10 kilometres over the speed limit + the loss of demerit points. Junkies caught with small amounts of heroin in their possession are only given a US$ 250.00 fine.

Norwegians have rejected EU membership twice in referendums, but the country’s pro EU politicians have implemented more EU directives than any other EU state.

The majority of the political parties in Norway are staunch EU supporters, and subsequently they have signed various binding treaties with the EU and implemented numerous EU laws and regulation, despite two unsuccessful referendums to join the EU. Several pro-EU politicians have argued for a third referendum.

Norway is subsidising the agricultural sector.

Farmers are being subsidised to the tune of US$ 3 billion each year by the Government, and they are obliged to abide by Government quotas which regulates how much milk and meat they can sell on a yearly basis. The subsidies are the main factor behind the country’s exuberant food prices that Norwegian consumer are forced to pay, hence the Swedish border trade.

Norwegians love frozen pizza.

The Grandiosa frozen pizza is the unofficial Norwegian national dish. Each year Norwegians consume more than 20 million Grandiosa pizzas, in addition to all the other frozen pizza brands on the market.


Traditional Norwegian seafood dish and by many considered to be a delicacy. This delicacy is basically a fish that has been immersed in lye and then rinsed in water.

Whale hunting.

More like a Norwegian phenomenon than just a hunt. The entire world objects to Norway’s ‘barbaric’ whale hunt, but Norwegians in general consider this to be unfair criticism and an insult to their culture and way of life. Most patriotic Norwegian will patiently explain to the hapless foreigner who have made the mistake of raising the issue, the various ‘scientific’ facts and the necessity for the whale hunt. Mention Greenpeace and Sea Shepherds in this context and see the look of hate start to appear in the eyes of the average Norwegian.

Norwegians love telling Swedish jokes

Norway was under Swedish rule for several centuries and Swedes are by many Norwegians viewed as the ‘impolite’ big brother who always thinks he knows best. Swedes however consider Norwegians to be their dim-witted little brother. Consequently a fierce rivalry has developed between the two Scandinavian nations. For Norwegians this involves ridiculing Swedes in jokes, celebrating whenever Sweden looses a football match or fails to win any gold medals in the winter Olympics, but most importantly, celebrate whenever Norway beats Sweden in the annual Eurovision song contest.


Literally meaning the communal holiday. It is the time of year, second week of July, when Norwegians tend to take their four week summer vacation. This is quite a logical choice, as the weather, at least in theory is not going to get much better. Everything slows down during this period, even in the media. It’s also somewhat of a joke that the weather is at its most appalling behaviour during this time, and that it only improves after ‘fellesferien’ has come to an end.


Literally meaning ‘weekend binge drinking’. It's a well established tradition in Norway, which involves going to bars and nightclubs on the weekend and get absolutely hammered.


Norwegians are by some considered to be quite rude and impolite, but this is nothing but a giant 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 say thank you or refrain from smiling back at strangers.

Roller skis.

Because of the long and cold winters in Norway, many Norwegians are passionate skiers. Cross country skiing is considered somewhat of a national sport. Some people take it one step further and buy roller skis, enabling them to ski even in the summertime. It is quite normal to see people roller skiing on major roads in Norway in the summer months

Weird dialects.

For the hopeful foreigners that have learned some basic Norwegian and are looking forward to practice their skills while holidaying in Norway, dream on. The hundreds of different dialects in Norway are so completely different to written Norwegian that even natives have difficulties understanding people from other parts of the country sometimes. Norwegians are also renowned for automatically switching over to English if they suspect that they are faced with a native English speaker trying to communicate in Norwegian.


Literally meaning ‘friend of Norway’. This very prestigious title is given to any celebrity that has visited Norway more than once and who hasn’t ridiculed the country or its people. Bruce Springsteen would be considered a Norgesvenn on account of having visited the country at least twice.

TV Licence.

People who own a TV set have to pay a yearly licence (approximately US$ 300.00). Failure to pay this licence could result in a hefty fine.


It’s illegal in Norway to buy sex, but it’s not illegal to sell sex. This means that a female prostitute will not be prosecuted for selling sex, but her male customer will be prosecuted for buying sex.


The Monty Python movie ‘Life of Brian’ was banned in Norway when it was first released in 1982. At the time it was considered blasphemous.


Boxing on TV was banned up until the late eighties. This was due to the fact that the then director of the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation, Bjartmar Gjerde, considered the sport immoral.

Prime minister took out sick leave because he had mental problems.

Norwegian Prime Minister, Kjell Magne Bondevik went off on sick leave because he felt the media treated him too harshly. After a couple of weeks he returned. He was on anti-depressant both during and after this exceptional and highly unorthodox ‘hiatus’.

Prime minister was drunk on live TV.

Another prime minister, Jens Stoltenberg was drunk on live TV while giving a speech. In the clip Stoltenberg is seen snickering and he is clearly struggling to pronounce certain words. Colleagues of the Prime Minister tried to trivialize this episode, claiming that he had only had a few drinks at dinner before going on air.

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 and his staff members in the Norwegian Foreign Department had given the president of Gabon, who was due to arrive in Norway on an official visit, the nickname ‘Bongo from Congo”.

Subsidised national media.

The Norwegian Government gives financial aid to Norwegian newspapers - ‘pressestøtte’ (media support). The aim of this subsidy is to support small local newspapers that otherwise wouldn’t be able to survive financially.

Norwegian Crown princess.

Norwegian Crown Princess, 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 that she had led a ‘chaotic’ life before she met Haakon. At the time newspaper articles claimed that the Crown Princess had been heavily into drugs and that she had appeared in a private sex tape.

The Eurovision song contest.

National pride was finally restored when Norway won the Eurovision song contest for the first time in 1985. The group that managed to pull off this amazing feat, Bobbysocks, was awarded the ‘Peer Gynt Prize’ by the Norwegian Government for their groundbreaking achievement.

Satanic rockers.

Satanic rockers torched several churches in Norway in the early 90’s. In total seven churches burned to the ground in these arsonist attacks.

Labour unions.

Former labour union boss, Gerd Liv Valla, was fired in 2007 for having bullied a member of her staff.

Princess Martha Louise.

In 2007 Princess, Martha Louise started a private school in Oslo, Astarte education. Some of the subjects on the curriculum were ‘Healing’ and ‘Reading’. She was also teaching student how to communicate with angels.

Discovery of America.

Most Norwegian will claim that Viking explorer Leif Erikson, the first European to set foot on the American continent in 1003, was 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.

Police stations.

Many police stations in Norway are only manned during office hours. This is a result of inadequate funding from the Government. Many police stations are actually closed during the weekends. People in need of police assistance are urged by a recorded automatic phone message to contact the police 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 Norwegian national team. This is a source of great pride and joy for die hard Norwegian football fans. The two teams have only met three times, with Norway winning twice and drawing once.


The members of A-ha, Norway’s only international successful musical export are considered national icons in Norway. Norwegians are also quick to point out that the band had several top ten hits and that they weren’t simply a one hit wonder whose only real success was the hit ‘Take on me’.


Farmers think that it’s absolutely outrageous that bears and wolf are killing their sheep whilst these are grazing up in the mountains during the summer months. Several farmers have been known to illegally hunt wolf and bears as a result of this 'travesty'.

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, slow, or both.


Most Norwegians think it is odd when someone start talking or smiling to them on the bus.

Brown cheese.

And finally, did you know that the most popular cheese in Norway is brown?