Quirky cultural traits to expect when in Norway

When travelling to Oslo, for business or pleasure, there are some idiosyncrasies that might catch your attention. In Norwegian, we call it ‘typisk Norsk’, which translates to ‘typically Norwegian’.

Each nation has its own quirky traits and traditions. Norway is no different. This is one of the joys of travelling to a new destination. In Norway, there are even books written about it. What is typically Norwegian? What should you know before visiting? What should you expect when meeting Norwegians through business? Here is a fun-filled guide to get you started on your way when you land at Oslo Gardermoen Airport.

1. A hundred and one dialects

You may have learned a number of Norwegian phrases that you plan to proudly practice when you arrive. This is not as easy as it sounds! The official written language is Bokmål, however local and regional dialects across the country vary massively, so you may quickly get lost in conversation. The same word can be pronounced several ways by different people. However, do not fear as most Norwegians learn English as a second language so it is easy to get by.

Group of People Waving Norwegian Flags

2. Bread with everything

When you arrive in Norway, you will quickly learn to adapt to bread for breakfast, lunch, maybe dinner and even supper. Bread is an important part of the Norwegian kitchen and the more seeds, grains and fiber baked into it the better. Creating an open sandwich is an art form and the choice of toppings is extensive. Beware though, you may receive a funny look if you choose the wrong combination!

Salmon open sandwich

3. Brown cheese please

Brown cheese? Yip, that’s right. You’ll love it or hate it! At meal times, you may cast your eye over a block of cheese with a rather unusual colour. Brown cheese belongs on the table in most Norwegian households. Sweet to the taste, it is in fact not cheese but whey, the by-product created in cheese production, made from cow or goat’s milk. It is commonly eaten on crisp bread crackers, and sometimes combined with jam, but the best way to sample it for the first time is on freshly made waffles, another delightful Norwegian specialty.

Norwegian brown cheese

4. Ut på tur, aldri sur

 ‘Ut på tur, aldri sur’ means that if you are out and about in nature you’ll never be unhappy.  Norwegians are passionate about the great outdoors and even the major cities have easy access to the surrounding forests and fjords making it easy to escape to the wilderness. There is another saying that applies to society here: ‘there is no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothes’. This nation braves the elements, come rain, snow or shine. There is even a word dedicated to this lifestyle: ‘friluftliv’, meaning ‘open air life’. This term characterizes Norwegian culture.

Man on Trolltunga (The Troll's tongue) in Odda, Norway

5. Year-round skiing

It is safe to say that most Norwegians are obsessed with skiing. This is perhaps why the nation produces some of the world’s best skiers on the international competition circuit. Children learn to cross-country ski as soon as they can walk and it is not uncommon on a winter’s afternoon to see many families skiing through the forest.

It is not enough to ski for up to five months of the year (longer in mountainous destinations) but the withdrawal is so bad that a summer alternative has been invented. If you experience some people whizzing along the city roads on what appears to be skis on wheels, you are not mistaken. These are roller skis, for those who want to keep up their tough training regime, or who simply miss skiing in the summer months.

Man on roller skis with mountian backdrop

6. Everyone is equal

Norway is an egalitarian society, meaning that everyone is seen as equal regardless of status or gender. It seems to work, as Norway is regularly voted one of the top countries in the world to live in on the global OECD index. This equality is reflected in business also. Company hierarchies are flat and leadership is often informal. If you are visiting a company on business, you may be surprised to experience the relaxed nature in the workplace. There is one exception to this equality rule, and that is skiing. When the nation’s top athletes are in competition these elite are put on a pedestal and worshiped.

Couple sits on rock and looks at mountains near Trolltunga Norway

These are just some of the traits and traditions that make this Scandinavian pearl what it is. Come to Norway, stay at the Park Inn by Radisson Oslo Airport, Gardermoen Hotel, and you will be greeted with a warm smile and good hospitality. Make sure you ask about ‘typisk norsk’, something that locals love to discuss proudly. If you want to learn more, drop by a bookstore and ask for recommendations.