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Are Norwegians cold people? Posted by on Aug 2, 2010 in Culture, Norway and the world

I´ve been asked many times if Norwegians are cold people-you know, hard to warm up to.  I´ve also been told by many people that this is the case.  I have found that the answer to this question depends on where in Norway you are.  I also don´t have a perfectly clear answer because when I lived as a student in Oslo, we international students stuck together pretty closely.  Had it not been for several previous trips where I met family that I am still in touch with and a half Norwegian, half American best friend who introduced me to his good friends who I am also still in touch with, perhaps I would have had a difficult time getting to know Norwegians.

Back to the comment regarding where in Norway one might be…now that I´ve spent some time up north, I´ve come to the conclusion that IN GENERAL people up here are much more outwardly friendly than in Oslo, for example.  I took many bus rides and train rides in Oslo and walked around a lot downtown and I can probably count the number of times on one hand that a stranger spoke to me, or even looked at me.  Honestly, eye contact is pretty uncommon in Oslo if you are just walking around or using public transportation.

In small towns up north, and even Tromsø, however, strangers are much more likely to just strike up a conversation.  Like I´m used to back home in MN.  One reason why I feel quite at home here.  So I´ll give you an example of what I mean- it was so funny.  I was with two friends in a grocery store in a small town (maybe 9,000 people) a couple hours from Tromsø looking at the beer cooler trying to decide what we should get for the night.  I had forgotten what some of the beers tasted like and there were new ones I hadn´t seen.  So we were taking our time you might say.  This older man was pushing his cart by and noticed us, one girl and two guys looking at the beer cooler.  He started laughing and telling me that it was my decision and I should just choose what I want and they should pay for it.  He made this comment in about 5 different ways and was laughing the whole time, but was dead serious.  Then he turned to the guys and said in nord norsk, “dåkker må bynne å bli vant til det, fordi det e alltid damene som bestemmer.  Dem bestemmer og du betaler.  Hahahah…”

It was absolutely hilarious.  I looked at my friend (who is from this area), he looked at me, and at the same time we remarked “That would never happen in Oslo.”  The best part was we saw him a few minutes later at a gas station and he continued to converse with us.   Oh, it was priceless.

Also I was on the bus this morning and there were plenty of open seats by themselves and this older lady decided to sit right by me and wanted to talk about the weather.  That also never happened to me in Oslo.  If there are a couple empty seats, people would rarely ever sit next to another person.

So, again, just want to make it clear that my conclusion is general, but it is definitely something that I have noticed.

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About the Author: kari

I attended St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN, where I majored in Norwegian and History. During college, I spent almost a year living in Oslo, Norway, where I attended the University of Oslo and completed an internship at the United States Embassy. I have worked for Concordia Language Villages as a pre-K Norwegian teacher and have taught an adult Norwegian language class. Right now, I keep up by writing this Norwegian blog for Transparent Language. Please read and share your thoughts! I will be continuing this blog from my future residence in the Norwegian arctic!


  1. Flora:

    Hi! Funny this story… My daughters “samboer” is from northen Norway, 3 hours dryving from Tromsø. He always tells me the same as you did here,; people up in the north are more open than in the south..
    Anyway, they will be living together in Oslo from this month on.
    Hope my daughter will find here way, being half Italian and half Dutch, hahaha

  2. dm:

    I hate it here, impossible to make new and somewhat trusting friends.

    • Bjørn A. Bojesen:

      @dm @dm
      I’m sorry to hear that. But yeah, it can be difficult up there. Where in Norway do you live?