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Norwegians and alcohol Posted by on Aug 13, 2015 in Food, Leisure, Politics

Skål! [skawl] The word for ’cheers’ is very useful when celebrating with Norwegians! Men hva er i glasset? (But what’s in the glass?) Nordmenn (Norwegians), of course, are just as different as other people. Some drink a lot of alkohol [alkuHOOL] (alcohol), some just drink brus (soft drink)! 🙂

Photo by Siri Spjelkavik at Flickr. (CC License.)

Photo by Siri Spjelkavik at Flickr. (CC License.)

Traditionally, avholdsbevegelsen (the temperance movement) has been quite strong in Norway. In other words, if you drank anything stronger than melk, you could risk getting some disappointed looks. (Meanwhile a number of people were probably busy distilling illegal hjemmebrent [YEMMehbrent] – home brew.) Of course, today Norway is a modern country, and people drink the international beverages: øl (beer), rødvin (red wine), hvitvin (white wine), sjampanje, whisky, konjakk, brennevin (brandy)… The general attitude towards moderate drikking (drinking), however, still isn’t quite as lax as in Italy or France, for example. (Do you disagree? Feel free to share your thoughts with the other readers!)

An Oslo Vinmonopol. Photo by Metrocentric at Flickr. (CC License.)

An Oslo Vinmonopol. Photo by Metrocentric at Flickr. (CC License.)

Before you plan your Norwegian pubcrawl, please note:

  • drikkevarer (drinks) in Norway are quite expensive. If you go to a pub [purh-bb] or a restaurant, expect to pay at least 50 Kroner (6 US Dollars) for a pint of beer.
  • you have to be at least 18 år gammel (18 years old) to buy beer, and 21 år to buy stronger drinks.
  • it is strengt forbudt (strictly prohibited) to drink alcohol in public spaces. Do not open that bottle of wine in the park, no matter how nicely sola skinner (the Sun is shining)! You could probably go on a short-distance flight for the money boten (the fine) will cost you…
  • ordinary Norwegian supermarkets and food stores do sell alcohol, but only weaker than 4.75 %. That means øl and rusbrus (”sweet booze”, literally ’intoxication soft drink’).
  • for alcohol stronger than 4.75 %, you have to go to a special store: Vinmonopolet [VEENmohnohpohleh] (The Wine Monopoly). It’s the only place in Norway where you can buy vin [veen] (wine). You’ll find a Vinmonopol in every city and larger town. In smaller towns and villages, however, you might have to do with the refreshing taste of kildevann [SHILLdeh-vann] (spring water). Or you can climb a fjell (mountain) and get thrilled the natural way.

If you really want to get close to Norwegians, be on the lookout for a vorspiel [FORE-shpeel]. It’s a German word meaning ”fore-play”, and before you go on to think it’s something dirty, I’ll quickly add that in Norwegian, at least, it means a ”pre-party”! Because of the high alcohol prices, many students and other people only go bar-hopping after they’ve been to a vorspiel in someone’s home. Here people bring their own alcohol, typically cans of beer from the local supermarket. Now they’ve got the chance to chat, listen to musikk and maybe get a little full (drunk) before going downtown to enjoy themselves on dansegulvet (the dance floor)… After the town session, people often return to another private home for a quiet nachspiel [NAKK-shpeel] or ”after-party”.

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About the Author: Bjørn A. Bojesen

I was born in Denmark, but spent large parts of my childhood and study years in Norway. I later returned to Denmark, where I finished my MA in Scandinavian Studies. Having relatives in Sweden as well, I feel very Scandinavian! I enjoy reading and travelling, and sharing stories with you! You’re always welcome to share your thoughts with me and the other readers.


  1. Martin Falcon:

    Good to know these funny facts. Tussen takk for sharing your knowledge in such a nice manner with all of us Bjørn. Til neste gang!

    • Bjørn A. Bojesen:

      @Martin Falcon Hei Martin
      Tusen takk for the compliment! I’m really happy that you enjoy the blog. 🙂