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Strange and interesting facts about Norway Posted by on Sep 30, 2011 in Culture, Food, Holidays, Norway and the world, Traditions

Working for a company headquartered in a foreign country really makes cultural differences apparent.  My colleagues and I often feel like anthropologists studying the potential reasons and implications for these cultural differences.  Since I have spent more time in Norway than I have in the Netherlands, I have become very used to the differences between Norway and the U.S.  So, I´ve been thinking over the past couple of days about peculiar facts about Norway that implicate something about the Norwegian people.

-Grocery stores are not allowed to be open on Sundays, but gas stations and kiosks can (and they sell groceries).

-You can buy beer in grocery stores, but you have to buy wine and hard liquor at one place and one place only-Vinmonopolet (which literally means ´Wine Monopoly´and closes quite early)

-Even though Norway is one of the top oil producers in the world, gas is more expensive in Norway than almost anywhere.

-Because food prices are so high in Norway, many Norwegians drive across the border to Sweden to shop.  These purchases amount to over 2 billion USD every year.

-If you get caught drinking and driving in Norway, you will go to jail for 30 days and immediately get your license revoked until a year later (assuming they pass the test).

-It can cost in the thousands for Norwegian teenagers to get their license (minimum age 18).

-Norwegians eat brown cheese (brunost)-one of my favorite things

-And lutefisk, fish soaked in lye (a chemical used in making soap)

-speeding fines are often more serious than if a person is caught with drugs

-Norway has voted against membership in the EU several times, but has implemented more EU directives than any other EU member state.

-Norwegians love Grandiosa, cheap frozen pizza.

-Most Norwegians take a 4 week holiday during the summer.  This means that the country slows down a lot and if you are a tourist and you aren´t aware of this, you wonder where everyone is and why nothing is open….

-Norwegians are one of the only people in the world to hunt whales

-Norwegians eat American children´s Christmas figure, Rudolph (and it´s darn good!)

-Norwegians do not typically smile or start talking to a stranger on the bus.  It is not considered rude to behave as such.

-Bars stay open very late, but having drinks outside at the bar closes earlier than inside the bar.  The bartender will take your full drink even if you just ordered it inside and walked outside.

There are many, many more peculiarities about the Norwegian culture, but that was a good dose.  If you spend a month or 2 in Norway, especially over the summer, you will learn all of these things.

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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. Sally:

    One of the reasons I have heard why they won’t join the EU is that they would have to open up the commercial fishing to other nations.

    And, as to your post on baby names, my favorite Norwegian boy’s name is Erlend, of course, after the character in Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset. Even though he is not Norwegian, don’t you think that Viggo Mortensen would have made a great Erlend Nikulaussøn?

  2. Sally:

    I don’t know what happened to my comment,so please forgive me if it posts twice. I have heard that one reason that Norway won’t join the EU, is to protect their fishing industry that would have to be opened to the other EU nations.

    Also, sorry I didn’t get to comment on the Norwegian names but my favorite Norwegian boy’s name is Erlend from Sigrid Undset’s Kristin Lavransdatter. Even though he is not Norwegian, don’t you think that Viggo Mortensen would make a perfect Erlend Nikulaussøn?

  3. Jonn:

    Also maternity leave the man or female get i believe a year off from work?

    a beer from a bar is equivlent to $10-$12

    Cant buy beer past 5pm i believe

    and minimal wage is about $25 ..

  4. Heidi:

    In between them, yes. The man has to take at least 12 weeks, or those weeks are lost.

    True (depending on the beer and the bar, it can even cost more).

    Almost; it’s 8pm Mon-Fri, and 6pm on Saturday.

    There is no legal min. wage, but usually the minimum lies between 20 and 25$.

  5. gary:

    I have lived most of my life in London, 5 years in Sydney, Australia & 6 months in New York. I moved to Molde, Norway a year ago as my partner is from here & we have 2 young boys. I have travelled extensively throughout the world & by far the Norwegians are the strangest people I have ever come across. I kept telling myself to give it time, but in actual fact I’m more convinced than ever of their odd social behaviour. I am by nature an open & sociable person. Yes, you do meet some Norwegians that have travelled a bit & they are genuinely friendly but by & large most people seem to use more effort in avoiding eye contact than just a simple smile & hello. I have heard all sorts of reasons & explanations from, “we like to keep a little bit of ourselves back” to “we have no time for small talk as the climate is so cold”!!!! They do not seem to have cottened on to the notion that when people say Hi or smile, it is merely one human being acknowleging a fellow human being. That is after all, what is supposed to put us at the top of the food chain!!! But even animals have that same instinct. Maybe they are nervous that I am going to start speaking English with them. But by now, they all know I have been learning the lingo. This is not a whinge for the sake of it. It is beautiful here & we have nature right on our doorstep. But it is very frustrating if you are a warm person by nature to get the cold shoulder every day. We are used to eye contact, but it is virtually impossible to get to know people. Seeing my two young boys settle in so well at Barnehagen & school makes it all worthwhile…..I think!!!!

  6. khaja:

    just i want know about the norway per capita income and jobs and odd jobs avaibility and how much per month expenses and incoome per month. how much the exact population and living
    standard..for A SINGLE MAN AND FAMILY.

    • Bjørn A. Bojesen:

      @khaja Hei Khaja!
      Try googling ”getting a job in Norway”. There are several useful sites.
      Good luck!

    • Monica:

      @khaja I am sad you have that experiance. I wish you could meet me and my faily and friends…to show you that you have not meet all of us

  7. Gjermund Myrann Larsen:

    I’m a norwegian. The first one is wrong, some grocery stores are open at sundays. And just wanted to say that we are pissed because of the oil prize.

  8. Regine:

    Hi! I’m from Norway, and I think it is kind of weird that you don’t write anything about “russetiden”? I think this is the one thing that people from other countries react to, especially if they don’t know of it, and then comes to Norway i may. And, of course, it’s actually quite funny to talk about, because we sound like lunatics. Otherwise, great blog! It’s weird to read about Norway like this, since this is “normal” for us. But I laughed quite a lot!

    • Bjørn A. Bojesen:

      @Regine Hei Regine!
      I’m the new writer on this blog, and I quite agree with you! Although I’m Danish, I have lived half my life in Norway, and also been a ”russ” there. Maybe I’ll write something more about ”russetida” in May 2013! 🙂 Thanks for reading.

  9. Kisekwa Andrew:

    I love Norway people more than u can think people but i never had achance to go to Norway am hearing facts about Norway every time i pray to God that one Day i get an invitation fom Norway with an Airticket Am from Africa Uganda and an aguy of 19 yrs. Please wat can i do this is my email address please contact me

  10. Norway:

    Hello Kisekwa. I am Norway. I would like to welcome you too me. Please hurry.

    your pal


  11. Lorenzo Falto:

    I absolutely love your blog and find a lot of your post’s to be what precisely I’m looking for. can you offer guest writers to write content to suit your needs? I wouldn’t mind creating a post or elaborating on most of the subjects you write about here. Again, awesome web site!

    • Bjørn A. Bojesen:

      @Lorenzo Falto Thanks for the comment! We normally don’t use guest writers, but then again, sometimes it’s nice to hear a fresh voice.
      Could you please send me a mail with your thoughts? (My address is moc.liamg@anabusuxm spelt backwards and without the x.)

  12. Ida Kristine:

    Hello! I am a norwegian and just happened to find your site. I read many things people say about us norwegians and i can explain some of them, and come with more facts. I dont know why we ”ignore” people on the bus and everywere else. I believe its because we are taught so growing up, like ”keep away from strangers”. It is considered rude to not smile back or answer when people talk to us. Lutefisk is common as a christmas meal, i personally dont have that tradition. My family eats pig ribs (ribbe) on christmas. The country dont slow down in the summer, i think its more crowded with tourists. Most teenagers from the age of 16- and up work during summer. We have many traditions here in norway, like the russetid. The russetid is like a celebration that we are done with school (depending on what school you go to you are either 17 or 18 when you are a russ). Also people are being more rebellish than before. The russ have ”russeknuter” translated as russe-nodules, the russ do these during their russe time. For example, one nodule can be to have sex in a tree, drive through the roundabout 16 times(dont remember), stay sober through the hole russetid or simply cross the bridge on your knees.Another tradition is to get ”konfirmert”, that happends when you are 15 years old. Most people get konfirmert in the church, but some in the town hall. First you go a year in the church on lessons(learning things from the bible) and in our family my grandmother sews my bunad(a national dress), search google for ”Blå Nordlandsbunad” to see my dress. There are many different types, each one presenting where you live. Then in may you get konfirmert and have a big party where family and sometimes friends give you money and presents. Then, you cannot forget our 17th of may celebration. We have corps and march togheter. I read one place that norwegians drink alot, that is true but in another way than most countries. We drink in the weekends mostly, and when we drink we drink to get drunk. I know that many americans think all norwegians eat smalahove (sheep head), but thats more a thing for old people. I never heard of it until i saw it on a tv show that had americans in norway to learn about us. I only know one person that have tasted it, and i will never do it myself yuck.. The normal price for the driving licence including driving lessons is about 15 000-20 000 kr, thats 2700-3600 USD. Expencive, and cars are also very expencive. Well, by my opinion everything is expencive here. The government taxes and fees everything here. We have like tax on our salary(bigger if you earn mutch money), fees on alcohol, not alchohol, boatengines, documentfee, electrical power, engangsavgift(one time fee), researchfee, batteries, tires, electronics, some substanses(dont know the english words for them), merverdiavgift (more value fee), mineral products, NOx-fee(dont know if its the right english word), reregistrationfee, chocholate and sugar products, endproceeding waste(excuse me if you dont understand), lubricant, sugar, technical ethanol and ethanol containing preparations, tobacco products(snus, smoke), Trichloroethylene (TRI) and Tetrachloroethylene (PER), Road use tax on fuel, Weight annual fee(not body weight), Annual fee. This is what i found on one site, we also have to pay taxes on our wealth(if you have mutch wealth you have to pay, idiotic) and we have inheritfee. But because of that we get mutch things free, like medical treatment(except a minimal amount you pay yourself when treating a illness), the taxes and fees pay for the hospitals, elderly homes, schools, roads, trails, airports and military. Also, the people that have less money or cant work will have a chance to get money from NAV(place that help people get on their feet, get jobs, money). If you are not capable of working you will get an amount of money from NAV if you get accepted. When women get birth they will get parentingmoney(the dads also gets them) if they are kvalified, and dont earn to mutch or havent gone to school or worked the last year. My friend got 5400 USD(30 000kr), this money is given to give you a headstart. You usually use the money to get baby things, clothes, and other stuff you need. So the taxes are good but some are so stupid, plus i live in Nordnorge(north of norway, in Narvik), and they dont build good roads or fix the ones here that often. Some places here you have a road that are suppose to hold two cars, but only have the space for one. And many of the roads have holes and are not so comfortable to drive on. I dont know if americans or english men eat dried fish? I dont even know if its common in south norway, but here its pretty common. I have to apologize for my english, i am not so well in writing it. (if i took my time i would have wrote mutch better) -Ida Iversen

  13. pag:

    I don’t know if anyone commented this already, but the groceries in gas stations and kiosks are even more expensive than actual stores
    Example: a bar of chocolate can cost 29 kroner in normal grocery stores here, and they can cost up to 45 kroner in kiosks and gas stations lol

    • Bjørn A. Bojesen:

      @pag Thanks for mentioning; yes, that is a strange thing about Norway… I never figured out why the prices have to be so hight! 🙂

  14. Natalie:

    Im a Norwegian and I live 20 mins from Oslo, the capital. I’d love to help people out, so if anybody has any questions, feel free to contact me on my mail address.

  15. Arsh:


    Im here and i need a little help… How can i contact you… I am new here in norway