If you are planning on moving to Norway, it is safe to assume that you already know some things about their culture, lifestyle and rules of conduct. You have probably heard a lot of the stories about Norway and Norwegians. Some say they are “ice cold Vikings” that live in a country with bad weather and high standard. Well, some of those stories are true (like the cold weather and the prices are high but so are the salaries), however do have in mind that those opinions were formed by people belonging to different cultures, some very different from the Norwegian culture, and that an impression should be formed objectively through your own experience. So do not expect anything before you go, do not judge in advance, because Norway has the most amazing fjords and lakes that you will definitely enjoy during your life there. In this article, you can read the basic things you should know when moving to Norway, and hear about some of the myths about this country that will help you fit in better and fall in love with it even more.
Another myth is that Norwegians are extremely polite, like the Brits. That is somewhat true, but do not compare them to the British, because if you are expecting for others to open doors for you, you will be disappointed. People are not that hung up on the rules of conduct as much as the Brits; however they do have their own norms of behavior that you will have to respect.
For example, while in the United Kingdom you would have to ask politely whether you could have another pint of beer, in Norway, you just say “Beer”, and that is it. Even though this probably seems rude to you as soon as you get there you will realize that Norwegian people are not bothered by anything. They do not complain and you will never hear a disapproving comment or a complaint on the city bus or in the restaurant from a random person, which can be the case in some other countries.
Tipping is also not a thing in Norway, since the service is already included in your final bill. The way they do it is usually to round up the bill to a certain amount, but it’s rarely more than ten percent even when they do. If you over-tip you may start a discussion which will require you explaining that in your country service is not included and people usually tip more. This could be an interesting information exchange and you will be able to tell them a little bit more about your country, but unless it is needed, better avoid that and just follow the saying “When in Rome, do as the Romans do”.
Norwegians are also very touchy about their personal space (no pun intended) so try to avoid much touching, hugging, kissing on the cheek or backslapping when interacting with a new acquaintance in your new home country. You may think that is friendly and welcoming, but they will probably see it as an invasion of their personal space and they will not feel as comfortable with it generally as you are.
If you are trying to learn the language before actually moving to Norway, make sure to learn the right one before you come, because they actually have three official languages. There is Bokmål, which is the regular Norwegian; there is the Nynorsk, which is the new Norwegian, and then there is Samisk which is spoken in some areas near the borders with Sweden and Finland by people commonly referred to as the Sami people. So if you try using Samisk with someone that is not from that area that won’t get you a long way. Nynorsk, on the other hand is more of a written language than a spoken one. There are also a lot of dialects in the country with their own words and a style of speaking that make them easily recognizable, and a person that is familiar with the Norwegian language and its dialects can exactly pinpoint from which part of the country a person is just by listening to them.
Norwegians are also a lot more open about relationships and the relations between man and women. Actually Oslo has been called the “one-night stand capital of the world”, so bear that in mind and don’t be surprised by it.
Just try not to mention the Swedes during your casual conversations. Swedish people occupied Norway for almost one hundred years and there is still some sort of a feud apparently, or they just don’t like talking about it, who knows. The fact is that after what happened in the past, Sweden has progressed more rapidly than Norway (until of course they found oil) but Norwegians still see their country as the little brother in this situation, or maybe the Swedes see them as such. One thing is for sure- if you do not really have to, avoid mentioning that subject.
Another thing, make sure to drink something before you go out, because alcohol is pretty expensive in Norway, and it is much cheaper to get together for pre-drinks before actually going to a club or a bar. It is a common thing there and you can check with your Norwegian friends and see if they have any plans already made and maybe invite them to your home, it will surely help you get to know them better. When it comes to alcohol, the legal age for wine or beer (whether you are drinking or buying it) is 18, and it gets up to 20 for any of the stronger alcoholic drinks.