When you think of a typical Norwegian, what is the first thing that comes to mind? Being an Englishman, there are not that many Norwegian celebrities in the UK and you don’t generally see any in the media so what is the stereotypical Norwegian?.
When you think about the people of the Nordic countries, the first thing that comes to the mind is the Vikings, then perhaps ABBA, then probably Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (showing my age). So, the men have long beards and wear horned helmets and the women are tall, blond haired and have huge “assets”… right, or is that the Swedish?. Again, these are all stereotypes of the Nordic people and far from the truth.
It’s the same as the English really, as do we all walk around in suits with bowler hats on and umbrellas or walking canes? Well, you might see one or two of those in London, but again, just a stereotype of the English.
From what I experienced by the people I met, the majority of Norwegians are generally healthy, in terms of the food they eat, clean water they drink, fresh air and outdoor living culture. I did find a fair few had a smoking habit, probably more than my friends back in the UK.
They can be very straight to the point, and their openness to sexuality did rock my “stiff upper lipidness” at times, being an Englishman, but you get used to it after a while.
However, being a foreigner in their country, I found that Norwegians were interested in learning about where you come from, what you used to do, eat, drink and everything that makes your home country what it is. It was good to talk about our differences and interesting to see how the two different peoples evolved to who they are now, but perhaps I am getting a bit deep here.
I felt a kind of connection to the Norwegians, as I am sure I probably have a little Nordic blood in myself, as those Vikings got around a bit. My family roots come from Ireland (even though I have never been there) and I believe the Vikings invaded Ireland too, so it is probably from that. But enough of the history lesson…
Many Norwegians love to try out their English on you. After all those years of learning English at school they want to finally use it and I wasn’t complaining as it was easier for me to talk to them. This is not the case for everyone, as some are shy, as I was when speaking Norwegian to them, but overall people would try their best which I appreciated.
Norwegians make the most of their summer, as expected living in their cold winter for five months. As soon as it is warm enough they use the outdoors as much as possible, going on trips, drinking outside, fishing, basically anything to get them out of the house before the next batch of cold hits.
However, during the Winter, Norwegians tend to “hybernate“, where they stop many of their social activites and just generally work and then stay at home. I’m sure that’s not the case for everyone, but you can understand that they wouldn’t want to go out if the temperature was -20oC. In some ways they are a slave to nature, adapting to each season in turn as best they can.
I found that reduction in socialising hard over the Winter as in England we can go out (even if we might get wet from the rain), so it took me a while to adjust to that. It depends really on what type of person you are as if you are happy being on your own, then socialising won’t be that much of a big deal, but it was for me at that time.
Norwegians are a very patriotic people who are proud of their country, history and people and independence Norway gained in 1905 and celebrate this on May 17th each year (see Culture Page for more information). I experienced one of their independence days, which was fun seeing many people in their national costume, kids on floats, street parties and entertainment.
I did see that many Norwegians are happy being and living alone and comfortable within their own company, but family also plays an important part in their lives and they generally have a strong bond with them. “Family is important” as my friend Hege says… although maybe not every Norwegian would agree.
Norwegians do like to drink, or maybe, they like to drink around me or general company (it could just be me). As alcohol is expensive in Norway, some Norwegians have their own “stills” in their basements where they brew their own concoctions. With a pint of beer costing as much as 80 NOK / £8, you can understand why they do this and also travel into Sweden to pick up some cheaper alcohol. Although, I didn’t see that many alcoholics/drunks over in Norway, as I guess they can’t afford it!
Most of the Norwegian people I met were also strong, mentally speaking, a hardened people living close to nature and if you look deep enough into people you can see the Viking in some of them.
I have been asked on many occasions, “are Norwegians racist?“. There seems to be a feeling out there that Norwegians are seen as racist, not accepting to new cultures and shunning anyone different. From my experience, I honestly didn’t get that impression from the people I met. They are happy that people move to their country, so long as they are not just doing it to sponge off the government for free money.
So if your intention is to move to Norway, do your best to become “Norwegian” and you shouldn’t experience a problem. But if you move to Norway and try and force your old culture on them, you might find some resistance. Of course there will always be people that are racist, as those are people who are afraid and do not understand why someone is different to themselves, but Norway is not full of racist people, they have the same balance as any country I have visited.
Well, not strange to a Norwegian, but I had never heard many Norwegian names before moving to Norway so it was interesting to see male and female Norwegian names.
An example of male names include: Rune, Knut, Olav, Ola, Geir, Nils, Magne, Kjell, Trond, Thorleif (although Scott Vik Bergstroem emailed me saying this was Swedish), Sverre, also Petter, Gunnar, Pål ( Paal ), Tore, Kåre ( Kaare) (thanks Scott Vik Bergstroem for the extra names). An example of female names include: Astrid, Hege, Mette, Aslaug, Grethe, Sissel, Toril, Lene, Ingunn, Kari, also Sunniva, Ragnhild, Sara, Silje, Ellen, Helene, Julie, Emilie, Karoline, Tonje, Elisabeth.
The only problem I had is that Norwegians don’t pronounce the letter J the same as in English, so on many occasions they would say my name as “Yon” rather than “Jon” (drove me crazy).
I found the majority of the Norwegian people I met to be decent people, kind, relaxed, open and I felt happy and comfortable in their company. Of course, not everyone I met fit that, as there was the odd git, but overall they are a good genuine people.
The best way to get on with Norwegians is to become one yourself, observe them, integrate into their culture, learn their language, respect nature and respect each other.