A guide to “Matpakke” – Norwegian packed lunch

The Norwegian packed lunch can be characterized as an open-style sandwich, often topped with sliced meat or cheese. If you're feeling fancy, you can even add some vegetables like cucumber or bell pepper. Photo: Matprat / Marte Nordahl

Perhaps surprisingly, the Norwegian packed lunch, or “Matpakke,” is an integral part of the culture.

“Why packed lunch?” you might think. How can something so simple warrant its own article?

Well, we’re here to tell you that the packed lunch plays a central role in Norwegian culture. Kind of.

A sense of unity

If there’s one thing that creates a sense of unity in Norway around lunchtime, it’s that everyone practically carries the same food, neatly packed in wrapping paper or a Tupperware box.

The “matpakke” can be characterized by slices of wholemeal bread arranged into an open-style sandwich with very minimal toppings. Indeed, the less the better, with Norwegian lunch-eaters often settling for a slice of cheese or meat.

This sandwich meal is usually prepared in the morning before leaving for work or school, or, if you’re ahead of the game, you might even prepare it the night before. It is also a common utility to bring in your bag when you go hiking.

Yes, the bread will go soft and the cheese will get sweaty from spending several hours in your bag before consumption, and yes, that’s how we like it. Apparently.

Efficiency over enjoyability

Ronald Sagatun, who hosts a YouTube channel predominantly concerned with Norwegian culture, says in a video that “in Norway, you’re not supposed to look forward to your lunch.”

“It’s kind of a strict thing. It’s easy to make, easy to carry around, easy to eat, but it should be a disappointment,” he notes.

But how did this slightly disappointing, often dry sandwich come to be an integral part of Norwegian lunchtime culture? The theories are many.

For starters, it’s incredibly convenient. No more decision fatigue trying to decide what lunch option to go for today – instead, try eating the same thing every day.

Second, lunch breaks in Norway usually last for about 30 minutes, making it the perfect meal to quickly gobble up before resuming to work or school.

Some also theorize that the prevalence of these simple packed lunches can be blamed on the high prices of eating out in the country.

Whatever the reason, the “matpakke” has proven itself as a convenient tool to get the Norwegian population through their day. Not excessively complicated or exciting, the toned-down meal can instead be seen as a practical take on food.

Source: #NorwayTodayTravel

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