18 totally Norwegian habits

People crowd in NorwayThe people of Norway practice unique habits. Photo: Darya Tryfanava / Unsplash

Read on for a rundown of Norwegian habits.

From conversation and punctuality to food and fitness, we’re bringing you a list of Norwegian habits.

Before we get to the good stuff, let’s clarify our subject matter by looking at some definitions of the word “habit”.


  • Something that you do often and regularly, sometimes without knowing that you are doing it


  • An acquired behavior pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary


  • Something that you do often or regularly, often without thinking about it


  • A settled tendency or usual manner of behavior
  • An acquired mode of behavior that has become nearly or completely involuntary


  • A thing that you do often and almost without thinking, especially something that is hard to stop doing
  • Usual behavior

And now, let’s get into some of the human habits prevalent in Norway.

1. Long pauses in conversation

One characteristic that may be odd to foreigners is the long pauses that are woven into Norwegian conversations. After the laughter, storytelling, and chats about life, don’t be surprised if a seemingly lengthy silence follows. 

The silence isn’t awkward to many Norwegians, though! On the contrary; it’s comfortable – it’s a chance to catch your breath and for thoughts to settle.

The concept of “awkward silences” isn’t the same in Norway as it might be elsewhere.

2. Being on time

One thing Norwegians hold near and dear to their hearts is punctuality.

Arriving on time is the norm in Norway.

Here, people like to be punctual, get down to business, and then leave – nothing more, nothing less.

If you show up late to any sort of agreed-upon meeting or event (be it business or personal), it’s considered to be largely disrespectful. This doesn’t bode well, especially if you’re trying to make a good first impression in Norway.

Even when the weather is at its worst, buses and trains are usually on time – a testament to the importance of punctuality in Norway.

3. Recycling

Recycling is so popular in the Nordic countries that it has turned into a form of exercise.

“Plogging” originated in Sweden as a form of exercise which involves jogging while you pick up litter to be recycled afterward.

Where applicable, the litter is then recycled as plastic (collected in blue bags) or food compost (collected in green).

If it’s a can or plastic bottle, it can also be collected by a recycling machine which dot supermarkets.

4. Bag or receipt? Neither, thank you

Most Norwegians deny a bag or receipt at any shop, whether it be a small supermarket or a chic boutique, usually for three reasons. 

Refusing the bag indicates you don’t want to pay extra for the single-use plastic – which is often useless anyway, as most Norwegians bring their own reusable bag.

Refusing the receipt implies you trust the shop charged you for the correct amount.

And finally, the paper receipt and plastic bag are ecologically harmful.

5. Avoiding conflict through modesty

Norwegians are known for steering clear of meaningless confrontation because they don’t like it, plain and simple.

Competition is often seen as being a fine line away from conflict in Norway. 

For example, following historic victories at the 2018 winter Olympics in South Korea (when Norway won 39 medals, 14 of which were gold), the New York Times reported:

“‘We always want to win,’ said Fredrik Aukland, a TV sports commentator in Norway. ‘But modesty is a big part of the culture here. And Norwegians don’t go out much.’

Unless it’s Constitution Day, ostentatious displays of all kinds are frowned upon in Norway, especially when it comes to wealth, a notable feature in one of the world’s richest countries. Nobody expects a parade for returning athletes, even though they are bringing home 14 medals in cross-country, six in biathlon, five in ski jumping, seven in Alpine skiing, and four in speedskating.”

Skiing skier
Skiing in Norway. Photo: Maarten Duineveld / Unsplash

6. Snusing instead of smoking

Snus is the Norwegian take on a nicotine patch.

It involves putting a pouch of tobacco under your upper lip. “Snusers” can do their business at a reasonable price and in a public space, while smokers pay around 12 euros per pack and are not allowed to smoke in public spaces.

Many consider snusing a healthier alternative from smoking, but, for one, it doesn’t eradicate addiction.

7. Card, not cash

Norwegian supermarkets, public transportation tickets, restaurants, cafés, and more are all credit card and mobile-payment friendly.

Many Norwegians find card transactions easier, more efficient, and more environmentally friendly than cash.

8. Using “mmm” as a response

In many places, “mmm” is used in response to a delicious meal.

In Norway, however, the sound is often used to answer in conversations with the same function of “mhm”, “ohhh” or “ahhh”.

It’s not in any way meant to be rude or lazy; but rather just an easy and wordless response to show your conversation partner you’re engaged and listening to what they’re saying.

9. Year-round outdoors activities

In Norway, every day is an opportunity to connect with nature.

During the winter season, which lasts several months, Norwegians flock to the world-class ski resorts that scatter the country. In spring, summer, and autumn, you can also see people parading around parks, sidewalks, and various recreational spaces in roller skis, which are similar to rollerblades.

Hiking is another year-round activity. On weekends and holidays, it’s normal to enjoy friend, family, or alone time in the woods and in the mountains.

Some Norwegians opt-out of driving to work, instead choosing to incorporate exercise (walking, biking, jogging…) for its health and ecological benefits.

10. Foraging for food

Foraging is the annual winter practice of mushroom and berry picking. Human communities have been foraging for hundreds of thousands of years.

At various times in the year, you may see groups of Norwegians in the country’s lush forestlands filling containers with fresh and ripe berries. Foraging in Norway is not only a sustainable practice; it’s also a chance to reconnect to nature and recharge your batteries.

Each month and each region offer a new choice of foods ready for the foraging. For example, northern Norway’s coastline offers seaweed, snails, and sea urchins during the summer and winter. Rhubarb, dandelion, birch syrup, and cloudberries are popular options to pick, freeze, or store during warmer times – and eat during the winter months when the plants are no longer available.

Golden-hued cloudberries. Photo: Jorgen Haland / Unsplash

Foraging regulations apply in some places around the country.

11. Eating lots of fish

One of Norway’s most popular foods is fish.

An abundance of Atlantic cod, whitefish, salmon, and various other species thrive in Norway’s cool waters.

Eating fish once or twice a week, as the Norwegians do, offers an array of health benefits. Everything from dried cod and spoonfuls of fish oil to smoked mackerel is regularly eaten in Norway.

12. An actually balanced work-life balance

You may have heard the quote “Norwegians work to live and Americans live to work”. 

In Norway, intense pressure to work overtime is rare, weekends are completely free, dress codes are comfy-casual, and around five weeks paid vacation is offered.

Sick days, mental health days, and parental leave are also respected in Norway – which was named the #2 best country to raise a family in for 2020.

13. Sunbathing

As soon as the chilly Norwegian winter ends and the first ray of sunlight peeks through the heavy clouds, many Norwegians flock to open, outdoor areas.

Even when the weather is still cool – if the sun’s out, so are the Norwegians.

It’s not unusual for parks, beaches, and benches to be crowded with sunbathers on a clear day.

14. Border crossing with Sweden

Crossing the border to Sweden is reliable, safe, and done on the regular by many Norwegians.

Why? The conversion rate between Norwegian and Swedish kroner, as well as general costs, can make some goods cheaper to buy in Sweden. 

The top products Norwegians buy from Swedish stores are candy, meat, alcohol, and tobacco.

15. Reading, reading, and more reading

Bookworms can rejoice in one of the countries that reads the most books in the world per capita! In 2018, Norway ranked at #2 for the statistic.

Books are so loved in Norway that they are among the only objects that are tax-free.

Thrillers are among the most popular genre bought in Norway.

Economist and singer-turned author Jo Nesbø is one of Norway’s best-selling novelists. He is widely known for his Harry Hole detective series, which have sold more than three million copies in Norway (especially impressive when you consider Norway’s population is just over five million).

16. No shoes inside

While in someone else’s house in Norway, it’s imperative to take off your shoes.

Shoes are rightfully considered unclean, dirtied from the ground outside – and having clean socks on underneath is preferable, as well.

Many Norwegians slip into slippers once inside the home.

17. An inhaled yes

As with many Scandinavian countries, ja, which means yes, is pronounced with an inhaled breath.

This technique is referred to as an inhaled affirmative, a version of an ingressive sound.

The outcome sounds more like “hhh” than “ja.” This pronunciation is widely accepted and used in the country.

18. Practicing kos

Koselingkos for short, is Norway’s answer to the Danish hyggeHygge, per the Oxford Dictionary, is “a quality of coziness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being.” The phenomenon often conjures up images of a crackling fireplace, big blankets, steaming tea, fuzzy socks, and all things soft and comforting.

Koselig can be practiced alone, with a good book and a few candles, or in the company of others, with a feel-good movie and a plate of warm cookies. You can find koselig inside your home (in bed, on a couch, in a reading nook…), or outside of it (inside a cushy café, beside a fire pit, on a blanket on the beach…).

To take it a step further – many Scandinavian people have cozy vacation homes, often cabins, far away from urban crowds, and deep within nature.

Cabin on Lofoten Islands
A pretty vacation cabin pictured on the Lofoten Islands,, specifically on the marvelous island of Moskenesøya. Source: Seth Kane / Unsplash.

Norwegians aren’t constantly in a state of kos, but they sure do enjoy it!

Source: Norway Today


4 Comments on "18 totally Norwegian habits"

  1. Punctuality is exactly that, Norwegians are rarely late but almost never early. If a film or play starts at 7 then at 5 minutes to 7 the cinema or theatre will be empty, everyone will arrive at 1-2 minutes to 7,

  2. I’ve lived in Norway for 9 years (in 2 different cities) and I have seldom seen a Norwegian refuse a plastic bag at a grocery store. On the contrary, I am typically the only one carrying a backpack with an extra cloth bag in the backpack (and I am a Pakistani). My norwegian friends poke fun at me for the being the guy with the backpack. Contrary to the statements from the article, almost all the locals pick up plastic bags. I’ve seen locals walking out of the grocery store with 3 bags in each hand. It is quite disappointing, especially after all the efforts from the government with the extra costs to plastic bags.

  3. We love Norway so much! My husband ended up buying a gorgeous home in the woods of Oslo. Our view is to die for. My own fjords, sea, mountain, waterfalls cascading down below I could mesmerize to bits. I call our home”The Tough Viking! There you are.

1 Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Norvég szokások – Szerendipity

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.