Greenheart Travel note: Daphne is a high school student from New Jersey studying in Norway during the 2020-2021 year.
By: Daphne Becker
Norwegian’s typically have a reputation for being very outdoorsy people, and I can confirm that is true. A very typical question from a Norwegian is “Skal vi gå på tur” Which means “Should we go for a walk?” If you have ever even been on vacation in Norway for just a couple of days, you have definitely heard this phrase being said.
Now, I know what you’re probably thinking, that you go on walks all the time at home just around the block or to the store. A Norwegian walk is different. It is usually in the forest not too far from your house, around lunch or dinner time, includes a fire (with grilling hot dogs, marshmallows, etc), and they are done all throughout the year. After all, “there’s no bad weather, only bad clothing” right? This isn’t just an activity that your parents drag you too for some family time on the weekends, and you just complain the whole time. This is something that every Norwegian has grown up doing their whole life, so naturally everyone young and old are able to make a fire and cook food over it. This is something that I have had to learn in the time that I’ve been here so far, and something that I will bring back home with me. Of course there are other activities that people do here like cross country skiing, ice skating, and swimming (all year long!).
Norwegians don’t center activities around money. Of course they like to go out to eat or go on vacation, but the country offers so many free activities. This has to do with the fact that Norway is an expensive country to live in. To compensate for that, they have so many free outdoor spaces for anyone to use. Norway has a concept called the “freedom to roam” or “everyman’s right”. This means that you are able to walk, camp, picnic, etc on undeveloped land throughout the country. Of course there are some basic rules for camping that need to be followed such as:
Nordmen are very environmentally conscious as well, so it is no problem picking up trash and cleaning up after yourself when you leave your spot.
The Norwegian social life differs from mine in New Jersey. I do live at the Jersey shore though, so it is common in the summer and when it is warm in the spring or fall to be outside at the beach or in someone’s backyard. We do not have the “everyman’s right” concept though, so my friends and I do not do a lot of hiking or camping. This also has to do with New Jersey being very flat and populated, so there is not a lot of free land to hike. Of course we could drive to New York or Pennsylvania, but being 16, we don’t have our drivers license to take us there.
We also center our activities around money a lot more. It is not typical in Norway to go to the mall or shops around and go shopping on the weekends, or go to a restaurant and eat out. Norwegians are happy with cooking their own food, and teenagers can cook nice meals too.
On one Friday, I went over to my friends with another girl and we were going to eat dinner there. Typically if I were home, my friends and I would order pizza, sushi, Chinese food, or go out, but here it is common to go to the grocery store and cook for yourselves. I do know how to cook, but I can make the basic things, and I have never cooked with meat before. We went to the store with no plan whatsoever on what to eat. After walking around for a little, we decided to make chicken and some typical Norwegian potato dishes. When we picked out chicken to eat, I thought that it was crazy. I had never cooked with raw chicken before in my life. Partly because I am scared to death of it being raw. We went back to her house, and prepped and cooked chicken and potatoes for us to eat. After doing this, I was thinking about how different it was to me to just cook dinner with friends instead of going out or ordering take out. Thinking back on it, it is a good idea to cook more at home with friends because you make more funny memories, and save a lot more money!
Of course there are many similarities though. In the winter when it is just too cold and snowy to do anything, it is very common to watch a movie and chill on the couch with your friends. Also to have game nights, which is a good way to learn the language because many games are translated from the English version to a Norwegian one. For instance, the game, Cards Against Humanity, has a Norwegian version where it not only teaches you just some of the language, but also some Norwegian pop culture!
In short, I think that the main difference on social life in Norway vs social life in the United States is that Norway does not center their activities around money. They center it more around good company and nature.