By knowing the subtle cultural differences, you will understand what not to do when visiting Norway, and why. Norwegians are known to appear aloof to strangers, and they have a reputation for being shy and reserved. However, it is only by appearance, and you will find Norwegians in a social setting approachable and chatty. If you go in with an open, friendly, and sincere attitude, you won’t have any problems at all. However, here are ten actions and topics that are best avoided in Norway.
Not much tipping is required in Norway, as the service charge will always be included in your bill. It is common courtesy, however, to round up your bill to the next even 5 or 10 NOK amount, e.g. a 37,58 bill to 40 NOK. 10% is considered generous, but leave more than 15% and you’re just showing off.
Don't Try to Haggle
Every item has a fixed price tag, so unless the item is damaged trying to bargain over the price with a vendor will only get a puzzled look. Keep your haggling skills for a second-hand car salesman.
Don't Expect to Pull Your Suitcase
Most of the sidewalks in cities by the sea are covered in coarse sand, turning the entire attempt of pulling your wheeled suitcase behind you into an obstacle course. Add to the equation that nearly all sidewalks in Norway have run gutters cut into them; the end result is a broken suitcase and a sprained ankle. Get a suitcase with off-road capabilities, or better yet, a backpack.
Keep Your Hands to Yourself
There is little personal touching in public in Norway unless you are a really close friend or a member of the family, and even then, touching is kept to a minimum. A hearty handshake in greeting is expected, but a kiss is not.
Don't Make Assumptions on Marital Status or Lifestyle
In Norway, like some of its neighboring countries, marriage is not a prerequisite to starting a family. More and more couples are living together without any legal arrangement, so don’t simply assume that couples are married. In the same vein, don't assume that two friends of the same sex are always just friends. This is an open-minded country. Don't criticize lifestyle choices.
Don't Drink and Drive
This might seem like overstating the obvious, as this is illegal in any country, but Norway enforces very strict laws for drunk drivers. A single beer can put you over the limit, which can result in a small fortune in fines or prison.
Keep negative comments to yourself. Criticism of anyone's system is frowned upon. Criticizing the hefty sales tax can come across as uninformed (there ARE reasons for it). The same holds true to the practice of whale hunting, a topic that can get environmentalists hot under the collar. Eating whale meat is something that Norwegians find completely natural. Norway is considered an advanced culture of peace and progress; after all, this country is a sponsor and host of the Nobel Prize.
Enough said. Norway is an entity on its own, and even if it shares close proximity to its neighbors, Norwegians tend to keep to themselves.
Don't Act Like a Hooligan
You’ve procured an invite, so it's time to look at Norwegian etiquette. First of all, don’t be late. Don’t be early. Be on time, even if it means that you have to drive around the block a couple of times. When it comes to dining, Norwegians hardly ever eat with their hands. Even sandwiches are eaten with utensils. Dinners are usually a long and jolly affair, so if you want to be considered to be raised by a pack of wolves, leave straight after dinner. It is the norm to stay behind and help the host to clean up. And last but not least, don't trash your hotel room.
Don't Wear Shoes Indoors
Once you’ve made a few friends during your travels, chances are that you will be invited over for a visit. Norwegians tend to remove their shoes before entering a house, so wear clean socks. Only keep your shoes on if the host suggests it.
The Jante Law
Norwegians view themselves as ‘egalitarian’ and their culture is based on mutual respect and interdependence. They do not puff themselves with individual achievements, and they have simple tastes. The Jante Law attitude may be a bit dated but is still found in many places in Denmark and Norway. The Jante Law as a concept was created by author Aksel Sandemose and it states:
- You shall not think you are special.
- You shall not believe you are smarter than others.
- You shall not believe you are wiser than others.
- You shall not behave as if you are better than others.
- You shall not believe that you know more than others.
- You shall not believe that you can fix things better than others.
- You shall not laugh at others.
- You shall not believe that others care about you.
- You shall not believe that you can teach others anything.
In modern-day Norway, this law is no longer considered modern and just used as tongue in cheek, but its basics survive. It should give travelers quite a clear idea of what is expected of you as a traveler in Norway.