Some distinctive customs in Norway
It is not just scenery, the political or economic system, or the people that make Norway so extraordinary. It is the customs and day-to-day patterns of behavior which make this country magical. If you are a coffee lover, you will definitely enjoy your free time in Norway, where coffee is considered something like a national drink. Norway, in fact, is the third coffee drinking country in the world! Some statistics say that 9 out of 10 Norwegians drink about 3-4 cups of coffee a day, most of the time black and filter coffee. It is interesting to note that many Norwegian cafés have the same concept that Americans have with coca cola – coffee refills for free! That explains coffee machines in trains and many institutions; but sometimes, rarely and only if you are lucky, you will find it also on busses and for free. Sometimes you will experience situations when you are drinking your coffee or beer in a café and because there is not enough space at tables, unknown people will sit at your table with friends, politely say hello, and then converse among themselves, not paying attention to you at all.
Bryggen street, Bergen, Norway
People in Norway pay a lot attention to arranging their houses and yards, and many of them remodel or redecorate their houses, kitchens, gardens, and balconies every season or every year. They are completely in love with retro styles, candles, paintings, sparking plugs, etc. Their constant modification of everything in their houses is not as strange as it sounds because many Norwegians visit stores with used, “second hand” stuff for the home which, most of the time, was used for a very short time or it wasn’t used at all. These stores are, actually, charity-oriented – people donate their things, retired citizens (most of the time women) who want to volunteer are salespersons who work a few hours a day – and all the money from the buyers goes to charity.
Wooden houses in Stavanger, Norway
Norwegians are very proud of their national identity, and you will notice that everywhere. Flags and clothes with patriotic motifs are sold even in supermarkets, and many Norwegians have national symbols in front of their homes. If you are in Norway on May 17th you will witness marvelous Constitution day ceremonies. This is the day when Norway became an independent kingdom, in 1814. During that day you will have the feeling that everything stops, delighted people are celebrating and singing in the streets, carrying flags everywhere they can, some flags can even be found in the hair attached with hairclips. The King and Queen stand on the balcony of their palace at the head of the main street in Oslo, waving and saying hello to the citizens. Everything is like a modern fairy-tale.
Outdoors cafes – Karl Johans gate, Oslo, Norway
What makes Norwegians unique is their commitment to following rules. For example, drivers stop to let you cross the street even if you are several meters away from a zebra crossing just to make sure you will cross safely. Norwegian public transport is punctual to the second, and if something goes wrong you can send remarks by e-mail and they will find a way to compensate you. If you travel through the country by bus or train you will see scenery as beautiful as the photos in the travel magazines. Sometimes you will pass beneath mountains or by rivers, and the road is often crooked, so Norwegian drivers always recommend that you put on your seatbelt even in busses.
Norwegians are very strict about regulations, and that is also the case with smoking. It is good to know that smoking is prohibited almost everywhere – in public places, in public transportation, but also everywhere around schools and kindergartens. Some Norwegians don’t allow people to smoke in their homes because of fire sensors. The average price for one pack of cigarettes is around 100 kroners which equals around 10 euros. Because of these regulations, many smokers in Norway are quitting. Norway has a goal to make a law which will prohibit the cigarette trade by the end of 2035. The aim is to create a “generation without tobacco”.
One of many fascinating things in Norway is the regular use of boats as normal day-transport. Many people go to work every day using boats instead of busses or trains, so they have a chance to experience beautiful scenery and the healthy smell of the fresh air and the sea all the time.
It is interesting to note that if you live in Norway you have many inexpensive options to travel all over the world. Airplane tickets for every part of the world can be had for next to nothing, and you can book a return ticket for some parts of Europe for as little as 10 or 20 Euros. I even met one girl who was going for weekends to Poland or Croatia just to have her hair cut! It is cheaper than cutting her hair in Oslo, and she likes to change her environment from time to time so she considers that’s a good return on her investment. Also, many Norwegians who live close to the border with Sweden go there to buy groceries because they are a lot cheaper on the Swedish side of the line. Norwegians like to travel, and many of them take one year of free time to travel the world before going to college. It is not just airplane tickets that are inexpensive, almost everywhere in Norway and all the time you can find sales or discounts for food, clothes, home decoration, etc.
Famous fish market in Bergen, Norway
Besides fish and seafood, pølse (something like sausage), meat, and potatoes, Norwegians like to eat pasta, pizza, steak, etc. People snack frequently in Norway, and sometimes I think snacks are the favorite meal because Norwegians prepare sandwiches with so much creativity. They mix everything with cheese, even marmalade; so it is not surprising that the Norwegians were the first to create a cheese knife. They are lovers of brown cheese – which is made in Norway – and they often use something like crackers instead of regular bread. They have Turkish, Chinese, Italian, Thai and many other stores and restaurants where you can eat exotic foods. Waffles are very popular in Norway, and almost every kid who grows up there will grow up eating waffles. You can find places with these sweets everywhere, and sometimes, if you are lucky and stop by a second hand – charity store, you may be offered waffles for free from friendly grannies.