Oslo Local Customs

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Best Rated Local Customs in Oslo

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    The Norwegian people (advanced level)

    by Hildeal Updated Jun 22, 2012

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    What you should now about us, is that we like to meet new people but we don't like to take the first step. We may seem a little reserved, but once you start talking to us you'll notice that we are friendly but still a bit shy (well with some alcohol, we're quite different). We are not a kissing and hugging nation. (Except from those we know very well).

    I believe that's represent the general Norwegian person, but we also have some regional differences. It has been said that the people from Bergen are more outgoing; the people from Trondheim have their own sense of humor and really like to party. The people from the south coast of Norway, like Kristiansand are very shy people and are more affected by their Christian beliefs. When a person from the north of Norway gets angry or hot -headed we think of it as charming and a part of the North Norwegian culture and identity. But if a person from Oslo gets angry it's not that charming. The North people are also allowed to use some swear words that would not be acceptable by a person from another place. I believe that some of these character sketches are just stereotypes that the Norwegians likes to make fun of

    We don't usually talk to strangers, and when using public transport you'll probably notice that the Norwegians will not share seat with someone if they do not absolutely need to
    -we don't like to cluster. Personal space is respected. So you should not be offended-It's just a culture thing.

    We consider us self as strongly independent people. We want our kids to do well in life and don’t depend on different (social instances). If you’re familiar with some of our fairy tales like Askeladden (ash lad), he’s the one who takes life in his own hands, killing the troll, winning the princess and half the kingdom-with no help from anybody.

    You should also know that being indebted by borrowing or receiving favors will make us uncomfortable.

    If you're planning to stay in Norway (Oslo), maybe you want to study here and make friends, keep in mind that it takes time to make Norwegian friends. It takes time to know the Norwegian culture, our jokes, and our funny language. But please be patient and you'll get Norwegian friends for life.

    Almost all young Norwegians master (good) English. Most of us also had French/Spanish and/or German at school but hesitate to speak it, even though we understand it. The problem is that we hardly ever practice it. And we usually watch English spoken programs on TV. So talking about television shows like. can be a conversation topic. But please don't reveal the end, we're some light years behind other countries like the US.

    people Norwegian on public transport.
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    an introduction to Norwegian

    by Hildeal Updated Dec 30, 2011

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    Norwegian belongs to the Germanic language family. We have many words in common with German and some words borrowed from English and other Indo-European languages. But grammar differs though. Actually besides from other Scandinavian languages Afrikaans, spoken in South Africa and Dutch seem to be the closest related languages. Like Swedish, Norwegian uses pitch accents, but to a lesser degree. The pitch accents give the language a musical quality and are sometimes employed to distinguish the meanings of homonyms. It can be quite confusing to a foreign speaker when the word bønner has three different meanings according to the accent . (Bønder , Farmers represented by tone 1), Bønner, prayers, beans (tone 2), Our different dialects might represent additional extra challenges.

    Norwegian is an SVO language meaning that we usually base our sentences on subject, verb and object. (I have a car) in Norwegian (jeg (s) har (v) en bil (o). But we're also capable of changing the word order like: (Bilen(o) har(v) jeg(s) in English (the car have I)

    The Norwegian alphabet consists of 29 letters, the first 26 or which are the same as the Latin Alphabet. The three last letters are
    æ, ø and å

    A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z Æ Ø Å.

    Norwegian nouns fall in to three genders: masculine, feminine and neuter. The inflection of the nouns depends on the gender.


    m.: en gutt gutten gutter guttene
    (a boy) (the boy) (boys) (the boys)
    f.: en/ei jente jenta jenter jentene
    (a girl) (the girl) (girls) (the girls)
    n.: et hus huset hus husene/husa
    (a house) (the house) (houses) (the houses)

    In English the verb are inflected according to which person is acting (I go, she goes). In Norwegian we don’t inflect verbs like that. Verbs like (I go) and (She goes) are inflected the same way jeg går (I go) hun går (she goes) vi går (we go)

    The most difficult part of the Norwegian language is the learning the clauses. Many foreigners speak almost perfect Norwegian but don't master the clauses.

    "She says she doesn't want to do it". "(hun sier hun ikke vil gjøre det) If we divide the sentence in two parts :
    Hun sier. Hun vil ikke gjøre det.

    But when the last sentence is a clause, the word for not (ikke) comes first, it switches with the word vil, (verb). So this is the result: Hun sier hun ikke vil gjøre det. this is Norwegian at an advanced level.

    Compound words are written together in Norwegian, which sometimes makes the word extremely long like sannsynlighetsmaksimeringsestimator (maximum likelihood estimator). Because of the English influence on the Norwegian language, it seems to be a tendency that we split up words that usually are compound occasionally with humorous results. Instead of writing, for example, lammekoteletter (lamb chops), people make the mistake of writing lamme koteletter (lame, or paralyzed, chops);)) other examples include

    Smult ringer ("Lard is calling", verb) instead of Smultringer ("Doughnuts")

    Tunfisk biter ("Tuna bites", verb) instead of Tunfiskbiter ("Tuna bits", noun)

    Tyveri sikret ("Theft guaranteed") instead of Tyverisikret ("Theft proof")

    On Mc Donald’s the shift leaders sometimes have sign with "shift leder"in stead of shiftleder. When the words are not written together it actually means " replace leader !"I don't know if the young people working there are aware of this grammatical mistake.

    hilde is having the night off! this is how the strike will affect you my first tooth Being alone is always very lonely happiness is giving back (to others)
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    Door locks

    by HORSCHECK Updated Jul 18, 2004

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    In Scandinavia door locks or keys often have to be turned contrary to how you are used to turning them to open or close a door.
    For example, in Germany a door with a door handle on the right side is usually locked by turning the key clockwise, whereas in Scandinavia you might have to turn it anti-clockwise.

    Scandinavian door handle and lock
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    Norwegian culture for dummies

    by Hildeal Updated Jul 7, 2015

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    Bunad: a national suit used for special occasions, like the 17th of May and weddings, but newer in funerals. We have numerous different national suits, and you can't just pick a nice suit if you don't have some sort of a connection/link to a specific region. But if you like the national suit from Telemark, your cabin in Rjukan should be your necessary link.

    But as a general warning you should never wear a Sami costume if you have no Sami affiliation.

    17th of May: our constitution day.We celebrate our freedom after being subjected to cruel aliens for centuries. It's also a great opportunity to see all the national suits you wish you had. Other keywords are hotdogs, ice cream, Norwegian flags, marching bands and high-flying balloons.

    hytte: "Cabin". A sort of a little house with fireplace usually isolated, and without a normal WC and hot water. We spend our time there in the holidays. It's a part of our national identity. But most of us DON'T own a cabin, we just have access to one. Sharing a cabin with family members and friends often means trouble, so think twice before going for this solution.

    Our nature plays a big role in our Norwegian identity. According to all Norwegian lifestyle magazines, the ideal of happiness is moving to a remote and isolated place engage in farming, listening to the sounds of nature and cowbells- and just forget about the rest of the world. It’s the Norwegian way of self-realization.

    Gå en tur: go for a walk, from one distance to another and back, and for no special reason. In every personal ads they all like to "gå turer i skog og mark".It's a Norwegian cliché.

    ski (cross country) skiing We are actually born with skis on our feet, and it's a part of the Norwegian identity.Some famous Norwegian skiers: Bjørn Dæhli, Vegard Ulvang and Thomas Alsgaard and not at least our new stars: Marit Björgen, Therese Johaug and Petter Northug.

    We’re proud to have arranged the Olympic Games in Lillehammer in 1994.

    We are also very proud to have beaten Brasil in football WM in 1998, (but our performances in general are not much to brag about.)

    Harrytur/harryhandel: To avoid bankruptcy, we travel to the Swedish border Svinesund and empty their shelves for cheap food, candy and alcohol.

    Forspiel/nachspiel: it’s nothing sexual, but a private drinking party before and after the pub crawl- to avoid going bankrupt.

    our word *ja* (yes) with ingressive affirmation, we don't have inhalation problems we just talk like that!

    Målstrid: the never ending war between Norway’s two official written forms of Norwegian: Nynorsk and Bokmål.

    kos* some kind of pleasure/kozy.

    "brunost": (Brown cheese) You either like it or hate it. Its'very Norwegian, just remember to use our Norwegian invention, our cheese slicer.( I doubt it’s only a Norwegian invention, but please don't destroy our pride) This year the producers started making spreadable brown cheese, so you really don't need the slicer anymore.

    "Vaffler": We eat a lot of waffles. Eating waffles with jam and sour cream is a Norwegian tradition.

    Dugnad a Norwegian term for voluntary work. Nobody can force you to participate in this, but you _should_ participate, to gain more social capital.

    Russefest: the crazy time before high school graduation. The whole concept starts in autumn and for most of us it ends in the middle of May ( and for some, it never ends) . It's by far NOT the most intellectual time of our life.


    "Hvor var du når Oddvar brå brakk staven?*

    Oddvar Brå: was a popular Norwegian skier than unfortunately broke his staff during VM in Oslo Februar 23th,1982. I don't really know why it's so popular to ask about this, but you have to know where you were the day this incident occurred.

    "å hoppe etter Wirkola/ to jump after Wirkola" " "*
    Bjørn Wirkola was one of the best ski jumpers in Norway. He was always the best so being next in line to jump was not that fun. Today we use this saying when trying to compete with someone who's totally superior. I would totally lose my motivation if I knew that the person singing before me in a song contest was a famous singer like Celine Dion.

    Det er typisk norsk å være god* "It's typically Norwegian to be good "
    "an expression of our" arrogance when it comes to "sports performances"

    bunad Mariusgenser rosemaling young Norwegian artists 17th of May
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    Languages spoken in Norway

    by Hildeal Updated Nov 26, 2014

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    Norway has two official written languages, Bokmål and Nynorsk (new Norwegian". Norway was once in a union with Denmark many centuries ago, that’s why our Bokmål (our majority language) is strongly affected by Danish (it doesn't sound like it though!)

    New Norwegian dialect and written language is mainly used on the west coast. In Television about 25 percent of all the subtitles are in Nynorsk according to Norwegian laws. Some of the reporters also speak a kind of New Norwegian dialect. If you work in a public office and you receive a letter written in New Norwegian you're actually obligated to answer in New Norwegian. But I don't think anyone does that if they have a lot other things to do. I don't think they get fired or fined if they answer in normal Norwegian.

    The law also decides that all school kids have to learn both languages in school. It has been objected to this law for several decades. It seems to be the case that we all understand New Norwegian and spending our school ours learning to write a dialect that we don’t speak seems to be a waste of time. But our New Norwegian language has strong historical and cultural roots and all attempts to eliminate it have not worked out. I have actually never heard about a person who has actually has needed New Norwegian after graduation. Well maybe if you want to be a Norwegian teacher?

    Besides from our two written languages, Sami language is also spoken in the north of Norway (Finmark) where some of the lap people live but most of them live in Oslo. A fellow VTV member reminded me of the complex language situation the Sami people face. They have at least four different Sami languages/dialects. Many years ago the Sami people were not allowed to speak Sami at school. They were forced to speak and act like Norwegians. Today the young Sami people are being taught according to the bilingual model with Sami as a teaching language and Norwegian as a second language and English/German/French/Spanish as a third language

    these days there are very, very many Swedes in the center of Oslo. In every store and kiosks you are guaranteed to meet them. They speak Swedish, a language close to Norwegian.

    Some New Norwegian glossery: sound file

    English/ New Norwegian/ Bokmal

    I eg/ jeg
    Norway Noreg/ Norge
    size storleik/ størrelse
    white kvit/ hvit
    she ho/ hun
    to start byrje/ begynne
    a lot mykje/ mye

    some useful Norwegian (in Bokmaal)

    thank you (tusen) takk
    yes (ja)
    no (nei)
    metro (tebane)
    tram trikk
    city by
    train tog
    hotel hotel
    norwegian norsk
    girl jente
    boy gutt
    my name is jeg heter....

    Silje Vige singing in New Norwegian in MGP 1993 (number five) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c-VqRkX-Eqc

    Janosch in New Norwegian: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tNLmKq3UA84&feature=related

    (visit this page for a free basic Norwegian course)

    swedish contribution sign in Norwegian (bokmaal)
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    Take a number, please

    by HORSCHECK Written Jul 10, 2004

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    At most places with customer service (e.g. Post Office, Tourist Information, Money Exchange) you have to take a number from a machine. Then you have to wait for your number to be called or to be shown on a display with the appropriate counter. So instead of waiting in a line you are able to browse through other things while waiting for your number to be called.

    Take a number please
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    the last three letters and the R-sound

    by Hildeal Updated Nov 21, 2011

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    and here's a tips on how to pronouce the three last letters in our alphabet sound file sound file

    Æ, Ø Å



    sær ( strange)
    Er , verb, to be. ( jeg er, hun er etc) I'm. she is...

    The Norwegian Cats make a sound that's Æ-related "Mjau"

    And if you hurt yourself and want to scream something , if we're not swearing, we say au au au.

    Eventually you can think of the word "van" (American accent) or:
    Bad, Ass , have or you can imagine you're at the dentist and have to open your mouth until it hurts.

    is like the e in her It's her car



    MØØ That's the sound of the Norwegian cow in every child book.

    Nøff, nøff, that's the sound of the Norwegian pig..

    is pronounced like the a in saw, it's a bit more open. think about the Scottish accent.

    jeg så henne ( I saw her)


    ( a city in Norway)

    Jeg MÅ
    ( I have to)

    Ål, place in Norway or an eel.

    So if you want to practice å hun er så søt (ooh she's so cute!)

    It's complicated to use these letters in my VT guide. Sometimes I just make it easier by using some others letters instead. But it does not make a big difference.

    The R-sound can be really difficult for people from English speaking countries they have a reputation for committing a bloody massacre on the Norwegian “R.” It's the rolling that makes it hard. In Norwegian we have different R-sounds according to the dialects. If you think that the R-sound from the west coast of Norway is the easiest, you can just say you learned Norwegian from a person living there. Or stick to the scottish R-sound, if you think it's easier.

    sound file

    your R-sound should be something like this;) Or the R-sound you make if you'riding a horse, and what it to stop. Rrrrrrrrrrrrrrr , well that how we do it in Norway...We roll it.

    And this is a funny vers about Ibsens ripsbusker og andre buskevekster ( Ibsen's currant bushes and other shrubs. )

    ibsens ripsbusker og andre buskevekster..

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    Different worship places in Oslo.

    by Regina1965 Updated Jun 29, 2012

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    I did a lot of walking in Oslo - I wanted to see everything as I spent so much time there. On my walks I came across several different Christian churches and mosques and a synagogue.

    The main part of Norwegians are Evangelic Protestants - the first religion was Norse mythology (the belief of the Vikings) - then Catholism and now Protestants (we have the same religious history in Iceland).

    I also came across a Russian Orthodox church in Vár Frelsers gravlund graveyard, and I know that there is another one close to Vigelandsparken park. And there is an Anglican Chaplaincy in Möllergata, a beautiful church kind of squeezed in between other buildings. And there are churches all over Oslo, most of them of very similar design. St. Olav´s Cathedral is a Roman Catholic church. I saw several different churches in Grunerlökka, one of them was a Methodist church. I would love to attend a service there one day.

    There are also several mosques, at least one in Grönland, amongst the churches, seeing that so many Muslims live in Oslo - mainly in Grönland. They are the second largest religious group in Norway and ever growing. This has become a concern for the natives...

    I came across one synagogue on my way to St. Hanshaugen park - in Bergstien. It was the least inviting of the religious places, fenched in and had surveillance cameras. I almost felt like an intruder taking a photo of it. There are not many Jews in Oslo - and I gather that they must have their own reason I don´t know of for protecting their synagogue in this way.

    And then there are Buddhists, Sikhs, Hindus and other smaller religious groups.

    The most beautiful church I saw in Oslo was the Stave church at the Folk-museum in Bygdöy.

    A mosque in Gr��nland. Anglican Chaplaincy - St. Edmund��s Church. A Russian Orthodox church. A synagogue in Oslo. St. Olav��s Cathedral.

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    Getting a number

    by tessy Updated Aug 30, 2006

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    Take care when you enter a public place. Usually you find a machine there and you get a number. As soon as you see your number indicated, it's your turn. We saw these numbers in the tourist information, in Trafikanten, when changing money, ....... We saw as well lots of tourists waiting without an number. They didn't know about it and had to wait longer.

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    The Oslo Pass

    by Jim_Eliason Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    A great way to see many of Oslo's sights without breaking the bank is to buy an Olso pass. It will allow admission to most of Oslo museums and provide free public transport. They can be bought for valid time periods of 24, 48 or 72 hours.

    Olso Pass
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    Russene - The Graduates.

    by Regina1965 Updated May 28, 2012

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    Now this is something I have not seen in other countries I have visited, or maybe I was just lucky to be here in May when this tradition takes place. All over town I saw youngsters in funny bib jeans, most of the red with some letters on them, but some of them were black. The marathon in Oslo had just taken place and I thought this outfit had something to do with the marathon. Live and learn, as for a whole month these bib jeans´wearing youngsters were everywhere. And they are not quiet, that is for sure ;)

    Russene are the graduands and they party for a month, hire a bus and drive around with loud music and drink - a lot! I have heard that it gets very expensive carrying out this tradition and that you either have to have rich parents or take a loan in your bank...

    This tradition started in 1700 something. Back then there wasn´t a university in Oslo so Norwegians had to study at the university in Copenhagen. To be able to go to the university there the students had to pass an exam "artium". After the exam other students fastened a horn on their forehead and made fun of them (a similar tradition takes place in Iceland as well). If you passed the exam then the horn was removed, as a sign of knowledge. The word "russ" derives from the latin expression "comua deposituRUS" or to lay down the horns.

    The current tradition dates back to 1905 when russene started wearing read caps in the schools in Kristiania (Oslo). The blue caps date back to 1916. And the black trousers? The tradition is that red russene graduate from high-school but blue/black russene graduate from trade school.

    The culmination and "finish" of the russ-celebration is on the 17th of May, on the National holiday of Norway. Then you will see hundreds of russ in the streets handing out their personal cards to small kids. I saw so many kids asking russene for these cards, it was quite cute seeing those small kids venturing up to russene and timidly asking if they had personal cards to give to them. One small guy was not so timid though, after the russ gave him his personal card the kid threw it at him again rudely yelling at him that he had got this card already!

    One night we wanted to drive up to Holmenkollen from the town of Ski (28 km away from Oslo) but as we had almost reached Holmenkollen the police blocked the road and turned all the cars around telling them that russene were up there.

    Around 42.000 students finish high school every year in Norway so you can imagine the fun they are having for a month or more all over Norway :) And this kind of behaviour, like getting drunk during the day, making loud noises, driving around in a multi-coloured bus with blaring music is actually accepted here. I was reading in one newspaper how come this tradition became so readily accepted. I have nothing against it, I acutally thought this gave a bit of colour to a very grey and rainy month of April and May here in Norway.

    I found some of the russe cards on the ground and there it said "Russe service" a tradition from 1982.

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    shoes off

    by Hildeal Updated Jan 26, 2012

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    One thing that is often strange for foreigners is the custom of taking off your shoes in the hallway. This is for practical reasons, preventing the floors from becoming dirty especially in winter .if you're arriving a party with your party shoes you shouldn’t be thinking of taking them off unless they got dirty on your way there.

    my shoe store
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    Vinmonopolet - The State owned liquor stores.

    by Regina1965 Updated May 28, 2012

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    Buying alcohol in Norway is not easy, as it were. You can only buy alcohol in the Vinmonopolet, which are State owned liquor stores. And they are not always open. They close at 15h on Saturdays and are not open on Sundays.

    You have to be 18 to be able to buy beer and vine in Norway, but 20 to buy alcohol with more than 22% alcohol strenght. Well, in Iceland you have to be 20 to buy alcohol, so we are kind of used to this. Alcohol prices are steep here in Norway, but for us Icelanders that is nothing new. But in comparison to other countries the price is very steep. Well, Norway is an expensive country anyway.

    Beer is sold in the supermarkets and some alcohol mix, but after 18h one can not buy alcohol at the supermarket and they are very strict on this. We were going to buy some alcohol mix at 20h for a birthday party and "no", they took it away from us - grown up people! Who is in charge of these regulations and what is the point?

    The opening hours are: 10-18 weekdays, Fridays 9-18 and Saturdays 9-15.

    The liquor store in Gr��nland��s bazar.

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    Independence day - 17th of May.

    by Regina1965 Updated Jun 5, 2012

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    The Independence day in Norway is on the 17th of May and is called Norway´s Constitution day. This dates back to the 17th of May 1814 when Norway´s constitution was signed at Eidsvoll. Norway then got full independence in 1905.

    A big part of the celebrations is the children´s parades. 60.000 children from ca 100 schools show up in groups carrying a flag. They start at 10:00 by Youngstorget, go to Karl Johans gate by the Cathedral and join the Oslo parade of ca 100.000 people, a large part of which are dressed up in beautiful national costumes - it is pure delight watching them and joining them. But it gets very crowded. The Oslo parade marches up to the Palace, where the Royal family greets the nation from the balcony. I got to the Palace at ca 14:30 and everything was in full swing by then. The parade ends up at the City Hall square.

    It had been raining for several weeks while I was visiting in 2012, but on 17th of May it was sunny part of the day, fantastic as it would sure have ruined the day if it would have been raining cats and dogs. So I had a fantastic time joining the Norwegian nation in their celebration. The Norwegians are not the most "open" people, but on this day everybody is smiling and happy. So if you are ever in Oslo on the 17th of May do join the Norwegians in the celebrations. I bought a Norwegian flag at Elkjöp for NOK 10, but in many places down-town they were sold at NOK 50, so better get one a couple of days earlier. The Norwegian flag is just like the Icelandic, the colours have just been switched - and my ancestors came from Norway anyway, so I felt like I was celebrating in my cown country ;)

    The celebrations are broadcast live on telly for those who cannot participate or live far away from Oslo.

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    How to make Norwegian friends

    by Hildeal Updated Jan 6, 2012

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    In Oslo which is an established city you'll have to make an effort to make friends but it's not wise being too eager

    What you should not say is "I want to be your friend can we meet tonight?"* . Then we'll run!!

    You have to take it easy on us. Ask us about Norway (even things you already know). Compliment on our excellent English (even if you don't think it's that impressive) Try to see if you have something in common

    Try some small talks at the beginning, and then you can try to move forward, maybe ask if they want to join you to a Cafe or something informal. Don't expect a home invitation.

    You have to take the initiative but try not to be too intense even if it you're impatient. It can be quite a challenge.

    I believe that the best way to get Norwegian friends is to join some kind of an organization. Trying to make friends without any connections can be very difficult. I'm an Oslo girl myself and all of my friends come from different kinds of groups, I didn't just meet them on the tram on my way to work.

    Or if you just want to talk to the locals, you should invest in a small and quite puppy, or maybe a little pig. We love pets!

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