Norwegian society is known worldwide as being harmonious and calm. A Norwegian abroad will likely never complain if the food he is served is of poor quality, because we are too modest to do so. At home, most arguments can be solved over a cup of coffee. In public life, a major strike that lasts for any longer than 24 hours is considered a national crisis. We frequently ridicule the tempers and active body language of southern Europans.
Yet, if you dig deep enough, there will be many, many opportunities to make our Viking blood boil.
- Suggest that Sweden is better than us
Or Denmark. Or Finland. But especially Sweden. We see our welfare system as absolutely perfect, we believe we are better than them at sports and just about everything else. To the average Norwegian, the best thing about Sweden is lower prices on cigarettes, alcohol and candy. Challenge this truth and you will provoke reactions. Be aware that saying the opposite in Sweden will either provoke a very good laugh or even more anger.
- Make eye contact
You’ll find this situation on trains, in buses, and in general public. Everyone is staring in a slightly different direction. This is because we like to avoid eye contact. In fact, a total stranger making eye contact will often be regarded by a Norwegian as a threat to his or her existence and treated thusly. This sometimes leads to absurd situations where the last arrivals on a stuffed bus will have to start playing with their cellphones because every single field of view available to them overlaps with somebody else’s.
- Sit down beside a complete stranger when there are other seats available
If there are unoccupied banks of seats available on a bus, you use one of them. It’s that simple. A common joke involves a Norwegian and an Indian being the only passengers on a bus: the Indian, not used to having elbow room on any form of public transport, thinks the Norwegian is lonely and decides to sit down beside him. Awkward hilarity ensues. And in the unfortunate event that you have to sit next to a stranger, under no circumstances should you talk to him/her. Sit down and SHUT UP!
- Show up late for anything
There is probably only one people in the world that cares more about punctuality than the Scandinavians, and that people is the Germans. Showing up late for anything more formal than a family party is considered a grave offense. And don’t even think about showing up early unless you want to do the host’s work.
- Build something in our back yard
Okay, this applies to all western countries. But Norwegians in particular have a firm belief that immediate access to nature is a human right. Basically, wherever you are in Norway, if you look in the right direction, you will see a forest. And even if not nearly all of us use it, the fact that it’s there is vitally important. This occasionally leads to roads having to take mile-long detours every time they come within the same postal code as a forest so as not to impede access for the 50 people living in the nearest village. Also, skyscraper construction in Oslo has been impossible for several years because it might obscure a couple people’s view of the woods.
- Say anything negative about the King
A lot of Norwegians are passive republicans. But nobody dislikes the King. Nobody can think of anything negative to say about the King, actually. His father, King Olav, was known to say “I have 4.5 million body guards”. Because nobody has anything negative to say about him, all criticism of the King will basically be taken personally: as if you just insulted someone’s father. Politicians, however, are mostly fair game.
- Say anything negative about the country; in general
Norway is the greatest country in the world. In fact, former Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland said in one of her new year’s speeches “It’s typically Norwegian to be good”. we are and will be the greatest country ever. Just try telling a Norwegian that Norway isn’t the greatest country in the world. I dare you. Never mind that most of us hate parts of it. “This is such a moralist and conformist country. I hate it! I want to move to Denmark, where you’re allowed to be yourself.” If you manage to convince a Norwegian that anything is bad about Norway except the high taxes, poor infrastructure and the bad weather, you should immediately run for political office. If you don’t manage to convince them, the flood gates will open.
- Mention that nobody cares about the sports we’re good at
We are, like the US, one of the world’s greatest sporting nations…mostly at sports nobody cares about. Where the US has baseball and American football, we have cross-country skiing, orienteering and handball. We, however, believe that most of our athletes are known worldwide. And never mind that our football team was beaten by f*cking Moldova – Petter Northug won the World Cup race yesterday! We don’t care about the fact that “We beat you at handball” will likely draw a blank stare in Brazil. We are the greatest sporting nation on Earth – so don’t ruin it for us!
- Tell us that our dialect is ugly/nice
Most Norwegians speak in a particular dialect. The dialects were formed as a result of Norway consisting of about a million different little valleys with very little contact with each other, meaning that in some regions two guys who live one kilometer down the road from each other speak almost comically different dialects. The dialects divide people into two camps: those who worship their dialect, and those who wish they were born where they speak a different dialect. Tell the wrong person the wrong thing, and they will actually get angry at you.