What to expect when you first meet a Norwegian

There are quite a  few differences in personality, lifestyle and belief among the Norwegian people, as can be expected among people of every nation. Nevertheless,  Norwegians share some traits  among themselves. 

Hopefully, the following discussion of these traits will show you something of what to expect as you meet the people of Norway and live in Bergen.

Even during a short visit you will notice certain common patterns of behavior and attitude.   For example, most Norwegians are thoughtful and kind and by tradition, they will help you in any way they can. 

If you ask for assistance, you will gain their support unconditionally, regardless of your status as acquaintance, friend, or even stranger on the street.

Norwegians may seem a bit shy, but this, in part, is because they do not like to “meddle in,” interfere with, another person’s life, so normally they will wait to see how open you are, how willing you are to share with them, before they open up to you.

At first, you may think they are acting as if they have no more room for  for friendship, but once they feel comfortable with you (and often this happens quickly), you will get to know them better and strong ties of friendship will develop.

Visitors to Norway will quickly notice that in public places—sitting on the bus or at a table in a restaurant, Norwegians do not normally greet strangers or start conversations with them. Yet they are not impolite or indifferent, so if you speak to them, most will gladly respond.  And friendly, interesting conversations can take place.

The people “in the land of the midnight sun” are indeed curious to get know visitors from other countries and are interested in where and how you might live.  Indeed, they are generally curious about the world around them.

In fact, many Norwegians are remarkably well-informed and willing to share their ideas and opinions about world events, politics and social issues, and much more…

Another Norwegian trait is quite interesting: Norwegians talk quite a lot about the weather. There are at least two reasons for doing this: first,  because the weather in Norway (and particularly in Bergen) changes often, within the same day and from one day to the next, and sometimes this might be hard to bear, without talking about it.

The second reason for talking about the weather is that it shows a Norwegian’s  willingness to ease into the start of a conversation with someone  they have just met.  That is, talking about the weather is a Norwegian “ice-breaker.”

For another widely shared attitude: Norwegians are great lovers of the outdoor, and you will rarely meet one of them who doesn’t practice an outdoor sport or recreation activity (such as taking a walk—often a strenuous hike on a mountain path or in the woods.)

They enjoy their rich natural environment and its great beauty, so they spend a lot of time outdoors, engaged in many different activities, come rain or snow or sunshine.

In a most important perspective, Norwegians are very proud of their country and talk a lot about it (as many of us may do about our own country).  They especially like it when visitors show an interest in Norway, the land, its culture and it heritage. 

In fact, asking a Norwegian about his or her country is itself another great “icebreaker,” maybe even better than talking about the weather.

There are many other traits that seem common among Norwegians.  Norwegians like to travel, within their own country and abroad.  They seem to be a very practical people, with a streak of romantic attachment to features of nature (the sea, the mountains, the forests…)

They place a high value on sincerity and straightforward conversation.  They appreciate modesty and types of low-key behavior (but can get very involved in sports competition and supporting their team). 

Most Norwegians are informal in dress and manner. 

Their humor tends to be dry and witty, with a touch of irony—and appears often when the visitor least expects it! 

Aware of diversity in the world around them, yet appreciative of a cultural heritage that marks their own unity as a people, Norwegians put a high price on tolerance and acceptance of other people—however shy they may seem at first!