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Typisk norsk - What is typical Norwegian?

Updated on January 24, 2015

A collection of local Norwegian pecularities

Well, what does it really mean when we say that something is typical Norwegian? What is special about this country and its inhabitants that distinguish it from others.

Based on my own experience and opinion of the locals I collected in one place many Norwegian peculiarities. I'm sure you will be amused by some of them.

Is that all? Surely not. Norway, as any other country, has much more about itself that it appears :)

Photo credit (c)

Typisk Norsk - Lifestyle


Matpakke literally means "packed food". I placed it in this category, because it is really more a lifestyle than food. It defines simplicity, practicality and caring style of Norwegian life. Basically matpakke consists of single slices of bread with brunost, liverpai, salmon or bananas on top of it, carefully separated with sheets of paper and wrapped. It is popular among Norwegians in every age, that take it to school, to the university, when they go on a hiking trip or to their job places.


This is the most important aspect of Norwegian lifestyle. Norwegians truly love nature, their mountains, moon-like plateaus, forests, sea . Even though many modern Norwegians own apartments or houses in cities, they continue to live simple life close to the nature.

Very popular among them is owning a simple, wooden cottage (called hytte) in the mountains, sometimes in very remote places, even without electricity (they have gas-driven refrigerators!).

They spend there their holidays, vacations, weekends. Cottages are starting points for shorter and longer hiking trips during summer and ski tours during winter season. Did you ever hear that Norwegian are born with skis on their feet? It is sometimes almost literally true. Maybe not "with skis", but "on skis". I met a pregnant lady, who shortly before her term went on a skiing tour. A week or so later she successfully gave birth to her second son :)

Ah, and take a closer look at the guy on the photo. He is wearing shorts!


Another typical Norwegian "thing" is owning a boat, either a sailboat, motorboat or a simple wooden, little boat or kayak. They use them almost whole year round, with exemption for winter, which can be very harsh. Norwegians keep their boats in boathouses called naust.

Yeah, on a warm summer day you can clearly see that Norwegians being descendants of Vikings do have passion for sea travel.

Scandinavian Folk Belief and Legend (The Nordic Series)
Scandinavian Folk Belief and Legend (The Nordic Series)

A rich compendium of hundreds of legends, stories, beliefs, and magic collected from oral sources in preindustrial Scandinavia. In this rural society, the people lived close to nature and believed themselves an integral part of it. This volume focuses on beliefs that illustrate the central aspects of a traditional worldview, rather than on prose narratives considered for their literary value.


Typisk Norsk - Food


Brunost (literally brown cheese) a brown Norwegian cheese with whey (cow, goat or mixed) as the main ingredient. Due to production process it cannot be called a real cheese. Brunost is made by boiling a mixture of milk, cream and whey carefully for several hours so that the water evaporates. The heat turns the milk sugar into caramel which gives the cheese its characteristic taste. It is ready for consumption as soon as it is packed in suitable sized blocks.

Brunost is used as a spread on bread, but can also be successfully used in sauces, often with juniper berries that will give the sauce a slight caramel taste. Brunost is also used as toppings on waffles.

Pinnekjøtt and Smalahove

Pinnekjøtt - lamb meat cured, dried, smoked and then steamed- is very popular in Western Norway, especially at Christmas. It is usually served with mashed rutabaga and potatoes. Smells ... peculiar (to say it mildly) but tastes well.

A hardcore version of pinnekjøtt is smalahove (sheep's head), a specialty from Voss, but popular also in other places of Western Norway. The skin and fleece of the head is torched, the brain removed, and the head is salted, sometimes smoked, and dried. The head is boiled for about 3 hours and served with mashed rutabaga and potatoes. The bravest enthusiasts dare to eat sheep's eye (it's true, I witnessed such a horror).

Geitost from Norway

Ekte Gjetost (1.1 pound)
Ekte Gjetost (1.1 pound)

Original Norwegian Geitost (goat cheese, a type of brunost) very common in Norwegian stores. Wanna taste this popular Norwegian food? The possibility is just one click away :)


Typisk Norsk - Customs


Dugnad is a term used for voluntary work for the local society, usually in form of outdoor spring cleaning, gardening, building a barn or a playground for kids. The word "dugnad" was chosen as Norwegian national word in 2004.

Russ celebration

Russ celebration (russefeiring) is a traditional high-school graduation ceremony, stretched to a couple of weeks it ends on 17th of May. Participants wear coloured overalls (each color means different type of school, for instance red - most common - for those qualified for admission to university studies), drive matching cars, vans, or buses, and celebrate almost continually during this period.

Nordic Walking for Total Fitness
Nordic Walking for Total Fitness

Do it the Norwegian way. Take the next step toward a stronger, leaner, healthier physique with Nordic Walking for Total Fitness. From selecting equipment to creating your own personalized workout, it is your complete guide to the power of Nordic walking.

Real Nordic Walking Poles. 32 Lengths. Ideal For Hiking, Trekking, Rehab, PT. Free DVD. Safer, Lighter, More Durable Than Cheap Collapsible Poles From China. Made In Lillehammer, Norway.
Real Nordic Walking Poles. 32 Lengths. Ideal For Hiking, Trekking, Rehab, PT. Free DVD. Safer, Lighter, More Durable Than Cheap Collapsible Poles From China. Made In Lillehammer, Norway.

# Custom Made In Lillehammer, Norway - Durable & User Friendly One-Piece Poles

# Durable Carbide Tips For The Trail, Beach, Snow & Ice

# Rubber Tips/Asphalt Paws For Indoor Use & Outside On Hard Surfaces (Pavement)

Adjustable Walking Poles - Exercise
Adjustable Walking Poles - Exercise

Amazon Best Selling Walking Pole! You won't find a better walking pole at a better price...anywhere! Precision crafted from high quality steel, PowerWalkers will help you burn up to 50% more calories, tone your upper body muscles, improve posture and enhance stability.


Typisk Norsk - Practical Invetions

Cheese slicer

The cheese slicer was invented and patented in 1925, production started in 1927. Mr Bjorklund was irritated at how difficult it was to cut the cheese nicely when you used the knife, so he invented the razor on the basis of a common carpenter plane. Bjorklund patented his cheese slicer on 27 February 1925.

Cheese slicer can be used to cut hard cheeses, as well as the distinctive Norwegian brunost. This tool can also cut the potatoes into thin flakes for making potato chips or peel asparagus and cucumber. A cheese grater can also be used to cut green cucumbers into thin slices.

Cheese slicer can be found in every Norwegian house.


Disposable grill (engangsgrill) consists of a small aluminum box with grate on top and charcoal inside, which is ignited with a match. This "device" burns only a short amount of time (usually 30-45 min) and can not be refilled or lit after shutdown. The grill is perfect for roasting hot dogs and other small things, but is not suitable for large cuts of meat. The grill is widely used by Norwegians on beaches, in parks and on short hiking tours. They care about their environment and nature, so burn out grills and all the waste goes into special bins.

In Cod We Trust: Living the Norwegian Dream
In Cod We Trust: Living the Norwegian Dream

Eric Dregni’s great-grandfather Ellef fled Norway in 1893 when it was the poorest country in Europe. More than one hundred years later, his great-grandson traveled back to find that—mostly due to oil and natural gas discoveries—it is now the richest. In this cross-cultural memoir, Dregni tells the hair-raising, hilarious, and sometimes poignant stories of his family’s yearlong Norwegian experiment. Among the exploits he details are staying warm in a remote grass-roofed hytte (hut), surviving a dinner of rakfisk (fermented fish) thanks to 80-proof aquavit, and identifying his great-grandfather’s house in the Lusterfjord only to find out it had been crushed by a boulder and then swept away by a river...

EZ Grill 2531 Pack of 4 Portable Disposable Barbeques, Party Size
EZ Grill 2531 Pack of 4 Portable Disposable Barbeques, Party Size

Do it the Norwegian way!

* EZ Grill is the "all in one" complete BBQ

* Perfect for tailgating, beach, camping, picnicking, or condos

* Useful as an extra grill at home

* No mess, lights with one match, cooks for up to 1-1/2 hours

* Disposable; can be recycled


Typisk Norsk - National and local symbols


Bunad is a traditional Norwegian clothing, typically of rural origin, closely connected to the Norway's traditional districts. The designs are typically elaborate, with embroidery, scarves, shawls and hand-made silver or gold jewelry. There are national dresses both for men and women, although women's bunads are more diverse and popular. Bunads are very precious to Norwegians, they are often inherited and can reach prices up to $10,000. Bunads are worn on the National Day (see below), but also on weddings, baptisms, confirmations and generally on solemn occasions.

17th of May

17th of May Norway celebrates its most important national holiday, the Constitution Day. Among Norwegians, the day is referred to simply as syttende mai (meaning May Seventeenth) or Nasjonaldagen (The National Day). The Norwegian Constitution was signed on May 17 in the year 1814 and declared Norway to be an independent nation, ending its union with Sweden.

During the whole day there are numerous, colorful parades, gathering huge crowds, with national Norwegian flags and national dresses - the bunads. The most important parade takes place in Oslo under balcony of the Royal Palace in presence of King Harald V and his family. Unlike other countries parades don't have military character, but gather school children with their parents, music corps, graduates (russ), etc.

Viking Clothing
Viking Clothing

Contrary to popular myth the Vikings had a reputation for neatness and their fashions were copied far beyond the realms of Scandinavia. Those who could afford to displayed a love of fine clothes made from silks, from lightweight worsteds in subtly woven twills, and from the finest of linens. They wore short hair and their beards were carefully trimmed. This accessible new book is the first to tackle the question of what the Vikings wore, drawing on evidence from art and archaeology, literature and linguistics to arrive at a fresh understanding of the nature of Viking clothing, covering rich and poor, men and women across Scandinavia.


Great piece of contemporary Norwegian folk music with traces of celtic rock. Good example of the sound of Norwegian language in its western version and lively, easy to listen music. One of my favorite Norwegian bands.

This is Norway ;-) - Hilarous video about Norway

A bonus here is this unforgettable Norwegian English. The guy who made this video has great sense of humor and lots of self-irony.

You know you've been in Norway too long when...

A little twisted, but says quite a lot. Some points are sooo true! :)

1. You think there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing

2. You associate warm rice porridge with Saturday and Xmas eve

3. It seems nice to spend a week in a small wooden cottage up in the mountains, with no running water and no electricity

4. You think cross-country skiing is the only "real" skiing

5. You know at least five different words describing different kinds of snow

6. A sharp intake of breath ("jah") has become part of your active vocabulary

7. You associate Friday afternoon with a trip to Vinmonopolet (The Wine Monopoly)

8. It's acceptable to eat lunch at 11.00 and dinner at 15.00

9. Your front door step is beginning to resemble a shoe shop

10. Silence is fun

Commercial break. Make your favorite coffee, take a deep breath and continue.

11. The reason you take the ferry to Denmark is:

a. duty free vodka

b. duty free beer

c. to party

12. It no longer seems excessive to spend 800 kr. on alcohol in a single night

13. Your old habit of being "fashionably late" is no longer acceptable. You are always on time.

14. You enjoy the taste of lutefisk and/or pinnekjott. Or even smalahove

15. You use "Mmmm" as a conversation filler

16. An outside temperature of 9 degrees Celsius is mild (in mid June)

17. You wear sandals with socks

18. You think riding a racing bike in the snow is a perfectly sensible thing to do (with or without snowtires)

19. You think it's acceptable to wrap your hotdog in a cold pancake

20. Can't remember when to say "please" and "excuse me"

What is life without commercials? Are you sure you don't wanna buy a cheese slicer?

Original cheese slicers by Bjorklund

Cheese Slicer by Bjorklund by SCI Scandicrafts
Cheese Slicer by Bjorklund by SCI Scandicrafts

This 9 inch cheese slicer thinly slices cheese and serves the slice as well. Made of stainless steel with a beech wood handle. Made in Norway.

Cheese Slicer by Bjorklund
Cheese Slicer by Bjorklund

This 8.75 inch cheese slicer has a serrated blade as well for cutting. Made of stainless steel with Beech wood handle. Made in Norway.

Cheese Slicer by Bjorklund
Cheese Slicer by Bjorklund

This cheese slicer thinly slices cheese and serves the slice as well. Made of stainless steel with a beech wood handle. 8.75 inches in length. Made in Norway.


21. You will leave a pub if you can't find a seat

22. You believe that having no choice of products in a supermarket makes it easier to shop

23. You don't mind paying the same for a 200 meter bus ride as you do for going 10 kms

24. You have more than one scarf

25. You have more than one hat and at least one of them has earflaps

26. You know the difference between Blue and Red ski wax

27. You don't fall over when walking on ice

28. Always prepare to catch the closing door if following too closely behind somebody

29. You know the rules to handball

30. You can prepare fish in five different ways without cooking it

31. You know Norway's results the last three years in the "Eurovision Song Contest"

32. You start to believe that if it wasn't for Norway's efforts the world would probably collapse soon

33. You find yourself speaking halfway Swedish with Swedes

34. You don't question the habit of always making "matpakke"

35. You can only buy your own drink at the bar even when you are with a group of people.

36. You get scared when a stranger randomly starts up a conversation with you

37. It feels natural to wear sport clothes and backpack in the cinema as everywhere else.

38. The first thing you do on entering a bank/post office/pharmacy etc. is look for the queue number machine.

39. You have only two facial expressions, smiling or blank.

40. You start believe that if it wasn't for Norway's efforts the world would collapse

Here you can say what are thinking about Norwegian. Or me and my lens ;)

Readers Wall

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    • profile image

      Kent J 2 years ago

      I would like to point out that using a straight edge cheese slicer is worthless. ALWAYS, ALWAYS make sure you buy one with a serrated edge. Its a different product. This is why the cheese slicer never caught on in the use. The lousy, straight edge slicer. Piece of Crap! Just FYI.

    • profile image

      Adrian 3 years ago

      We also (most of us) eat tacos every friday.

    • profile image

      tempohouse 4 years ago

      This is actually one of the best and most amusing articles I have read in so long!! Thank you, norsk reader here absolutely diggin it.

    • steadytracker lm profile image

      steadytracker lm 4 years ago

      A very interesting lens with lots of really great information. Thank you for taking the time to share all of this.

    • profile image

      RaksTheBlogger 4 years ago

      Beautiful lens...good job!

    • Zodiacimmortal profile image

      Kim 4 years ago from Yonkers, NY

      Cool lens I've added it to my (WIP) Norse/Viking lens (will be published soon I believe I'm almost done filling things out & just have a few more pages of notes to type out)

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Norway is a country with amazing history and heritage.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I used to live in Sweden for about 4 years and gotta say that most of these claims apply to Sweden too. Maybe someone could make an article about the difference between Norway and Sweden. Guess there'd be only few.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Great lens and it brought back so many happy memories. My mother is Norwegian and I visited Norway often as a child I was also raised on Brunost which my mother used to have sent over from Norway. I couldn't live without my cheese slicer either :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Hah! im norwege, we have a cottage without running water, electricity or central heating. We also owe 5 different kind of boats.every winter were skiing and ofc we got our "matpakke" with us. Talkin about the weather is the best ice-breaker,

      and if you say something stupid, ur probably half swedish.

      I don't know how i found this page, but it sure gave me a good laugh!

      Tusen takk mr.!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Just wanted to say something, it's not all the Norwegians that like the silence...

      I've gotta admit, I hate it, it's so boring.

      PS: Im Norwegian ;)

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      @anonymous: Well, it IS quite important to know the reasons behind celebrating the national holiday, so of course it should be pointed out when it's wrong. It IS an important detail. ;)

      I came to say the same thing as the guy above me here, but he beat me to it.

    • profile image

      Lindrus 6 years ago

      Great and fun lens! Had no idea the cheese slicer was a Norwegian invention. Though it was something typical Swedish... Thanks for an interesting lens!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      @LMJones71: Nobody

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      the skol is so poplur

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      @LouisaDembul: hallo i like norway very most

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      @anonymous: Viktig detalj du påpeker där. Jävlig viktig...

      Kanskje du understreker det at vi tror at verden kommer til å kolapse om vi ikkje var med å styrte...

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      @anonymous: Viktig detalj du påpeker där. Jävlig viktig...

      Kanskje du understreker det at vi tror at verden kommer til å kolapse om vi ikkje var med å styrte...

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      This statement is partily wrong "The Norwegian Constitution was signed on May 17 in the year 1814 and declared Norway to be an independent nation, ending its union with Sweden."

      in 1814 the union with dennmark ended and the union with sweeden started, and the time innbetween the end and the start of a union, we were a completely free nation, and we hurried and gatherd the immportent people of that time and wrote a constitution. and when the Union with sweeden started we damanded we had our own constiturion, and we did(the new union was more loose) and the thing we had in common with sweeden was the king, kinda like canada today wich tecnaly is a part of the british empire with HM Queen Elisabeth as queen..

      the union with sweeden didn't end before 1905....

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      you forgot one thing, we make fun of swedes all the time. like if someone does something weird or dumb, we say they're half swedish

    • profile image

      ikoniatis 6 years ago

      Great lens! Very interesting information, with a very nice touch of humor.

      I would like to hear more about your music culture. I only know Secret Garden who I adore!

      There is something wrong with your Amazon Mp3 widget. Couldn't hear a thing!

    • profile image

      ikoniatis 6 years ago

      Great lens! Very interesting information, with a very nice touch of humor.

      I would like to hear more about your music culture. I only know Secret Garden who I adore!

      There is something wrong with your Amazon Mp3 widget. Couldn't hear a thing!

    • profile image

      sherioz 6 years ago

      This is funny. I was only in Norway for 1 week, but I already learned some of these qualities about Norwegians. Great lens.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      i'm a norwegian teenager, and this sounds strangely familiar.. our cottage in the mountains of Valdres(close to Jotunheimen) is without electricity, central heating and running water. We have to fetch the water in the lake and chop our way through thick ice in the winter. The cottage runs on solar electricity and we can't use to much of it. Hurrah! Hehe.. we're weird. I think englishmen are pretty weird.. What's the deal with drinking tea all the time and not having a washingmachine in your apartment? Hmmm.. Norwegians feel guilty if they not spend half of their day outside doing something productive. Norway is cold and walking around in a t-shirt in -15 celsius is normal:) i do it all the time:) And our immune system rocks!

    • profile image

      alanbowman777 6 years ago

      Very .....well ....I don`t want to have to say it but TRUE lens. And why don`t I want to admit that it's a TRUE LENS ...because I `m English and I`ve been stuck here in NORWAY 15 years. I like telling jokes etc but hasn\t hit the Norwegian shores yet. i`m kind of a pioneer of something COMPLETELY UNKNOWN .

      What crime did I commit ......ANSWER .....None ............YET ! Keep off the goat cheese anybody got any English cheese or fish n chips :-)

    • CozyKitty profile image

      CozyKitty 6 years ago

      I am SO missing the favorites button right now. Hope you and yours are doing well. What happened in Norway on Friday was such a tragedy, and the repercussions will continue for quite some time.

      On a lighter note - I love this lens! Having lived in Norway for quite some time, it was great to see all the "typisk norsk" stuff!

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      you might want to add after number eight: You start to feel bad if it's been a few days since the last time you went for a short hiking/walking tour in the mountains....or something similar

    • ellagis profile image

      ellagis 6 years ago

      you made me wanting to drive until the harbour and take a ship to Norway :)

    • profile image

      LMJones71 6 years ago

      I'm going to have to send that video to all my Norwegian relatives. That was hilarious!

      Also, I've been meaning to start a petition to have brown cheese internationally banned. Who's with me?

    • chezchazz profile image

      Chazz 6 years ago from New York

      Great lens! Blessed by a squid angel 4-1-11.

    • profile image

      anonymous 6 years ago

      I actually am norwegian, and came across this by accident. You nailed most of them, but number 16? Nope :) 9 degrees celsius is REALLY cold in June. And absolutely NO backpacks or sports clothes going to the cinema. We're not THAT weird. Well, most of us aren't anyway... ;)

    • LouisaDembul profile image

      LouisaDembul 6 years ago

      I laughed a lot when I read this. I know Norway very well, and all of it is true! What I do admire about them is their active life. Always walking or skiing.

    • Ashly Rain profile image

      Ashly Rain 7 years ago

      What a great country/travel lens! You went waaaay above and beyond what many lensmasters do for creating lenses about a particular country. I love it. I visited Oslo once, a long time ago, but never had the chance to explore other parts of Norway. I'll get there again someday. Great job.

    • wildlens profile image

      wildlens 7 years ago

      @Henk LM: Well, I thought a little and concluded that I do know 5 ways of preparing fish without cooking, even though I am not Norwegian :)

      I gladly write something about it soon.

    • Henk LM profile image

      Henk LM 7 years ago

      Will you share five different ways to prepare fish without cooking it?