The Dark, Mountainous Scandinavia: Vikings are sometimes gentle, sometimes energetic

Text: Žikica Milošević

In Finland there is a joke: Finns are aggressive Fennoscandians, ready to fight, and their songs are all about depression, like Apocalyptica, Nightwish or HIM; Swedes are flamboyant and sweet, with their ABBA, Ace of Base and Roxette, all the way to The Cardigans; Danes have few things to offer from their flatlands close to Germany, but Norwegians are the darkest. They are still Vikings, with their mountains and fjords. They presumably retained most of their Viking traditions, despite their urbanisation and Lutheranisation. Norwegians could represent the essence of old Scandinavia, sometimes even pre-Christian. Iceland is perhaps the only place where you could find more Old Norse traces.

Funnily enough, Norwegians, despite their Viking personalities and connection to nature, drink less alcohol than all of their neighbours. Trip Advisor advises us, as its name suggests, the following: Danes can drink in the morning, but Norwegians don’t. Norwegians have a tradition of not drinking on weekdays. Don’t expect to be offered wine or other alcohol in private homes – coffee (or tea) is standard. Many Norwegians get exceedingly drunk on Fridays and Saturdays, but average alcohol consumption is modest.

Norwegians also tend to be famously egalitarian. Yeah, just like Vikings in ancient times, maintaining one’s calm and not displaying strong emotions in public are common virtues in Norway. However, despite the emphasis on modesty, Norway mostly has a low-context style of communication. Although the feeling of being one nation is strong, there are strong individualist and egalitarian attitudes, being self-reliant and equal is highly regarded. Norwegians are not impressed by titles and formal positions, and are famously direct (getting straight to the point) and informal. Authoritarian manners are disliked and considered disrespectful. Boasting is disliked. It is worth remembering that the Vikings tended to gather to discuss everything and that they disliked their kings so much that they left to inhabit new colonies all around the world whenever they felt oppressed.

Also, one big no-no in Scandinavia, and in Russia for that matter, is keeping your shoes on your feet while in someone’s house. Norwegians usually take off their shoes when entering a private home (unless instructed otherwise). This is particularly important in winter, when dirt, slush and salt can ruin floors. For formal parties held during the winter season, it is advisable to bring an extra pair of shoes.

Last but not least, Norwegians are notorious all around the world for their informal dress code. It’s not that they look strange in a T-shirt, but that they tend to remove their clothes and shoes almost entirely if the weather is hot enough. Norwegians don’t hesitate to strip down to a bikini or shorts in warm, sunny weather. Don’t be surprised to see shoppers just in bikinis and shorts. Norwegians are notoriously informal, particularly when it comes to their clothing. Norwegians usually don’t even dress smart for work, remaining rather casual most of the time. Although some may dress up for a restaurant visit, casual dress is fully acceptable virtually everywhere. Norwegians find it perfectly natural to wear sports clothes and carry a rucksack anywhere. Blue jeans are commonplace. If you see somebody wearing a fashionable suit and tie (in the middle of the day), it is probably a real estate agent or stockbroker. So, it is not Italy at all. Welcome to a direct, informal, natural culture.

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