Norwegians Don’t Talk to Strangers


Most who come and visit our land of fjords, mountains and snow, experience at some level that we don’t do well at striking up conversations with strangers. Merely saying “Hi!” to somebody you pass on the street, is not conform behavior. Talk to a stranger on the bus, and she or he may get up and sit somewhere else. Ever got stuck next to a Norwegian on a plane? You would be lucky to get more than a few syllables in reply. Do not take this personally. We tend to be a tad reclusive – even with fellow Norwegians. Even in the city, or just in public. With strangers.

Granted, once you get to know one of us, we are enthusiastic, engaging and caring. But not if you are a stranger. I believe we may have taken the advice from our parents, “Don’t talk to strangers!” to heart a little bit too much…

There are however, five exceptions to this rule:

1) The 17th of May – our Constitution Day.
This is a day that is best described as kid-friendly, or even kid-centric. This is a day we enjoy being dressed in our finest clothes, singing our national anthem, waving our flag, enjoying parades of children, games and good food – and on this merry occasion, Norwegians will smile to, and speak with complete strangers. Even if they don’t do so on the 16th or the 18th of May – watch the metamorphosis happen. Every year. Like clockwork. It is just a day we are happy.

2) Out on the fjord
Regardless of the size of your vessel, waving and shouting hello to perfect strangers make sense on the blue ocean, lake or river. It is almost an unwritten rule that you do. Something about nature and being outdoors make Norwegians more prone to engage people they don’t know in friendly conversation.

3) Skiing
See #2 above. This also applies to frozen water. Also known as snow and ice. Badinage is acceptable, even encouraged. You say hello to strangers in the cross country tracks, and even talk with people you don’t know on the ski-lift.

4) Hiking
Once again, nature and Norwegians combined, make for a more outgoing mode of conduct. We greet people we don’t know when we are out on a stroll or hike in the woods, on a mountain or moor.

5) Norwegians abroad
If two Norwegians who are strangers to each other find themselves outside of Norway, and more particularly outside of Scandinavia, they will banter like old friends.)

Conclusion: Come see us in our natural habitat: the great outdoors. Or pretend to be a Norwegian when you see us in your parts of the world. We’ll be at our best. And we’ll even talk to strangers.

A. Christian Karlsson
A. Christian Karlsson is half Swedish, half Norwegian; and spent his childhood in Sweden, Norway and Belgium. He also lived in the United States for five-and-a-half years. A few of his titles include: father, husband, Latter-day Saint (Mormon), member of the PTA, Chair for the chapter of his alumni, and Corporal of the National Guard (Heimevernet). Christian is also an avid Mac-user, a decent bass, and a seasoned freelance simultaneous interpreter. He is fluent in four languages. He skis, reads, doodles and cooks. And sometimes, he blogs.

Most of his career has been in the fields of international marketing and leadership. Presently, he is the Director of Sales and Marketing for a Nutraceutical company. He serves as the Vice Chair for the Board of the Association of Herbal Manufacturers in Norway.

He earned his bachelor's degree in Communications with a Public Relations Emphasis, and his MBA, Marketing Major, from Brigham Young University.
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0 Responses to Norwegians Don’t Talk to Strangers

  1. Bryn August 9, 2010 at 8:58 am #

    As a Welsh man who has lived in Norway for a year I think what you have said is so true, but only in regards to Norwegians who live in cities, head out of the city and talk to a Norwegian and you can’t shut them up, they are so friendly abdyou know when you have got their interest when they buy you a beer. I would recommend that everyone should visit this country, at least once.

  2. Dan M August 10, 2010 at 6:03 am #

    Very interesting glimpse into the culture. My grandfather is 100% Norwegian, and he did tend to be quite reserved unless he was skiing or hiking.

    I’m excited for future posts.

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