Typically Norwegian

5 Fascinating Facts and Helpful Habits from Northern Norway

By Katie Gyltnes

After visiting Norway for the first time in 2012, and moving here permanently in 2018 I have learned a few things about the Northern Norwegian culture and way of life.

Want to learn more about Northern Norwegian culture? Here are some fun pointers:

1. There is never bad weather, only bad clothing!

This is a translation of a popular phrase here in Northern Norway, “Det finnes ikke dårlig vær, bare dårlige klær” which shows Northern Norwegian’s love of outdoor clothing and equipment. Here in Tromsø, it is never surprising to see people in the supermarket in full ski clothes, or running errands in their hiking boots having just come down from the mountain. Even small children in kindergarten will be dressed in their snowsuits and outside playing in mid-winter, as under all those layers they are super cosy, dry and warm!

This philosophy feeds into Norwegians love of nature and being outside

Norway even has a law called allemannsretten or “freedom of movement” which means that you may cross undeveloped private land without the consent of the owner. You can also camp there as well, provided that:

  • your tent is pitched 150 meters from buildings
  • you’re polite
  • it’s for one night only

2. Creating a cosy atmosphere is the best way to enjoy the ‘dark times’

In mid-winter when we enjoy almost 24hr darkness, there are a few things that Northern Norwegians do to make the best of this time:

  • Light candles! The more the better!
  • Get knitting
  • Visit your cabin (many Norwegians love to visit their cabins at the weekend. These cabins are often super basic, without electricity or running water, and offer an escape from city life)


3. The Colonel-in-Chief of the Norwegian King’s Guard is a King penguin

When I worked as a Zoo Keeper I actually got to look after the one and only Brigadier Sir Nils Olav. The regiment has actually adopted a penguin from Edinburgh Zoo since 1972, and Nils has been there since 2005 regularly taking part in the ‘Penguin Parade’ each day!

4. When something sucks Norwegians call it kjedelig, which translates to English as “boring.”

Now, I know this is more of a linguistic than cultural thing, but it’s actually sort of genius. Reframing something as ‘boring’ instead of ‘annoying’ or ‘unfair’, allows to to step back from it and stay calm. In a crisis, instead of freaking out, a Norwegian will just be all “ugh, that’s so boring.”

Give it a try! Start replacing your angry words with “boring” and watch your rage melt away!


sami woman in traditional clothing feeding herd of reindeer

woman in black driving husky dog team

5. In summertime, locals all travel to ‘syden’

A big part of Northern Norwegian culture, after getting through the polar night, is to look forward to soaking up the sunshine in ‘syden’. This is just the general term for ‘the south’, which includes Portugal, Spain, Turkey etc.

As a result we highly recommend our partners at Future Eco Surf. A sustainable surf school who enjoy the same philosophy as Arctic Adventure Tours. Experiencing authentic wilderness through surfing, which helps us reconnect and recharge with that vital energy of nature.

Supporting eco-friendly and sustainable businesses is the best way to preserve and continue enjoying the way that we experience the outdoors. With a whole itinerary of fun outdoor activities across the Algarve, Future Eco Surf is a company to watch!

Portrait of two friends high five with northern lights background

If you want to learn more about Northern Norwegian culture, I highly recommend this book: The Social Guidebook to Norway. Mondå Forlag’s accompanying blog is also very entertaining and informative.