Norway Is a great country, let there be no mistake about that. However as an American, certain aspects and things, just as any other country I'm sure, have really taken some getting used to. After a lot, and I mean A LOT of trial and error, I feel I have finally perfected my knowledge on things not to do in Norway. After a year now living abroad in this country of Scandinavia, whether coming to live, or simply coming to visit, I'm going to spill the beans and give you a bit of advice. Here are my top things you Do Not want to do while visiting Norway.
1. NEVER ask for ice in your fountain drink soda at any fast food chain here.
I am most definitely not your usual fast food junkie, but every now and again, there is nothing better than treating yourself with that McDonald's classic cheeseburger and ice packed perfectly carbonated Diet Coke you've been looking forward to all month. Thats all great except one thing...There is no ice! I made the mistake a couple of times of asking for ice in my just ordered Fountain soda. Wow, after witnessing the poor cashiers scrambling to first understand why I would ask for ice, then quickly turning into frantic mode as she/he set off to find the ice...I would kindly smile and say "Nevermind, but thank you." As much as I wanted my ice cold Diet Coke, I was going to have to settle for room temperature. I couldn't bare to see the poor employee almost have to shut down the entire store on a mission to find my ice in panic mode. I guess it is an American thing, and needless to say, I do miss my occassional fountain Diet coke....Now, excuse me while I shed a few tears...
2. Do not EVER try and make conversation with a perfect stranger.
I promise you, this will be just as awkward for you, as it is them. Norwegians are known for being this way. Although great people, they avoid small talk at all costs. Whereas in the states it's perfectly normal to make small talk in an elevator, or on a bus, etc. here, it can be done, but be prepared to get a few awkward looks and stares. haha. You can Imagine How much of a change this was for me, as not only am I an outgoing American, but I am one of probably THE most outgoing American's. Yeah, I'm sure my Norwegian boyfriend really appreciates this one. whoops! Although, I've had good luck this far, this is a change that has really took some time to get used to. But, no worries. I've still stayed true to my overly American ways and continue to smile when a smile is due.
3. Do not ask for extra sides or toppings and not expect to pay.
Norway is one of the most expensive and wealthy countries in the world and it shows with every menu item and topping ordered at any restaurant. I once had a friend even tell me (also an American living here in Norway) that at her local McDonalds outside of the city, they actually refused to fill her fountain drink above the line, leaving about two inches from the top, or else they would charge her. ahhh, every avid mcDonald lovers nightmare!....I've personally never had this issue, but if asking for extra aioli, or any extra sauce at all, no matter how large or little the portion, you better be willing to pay at least an additional two dollars..
4. Never expect AMAZING service at most restaurant's.
Other countries may not even notice a difference, but as an American coming from a country that strives on customer service, you can imagine what a change this was for me. While sitting at most restaurants, I can usually count on not being greeted right away, sometimes even ten minutes after sitting down. Of course, the higher scale of restaurant, the better the service. This is because, unlike the states, servers here make a salary, where as servers in America make their entire income off of their tips. You do have tipping here, usually about ten percent if it's good service, but its not required, or expected. This took some serious getting used to. Call me spoiled, but I do tend to like to get my beverage before my meal arrives at the table...
5. Do Not expect much meat when ordering a deli sandwich.
I remember the first time I ever ordered a sandwich from Paris on my way to the airport, baguette style it was, and in it was just a few slices of deli meat. Well, its the same story here, and I assume most, if not all of Europe. Although baguettes are great and I do enjoy them every now and then, I tend to make most of my sandwiches now at home. As an American, a sandwich in our mind consists of two slices of bread sandwiching a good size portion of some sort of deli meat or protein and usually some other goodies. It is just simply not the case here. If a carb loader is what you're after, then you hit the jackpot. But if this being your protein source of the day is what you are looking for, you might want to just go ahead and pack your own lunch! Seriously.
6. NEVER wave or smile at people you do not know....unless taking a hike.
I once heard someone say it so perfectly and I could not help but to applaud this perfectly put fact into words. I once heard someone say "Norwegians are the only culture where elevation completely changes their demeanour." haha. And it is so true. Don't get me wrong, Im lucky enough to have great friends and a great social circle here, and have had since day one...Thank GOD! But for your average Norwegian, do not expect to get a smile, wave or any notion that indicates that they are aware that you even exist...unless your hiking in the forest that is! While hiking in the forest you suddenly realize that everyone says hello, smiles, or even waves at your stranger self. Due to many Norwegian's being very outdoorsy people, They have and find their happy place within the nature, and once there, everyone then becomes friends! If friends is what you came here to make, then you better get to hiking....
7. Do NOT ever expect a free refill.
This one still makes me laugh pretty hard. I read once in a prior blog post about how Europeans think it's absolute insanity that we American's fill up on free refills of soda at just about any and every restaurant. Well as soon as you cross the borders, you can say goodbye to any glimpse of hope that free refills may exist. I now, after living here for a year also see that there is no way that can be normal, yet healthy. What are we doing? It is so true, Europeans really can't believe this, and I don't blame them. I now enjoy a coke zero when dining out and every so often at the house, but to understand how as a nation we got to the point of pumping soda basically through our veins, I'll never understand. I prefer to stick to my now 70% water to 30% Diet Coke or coffee ratio. Haha.
8. Do NOT expect to not eat Vaffel all the time.
Oh my gosh, I have never seen so much waffle in my life. Norwegians, I have come to learn, love "vaffel" (The norwegian word for waffle). You can expect to see vaffel everywhere. Gas stations, stands in the forest, stands out on the ski slopes, homes, food trucks, etc. Most commonly it is paired with Brun Ost, (a special kind of Norwegian cheese) which I've grown to really like, and jam. But it doesn't stop there.... it can be eaten as more of a meal, topped with chicken, salad, pork if you prefer and pickled cabbage, if you can name it, you can find it on a vaffel here. If shrimp and waffle is your thing, I'm pretty sure you're going to love Norway. Vaffel for every meal..no syrup needed or necessary, Norwegians prefer the jam and Ost. Me.....I still like my syrup!
So now that I've completely paved the path for you, abide by these little tid bits of advice and you should get by pretty okay on your trip to Norway...well, Oslo at least!
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