Like any other nationality, Norwegians have their own set of stereotypes that are often associated with them. Some people think that all Norwegian people are blond and blue-eyed, and that they live in a log cabin in the middle of nowhere, only eating fish and planning their next Viking raid (on skis, of course). But is any of this really true?
In this article, we will explore some of the most common Norwegian stereotypes and find out if they are fact or fiction!
Most common Norwegian Stereotypes
1. All Norwegians are tall
This is one Norwegian stereotype that definitely has some truth to it! The average Norwegian is indeed tall, with men measuring in at 179.74cm (just over five feet ten inches) tall, while Norwegian women are, on average, 165.56cm (just over five feet five inches) tall.
However, Norwegians aren’t actually the tallest people in the world. They’re not even the tallest people in Scandinavia!
Find out more: Average Height in Norway (And Why Are Norwegians So Tall?)
2. All Norwegians are blond-haired and blue-eyed
This is probably the most common Norwegian stereotype. And yes, a lot of Norwegians are indeed blond-haired and blue-eyed. But that doesn’t mean that all of them are! There is a wide variety in Norwegian looks, just like in any other country.
However, it’s true that there are more blond people in Scandinavia than the rest of the world – and the list of the most famous Norwegian actors certainly show there’s no shortage of good looking people in this country!
One theory for this is that those with fairer looks are better at absorbing vitamin D. Given the lack of sunlight in northern Europe, humans naturally evolved over time in that region to be lighter overall to be able to take in the relatively lower amounts of vitamin D available compared to the rest of the world.
(Some people also say it’s because the Vikings raided the British Isles and took all the blonde and red-haired women back to Scandinavia, but that seems less likely to have influenced the population in such a way.)
3. Norwegians only eat fish
Norwegian seafood is world-renowned, and for good reason! Norwegian waters (especially those off all those beautiful Norwegian islands) are teeming with delicious fish, and Norwegians know how to cook it up in a variety of ways. For example, some typical Norwegian dishes include rakfisk (fermented fish), lutefisk (dried whitefish), and gravlaks (marinated salmon).
But saying Norwegians only eat fish is really not true. For one thing, not all Norwegians live near the sea or even like fish. Inland, you’re just as likely to find Norwegian dishes made with beef, pork, or chicken. And of course, there are vegetarian and vegan options as well.
So there may be an element of truth to this Norwegian stereotype (which may be a good thing, given that Norway has ranked number 1 on the Human Development Index, which largely measures whether people are having a long and healthy life), but don’t visit Norway expecting to only eat fish for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Norwegian food may not be as spicy as some other cuisines, but that doesn’t mean it’s bland! Norwegian cuisine actually has a lot of variety and flavor. So, if you’re ever in Norway and looking for a unique Norwegian dining experience, you’ll definitely be able to find one!
4. It’s always snowing in Norway
If you’re expecting to visit Norway to have a year-round Frozen experience, I’m sorry to tell you that this Norwegian stereotype is decidedly false. Norwegian winters can certainly be long and dark, with temperatures that hover around freezing. But it’s not always snowing!
In fact, in the southern parts of Norway, you’re just as likely to experience rain during winter as you are snow. And in the northern parts of the country, where it does tend to snow more often, they still have summer days. Actually, summers can be relatively warm, with the average maximum temperature in Oslo in July being 23°C (73°F), for example.
Related: When is Blueberry Season in Norway?
Even Svalbard up in the north doesn’t have anything close to snow year-round, with average temperatures in July being between 3°C and 7 °C (37°F to 45°F).
5. Polar bears roam the streets of Norway
This is another Norwegian stereotype is definitely not true! It’s believed that there are around 1,000 polar bears living in Norway, with about 300 of these located in Svalbard, which is above the Arctic Circle.
Sure, you may have heard stores of polar bears approaching humans, primarily in or near Svalbard. They’re curious creatures and climate change means that ever increasingly smaller amounts of sea ice are available for them to live and hunt, meaning they do encounter humans from time to time.
(You’re actually advised to take a gun with you when leaving Svalbard because of the risk, even though polar bears are a protected species.)
But don’t expect to visit Oslo or Bergen and bump into a polar bear. Those cities are literally thousands of miles from the polar bear’s natural habitat, so it would have to be seriously, seriously lost to end up there.
6. All Norwegians are rich
Norwegian salaries are among the highest in the world, and Norway is regularly ranked as one of the countries with the best quality of life. But of course, not all Norwegians are rich.
There is a wide range of incomes in Norway, just like in any other country. And while Norwegian living standards are high (you can see how much are houses in Norway as a good indicator of that), so are Norwegian taxes!
At the same time, Norway’s sovereign wealth fund is the biggest in the world thanks to effective management of the country’s gains from selling oil and gas. This means that, theoretically, every Norwegian is actually a millionaire. That’s not to say that the money in the fund are being divided up between everyone anytime soon, as the goal is to keep it invested for future generations.
But it’s a good indicator that while Norwegians may not be rich, it’s also definitely not a poor country, especially compared to the rest of the world.
7. Norwegians are (emotionally) cold
Another one of the more (supposedly) well known Norwegian personality traits that people seem to throw around is that Norwegian people can be just as cold as the Norwegian winters in which they live.
This can be a little bit harder to counter, as it’s much more subjective than some of the others. Will Norwegians immediately engage in a super chatty, very open discussion as soon as you meet them? Unlikely. But this absolutely shouldn’t be seen as them being rude, with Norwegians as a whole being very polite.
It’s probably fair to say that, as a culture, people in Norway are more reserved than others you’ll find, especially compared to, say, southern Europeans. But I have to say that, in my experience, Norwegians are very nice people, with quite a dry sense of humor that you may mistake as them being serious – until you catch the twinkle in their eye.
8. Norwegians are rednecks
Like most areas of the world, the countries of Scandinavia like to tell jokes about each other. And the one you often hear about Norwegians is that they’re all rednecks who do nothing but live in the country and go fishing.
And if that were true, who could blame them! The Norwegian outdoors is spectacular and it’s true that Norwegians do enjoy outdoor activities like hunting, hiking and, yes, fishing. They may even do that from their cabin in the forests or perched on the edge of a mountain
But it’s a stretch to agree with this Norwegian stereotype entirely. In fact, Norway is regularly ranked as one of the most progressive and inclusive countries in the world – the opposite of the country bumpkin idea that some people (ahem, Denmark and Sweden) like to push.
9. Norwegians ski everywhere
In the winter in some areas of Norway, you can actually see people skiing to work or school after a particularly heavy snowfall. Check out this video of Oslo for proof!
However, while Norwegian stereotypes would have you believe that getting ready for work involves strapping on some skis, it’s absolutely not the case. Like the rest of the world, people commute by car or public transport – or even by bike, with most major Norwegian cities having plenty of bike lanes throughout.
At the same time, Norway is definitely a world leader in skiing. In fact, some of the world’s most famous Norwegians are skiers because of their success on the world stage. So like most stereotypes, there may be a slight element of truth here!
10. Norwegians drink a lot (as there’s nothing else to do)
Like other Scandinavian countries, Norwegians love a drink, that’s no secret. But statistics show that it’s not at a higher rate than other countries – if anything, the rate of consumption of alcohol in Norway is well below many other European countries.
Of course, most Norwegians wouldn’t turn down a small glass of aquavit (or akevitt in Norwegian) on a special occasion. Want to know how to offend Norwegians? Don’t join in a round of saying “skål” when the drinks start circling.
They also certainly enjoy a good beer or glass of wine while enjoying the beautiful Norwegian summer! But this image of them being perpetually drunk can be put firmly into the “false” column.
11. Norwegians only wear one type of sweater
Have you ever seen a sweater like this in any movie showing Norway, or even Scandinavia more generally?
This is considered a typical Norwegian design and is definitely a staple in the Norwegian wardrobe, with many Norwegian brands producing variations of this. But contrary to popular belief, not all Norwegians only wear one type of sweater!
While the traditional Norwegian sweater is definitely a favorite among many, there are plenty of other styles of clothing that are popular here as well. In fact, I’d say you’re more likely to find people dressed all in black than wearing this sweater – even if most Norwegians would be happy to pull this out for their post-skiing drink.
12. Black metal is huge in Norway
Norwegian black metal is definitely a thing and it’s one of the most popular genres of music here. But Norwegian heavy metal is not just limited to black metal. There are plenty of other heavy metal subgenres that are popular in Norway as well.
But more importantly, radio stations and music charts in Norway are full of exactly the kind of thing you hear in most western countries these days. Pop, R&B and light rock are far more popular than black metal – even if Norway has exported this metal image pretty successfully.
13. It’s dark for the whole of winter in Norway
Norwegian winters are notoriously dark, but that doesn’t mean it’s dark for the whole winter! In fact, Norwegian winters are actually pretty bright, especially when reflecting off snow. The days may be shorter, but the sun still shines for a good part of the day.
That said, some parts of Norway do have what’s called the “polar night”. That’s when the sun doesn’t rise for a few weeks over winter, although this occurs exclusively in the Polar Circle in the far north of Norway. You can find this in places like Tromsø, the Lofoten Islands, Longyearbyen (Svalbard), North Cape and Hammerfest.
14. Norwegian houses look like ski chalets full of Ikea furniture
Norwegian houses definitely have a unique style, but they’re not all chalet-style buildings. In fact, you’ll find the vast majority of houses in Norway to be pretty standard to what you’d find in other countries, with a lot of detached houses but also apartment buildings, especially in bigger cities.
They’re also not full of Ikea furniture! Putting aside for the moment the fact that Ikea is Swedish, not Norwegian, while many Norwegian homes do have some Ikea pieces, it’s not the only type of furniture you’ll find here. Norwegian houses come in all shapes and sizes and are furnished with a variety of different styles of furniture.
15. Norwegians aren’t ever romantic
Norwegian stereotypes would have you believe that Norwegians are never romantic, but that’s definitely not the case! While Norwegian culture may not be as openly romantic as some other cultures, there are still plenty of romantic Norwegian gestures. Just take a look at some of the Norwegian wedding traditions as proof of that!
At the same time, Norway is a very egalitarian society and it’s very common for, say, couples to split the bill at a restaurant. You’ll also see this around the home, as Norwegians wouldn’t blink an eye at a woman doing repair work or a man cooking dinner.
This doesn’t mean there’s a lack of romance, but there is a sense of practicality and reason involved in any relationship – which makes for a pretty calming existence in a partnership, if you really think about it!
16. Norwegians are always happy
Every year when those “happiest country in the world” indexes are released, it’s almost always a Scandinavian country on top. In 2017, that was Norway. And while they may have slightly dropped over the years, Norway and its fellow Scandinavian countries alwars rank very highly.
So does that mean that this Norwegian stereotype is 100% true? Again, this is pretty subjective (some experts don’t even agree with how this index is measured) and at least from my own perspective, I’d perhaps word it more than Norwegians are “satisfied”.
After all, they have a beautiful country that’s safe, politically stable, economically solid and with a strong safety net providing high quality education, healthcare and more. What’s not to like?
17. Norwegians are socialists
Certain politicians in certain countries throw around phrases like “Scandinavia is a socialist paradise” as some sort of insult or fear mongering tactic – or even using it in a positive light as something to aspire to.
I’m not going to enter into a huge discussion about what socialism actually is. In brief, though: Norway is actually a capitalist society (you don’t all become millionaires without that!) with an extremely strong welfare system and a high rate of unionization.
This system is often referred to as the Nordic model and while you could write an entire economics thesis about it, let’s just say that no, Norway is not a socialist society.
18. Norwegians are all Vikings
Norwegians may be descended from Vikings, but the days of raids throughout Europe are long gone. The closest thing you’ll see is perhaps a group of young Norwegians “raiding” a ski resort in Austria or France.
Instead, the calm, polite, friendly Norwegian personality traits that the people of this country are now known for are far from how you’d typically picture a Viking – even after a few drinks.
19. Norwegians are boring
Now this is the worst, least true Norwegian stereotype of the lot! As I’ve covered, Norwegians can be a bit reserved in general – but you absolutely shouldn’t mistake this as being boring.
Want to go hiking and camping for the weekend or, in the cooler months, head out for an epic ski trip? Grab your nearest Norwegian and get out there.
Or is your idea of a good night pouring a glass of wine and discussing the issues of the day? Don’t worry, a Norwegian will be there for you in full force.
Sure, you usually won’t get the extroverted traits that you see as the norm in other cultures. But boring? Well, nei to that.