The Infamous Harrytur

A Norwegian harrytur

The very Norwegian tradition of hopping over to Sweden to buy slightly cheaper booze.

Ah harrytur, or harryhandel, the great Norwegian tradition of driving, riding, flying, sailing, or whatever else, to another country in order to buy goods, namely alcohol, tobacco, and bacon, at a slightly cheaper price.

(Relax; I know this isn’t only a Norwegian tradition. Most countries have their version of harrytur too)

You can witness a miniature version of harrytur at any Norwegian airport if you’re flying internationally. As soon as you get through security or off the plane, you might see a little bit more hustle in the steps of the blonde haired people around you as they make a b-line straight for that glorious ‘Tax-Free’ zone for their candy, tobacco, and liquor needs.

Norway and Sweden friends

What does harrytur mean?

Directly translated Harrytur means Harry Trip. Harry is a term to generally describe something as unsophisticated, though it has a plethora of other definitions. But in the case of this article Harry means unsophisticated, of poor taste, less than classy, etc…

According to the Internet, the etymology of the word Harry comes from upper-class kids in Oslo calling their lower-class counterparts Harry. This came to be due to people in lower and middle classes giving their children English names, such as Harry, whereas upper-class kids got to be called Sven and stuff with more traditional Scandinavian names, with the occasional French or German name sprinkled here and there.

Where do you go?

Because geography, Sweden is the most common destination for Norwegians on a harrytur, but Denmark isn’t out of the question either. From many places in Norway, you can get to the border with Sweden in a relatively short time.

Norway Sweden map

Conveniently only a few meters shy of that border are massive shopping mall type structures filled with all the needs of the every day Norwegian. Imagine a warehouse-sized building filled with rows and rows of candy, and all around this building is a slew of state-run liquor stores, tobacco outlets, sporting goods and clothing stores.

How do you get there?

Harrytur can take many different forms.

A large portion of people will jam into a car with close friends or family. Traveling by car gives the added benefit of marveling at the higher speed limits and glorious wide highways that apparently start as soon as you cross the border.

A student’s version of harrytur might mean packing themselves onto one of the free buses that run from the universities. But don’t feel left out if you’re not a student, there are often busses that fulfill the same mission for us regular folk as well.

Road trip to Sweden

Given the amount of shopping a harrytur requires, taking a train across the border might be a little difficult, but if you’re just stocking up for a weekend, a rail driven harrytur could still be a viable option.

Plenty of ferries make the trip from South-eastern Norway and on into Sweden. You can also make a holiday out of it by hopping on the Danskebåten for a pseudo-cruise day-trip to Copenhagen. These boats run daily, take the trip in the morning, spend the day shopping, and jet back across the water in the afternoon.

Is it really that much cheaper?

Well, sort of. The majority of stuff will be marginally cheaper. Alcohol, for example, is always going to be a few kroner cheaper. The standard groceries such as meat and dairy products, and of course smågodt, will also be a tad cheaper. You can certainly save a pretty penny on some products such as tobacco.

But let's not forget that Norway is one of the most expensive countries on the planet, so spending money pretty much anywhere else makes it feel like you’re getting some great deals.

Tolls

Be wary all ye’ who go to Sweden and come back to Norway. There are laws that prescribe how much meat, dairy, alcohol, and tobacco you can bring back over the border.

Swedish border

Though these limits are still quite high, think twice before filling up the entire trunk of your car with spare ribs and beer. These limits are calculated per person, so one of the reasons why there are so many full cars crossing the borders on weekends and before holidays.

Harrytur is a good time

While the end goal is to save a few kroner on things you are going to be purchasing anyway, the reason many people go on a harrytur is simply that it is fun. Often times the cost of petrol and lunch at the infamous Max Burger offset the actual savings on the trip.

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About the Author: Bradley Kurtz

Bradley Kurtz in an American freelance writer living in Trondheim.

2 Comments

  1. Curious to know whether Norway offers much in the way of vegetarian cuisine? And what about organic foods? My son is very interested in moving there for university but he is a strict vegetarian and tries to eat mainly organic.

    Also, he is 21 and does not drink any alcohol. Is that socially acceptable there?

    Thank you.

    1. Jean, google vegetarian + country. You will find a wiki entry with vegetarianism by country. Their are many that are more vegetarian friendly than not! India 30-40%, wow!, imagine the flavors. Alcohol prohibitively expensive so probably not an issue. Which is good, in these winter countries people get bored and they will drink. They don’t want to encourage that.

      Great writeup on the blogpost.

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