Breaking The Ice: How To Make Friends In Norway Without Trying Too Hard

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Making friends with locals often ranks as one of the most challenging aspects of relocating to Norway, but there are ways to get acquainted with Norwegians. Based on years of experience, here are our top suggestions.

Moving to a new country can be a thrilling adventure, but it also comes with its fair share of challenges. One often brought up by newcomers to Norway is how difficult it can be to meet new people, moving beyond small talk and into the realms of friendship.

Norwegian friends at Trolltunga rock.
A group of Norwegian friends meet at Trolltunga.

It's fair to say that many new arrivals find the most in common with other people in the process of moving to Norway. That's made easier by attending Norwegian languages classes and language cafes, among other events.

Of course, there's a lot to be said for making the most of the shared experiences, but there is a risk that you'll only be making friends with fellow foreigners.

After a year or two, you might find yourself living in an “expat bubble” (a social circle consisting mostly of fellow expatriates), and that's one sure-fire way to struggle to integrate.

Making friends in Norway

People in Norway are known for their reserved nature, and many foreigners claim it's almost impossible to make local friends. But is that true, or is it one of the many classic Norwegian stereotypes that needs to be challenged?

The reality is that making friends as an adult in any country is not as easy as when we were children. Norwegian adults are often very comfortable with their friendship groups and it can take time to break through.

Norwegian reservedness can often be misinterpreted as rudeness. Perhaps that's the case with some people, but for many, they are just keeping themselves to themselves. Once you crack the surface, you'll often find a warm and loyal friend.

Norwegian locals outside at the weekend. Photo: David Nikel.
Embracing the outdoors is key for getting to know Norwegians. Photo: David Nikel.

So, how do you bridge the gap from outsider to insider without trying too hard? Here are some invaluable tips to help you navigate the complicated social waters of Norway.

Embrace the great outdoors

Norwegians have a deep-rooted love for nature, and many social activities for locals are centred around outdoor life. To understand more about why, read our article on ‘friluftsliv'.

This is even true at work, where you might find cabin trips and skiing events forming part of the workplace social program. Joining such events are excellent ways to meet people with similar interests, while at the same time learning very ‘Norwegian' activities.

Understand the social norms

Norwegians value personal space and can be more introverted when it comes to making new friends. It's important not to take this personally and get comfortable with the social norms in Norway.

Instead, appreciate the slower pace at which relationships are formed here. It's not about trying too hard; it's about giving things time to develop naturally. If you're in Norway for the long haul, it will happen in time.

Attend language cafes

Of course, learning the language is a gateway to understanding the culture and people. We already mentioned that making friends at language classes is relatively easy, but those friends will of course be fellow foreigners.

However, language cafes are a different scene, offering a relaxed environment where locals and foreigners can exchange language skills, with locals practicing English or other languages while you practice Norwegian.

Cup of coffee in a Norway cafe. Photo: David Nikel.
Language cafes are great ways to meet new people. Photo: David Nikel.

English is the default, of course, but if your native language is Spanish, German, or another popular language, you might find yourself in demand at such events. These exchanges can lead to genuine connections and give you a chance to meet a diverse group of people.

Get Involved in local communities

Whether it's a sports club, a choir, a dance class, or a volunteer organisation, getting involved in the community is a surefire way to meet locals. Norwegians are passionate about community and civic engagement, and they welcome those who take a genuine interest in becoming part of the collective.

Over the years, many foreigners have told us that volunteering in Norway has been the biggest single thing they've done to integrate and feel accepted in their new communities.

Be yourself

This might seem obvious, but it's worth mentioning. Authenticity goes a long way in forming friendships. Norwegians are straightforward and appreciate honesty, so be yourself and the rest will follow.

Leverage social media and apps

In the digital age, making friends often starts online. But it doesn't have to stay online.

Use social media platforms like Facebook to find local groups with shared interests. Websites like meetup.com can also be a great resource for finding nearby social gatherings that you otherwise might miss.

Don't just wait for an invitation

If you wait for a Norwegian to invite you over, you might be waiting a long time—not because they don't want to, but because it's just not in their nature to be overly forward.

Inside Jordal Amfi hockey arena.
Taking up new hobbies or sports is a good way of meeting Norwegian locals.

Invites into homes tend to come a lot later in the stage of friendships in Norway. Instead, take the initiative and invite your colleagues or neighbours for a coffee or a waffle. Just be sure to keep it casual.

Embrace Norwegian celebrations

Join in on Norwegian celebrations like 17th of May (Norway's National Day), or the traditional ‘julebord' (Christmas parties). These are the times when Norwegians are at their most sociable.

They are great opportunities to join in the fun and meet new people. If you make it known you're keen to join in the national day, you might even score an invite to a 17th of May breakfast get-together.

Enjoy the silence

Silence is a part of communication in Norway and is not something to be uncomfortable with. For some people though, that's easier said than done.

Embrace it, and you'll start to notice the unspoken camaraderie that comes from simply being together with others, enjoying the peace of your surroundings.

Be patient

Friendships in Norway might take longer to form, but they are often built to last. Show your willingness to understand and respect Norwegian culture, and your patience will likely be rewarded with friendships that are deep and enduring.

In conclusion, making friends in Norway is about respect, blending in with local customs, being patient, and not being afraid to take the first step.

Norwegians might seem tough to get to know at first, but persevere and you'll be rewarded. Just remember, when it comes to friendship, it's the quality, not the quantity, that truly matters.

How have you found the process of making friends in Norway? Do you have some additional tips for us? We'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments, below.

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Sometimes, more than one person in the Life in Norway team works on a story. This was one of those times!

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