A love for the outdoors is an aspect of the Norwegian spirit aptly represented by one of their untranslatable expressions: ‘Friluftsliv’. As we’ve explained before here on Life in Norway, this means free, air, life, illustrating the cultural embrace of nature and any type of venture into it.
Magnificent landscapes lure natives and newcomers alike onto its trails or their skis, the latter an essential part of Norwegian lifestyle. Snow is therefore prized, while simultaneously trivial as a typical meteorological feature.
The lack of much diversity in weather or temperature has not stopped but rather contributed to encouraging its people into proudly creating their own habits and traditions, some of which may seem strange to the rest of the world. Those who wish to join the existing 724,987 immigrants as of 1 January 2017, accounted for in Statistics Norway, have many surprises to look forward to and ideally prepare for.
Snow and ice swimming
These are pastimes-turned-sports usually recognised by other sympathetic countries like Canada or Russia. In the first case, you put on a swimsuit – or not – and roll through the snow. The other is a matter of diving into frozen water. No more that 8-10 minutes is the safest length of time, a rule sometimes defied by enthusiasts, for whom competitions, such as the International Ice Swimming Association’s (IISA) Ice Mile, are created.
The Telegraph summarises the development of cold-water swimming in the United Kingdom, mentioning locations and organisations, like the Serpentine Swimming Club and Tooting Bec Lido, where one might practise for a future dip in the crueller Norwegian waters.
As the term suggests, when there is no snow or you cannot get to it, there is the option of rolling down the road in skis instead. Thanks to its popularisation as a competitive sport in the 1970s, the establishment of the European Roller Ski Federation in 1985 and various subsequent championships, the activity reportedly has a presence in the UK too.
The London Region Nordic Ski Club and Aberdeenshire’s Huntly Nordic and Outdoor Centre are some of the places where assistance can be found. If only to make an impression to the Scandinavian originators of this and most things ski-related, some training would be advisable and enjoyable – not to mention physically beneficial, as The Telegraph notes it improves balance, core stability and muscular endurance.
Cow pat bingo
Among the many things being done differently in Norway, casinos and their games, including slot machines and lotto, have enjoyed their distinctive road to popularity, but bingo can boast of a particularly strange variation. Cow Pat Bingo, as The Local explains it, is known in Norwegian as kuskit bingo and the rules are more or less the same as regular bingo… except for the tiny detail that two well-fed cows, fenced into an area marked off in 64 squares, pick the winning numbers by defecating on them.
The likelihood of attending such an increasingly fashionable event, often used for fundraising purposes, is high, so playing some games of chance is not a bad idea. Real-life bingo halls can help, as can online providers like Betway Casino where, alongside online game staples from blackjack to slots, one can find bingo variants Super Bonus Bingo and Pharaoh Bingo games. Be warned, though, once you have experienced the cow version of bingo, you may never want to go back.
Also known as Viking Chess, the outdoor game of Kubb is easy to learn and quite addictive, ideal for a day of good weather and friends. It is a combination of the principles of Horseshoes or Quoits – opportune methods to practise precise throwing – with those of chess, all that are required are wooden blocks and a clear, flat rectangular area, the short sides meant for each of two teams.
The rules: a large block, the ‘King’, sits in the centre of the pitch. Five more blocks, the ‘kubbs’, are placed along the baseline of each team. They take turns at throwing six batons at the opposing team’s kubbs, those knocked over claimed and deposited as new targets that must be dispatched before the baseline kubbs can be attempted again. Once all kubbs are knocked over, the King can be targeted. The team that fells him first wins. Simple, right? Now, how is that throwing arm? If you need a little bit of help, Tactic Games has released a Kubb Game Tracker for Android.
The Påskekrim, ‘Easter crime’, is a tradition begun in 1923 by a clever publishing house called Gyldendal, which launched an advertising campaign for a crime novel, ‘Bergen Train Looted in the Night’ by Nordahl Grieg and Nils Lie, just before Easter. Initially mistaken for an actual crime, the book became a raging success and a part of history. Why not stock up on whodunits or even get them in Norwegian as language practice?
It is Christmas, however, that possesses the most interesting differences with the UK. Seven different types of sweets are baked, requiring so much butter that extreme stockpiling in 2011 caused a Scandinavian shortage crisis. Dancing in a hand-linked circle around the Christmas tree or the bowl of porridge left out for the fjøsnisse, gnome-like creatures that bring luck if pleased and mischief if not, are accompanied by the Julebukk, costumed carollers going trick-or-treating for mandarins and sweets – and schnapps. Little preparation required here. Just enjoy the festivities. And make a head start on butter-gathering.
Absorbing as much information as possible about one’s future home is wise yet challenging and daunting, even more so if it is in an entirely different country. The culture shock cannot be avoided, only anticipated and appreciated for the rewards of such a world-changing experience.