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Norwegian Russ – Silly Season is Here

Those new to Norway will notice some bizarre sights between now and 17th May:

  • Teenagers lounging around the place wearing coloured (usually red) overalls
  • Party buses cruising the roads playing bass-heavy music
  • Fountains full of washing-up liquid

It's all part of Norway's annual celebration for high school graduates – Russefeiring.

Rather than me as an outsider try to explain russ, I've asked the real thing! This is Alex, an 18-year old graphic designer from Konsvinger:

“We have our graduation party the second last friday of april, to May 17 (The Norwegian Independence Day). High school graduates get “baptised” where we all round up at some predetermined location, and the city fire department dispatch a truck to hose us down with water. Then we put on the graduation costume. The graduation costume differs by your education.”

“The entire period between the graduation party and May 17 usually consists of mostly continuous partying, playing pranks on our old teachers, junior students, and parents, as well as driving around in vans in our designated colours with obscene markings written on them with spray cans and playing really loud music. It is also customary to take junior students hostage and dip them in water :D”

Norwegian Russ

Russ are easily identified by the distinctive coloured overalls, usually red, but sometimes black, blue, white or green depending on the graduate's area of study. For me one of the nicer traditions is the russekort (russ cards), collected by kids brave enough to ask for them. Last year I was enjoying a beer outside the Ullevaal Stadion when two kids came rushing up to me, eyes lit up, shouting “er du russ??” only to be disappointed when I had no cards to offer them.

It's all organised out in the open on Facebook and sites like Russ.no and Russen.no. As time ticks on, the parties get more raucous, the dares more daring, and the parents, well, they turn a blind eye and even fund the majority of it! (it takes a lot of kroner to pimp a russ buss, even by Norwegian standards…)

Norwegian Russ

I guess parents do this because russ is seen as an essential rite of passage for any young Norwegian – a chance to let off some steam after years of compulsory schooling before entering the “real world”. The celebrations culminate with the russ parade on the National Day, 17th May. That's if they can cope with their huge hangovers after the big final party on the night of the 16th!

Last but not least, the most irritating hallmark of russ… REALLY CRAP MUSIC:

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About the Author: David Nikel

Originally from the UK, David now lives in Trondheim and was the original founder of Life in Norway back in 2011. He now works as a freelance writer for technology companies in Scandinavia.

9 Comments

  1. Thanks david for the post. I see them every day and I wondered why they are all dressed like this. I didnt know what it is. I thought maybe a football team or a hokey team etc. But now I know. Well I would like to see the part when the fire department will wet them all. That would be fun….

  2. Hey! Thanks for the post 😀 it’s fun to see someone else describe this.
    as a russ myself, it’s even more fun since I know all the insanity is accepted! well, now I’m one of those who’d rather be crazy on public transport rather than an expensive bus (spending >80.000kr on this celebration isn’t exactly a good idea). Also, something to add to the post; all the crazy things we do is to get specific objects to tie in our hats on May 17th. We need two fellow russ to witness our doing any of those (russeknuter) in order for them to be valid, so don’t be surprised to see lots of russ in shopping carts at fast food drive-throughs.. other “knuter” include hugging a police officer, flirting with one’s teacher, giving a rose to a random, attractive stranger, drinking half a liter of beer/cider without using your hands or getting assistance, doing a poledance on public transport… and so on. it’s all crazy, sometimes nice (donating money to charity and food to beggars), but always fun. There’s an official list of those “knuter” on russenshovedstyre.no, and it changes every year, so the weird tricks change.
    Again, it’s fun 😀 Being surrounded by kids at least once a day, however….. not so much.

  3. This makes me miss my Russ time! It was such a good time, with memories I’ll never forget (like camping in our teachers garden without their knowledge, and then serve them breakfast before school the next morning). It is fun to read an ‘outsiders’ take on it, and you got it pretty right 🙂

  4. As a russ from the great year of 1984 (Russ ’84! Yeah!) I feel the need to give some perspective here … It might be that I’m getting older but it looks like being a russ becomes more expensive every year and filled with more russ activities than the year before. There are many commercial interest involved (organizers of parties etc.) that contributes to this. The whole logic of being russ also contributes to this snowball effect. Every year you will hear russ saying something like this: “This year I’m russ and it’s going to be the best russ season ever!”. And so it goes! This year’s russ will be a little bit louder and party somewhat harder than the russ last year. But I’m not complaining. I always travel abroad in the high season of Russ in mid-May.

    1. And (as a russ of ’13), there’s a sort of stigma related to spending money… If you don’t spend at least 5000,- on the celebration, you’re considered somewhat of a weirdo and, following that, an outsider. Despite the fact that lots of us don’t even drink, let alone want to go to those big, organized parties…

  5. Ahh, this post explains so much! I’m only in Norway for two months, and couldn’t figure what the deal was with all the teenagers in red overalls roaming in packs around the city on Saturday. I saw little kids approaching the teens and asking for something, but thought it was maybe candy. So glad to have come across your post — this makes way more sense than anything I would have been able to figure out on my own. 🙂

  6. I live right near a very large high school and the first morning catching the train I was a little perplexed. A lot of high school kids (around the world) have similar sorts of celebrations as graduation nears although perhaps not quite to the organized extent of russ. It seems crazy to me to be so early in the year – school hasn’t even ended yet!

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