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Packing for University in Norway

Clothing in Norway

Whether you’re a one-year folkehøgskole student, a student spending a semester abroad, or an international student starting a degree in Norway, you’ll likely be wondering what to pack for your time in Scandinavia. This may be especially true if you come from an area with a vastly different climate (I’m from San Diego).

If you’ve flown domestically in the United States like me, then you are used to the 50-pound check-on limit. Unfortunately, the standard check-on bag on Norwegian Airlines and other European Airlines is approximately 44 pounds (20 kilos) so get ready to jam everything you can into your suitcase!

Pro Tip: Place your heavier items in your carry-on but leave it with a friend when you go up to the counter to check in so they won’t see it and weigh it. There are no scales at the gate so as long as your bag is small enough you can usually get away with some extra pounds.

Here are my tips and suggestions for what to bring for a semester in Norway.

1. Warm clothing

Unless you are only spending the months of May-September in Southern Norway, you are going to need some pretty warm clothes. Most Norwegians wear wool in the winter, as it is the best fabric at keeping you warm. I am allergic to wool, and often wear long underwear or thermals under my clothing in place of a wool sweater.

Pro Tip: Wear your heaviest jacket on the plane even if you’re flying there in the summer. You may look silly at the airport but it’s a much better alternative to taking up half the space in your suitcase! For extra space I also stashed gloves and a hat in the jacket pockets!

Warm clothing

2. Waterproof shoes

A basic pair of black boots that can be worn with multiple outfits and in all sorts of weather are indispensible. With limited room in your suitcase, you won’t want to bring any shoes that can only be worn with a select few outfits.

3. Outdoor/Athletic clothing

Many universities offer programs for international students to participate in. My university did a fun and completely free trip to Kongsberg to go skiing one weekend. I ended up having to borrow snow pants since I didn’t think I would be participating in any outdoor sports prior to arrival. Cross-country skiing is hard enough to pick up even if you’re not wearing pants three sizes too large! Norwegians are also quite active so bringing workout clothes is a must in order to join friends on hiking excursions.

4. A never-been-worn pair of gym shoes

If you plan on working out at a gym in Norway, you’ll need to bring a pair of shoes specifically for the gym. This surprised me, as in the United States you walk into the gym in your shoes. In Norway you must change into your workout shoes in the entry hall as they will not allow you to wear shoes inside the gym that have been worn outside.

5. Formal clothing

I’ve found that going out to parties is often a bit more formal than in the states. Men usually wear button down shirts with dress pants and perhaps even ties and a sports jacket. Tip for girls: bring a black dress! Norwegian girls wear black dresses to parties 99% of the time. While I don’t mind being a bit different with my style on a day-to-day basis, being the only girl at a party in a colored dress isn’t the most comfortable feeling in the world (I speak from experience).

Formal clothing Norway

6. Your favorite sweets

If you have room in your suitcase, make sure to bring your favorite candies from home. The employee at REMA 1000 looked at me like I was crazy when I asked if they had peanut butter M&M’s. In addition to not having the full selection of sweets you may be used to, the price of candy is a lot higher!

7. Prescriptions

Many places in Norway will not accept prescriptions from outside of the country. To prevent having to get a new prescription from a Norwegian doctor, request a vacation amount of all prescriptions from your home pharmacy before you go.

What not to bring

Sweatpants. I’m looking at you, Americans! Norwegians dress more formal than Americans and you will not see them in sweatpants, even in class.

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About the Author: Kelsey Barnhill

Originally from the US, Kelsey is a Masters student at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences. She writes the blog Mastering Norway.

10 Comments

  1. Useful entry for students, Kelsey. With regards to wool allergy, I don’t know whether you have a tested allergy, or whether, like me, you simply can’t stand the itchiness. In the latter case, I would absolutely recommend trying one of the modern merino wool or wool-blend garments that can be bought in Norway – I have revised my attitude completely in recent years and now wear a thin microfiber next to my skin, merino middle layer, and a thick wool sweater outer layer. There’s a pretty good chance most young women will like Kari Traa garments – try borrowing one first, maybe?
    Dressing up for parties is interesting for an American, and as a student one doesn’t immediately see the other side of the coin, that the dress code for work is usually *very* relaxed, which I really like.

    1. Thanks for the input Pete, hopefully it will help someone else out! I, unfortunately am actually allergic and cannot even wear a wool blend. It certainly would make getting dressed in the winter easier! I’ve definitely noticed that job interviews and work attire tend to be more casual here than in the states but to me school and parties are quite a bit more formal. Thanks for the comment!

  2. Hi Kelsey, I enjoy reading your story since I am a Norwegian who has lived in the United States for many years. I wish you good luck and hope you enjoy your time in Norway. Please don’t worry about what you wear at parties and if you are different from the rest of the girls. What I find here in the USA is that people will embrace that you don’t follow the norm, wear you colorful dress and be yourself. Most people will love you no matter what, and those who don’t…shame on them. Have fun and be yourself.

    Tove xxx

  3. Hello
    What happens if we bring more than 20 kg?! I’ve never travelled before.
    Do you suggest to bring laptops and books?!

    1. Hello Alenush,

      You can always pay to bring a second bag or pay extra for an overweight bag. I would definitely say to bring your laptop and maybe a few books. I brought 2 and have plans to just use the library and buy my textbooks here. Hope this helps!

  4. Hi Kelsey!

    I am from Arizona, with a Norwegian boyfriend as well, and I am looking at getting my master’s degree in Norway starting in 2019. I was wondering if I could email you with questions regarding how the application process was for apply to the master’s program, if/how you get financial aid or afforded to visa, etc? My email is [email protected]

    Thank you!

    Hannah

  5. Hi Kelsey!

    I recently visited Oslo and fell in love with Norway in general (I did as much as I could in 2 days).

    I’m wondering what the general consensus is for young people during the summertime. My friends and I are all around 23-25, and would love to come back in the summer. I know that lots of families have little houses on the islands in the Oslofjord, and some on the hills surrounding the water. I think I also heard that people go to the beach and hang out in Bygdoy. But I wondered what young people do during summer time in Norway? Do people rent houses in the West in the fjords, or Bergen? Just looking to plan a revisit trip!

    Thanks so much.

    1. Hi Imogen,

      All Norwegians, including young people take advantage of the few warm months during the summer. Many do rent cabins for the weekend or travel to their family’s cabins to enjoy the weather. During the summer my boyfriend and I like to take the boat out and sail to small islands to have picnics! There will still be plenty going on in the cities during the summer but expect a lot of outdoor activities! I haven’t travelled to the West or Bergen during summers but that doesn’t mean a lot haven’t! If I were you, I would think about going to Stavanger in the summer and taking advantage of the sun to hike Trolltunga and Preikestolen (hitting Kjeragbolten if you dare)!

      Best,

      Kelsey

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