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This Norwegian Island Wants to Get Rid of Time

Sommarøy island in northern Norway
Sommarøy. Photo: Jøran Mikkelsen.

The sun doesn’t set for 69 days over Norway’s Sommarøy. Locals now want to do away with ‘unnecessary’ time during that period.

Sommarøy locals want to go “time-free” for the summer by introducing more flexible school and working hours.

UPDATE: Innovation Norway has confirmed this story is a hoax. The misguided Pr stunt cost the Norwegian taxpayer half a million kroner. The Director has apologised.

Residents of the Island are pushing to remove traditional business hours and “conventional time-keeping” to make the most of their long summer days.

A small island in Troms

Sommarøy is located west of Kvaløya, the large island immediately to the west of Tromsø. It is connected to the mainland by a series of bridges. Driving to Sommarøy from Tromsø itself takes about one hour.

During the period 18 May to 26 July, the small population of 350 islanders enjoy the midnight sun, when the sun doesn’t dip below the horizon.

The midnight sun in Norway

The island’s economy is driven by fishing and tourism. It’s the latter that seems the driver of this quirky plan, given the publicity it has gained in the worlds media.

Sommarøy local Kjell Ove Hveding travelled to Oslo to present MPs with a petition signed by dozens of islanders. The signatories support the creation of a so-called “time-free zone”.

He was also planning to discuss any practical and legal obstacles. While he admits the plan sounds “a bit crazy”, he also says they are serious.

Making the most of time by doing without it

The concept of a time-free zone is simple. Getting rid of time would make the lives of residents easier during the endless summer days. Doing without clocks “is a great solution but we likely won’t become an entirely time-free zone as it will be too complex,” Hveding says.

“But we have put the time element on the agenda, and we might get more flexibility. The idea is also to chill out. I have seen people suffering from stress because they were pressed by time”, he says.

The bridge to Sommarøy covered in watches
Bridge to Sommarøy. Photo: Jøran Mikkelsen.

Despite wanting rid of it, time seems something of an obsession for islanders. The bridge to the island is covered not with padlocks, rather with watches.

Nothing but a publicity stunt

Critics of the plan (me included) have dismissed the petition as nothing more than a publicity stunt for the island’s tourism industry, including the local hotel.

Should such a plan ever be implemented, it will interesting to see how a Norwegian hotel deals with a guest expecting a three-course dinner at the time formerly known as 7am. Will they be told to come back later? How?

Still, the publicity stunt has worked and fair play to them for that! For a few days in June 2019, the world knew of Sommarøy.

“The widespread popularity of the initiative has gone far beyond our expectations. This is not a new concept to us. We merely want to formalize our island’s way of living. We don’t want to know what time it is, we want to have fun together and enjoy what the moment, the nature, and our community provides,” says Hveding.

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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.

3 Comments

  1. I wonder about the practicalities of carrying this out. The idea is delicious.
    Even if it were a “publicity stunt,” I love Norway all the more for putting the
    idea on the world mind. Leave it to Norway for innovation in freedom!

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