It can be difficult to make new friends in Norway, both for tourists, expats and even students who are moving to Norway for a semester. Norwegians tend to be a bit on the shy side and be difficult to get to know, and making new friends in Norway will definitely be challenging for most people.
Luckily, there are some tips and tricks you can use that will make it easier to get in touch with Norwegians and over time become friends with them. Let’s take a closer look at what it takes to make new friends in Norway.
The short summary is that friendship forms very slowly in Norway, and you need to be prepared to spend a long time period as acquaintances before you will become friends with a Norwegian. The best place to make new friends in Norway is in clubs or organizations.
What it takes to make friends in Norway
Many Norwegians are very shy and reserved, and making new friends can seem impossible for outgoing Americans and other who are used to just chatting up people on the bus or in bars. Norwegians often tend to have a group of friends they meet before becoming adults, and tend to be not that open when it comes to making new friends.
There are of course a lot of exceptions, but this is still what you should be expecting when coming to Norway.
The best method to make new friends in Norway would be to be a bit forthcoming. You need to be active with inviting for stuff, not waiting around and hope to get invited. If you wait around for friendships to magically appear, you will likely end up disappointed.
It is pretty common for Norwegians to keep work and private life separated, so you might not really get to make new friends at your work place. Some might not even want co-workers as Facebook friends. Again, there are plenty of exceptions, and it often depends a bit on the type of work place.
Arenas for meeting new people
You should not aim at meeting new people and potentially make new friends in Norway by chatting up people on the bus, at the train station or at other public places like this, and most Norwegians will find this behavior very strange or creepy.
There are some arenas where meeting new people and forming friendship is “acceptable” by Norwegian society, and the main one is clubs, sporting events and organizations.
There are clubs and organizations for pretty much everything in Norway! So if you enjoy things like viking reenactments, foraging mushrooms, playing an instrument, fixing and showcasing classic cars, are into knitting, driving a motorcycle, being a pet owner or have any hobbies, there is a club for you!
Hobby clubs, sport clubs as well as political organizations and other organizations are the best arena for meeting new people in Norway. These types of clubs are pretty much always open to new people, and people are in a “social mood” when spending time at these clubs.
Another arena to check out is Facebook groups for your town or city. Some bigger cities like Oslo, Bergen and Trondheim have groups called things like “New to Oslo” which are good for meeting new people and socializing with them.
Moving from acquaintance to friend
While clubs and organizations are great for meeting new people that could potentially become your friend, you need to put in the work to actually get them to consider you a friend. This might require a bit more effort than in many other countries.
The basic strategy is to get to know people in clubs or organizations, and after a certain point invite them out to do something. This could be related to the hobby of your club, or just something else. Make sure that no one mistakes it for a romantic invite. If you are already in a relationship, it’s common to invite couples for activities, not only one person.
Some might have to go out of their comfort zone by inviting people to do things, but that’s what it takes to actually make new friends. This step can be a bit difficult for both introverts as well as extroverts.
Be careful about moving too fast into the friendship
It will be a bit weird for Norwegians if you move too fast with your attempts at making new friends. Most of us would be uncomfortable with being invited to a dinner by someone we barely knew, and would reserve this for people we knew better.
By going too fast with your attempts, you might even scare your potential friends away. So learn to read the social signals that tell you when the person feel like you are invading their private space, and try to stay clear of this. Norwegians will often have a lower threshold of this than people from most other parts of the world.
Many Norwegians might also be a bit wary of people who are openly being social just because they want to be social. It is common for Norwegians do have a reason to be social, which is why many people are social as part of scheduled groups or in organized clubs. This also leads us to..
Make practical excuses as to why you invite people
A good method to make it more acceptable to invite people, either for dinner, to go out for a few drinks, or to go out and do some activity, is to make up a practical excuse. It might sound a bit weird, but Norwegians do it all the time.
Instead of inviting someone to your house for dinner just because you want to befriend them, rather make up a story about how you really miss your native food and want to make it, but don’t want to make it just for yourself. Say that it would be really nice if they could join you for dinner.
The same goes for other activities. Maybe you need someone to play tennis with, or maybe need help from a local?
A small practical excuse as to why you invite people will make them feel less weird about accepting the invite. Again, you might not really understand it, but it’s the Norwegian way.
Why it’s difficult to make Norwegian friends
While it might seem that Norwegians are uninterested in meeting new people and making new friends, that’s actually not really the case. The culture in Norway has formed us into being cold and a bit skeptical of strangers, and it’s pretty much very uncommon to small talk with people you don’t know.
It’s also a bit typical of Norwegian culture to not really get too invested in people who are only temporarily staying in Norway. The reason is probably that most Norwegians friendship take a long time to form, but tend to stay for the rest of your life. So many people will be a bit skeptical in investing so much time in temporary friendships.
You might also be comforted in knowing that most Norwegians also find it very difficult to make new friends. It can be extremely difficult for Norwegians who are moving to a new town or city to get to know new people, and it’s unfortunately very common for people (especially young adults) to feel lonely and wishing they had a bigger social circle with more friends.
Be careful of making “friends” at bars
Even though Norwegians are pretty shy in most situations, we often tend to be super social after having a few drinks at a bar. It will be very easy to meet new people when you are out drinking at a bar, but keep in mind that even though drunk Norwegians might make you feel like you are becoming friends, they are unlikely to consider this a friendship or anything like that the next day.
You might even get invited to join something when you are out drinking with people, but don’t really expect them to keep this appointment. It’s pretty common for drunk Norwegians to get very social and invite people for activities, but then end up regretting it and backing out the next day.
Nicklas is the owner and editor of The Norway Guide, and is responsible for most of the content on the website.
He lives in Skien, Norway with his wife and two children. Nicklas is specialized in Norwegian ecology (including Norway’s geology, wildlife and flora) from his degree in Ecology And Nature Management at University of South-Eastern Norway, but has a particular interest in tourism and content creation.
His biggest hobbies are fishkeeping, going on hikes with his dog, and rooting for the local football team.