5 Norwegian concepts you’ll wish you’d always known


Norwegians love compound nouns about vehicles. You’ve got bil (car, as in automobile), so a lorry is a lastebil (last means load). The garbage truck is a søppelbil (from søppel, rubbish or trash). Leiebil is a hire car, from leie, to loan or hire. So naturally you need mocchabilen (MOCK-a-BEE-len) to deliver you coffee and hot chocolate on a snowy winter’s day.


The Norwegian verb to iron (as in, ironing a shirt) is stryke, a bit like the English verb to stroke. One of Norway’s lesser-known musical quirks, believed to originate in the Sognefjord region, is the folk tradition of playing irons (the old kind that you warmed up over the fire) as percussive musical instruments, hence strykeinstrument (STREE-keh-in-stroo-ment). If you have several players together, it’s a strykeorkester.

Inneklemte dager

Norway’s winters are known for being somewhat inhospitable. Because of the climate, Norwegians get a quota of inneklemte dager (from klemme, to hug, and inne, inside) — that is, duvet days, where the only thing to do is stay home, stay warm, and hygge it up in one’s pyjamas with some Netflix. Bit of a mouthful, this one: INN-eh-klem-teh-DAHG-er. (Also, just so we’re clear: hygge is Danish.)


Yes, it’s cold in the winter. But in the summer, Norway is pretty special. It’s light for 20 hours a day, the sun is incredibly strong, and when it gets too hot, you need to take a dip in the fjord. Or a lake. Really anywhere cool where the mosquitoes can’t get you. Although Norwegians have a reputation for being solitary types, they’re actually very sociable. And this is where the Norwegian concept of a bathing buddy, or badekar (BAH-deh-KAR) comes in. Bade is the verb to bathe, and kar is a guy or fellow.

(Badekar can be used gender-neutrally, in the same way that nordmann, north man, can refer to any Norwegian. As a feminist it took me a while to get used to this — I admit, I still don’t love it, even though gender equality in Norway is in many ways world-leading.)


Literally the king (konge) of Spar, a chain of corner shops and supermarkets popular in Europe. I’m assuming that this is a post-Foursquare invention, like being the mayor of somewhere. In Norwegian, sparkongen (SPAR-kong-en) describes someone who is always the consummate host, whether it’s 20 people from work rocking up at the apartment for impromptu drinks, or remembering to pack mustard for the hotdogs you’re grilling at the beach.

Thanks to my colleague Daniel Hasan :)