This is a question that just popped up in my e-mail.
It is not easy to make friends among Norwegians, yet, it is not impossible. Do not let yourself be scared about the icy faces and without expressions. Behind that Ice Wall, they put upfront, you can find volcanos of feelings. All you need to do is to be patient until the ice melts. After that, you’ll be surrounded by it as well. Then, you may find out that it is not easy to get out of it.
The key to making friends in Norway is “common interests”. This means that you should have some hobbies and find a group of people you can practice them together with. You’ll have lots to talk about on that particular subject. Therefore it will not be weird for Norwegians who do not ask personal questions because they do not want to intrude or because this is considered impolite in Norway.
Another thing you can do is to volunteer in various organizations. Find a cause that you are interested in (poverty, environment, politics, women issues, knitting, singing in a choir, dancing, climbing mountains, parachuting, ice skating, skiing, getting a dog, etc) and find a club or an organization that deals with precisely that. Join for the activities they have, and you’ll get to meet whoever is there. You can find more information on frivilig.no. Just type the city you live in, and see what’s available there and what is needed.
Each neighborhood or complex of houses or apartment buildings has a board administrating it and taking care of the buildings. All that is volunteer work. Join the one that represents the building you live in. It is an excellent way to learn how volunteer organizations work and get to know the people there. They have meetings at least once a month. That is a good opportunity to meet them often enough, so they have a chance to get to know you.
Making friends in Norway depends a lot also if you came to Norway alone or together with your family (spouse/children). I have noticed that if people come together with their spouses and do not have children, they tend to stick together and not go many places to meet people. So it doesn’t help to learn the language either if you only stick together.
Couples who have children can make friends easier through their children. They meet other parents at kindergarten and school and extra school activities their children join. If you are good with children yourself and offer to take care of Norwegian children, then you’ll be popular, because lots of parents need breaks and time for themselves. And, if you took care of other people’s children for some time, the parents will also take care of your children from time to time. It’s like a trade that allows you to get to know people. Children and school activities are also a great subject to talk about.
When you have a job, you can see if your colleagues are open to making new acquaintances and eventually new friendships. Some may be, some not. It will help you a lot if you speak about your interests and hobbies. They will know what you like, and eventually, if they have the same interests, they will invite you to talk more about it.
You can also make dinner for your colleagues and invite them home.
If you find out that you cannot break through to your work colleagues, the best thing is to find things to do on your own first. Find other foreigners who perhaps have been in your town longer than you and advise you where to go and what to do. There are many FB groups with foreigners. Just ask there who is from the town you live in and see if they want to meet. Remember that friends who are also foreigners are better than having no friends at all. If you are determined and show up in places where Norwegians meet, you will find the right people for you.
It is difficult for Norwegian adults to make new friends in a new place as well. In my experience, from people I know, it took those about ten years to make new friends among Norwegians in the new town. And the friends they made were also people who were new in town. This is because Norwegians do not believe in “friends on the way”. They believe in friends for life. This is why, even if they live in a different town than the one they grew up in, they can still say that they only have one friend or a handful, and those are the buddies from primary school and high school. They do not call people “friends” very easily.
If you come as a student, you’re ok, because student life is always very social. At the same time, be careful not to stick only together with international students, but join the cafeterias and the clubs’ Norwegian students attend, so you’ll also get to meet Norwegian students. If they are freshmen, they are just as alone as you are in their first year, and they are just forming groups of friends. You have a big chance of being part of those groups.
I hope this gave you some ideas about how to meet Norwegians, even if they are not going to call you “friend” very soon. As long as you are present in their lives, if they see you often enough, they will learn that you are also part of the community and become friendly towards you.
Good luck with making Norwegian friends, and if you want to receive more insights on the Norwegian awkwardness, sign up for my newsletter on this link.