The Truth About Norwegian Social Behavior: Are Norwegians Really Shy?

Norway is a wonderful country, famous for its breathtaking fjords, deep forests, and dreamlike mountains visited by millions of tourists every year.

But when it comes to the people living there, there are some myths and rumors about Norwegian people being shy and challenging to approach.

Regardless of what you might have heard, Norwegian people are not shy. Stick to the end because I’ll share with you why Norwegians can be perceived as shy and some of my favorite tips on how to make friends with them.

Why are Norwegians perceived as shy?

When a foreigner visits Norway, they might experience a small cultural shock. People act a little differently than in most countries. 

They don’t smile too often, avoid holding eye contact, and rarely ask about your day on the bus. They usually won’t talk to a stranger unless first spoken to. 

But does that mean that Norwegians are shy? No. What many people see as shyness is simply politeness.

I know that different cultures have different views on what’s polite and what’s not. Sometimes it might cause a slight cultural shock. But I encourage you to keep your mind open and think about it from a different angle.

To understand the nature of this difference, we have to dive a little bit deeper into Norwegian culture.

What exactly is the Norwegian mentality?

Earth is huge. There are 195 different countries, and as many, if not more different cultures.

While many are very similar as they belong to the same geographical region or ethnic groups, they can also be very different.

There are countries where open friendliness is a common thing. Places like Italy and Spain immediately come to mind. 

But Norway is a bit different. To say it simply, in Noway, being polite means not bothering other people.

Professor Kristin Rygg from NHH’s Department of Professional and Intercultural Communication put it perfectly:

“Norwegians are polite. We don’t bother other people unnecessarily. We don’t ask for help unless we feel we really need to. To us, that’s being polite.”

It all boils down to how the culture evolved. Someone who spent his whole life driving on the right side of the road would get pretty shocked while visiting London.

It’s the same with politeness. The key here is knowledge and preparation. If you know what to expect, you won’t go through the cultural shock, and you’ll find that Norwegians are not as shy as you thought.

How to break the ice with Norwegians.

Contrary to popular belief, Norwegians are actually very talkative and not shy at all when it’s appropriate.

They might not appear very friendly when you randomly meet them on the street, but in a place where socializing is considered appropriate, you will find them to be both approachable and open to conversation.

However, you might still be in for a challenge. It can be hard to break into a group of Norwegians as they tend to form smaller, tight-knit groups of friends.

That being said, once you break the ice with them, don’t be surprised if a Norwegian ends up being some of your best friends.

So next time when you visit Norway, try visiting some local pubs or social events and pick the right time to engage them. You will see how friendly they can be.


Remember, sometimes things are not what they seem to be. Our perspective and previous experiences set expectations in our brains that often lead to misunderstanding.

But now that you’ve learned the definition of Norwegian politeness, you won’t get easily fooled. When a Norwegian seems shy, you’ll know that he probably wants to be polite!

You’ll also know how to break the ice with them and make a wonderful friend. And with that knowledge, you’re ready to explore Norwegian culture and its beautiful landscapes.


Norwegians impolite? Forget it! – NHH

Photo of author


Erik is the creator and editor of Planet Norway. Born in Trondheim and currently living in Oslo, Erik knows the ins and outs of Norwegian History, society, and culture. His idea for starting planet Norway came about when helping his foreign fiance to settle in Norway.