Motherhood

10 Surprising Things About Parenting in Norway

For our Motherhood Around the World series, our first interview is with American photographer Rebecca Zeller, who lives in Oslo with her husband and three children. Here, she shares 10 things that have surprised her about raising kids in Norway…

Rebecca’s background:

Rebecca grew up in Cincinnati and met her Norwegian husband, Martin, when they were both studying abroad in France during college. After graduating, they moved to Oslo, Norway, for a year, so Martin could finish his thesis. “That first year, I really embraced the whole Norwegian way—loving winter, skiing cross country, vacationing in a remote cabin. I tried to become Norwegian. We had no kids—it was a big adventure.”

Since then, Martin’s job in the Norwegian Foreign Service has moved them to Seoul, Korea (where they had their son Jonas, 6), Northern Virginia (where they had daughter Selma, 3), and finally back to Norway in March 2012. The couple welcomed their third child this month. Rebecca works as a freelance photographer (you can see her beautiful photos of families here).

“This time around, with kids, some of the charm has worn off,” Rebecca laughs. “It’s just so cold and dark! But in many ways life is good here. There’s security—the government provides so much. Everyone gets a pension; full-time childcare is $350 a month, at the most; medical care is basically free. You don’t even have to worry about paying for college! It cost me $200 in enrollment fees to get a Masters in English.”

But the hardest adjustment, she explains, is the lack of variety. “There’s a sense that there’s just one right way to do things. And everyone does it that way. In America there are different parenting styles—co-sleeping, attachment parenting, etc. Here there is just one way, more or less: all kids go to bed at 7, all attend the same style of preschool, all wear boots, all eat the same lunch…that’s the Norwegian way.”

On pregnancy: Most women will never once see an obstetrician during their pregnancy. Almost everything is done by midwives. In the U.S., you usually see a doctor as soon as you think you might be pregnant. When I called the midwife here, she told me not to come in until I was at least 15 weeks. I got only one ultrasound. When we lived in Korea, they did 3D ultrasounds every two weeks! Here, my midwife listened to the baby with a long wooden horn that she pushes against my belly. It kind of freaked me out.

On birth: I applied to give birth at the “no drugs” unit at the hospital. (Mostly because when you apply to the regular unit, there is a possibility you could be turned away if the hospital is full and sent to another hospital you may not be familiar with.) When they say no drugs, they mean no drugs. No exceptions. You can’t even get antibiotics if you’re positive for Group B strep. Women who’ve had a baby in the U.S. know about Strep B; every pregnant woman is tested for it, and if you test positive, you get antibiotics when you deliver so you can’t pass it to the baby and make the baby sick. Here, it’s not even mentioned. When I asked about it at the hospital the nurse just said, “We don’t worry about that.” At first I was appalled, but I’ve learned that in socialized medicine, they take calculated risks, and as my husband says, it usually works.

On friendliness: People are not as overtly friendly here as in the United States—especially compared to the Midwest where I’m from. When I was pregnant in the U.S., strangers would smile at me, hold doors, offer to help. Moms struck up conversations on the playground. People don’t do any of that in Norway—you keep to yourself in public. When we lived here for the first time, eight years ago, I baked a lemon poppy-seed cake for my neighbors after they had a baby. When I brought it over, you would have thought I had handed them a severed head. They were completely shocked. I think people here tend to be stoic. There’s value to being able to “tough it out” on your own. I think it’s embarrassing to need help, so no one wants to embarrass you by offering help.

On the other hand, there’s no American pressure to be friendly and “on” all the time. It’s okay to be quiet and keep to yourself. I love getting a haircut here because I don’t feel pressure to make small talk with the stylist.

On school: Both my kids attended Barnehage (Norwegian for “children’s garden”), which is basically Norwegian pre-school and daycare. Most kids here start Barnehage when they’re one year old—it’s subsidized by the government to encourage people to go back to work. You pay $300 a month and your kids can stay from 8am to 5pm. They spend a ton of time outside, mostly playing and exploring nature. At some Barnehage, they only go inside if it’s colder than 14 degrees. They even eat outdoors—with their gloves on! When I was worried about my son being cold, my father-in-law said, “It’s good for him to freeze a little bit on his fingers.” That’s very Norwegian—hard things are good for you.

On being tough: Whereas Americans value comfort, in Norway there’s a charm and value to things being challenging. When my father-in-law vacations, for example, he often goes away to a remote cabin with no internet and just listens to the radio and bird-watches. That’s not an atypical vacation here. I think that, in a way, it’s a self-preservation mechanism. Norway is a rugged, largely uninhabitable country. The weather can be brutal. I think they’ve made a practice of glorifying those aspects of life that are really challenging in order to survive.

On playground culture: Because everyone works, there’s really no playground culture. When we moved here last March, my kids hadn’t gotten into Barnehage yet, so I was alone with them all day from March until August. There was nothing to do. There are minimal kid activities, kids museums, playgroups or classes like in the U.S. because no one doesn’t work! Kids are all in Barnehage and parents are all working.

On working moms: Women here get ten months of maternity leave at 100% pay or twelve months at 80% pay. (Actually, either parent can choose to take the “maternity” leave—it doesn’t have to be mom.) And then pretty much everyone goes back to work. Oslo is one of the most expensive cities in the world—along with Tokyo and Moscow—so women can’t afford to stay home. Also, it’s just not part of the culture to not work. If you’re not working, you’re not contributing.

On marriage: People work a lot fewer hours in Norway than they do in the U.S. For example, my husband works for the government for 37.5 hours per week (8am to 3:45pm, five days a week). That’s typical. Since both parents work, marriage partnerships feel much more equal here. Families tend to eat dinner together around 5pm. The housework is mostly divided, and I don’t know any husband who doesn’t help cook dinner and take care of the kids. I see just as many dads picking up their kids from Barnehage as I do moms.

On valuing the group: There’s a Norwegian idea called janteloven. It basically means that you’re part of a group—you’re not assumed to be better than anyone else. The American culture really values and promotes the concept of “the individual” in a way that is almost unheard of here. In Norway, the needs of the individual are subordinate to the good of the collective. To stand out or call attention to yourself is considered gauche. People here don’t boast or play up their accomplishments. When I first met my husband, we’d gone on three dates, and I thought, “He doesn’t seem ambitious—is that a problem?” But now I see that he doesn’t lack ambition; he’s just not going to step on toes or kill himself to get somewhere. That’s janteloven.

On food: There’s no real food culture here—it’s not like Italy or France. Food is much more utilitarian and there’s much less choice. At lunchtime, kids typically eat bread with caramelized goat cheese or swiss-like cheese. My husband eats it, too—almost every day.

Also, most Norwegians seem to LOVE hot dogs. They seem to eat hotdogs whenever they get a chance. They serve them at every gas station, at Ikea, at every kids’ birthday party; they grill them outside in the summer, they boil them inside in the winter. There’s no wrong time to eat a hotdog around here. Even at the airport at 6am, people are eating hot dogs.

Thank you so much, Rebecca! Your photos are gorgeous.

P.S. French kids eat everything, and babies sleep outside in Denmark.

(Thank you to my fantastic friend and writer Lina Perl for help reporting and interviewing)

  1. Ilike your writing, I only twice visited 4 season country, in southern Australia- Melbourne. I have not been in norhern and I dont know how fresh and how cold the snow is….my Country, Indonesia, is a single season- it is summer (we summer and dry summer)…
    Unluckily our HDI (human Develompmen Index) is quite low in global rank…and I have positive jealous about why “Norway, Findland, Iceland, Findland…” have best HDI…..? I asked “why Scandian countries are excellent with HDI ?”
    My Swedish friends “because of several factors, one of them is literacy…we have the reading time and winter is our literacy season”. Now I do literacy and I read this interesting article, a million thanks
    (Marjohan: http://penulisbatusangkar.blogspot.com)

  2. Kathy says...

    I find it interesting that the rule of Janteloven where people don’t think they are better that anyone else exists in a country ruled by a monarchy where the citizens have to bow and curtsey to a King and Queen.

    • Alex says...

      Well the king and queen are simply figureheads, they have no real power. It’s merely a formality in Norway to have a King and Queen.

  3. Annie says...

    Fascinating article and beautiful photographs! I would love to hear more about what the typical nordic child eats. Would you mind sharing some recipes and ideas? Thank you!

    • Maria says...

      Hi,

      I live in Finland but I guess that counts.

      Traditional meals include different types of soups and casseroles.
      Soups are often stock based with cut up potatoes, carrots, leeks, rutabaga and either beef, ground beef, sausages, wiener or siskonmakkara (a type of fresh sausage). Salmon soup is basically the same but usually with milk base. Another milk based soup is kesäkeitto (summer soup). It has carrots, broccoli, peas, cauliflower and radish. Pea soup is made from dried split beans and pork, served with mustard.

      Most popular casseroles are macaroni casserole, liver casserole and cabbage casserole. Macaroni casserole is macaroni, cooked ground beef and a mixture of milk and eggs baked in the oven. Liver casserole has ground liver, rice and raisins, cabbage casserole cabbage and rice.

      Some other favourites
      – Karelian pies. Rye crust with rice porridge inside, eaten with egg butter (cooked eggs mixed with butter)
      – Cabbage rolls. Cabbage leafs filled with ground meat and rice.
      – Meatballs. Pretty close to the Swedish meatballs.
      – Reindeer in any form. As meat soup, sautéed, meatballs etc.

      Many foods are served with lingonberry jam (for example meatballs, cabbage rolls, liver casserole, and cabbage casserole, any reindeer based food) and some type of potatoes.

      Fresh fish is a big part of the diet. Popular fish include salmon, zander, perch, pike, herring and baltic herring. Fish is often fried and served with a type of nordic sour cream sauce. Herring is a popular summer food, served marinated with new potatoes and egg sauce (boiled eggs, milk base and chives. And if you serve fish, there has to be fresh dill in the dish! That’s almost the law.

      Finnish rye bread is unlike any “rye bread” you’ll find outside the nordics. Don’t know how to describe it but I encourage you to google it!

      Pulla is a huge deal. It’s a type of sweet roll flavoured with cardamom. From the yeast based dough you can either make basic Pulla or cinnamon bun, which is nothing like the US kind. No glaze, just the dough, butter, sugar and cinnamon. The best.

      Finns are traditionally huge porridge people. It’s made from barley, oats, rye, potato starch (Helmipuuro), semolina (including Vispipuuro which uses lingonberry), rice. Most often porridge is eaten with melted butter (“butter eye” in Finnish is the tradition of putting some butter on top of the porridge and letting it melt), sugar and milk. Vispipuuro is eaten with just milk while rice porridge is served with cinnamon, sugar and milk.

      I live in Helsinki, the capital city in Southern Finland and these foods are not as popular over here as they used to be but you have to go back in time only about ten-fifteen years and most people’s diet consisted of these foods.

  4. Ingrid says...

    Very well captured. From a Norwegian who have lived abroad for 20 years.

  5. Cabin says...

    I have lived in Oslo for 8+ years, and I think this post is very accurate in my experience, and well articulated.

    Norway is great in a lot of ways – many which have been outlined in this blog post. If I may, I’d like to add a few insights for those who are considering moving to Norway;

    I like Norway now, but it took me a long time to figure out how to like it. If you’re coming to Norway looking for an American experience, you’re going to be miserable. North Americans are taught from a very young age to reach for the top in every endeavor (Gotta be #1). If you’re looking to be surrounded by like-minded over-achievers you’re going to be very lonely and disappointed. You’re going to need to lower your shoulders and relax. Life isn’t about work, and if you think it is, than I don’t think Norway is the place for you.

    Norway has some great restaurants (in Oslo, anyway). You just need to get out and find them. Oslo’s come a looong way in 8 years. Also, I still enjoy a hot dog (‘Norwegian Steak’) ever now and then. It’s true, they eat a lot of them here. They even wrap them in waffles (up North).

    Supermarkets are tiny compared to anything in the USA, so prepare for withdrawal. The selection is scant, but who needs an entire aisle of cereal and chips, right? The produce selection is meager. The meat is quite good, but expensive (the government keeps the use of antibiotics to the lowest in Europe). The good news is that you’ll learn to cook a lot – with a lot less. After a while you won’t really miss the selection that much. You’ll probably eat healthier too.

    Raising kids in Norway is great. Frankly, it’s the best thing that Norway has to offer (IMO). If you want to have a family life, this is the place to be. I eat dinner with my kids at 5:30 everyday. They go to a good school, and spend a lot of time out in nature. Also, parents are more relaxed here in Norway. If something comes up with your family (kids sick, etc…), no one at your work will question why you have to leave. “Family comes first”, is a well understood fact of life here. It’s a major benefit.

    Comments about the medical system; The “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” is the basic viking philosophy of Norway. North America is over medicalized – here in Norway it’s the opposite. The upside of under-medicalization is that you’ll spend less on drugs, and your immune system will likely become stronger. In the even of a life threatening illness – you should probably go back home though. Sure you’ll spend a lot of money, but you’re more likely to survive.

    Drug are a problem – especially in the cities – and I’m not just talking about weed. Oslo is the Heroin capital of Europe, and it shows. Junkies shoot up in public, with no fear of being hassled by the police. Discarded syringes in parks and playgrounds are not uncommon. As a parent, this is the most disturbing part of living in Norway. I have disposed of dozens of syringes lying in and around the park/playgrounds. If you’re not on the look out – you may never see them. But they’re there.

    Your salary will probably be less than in North America, but the system gives you way more back. In the end it’s a wash. Besides, in my opinion life in Norway makes you rich in a lot of other ways, through which money has no real measure.

    Nowhere is perfect, but as perfect goes, Norway’s a lot closer than many other places in the world. And like everything, it’s all in how you choose to look at it.

  6. Hope says...

    I have been living in Norway for 9 months now. I can relate to a lot of what you wrote as I had my daughter here 6 months ago. The change from the USA to Norway is frustratingly overwhelming at times. This is coming from a woman who has spent more than 8 years living outside the USA. I recently, brought up to my partner why none of his family has offered to watch our daughter. Being a first time mother is loads of work and when family first came to visit, I was more than glad once they left. Now, finding my groove, I have come to wonder why no one has offered to babysit or visit. My parents first brought it to my attention over skype when my mother, being the jealous parent type, expected me to boast about how much time the other grandparents get to spend with her grandbaby. I told her no one has come to visit since she was born, or offered to babysit. My mother looked at me wide eyed and shocked. She asked if there was something wrong. I told her that we were fine, and that I had not noticed. Obviously, we have gone to visit them a couple times and spent Christmas together. No one had asked me how I was handling being a new mother. The conversation of parenting or how I was handling it never came up.

    Then I really thought about it! It has been 6 months and I have never had a break. Though I am not sure I would accept one if they offered. It would have just been nice to know we have a backup plan incase of emergency. This ultimately boils down to miscommunication as I dont speak Norwegian and his parents don’t speak English. Maybe, they have offered and my partner never told me. I am still not sure actually. Anyway, these are just some of the issues I encounter daily living in a new country.

  7. H says...

    It’s interesting to see your take on janteloven! You make it sound positive, the way I read it :) It’s generally seen as a clamp on your foot, that you do not get to excel in anything without it meaning you’re showing off, which isn’t well accepted. Norway has few private schools, no elite schools, and for all that there are good programs to help the weaker, there’s no system to encourage the strongest reaching their fullest potentials. They don’t even get to move a year up in school, even if their abilities surpasses the one they’re in. I think this is a great weakness! Also, for all that healthcare is pretty much free, Norway is not a population-dense country and as such the knowledge and experience of rare conditions are low and paired with a conviction that Norway is on top of the food chain, not realising that globally they’re lagging. The problem with this is that patients who could get better care abroad don’t get better care. There’s no humility in accepting this is not their area of expertise, they take it as a learning experience for themselves and forget the patient-side of being a patient. However, if you’re fairly healthy, Norway is a -beautiful- country and the friends you get, for all that they might seem reserved on the surface, is a deeply, loyal kind. Also you can breastfeed openly wherever you want!

  8. I love this article and I thank you for writing it. My son is in his freshman year at a Lutheran boarding school in Missouri. We are going to be hosting a Norwegian student in our home over the Thanksgiving holiday and I am trying to learn all about his culture. My parents and older children are really looking forward to this new experience…we just don’t want to have our new friend suffer culture shock when he arrives in our home.

  9. Starting my reading from where it all began!! this is an amazing series!!! Good job Jo, now hooked.

  10. Rebecca says...

    I’m Norwegian and I thought it was interesting to read your about your opinions in regards to the Norwegian way of living and raising children in Norway. I myself lived one year in San Fransisco and three years in North Dakota, so I did a taste of the “American way of life”. That being said, I have to say that there’s several things I disagree on.
    Kidnergarden “barnehage” has several options for children and is a rather social place to be. Regardsless of your choise, the all value social interaction with other children, being outside in fresh air (especially this one!!), often visit different places and museums in groups and teach children to overall independent. You are encoraged to climb trees, play with rocks, ride a bike, fall, get hurt and learn from it. I personally believe it’s a very positive thing!
    Depending on where you live, there might be a limited amout of options on regard to after school/barnehage activities, but living in Oslo I wouldn’t think that would be a problem?
    As for food, we do like our hotdogs but to claim that this is practically our “national dish” is very very wrong! Norwegian overall are very healthy. We sure do have obese people like all other countries, but overall we are a healthy nation Fruit and vegetables are included in almost every meal, in addition to yoghurt, nuts and seeds. Bread, different types of meat, cheeses, honey, granola, buns, milk, eggs and oatmeal are the most common breaktfast routine.
    Two things I do agree with you on though is janteloven (which I personalt HATE!) and the friendliness towards other people. Janteloven er more active among the elderly People. The younger generation is striving so hard to get rid of this and were getting there, but it’s hard because it’s so incorporated into the Norwegian way of living & mentality. But I do predoct that it will be all gone in the future! Talking about Norwegians and friendliness, we have alot to learn! Most Norwegians are rather private because you are taught to not “bother people with your personal problems”, therefore we are often perceived a uptight and unfriendly (But were not really like that! :)) Living in the mid-west, its was perfectly normal to strike a conversation but the cashier at Target og the person behind me in line. We don’t do that in Norway. It’s considered weird and people will most likely look at you funny. Coming back to Norway, I smile and talk to everyone I see. Im open-minded, positive and often strike a conversation with strangers. Some people think ir’s it’s at first, but then love it! Try it Rebecca!

    • I absolutely loved Trondheim. I visited my Brother in Law and his husband and we were treated with nothing but kindness. We want to visit as soon as we can. We are a mixed couple living in the Midwest and we felt that “keep to yourself” vibe when we were there, but it was explained to me by some friends that I met quickly over there. We happen to be there when the Brevik tragedy occurred and I remember being so angry that no one in America really knew or seemed to care. But you have a very beautiful country. 1000 Thanks!

  11. What an interesting look at the parenting life in Norway. I’m pregnant at the moment (sitting here in my maternity dress!) and I would love to visit Norway some time. Maybe I will take the baby when he is a little older x

    • makasih ya Good day! I could have sworn I’ve been to your blog before but after browsing through a few of the articles I realized it’s new to me. Anyhow, I’m definitely happy I found it and I’ll be bookmarking it and checking back regularly!

  12. Gaurav says...

    You won’t believe but I am learning second level of norsk and in my book there is a lesson called ” Norske barn legged seg kolkka sju” and it talks about Rebecca. It was nice to read your whole article :)

    • yea Good day! I could have sworn I’ve been to your blog before but after browsing through a few of the articles I realized it’s new to me. thanks

  13. Selina says...

    The exact same ideas and values are lived by in Denmark too. It must be a Scandi thing

  14. sdfg sdfgsdfg says...

    he heh

  15. Kiki says...

    As a 65 year old Nowegian American who grew up in Seattle, and raised three kids here, I was very interested in this. My moms family came here in 1899;. My dad arrived in 1946. I realize I raised my kids Norwegian. No whining, free range explorers with a good social conscious. They turned out very kind and self reliant.

    on about

  16. Hi you know, it is just amazing, but it is (almost) exactly the same in Sweden! I never realized that the Nordic Countries are that similar, however my wife (who is from Argentina and our kids were born in Stockholm) got many AHAs and OHOs when she read your blog, incredible!

    Just to name something, janteloven is jantelagen in Sweden and it is sooo similar!

    Alexander from diskrete-lieferung.ch

  17. Great observations. I am a Norwegian dad myself married to an American. Got to say you articulated it well the idea of not being embarrassed about needing help. I so totally feel that. I really can’t stand asking for help for stuff. I want to manage on my own. I don’t want to bother other people with my problems and issues. I can imagine the family with the newborn gotten freaked out when getting the cake. I guess we Norwegian in general are a bit overly preoccupied with not interfering in any other persons life unless specifically asked.

  18. I don’t mean to step on any toes at all, I think Norway “Looks Great”! But I recently had a friend, a good friend in-fact travel to Norway to stay for a few years. Her husband is a Dentist, and she is a Doctor. Despite the total 20 years of University level Education between the two of them, their kids were taken away. Please, hear me out. Their 3 year old was losing a few teeth, as ALL OF US DO at that age. She dressed the child up in exactly the same thing you said you did (Shirt, Pants, Boots) and one of the child’s tooth’s fell out. Afterwards, the day continues as normal. When the child arrived at school, the teacher saw that a tooth was missing and was “flabbergasted”. Police showed up at the woman’s house, and a social worker told her that her child had been taken, and that she no longer had custody. Please, shed some light on this. I thought she was embellishing a little so I did a YouTube search of such an event. Shockingly, I found THOUSANDS of people posing videos stating the same thing happened to them, and that more or less they were in a way prisoners of Norway.

  19. I can tell why “everyone” lives just the same. Because in Norway we have this called childservice, whom are supposed to help children that lives in a home With drugs, violence, missuse and so on. They are also suppose to help families that struggles.
    But what we have seen over a very long period of time is that they take every child that`s not like EVERYONE else or like we Call it A4 (If they dosen`t fit the squere Box then they dosent fit how the goverment think they should be.) If you f.ex. wish to stay at home to take care of Your children they are more likely to take them in fostercare. Because EVERY children should be in kindergarden. (Because there they have employed ppl to survey if there is kids who are different.)
    F.ex. if the kid is slow to speak, if they have a temper, if the kid have used clothes, actually slow in Development in any way, if the kid like to play alone or easily distracted,kids With diffrent or a Foreign background, kids with ADHD, ADD, Autism and so on.

    Now there are many FB Groups trying to stop this “offical childrenabduction” as many have started to Call it.

    So if you want to move to Norway you`d better think twice. If you are pregnant we have some of the worlds best “follow-ups”. But after the child has become 1 year old you`d better be careful. ;)

    About the openess and Hospitality, I just want to comment that there is a really big diffrence in where you live i Norway. From South to North and west to east. ;)

    I wish you the best at Your stay here in Norway! :)

  20. I really identify, I grew up not to far from where Rebecca did, in Ohio and married a Swede. I moved to Sweden 10 years ago after what was meant to be a only a year long stay. While, I love Sweden and most of the Swedish ways, which are quite similar to the Norwegian ways (although not as isolating in Stockholm), on occasion I really miss the American way. I still wouldn’t trade my life here and have created an expat mamma group in my area so I essentially get to have my cake and eat it too ;-)

  21. >Here there is just one way, more or less: all kids go to bed at 7, all attend the same style of preschool, all wear boots, all eat the same lunch…that’s the Norwegian way.

    Haha, when I came to the US (from India), I was surprised how quickly everyone in America started following the latest parenting theories espoused by “experts” (well, aside from the anti-vaccination movement, that did take me by surprise I must admit).

    Perhaps all zebras just seem more similar, at least initially, to someone who is not a zebra?

  22. Love this series! Socialism can definitely be quite scary, though.

  23. This is like a breath of fresh air. I am a new Mom to my four month old. I went the zero drugs way. The funny thing is, even mid wives here encourage all the crazy testing. I was “forced” to take many tests that I did not want to take…the group b, which I tested positive for–was told I HAD to be on antibiotics. Was told I had to get my sugar checked–of course was high and then was told I HAD to take a secondary test to a make sure I did not have diabetes. After getting kicked out of the mid wife office I was attending when I was 28 weeks pregnant because we did not want these tests, finally found a “normal” doctor. No tests, no drugs, and no drugs for my baby. Of course we are on the non vaccine element. Court cases to come with that. To go this route in the USA has been one of the greatest challenges in my/our life so far. Thank you for this post. Makes me feel not as cray cray as most of America makes us out to be.

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  26. Are you 100% sure this is Norway? After living here for over 20 years, I can’t but completely disagree, especially about the food. Norway has so much, and some of the best, local cuisine I’ve ever eaten. You just need to get out and about a bit.
    The rest of the post gives such a wrong and narrow sighted view of Norway, that I’m not going to bother to comment any further.

  27. This was a lovely read. I spent some time in the Netherlands, so I’m curious about those northernmost European countries. Hot dogs! I wouldn’t have guessed. :^) Reminds me of all the hot dog vendors in Toronto who also served up veggie dogs (first time i’d ever seen that!)

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  29. Beautiful pictures but an extremely narrow scope of perspective. Is it that different in the capital? I am an American with a 14-month old Norwegian/American son born in Stavanger, where we have lived for 3 years. I got my Master’s degree while pregnant and am now studying Norwegian full time. There is no way we could have afforded that in the US. I completely and wholeheartedly disagree with the author when it comes to children’s activities; especially those for small children. I can think of 5 playgrounds within less than 5 minutes walking distance from our apartment. We had so much to do when we were home with our son (we split the leave 50/50) that we almost didn’t have time to stay home. There are post-natal groups after the baby is born, babysang (singing groups), exercise classes, mom’s/dad’s activity groups, baby swimming, and plenty to do in town with other parents who have kids of the same age. Perhaps she had a hard time getting involved because her first kids weren’t born in Norway. I also disagree with her point of view on the the pregnancy and birth process. You can opt to have more ultrasounds in private clinics if you want to pay for them (just like the medical system in the US), and you can choose a water birth for example, or to get an epidural or C-section either before or during the birth. I chose an epidural mid-way and got it immediately. I have 2 close friends who had planned C-sections just last year. She doesn’t mention that you find toys for kids and changing stations almost everywhere- as opposed to the US where I had to ask for a cardboard box at Subway and Starbucks so my 4-month old baby didn’t have to lie on the floor (or a table in the cafe/restaurant) while I changed his diaper. And while the barnehage summary is almost correct, she also fails to mention that the parents choose if they want their child to go to and outdoor day care or not. And, in addition, that a large majority of Norwegians vacation in warm places like Spain, Thailand, and the Canary Islands, to where there are chartered flights- especially from Oslo! I wonder if she simply spends all of her time working at home and doesn’t know other Norwegians besides her husband’s family or if she hasn’t really had time to give the culture a chance? I recommend the author to open her eyes and her mind and take another look around!

  30. Wecan treat “everyone” the same in the state institutions because almost everyone works, even woman with children, and because woman works we got child care ( barnehage) because we live in a small country with a lot of weather changing we got an common agreememt that staying outside even when its raining and snowing actually is possible and can be enjoyable. We do not freeze our children to death! If you teach your kid in Norway that staying out in 15 minus for a little time is horrible, so will the children learn that it is horrible. Ive lived in a country once that when it was raining, even just a little bit, you had to run to the learest hose, shop etc to “protect” yourself. The children never played out in the rain! Or made mud cackes or nothing! Well, that was not the only reasion why I moved back home, but a part of a greater picture.

  31. I know american familyes who had to leave Norway because even if Norway is not a communost country, they still beleived that it was and couldnt take it. If communism for an american is state schools and hospitals who does not make a great g where on the one side stands the ones with the money and on the other side those who does not have them ( not always their fault) then guess this is communism then… I rather cal Norway a social democratic country, as will most political scientist….. I applaud those americans who did not take this and went back home. No one should stay where they do not like to stay. One can NEVER like it all.. But if you hate that your neighboor gets cancert treatment even on welfare without privatw incurance.. Its for the best. One can never have it all.

  32. Sorry for my comment got published many times…. My point anyway: no country is perfect not even Norway or The US. Most parents do what they belive is best for their kids.it takes a great while to understand just a bit of another culture, I know this first hand. Its fun reading how others see my culture, even if its narrow minded. I guess i have a narrow minded perseption about the states as well. I do love though to live in a country where Ithe schools are for free also higher education, where i will not die on the hospitals doorstep because mu incurance did not cover the treatment, where we actually have an own institution fo who works with children and familys ( not only an departmamt in the social services as in almost every other country), where children has got their own childrens post in the government,in a country where it is an understanding that children must be heard but not treated as adults who go to bed at 22o clock in the night, and where hiking and experience the nature is highly apriciated. Then of course, no nprwegian family does wxactly the same things. I disagree with a lot of myNorwegian friends who have children on how they raise them

  33. Haha, always fun when people is generalizing stuff. Who doesent like that. Rebecca Zeller has not picked up the nuances though im norwgian and know norwegians from all over the country and know that there are several ways of bringing up their kids, I guess this is the same for americans. We do have a bit more collective set of thinking and always including the children and this might differ from other certain countries. In the US for example the child doesent have rights adults do. The childreb belong to their parents, in Norway childrens voice mist be heard and it is the childs right to good parents. Example: in the US a parents can even claim their children back if the child has been adopted to another family just because they have improved their life and can proof they could be better parents than before the child was taken from them. This is a classic example of the very much misunderstanding that “blood is thikker than water” for whom? The adults. Im so happy fpr living in a country that adopted children does not have to live in fear for their so called “blood” some day camncome and take them from their safe enviroment and beloved parents ( yes, becase a parent is the one that in practize is a parent with or wothout sharing the same “blood”). One terrible example was this child adopted as a baby from china, had to be sent back to china when 9 years old, because her so called “blood” wanted her back. Terrible. But maybe this is just me generalizing?

    • Ilysse says...

      You aren’t generalizing you are out right lying. In the US; after the adoption is finalized the birth family looses all rights. I am adopted and I have two adopted children. I was adopted through a private adoption when I was born. My parents didn’t even know my birth family’s name. My children were adopted through foster care. When they were our foster children they still had a chance to be taken away as the birth family’s rights were not completely terminated but once they were adopted that was it.

  34. Haha, always fun when people is generalizing stuff. Who doesent like that. Rebecca Zeller has not picked up the nuances though im norwgian and know norwegians from all over the country and know that there are several ways of bringing up their kids, I guess this is the same for americans. We do have a bit more collective set of thinking and always including the children and this might differ from other certain countries. In the US for example the child doesent have rights adults do. The childreb belong to their parents, in Norway childrens voice mist be heard and it is the childs right to good parents. Example: in the US a parents can even claim their children back if the child has been adopted to another family just because they have improved their life and can proof they could be better parents than before the child was taken from them. This is a classic example of the very much misunderstanding that “blood is thikker than water” for whom? The adults. Im so happy fpr living in a country that adopted children does not have to live in fear for their so called “blood” some day camncome and take them from their safe enviroment and beloved parents ( yes, becase a parent is the one that in practize is a parent with or wothout sharing the same “blood”). One terrible example was this child adopted as a baby from china, had to be sent back to china when 9 years old, because her so called “blood” wanted her back. Terrible, but I guess im just generalizing…

  35. Haha, always fun when people is generalizing stuff. Who doesent like that. Rebecca Zeller has not picked up the nuances though im norwgian and know norwegians from all over the country and know that there are several ways of bringing up their kids, I guess this is the same for americans. We do have a bit more collective set of thinking and always including the children and this might differ from other certain countries. In the US for example the child doesent have rights adults do. The childreb belong to their parents, in Norway childrens voice mist be heard and it is the childs right to good parents. Example: in the US a parents can even claim their children back if the child has been adopted to another family just because they have improved their life and can proof they could be better parents than before the child was taken from them. This is a classic example of the very much misunderstanding that “blood is thikker than water” for whom? The adults. Im so happy fpr living in a country that adopted children does not have to live in fear for their so called “blood” some day camncome and take them from their safe enviroment and beloved parents ( yes, becase a parent is the one that in practize is a parent with or wothout sharing the same “blood”). One terrible example was this child adopted as a baby from china, had to be sent back to china when 9 years old, because her so called “blood” wanted her back. Terrible. But maybe this is just me generalizing?

  36. I’ve been living in Bergen for 13 years, I have a 4 year old daughter and can give an enthusiastic thumbs up to all these points. I love the hot dog remark – I was traveling for work and arrived at the airport at 6:30am to the sight of my colleagues enthusiastically spooning the crispy onions on their hot dogs and I thought to myself “13 years is not long enough to understand THIS!” :-D

  37. Our Day Care Program create an opportunity for each child to attain their full potential and achieve their dreams as well as yours for them.

  38. Spot on, Rebecca, and way to spark a debate here in Norway. I’m born and raised in Norway, I have spent a few periodes as an expat, but am now raising my firstborn here in Norway. I find it very funny and interesting to read Rebecca’s comment on how it is to live and raise children here, it is always good to see my own country from the eyes of outsiders and to remember that despite Janteloven, things aren’t the same everywhere.

    I’m very amazed by how many people here are positive to Janteloven. As it has been mentioned, Norwegians are working hard to get rid of Janteloven and accept and value that we are not all equal, but individuals. But after reading your comments, I do appriciate that we need a little bit of Janteloven to remain. The most important “law” from Janteloven is “You should not believe you are someone”, and is what we Norwegians refer to when we mention this “law”. However, the idea of everyone being valued equality, but still being individuals, I think that is what those of you who like the law are refering to, and that part I like:)

    When it comes to care during a pregnancy and choices or lack thereof. I think (or hope) Rebecca has it a little wrong, I can’t imagine the birthing clinic being against antibiotics if it was necessary, even if it’s a no-drugs facility. As for what is and isn’t tested, I think we are all tested for what is believed to be the risks here, and apparently Strep B isn’t so common as to warant that everyone is tested for it. But different areas have different risk profiles, so in my part of Oslo, everyone is tested for diabetes, in other parts of Oslo, they aren’t. I live in Oslo and so I have plenty of choices, smaller areas don’t. But I had the choice of several hospitals, and in the hospitals I could choose between “drugs” or “no-drugs”, in “my” hospital the only difference was whether or not you could get epidural, everything else was available for both areas. During my pregnancy I met with my GP and the midwife regularly, every four week I went to either the doctor or the midwife. My choice on who I wanted to see and how often, “call if you need” and all free. Yes, I only had one ultrasound, I could’ve paid for more, but all was fine and there were no risks in my pregnancy, why waste the money (and risk the potential danger)?

    I don’t think Norway is perfect, we could be more open to various ways of raising children, but then again, if you talk to different mums, most of us aren’t as strickt as the health clinics may seem to be. But yes, my son goes to sleep at 7pm, he will have to learn to eat bread (but I don’t like the goat cheese, so he can choose that part) and he will enter a kindergarden when he turns one and his dad also needs to return to work. I wish Norwegians were less “this is the only right way” when choosing how to raise a kid, whether they are pro-kindergarden or pro-stay-at-home. Reading this (and I’m so excited to read the other interviews) reminds me of how we are all part of our culture, also when it comes to child-rearing, and the ability to see this and enjoy the similarities and differences across the cultures.

    Well written and spot on, now to go and plan a birthday party with hotdogs (and I would’ve never thougth about our love for hotdogs, they’re just part of life);)

  39. M says...

    I get a bit scared when I read the comments that American readers take this as the truth about raising kids in Norway. This is one woman’s experience. This is definitely not how everyone lives. Of course there are cultural things like our love of the outdoors that are pretty spot on, but it is kind if like saying all Americans are a certain way. Simply not true. And I don’t know where she gave birth, but I saw a doctor regularly throughout my pregnancy, had six ultrasounds and was tested and treated for strep b. Where I live there are several stay at home mums, playgroups and plenty if activities. But then again I live in Oslo and probably things are different in smaller places.

  40. SO NOT TRUE! This is a very narrow minded view on Norway. I have lived in both America and Norway, and I find the US parenting style even more “just one way to do things”. In the US (Texas at least), kids at daycare centers only go outside 30 minutes 2 times a day for outside play and fresh air. That is the same as prison inmates get in Norway (only the heavy guarded killers).

    “In America there are different parenting styles—co-sleeping, attachment parenting, etc. Here there is just one way, more or less: all kids go to bed at 7, all attend the same style of preschool, all wear boots, all eat the same lunch…that’s the Norwegian way.””. Really? I co-slept with my child, both in the US and Norway, so did my friends. And how many styles of preschools are you looking for? There is montessori also, if that is your ideal school. In Norway they value fresh air, active play where you can move your body and be active both indoors and outdoors. This is the opposite of the US, where you are not allowed to run, jump, walk fast or do anything that can result in children do anything to other kids, so their parents can sue them.

    When it comes to boots. Did you know that in Texas, all children wear sneakers? How funny is that! Ha ha ha ha… That is how you do it in Texas, and dare you NOT do anything else!! Did you know that the weather also requires you to wear “rain boots” or “snow boots” 3 reasons out of the year?!?!

    All the children eat the same lunch. Well, good for norwegian kids!! I’m happy for them, for here in Texas, my kid only get fried food in daycare!!!

    And the Step B discussion… you are not exsposed to that shit the same way as here in the US. And IF you got Strep B, of course you would get the proper treatment!! And by the way, you are not sick when you are pregnant… only pregnant… so no doctors! What is so wrong with that?!? What does the doctor do different? The midwifes are trained to take care of this, and if you choose to, you can go to a private midwife and take 3D or 4D ultrasound EVERY DAY if you choose to! You would have to pay 70-80 dollars for that service. But you would of course get more ultrasound by the hospital, if there is any sign of mother or baby in distress…

    When it comes to food culture… there is no real food culture in the US either… actually there is more food culture in Norway than here… Texas is fried fried fried!!

    This is not a fair article on Norway! Only one persons negativ view on this beautiful but cold country…

  41. Axel Sandemose city “Jante” describs not a speciell norwegian or danish mentality but exist universal.

    Remember the demonstrations in USA against the judgment of Trayvon Martin?

    I think this was also a kind of demonstration against “Jante”.

    Jante is everywhere and not a spesial norwegian mentality.

  42. Both me and my husband, both Norwegians, living in Norway, had a good giggle over this post. Just lovely! Thank you! :)

    But, after reading the reply’s to this post, it may look like some didn’t quite get the idea of the Law of Jante. I therefore allow my self to post “Janteloven” (The Law of Jante”), translated into English – as it actually is a rather harsh culture that many would say is still deeply rooted in the Norwegian mentality. It functions as an unspoken rule, and is based on the principle of “just who do you think you are…?”.

    “The Law of Jante”

    1. You shall not believe that you are somebody.
    2. You shall not believe that you are as worthy as us.
    3. You shall not believe that you are any wiser than us.
    4. You shall not imagine that you are any better than us.
    5. You shall not believe that you know anything more than us.
    6. You shall not believe that you are more than us.
    7. You shall not believe that you are good at anything.
    8. You shall not laugh at us.
    9. You shall not believe that anyone cares about you.
    10. You shall not believe that you can teach us anything.

  43. I love this Monday series, thank you so much!

  44. Wow! This was really interesting to read. Seems you hang out with only one type of people and apparently they all do things in the same style. I don’t really recognize much of how you describe “us”, but then again there actually is room for individual differences and ways of doing things here as any other place in the world.

    We live in a very small town, outside of it even. Cheaper to live here and so me and my man work less to be home with our kids. They attend kindergarden 2 days a week to play with the other kids, but other then that they are at home with either me or their father (several families around here does it this way). Our kids rarely go to bed at 7.00. They go to bed when they are tired…

    Also about the food. You are spot on about the hotdogs though personally I cant stand the stuff but our kids hardly eat bread at all (we are all about woks and waffles;) Not in the same meal, but still;) I am really curios about the caramelized goat cheese though. I have never ever seen it so I would love to try it out (gonna really search for it now). In their kindergarden they get a hot meal for lunch. A different one every day. We are not farmers but grow loads of vegetables and fruits in every available spot in our backyard and we eat what ever is ripe at the moment along with the wide variety of groceries you can get at any food store. They import from all over the world, so you can get almost anyting if you know where to shop for it.

    About not helping people it is considered rude to intervene in other peoples business, and sometimes that can be a bit backwards when you really really need help. If you ask for help, people will mostly smile and help you. There is always the rare idiot that won’t though…

    Also I have noticed a big difference in what is considered polite when I have met americans and even australians, they say thank you a lot, so much that from our point of view it seems to not actually be a real thank you. It’s so much of it that it seems artificial. T

    he sentence “How are you?” means something different here then what it seems to mean to the americans and australians I have met. To them it seems to be a phrase you say because it is required. They ask, and the person they ask is supposed to say that everything is great, super…. or at least give some kind of standardized answer that does not really have to have anything with the way they are at all. Several I have spoken to have reacted negative to the lack of this question from norwegians, but the thing is that when we ask how you are, it is because we genuinely want to know HOW YOU ARE, not some bs answer. That makes “how are you? ” a rather personal question when asked by a norwegian and so we don’t go around asking everyone. It would simply be rude seen from our point of view.

    About pregnancy and birth you really draw a short straw if you live in the big cities because they are always pressured on time and resources. I know people who have given birth in their on car because they where sent back home to wait for an available bed at their birth center, but this only happens in the largest cities. From what a friend told me the prenatal care (or complete lack of it) in Oslo was horrifying. For us on the other hand it was the exact opposite. I had so many appointments with my midwife it almost felt like a job on its own, I had so many ultrasounds in my two pregnancies that I cant really tell you how many it ended up being. With my first born it was a complicated pregnancy, but with my second everything was normal and I SOOO hoped to be left alone a bit more then in the first one…. not quite that lucky though ;) Thats how it is in this much smaller town.

    Less stress and lower costs means more time to care for each other.

  45. Wow! This was really interesting to read. Seems you hang out with only one type of people and apparently they all do things in the same style. I don’t really recognize much of how you describe “us”, but then again there actually is room for individual differences and ways of doing things here as any other place in the world.

    We live in a very small town, outside of it even. Cheaper to live here and so me and my man work less to be home with our kids. They attend kindergarden 2 days a week to play with the other kids, but other then that they are at home with either me or their father (several families around here does it this way). Our kids rarely go to bed at 7.00. They go to bed when they are tired…

    Also about the food. You are spot on about the hotdogs though personally I cant stand the stuff but our kids hardly eat bread at all (we are all about woks and waffles;) Not in the same meal, but still;) I am really curios about the caramelized goat cheese though. I have never ever seen it so I would love to try it out (gonna really search for it now). In their kindergarden they get a hot meal for lunch. A different one every day. We are not farmers but grow loads of vegetables and fruits in every available spot in our backyard and we eat what ever is ripe at the moment along with the wide variety of groceries you can get at any food store. They import from all over the world, so you can get almost anyting if you know where to shop for it.

    About not helping people it is considered rude to intervene in other peoples business, and sometimes that can be a bit backwards when you really really need help. If you ask for help, people will mostly smile and help you. There is always the rare idiot that won’t though…

    Also I have noticed a big difference in what is considered polite when I have met americans and even australians, they say thank you a lot, so much that from our point of view it seems to not actually be a real thank you. It’s so much of it that it seems artificial. T

    he sentence “How are you?” means something different here then what it seems to mean to the americans and australians I have met. To them it seems to be a phrase you say because it is required. They ask, and the person they ask is supposed to say that everything is great, super…. or at least give some kind of standardized answer that does not really have to have anything with the way they are at all. Several I have spoken to have reacted negative to the lack of this question from norwegians, but the thing is that when we ask how you are, it is because we genuinely want to know HOW YOU ARE, not some bs answer. That makes “how are you? ” a rather personal question when asked by a norwegian and so we don’t go around asking everyone. It would simply be rude seen from our point of view.

    About pregnancy and birth you really draw a short straw if you live in the big cities because they are always pressured on time and resources. I know people who have given birth in their on car because they where sent back home to wait for an available bed at their birth center, but this only happens in the largest cities. From what a friend told me the prenatal care (or complete lack of it) in Oslo was horrifying. For us on the other hand it was the exact opposite. I had so many appointments with my midwife it almost felt like a job on its own, I had so many ultrasounds in my two pregnancies that I cant really tell you how many it ended up being. With my first born it was a complicated pregnancy, but with my second everything was normal and I SOOO hoped to be left alone a bit more then in the first one…. not quite that lucky though ;) Thats how it is in this much smaller town.

    Less stress and lower costs means more time to care for each other.

  46. her photos are gorgeous, and I love this series so much, thank you for sharing

  47. that was a very interesting read. Thanks for sharing.

  48. Very interesting article. I see forward to more. Thank you so much.
    I’m a German, my partner is American and we are living in Norway. We are expecting our first child in about 6 weeks.
    Rebecca nailed it pretty well. :)
    We have chosen to go half private in medical care during pregnancy. I visit a private midwife, the only one here around. When we found out that we are expecting I called the health station where you usually go for the controls during pregnancy and they told me I could come when I’m about 15 weeks and then we would talk about life style and eating habits e.g. taking folic acid… Right, at 15 weeks you talk about folic acid which you are supposed to take the first 12 weeks. We have had 2 private ultrasounds in addition to the usual ultrasound which is paid by the government and I’ll get the Strep B Group test done privately because they rather treat the baby than to test for it as a midwife at the hospital told me.

    There is this myth that you get 100% paid leave for 49 weeks or 80% paid leave for 59 weeks (since 1st of July 2013) but that’s only the case if you don’t earn more than 6 times G (Grunnbeløp = base rate), 1 G ~ 82kNOK. So if you earn more than that, you loose quite some money.
    Yes, it’s great that men are participating in child care etc and all the Scandinavian countries esp. Norway love to talk about gender equality. But if the pregnant woman hasn’t worked for at least 6 months out of the last 10 months before the maternity leave starts, the future dad, isn’t eligible for any leave, not for the fraternity quote nor for the time which can be shared, if he has been working doesn’t matter at all.

  49. Imagine that you stay at home, you have to child (2 and 4 years old) and it is very cold outside.

    How long does a mother would like to stay outside with their childs.

    Not so long i guess.

    But children need motion and light.

    Therefore the barnehage is a good institution.

    They stay outside about 1-2 hours per day it could rain, snow, it could be very cold:

    the kids can stay outside, and this is healty.

  50. About eating outside in vinter:

    It is necassary that children are outside in vinter, because they need sun-ligth in order to produce vitamin D.

    Do you know the history of Scott and Amundsen?

    Amundsen reach the south pol first, because he used knowlegde about how to live in artic enviroments.

    You have to learn to live with a long vinter and therefore children goes to barnehage.

  51. It isnt it wonderfull to that their are diffrent ways to raise kids over the hole world?

    If you are reading a little bitt about history in Norway you learn a deaper perspective about Norway.

    I think that Norway can have the label sosialistic, but that is not every thing.

    In the USA finds some protestant sekt like Amish and Hutterer, people think that they are communist. But they say they arent.

    Go to “Folkebibliotek” (library), which is open for both children and adults, than you would like find a book about “Haugebevelgse”, a protestant movment which practise some kinds of sosialistic way of life.

    It is great to have the privilig to life in Norway. If you read some more than you will understand much more.

  52. You became famous in Norway as most newspapers are making a big story of your blog entry.

    While not being a parent, I agree on your observations on Norway. I’m European and often on business in Norway.

    What strikes me is that big difference in culture between countries that are geographically quite close.

    I think many Norwegians would disagree on your verdict on “food culture”, but I sadly have to agree with you.
    Always happy (foodwise) when heading home.

  53. And I almost forgot:

    On Janteloven:
    Janteloven is a text written by the Norwegian author Axel Sandemose. But that doesn’t mean we Norwegians can’t brag about themselves. I for example often points out that my daugther is a two year old genious. And even in Norway I’m allowed to say so because it’s true. Heck, she has even been concidered as a member of Mensa. Unfortunately they don’t accept members under the age of 7.

    http://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=no&tl=en&u=http%3A%2F%2Fsuperpapsen.no%2Fcategory%2Fhun-er-et-geni%2F

  54. I’m a father from Norway and I had quite a laugh reading this. But I feel the urge of commenting on some of the facts:

    On food culture:
    Yes, the gas stations and kiosk sell hot dogs. They also sell pizza slices, ice cream, coffe, baguettes and motor oil. That doesn’t mean we eat this all of the time or serve it to our kids at 6am in the morning. That would be like serving a Happy Meal every time we passed a McDonalds. There’s a reason why you don’t have many obese kids in Norway. My daughters lunch normally consists of bread with various orders: meats, cheese (both swizz and goat cheese), caviar etc. Together with this she can have yoghurt, pasta, egg and fruits. If she only had goat cheese she would probably be quite bored and smell funny.

    On playing outdoors:
    During vinter it’s cold in Norway. Even in the south you have temperatures down to -20 degrees (celcius). You can then keep your kid indoors for half a year or dress them up and play outside. We dress them up with wool and big dresses so they all look more or less like the Michelin Man. It’s actually close to impossible to see which kid is yours. Luckily the moms marks the clothes with the name of the kid so that we fathers can confirm that we bring the correct kid home with us when we pick them up (once the kindergarten put my daugthers beanie on another kid. My wife was not happy when she got home and found I had picked up the wrong kid). But if you want to keep your kid indoors when it’s a bit chilly, kids in Norway would stay in nearly half the year. But you have to dress them up for the weather, luckily we do know how.

    On bed time at 7 pm:
    If you’re going to be at work at 8:30am and you have to deliver your kid at kindergarten 8:00am then it is sensible to put the kid to bed around 7pm. If not you will have a monster to deal with in the morning. Just think of how you feel if you have to get up early deprived of sleep. Not at least the adults can have some hours before their own bedtime just for themselves. But during summertime, when the sun is up until late midnight and you have summer vacation, you will see kids out in the streets playing until late.

    On playground culture:
    This part in the text, I’m sorry to say, is a lot of noncense, at least if you live in one of the cities. But you have to be a bit imaginative to see the possibilities. I was in parental leave for 7 months with my daugther and we did a lot of activities, both alone and together with others. We went to the cinema, to “open kindergarten”, to singing groups,the museums are open all day and have specially made tours for adults visiting with their babies, we went to the zoos and farms and we went to swimming in the public pools. Remember that some Norwegians work night shifts, some work in the evenings and a lot of people, both moms and dads, are home in parental leave. All of those are not just sitting at home by themselves during the day.

    On friendlyness:
    Rebecca is quite correct that Norwegians might not be overly friendly to strangers, we have some work to do here. Because of this we can be a bit difficult to get in contact with. Often you have to take the first step yourselves, and you have to be prepeared that people can be a bit sceptical in the beginning. It’s not like in the states where you stand in a queue and a total strangers starts to talk with you. This is especially a fact during winter, when it’s cold and dark outside. But we do appreciate a bit of lemon poppy-seed cake. I have no idea what that is, but it sounds good. So keep them comming! I promise you your neighbours do appreciate them. If not you can move closer to me.

  55. Joanna, I love this series. I lived in Salzburg, Austria but I am back to States. I am from Europe though and was wondering if you’d like to start series about foreigners mothers living in the US. I think that might be an interesting topic. I’d love to participate!;)

  56. Note that this interview has sparked national debate in Norway about motherhood. A series of articles and commentaries have been published in Afterposten (Norway’s national newspaper)!

  57. This was a fun read, and having raised kids both in Norway and the US, some of the points raised are indeed spot-on. We loved the American friendliness towards pregnant women and women with strollers blew us away, and there really is nothing to do if you are a stay-at-home mom beyond age one.

    However, some things shocked us on our first move to the US as well. For one thing, we realized that there Hollywood had misled us with regards to gender equality, where we found Americans to be far more traditional than we imagined. With flexible jobs, we have often taken our parental benefits (aka “maternity leave”) over the pond and it has been great that there always was a milieu of well-educated, resourceful parents spending their days at home raising kids – but they were almost always female. It was not exactly hard to see why “the glass ceiling” seems so much prevalent in US politics and business life, and why women with successful careers hardly ever have kids.

    On another note, Rebeccas concerns about giving birth in Norway seems somewhat exaggerated. Despite all the 3D ultrasounds they are happy to offer you in the states, giving birth in Norway is statistically considerably safer in Norway than the US. In our experience, testing and treating for GBS is a fairly low-yield activity in terms of public health – and not doing so is part of the reason why hospital-acquired infections are so much nastier in the US (for an illustration of how much nastier, take a look at this chart: http://www.cddep.org/tools/methicillin_resistant_staphylococcus_aureus_infection_rates_united_states_and_other_countries). Norway follows high-risk pregnancies closely rather than spending lots of resources on healthy women with uncomplicated pregnancies, and does score considerably better when looking at measures such as maternal mortality rates (since CIAs Factbook was the first Google-hit, I went with that… https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/rankorder/2223rank.html)

    Besides, Rebecca does probably not notice that there is indeed an American way to things as well. Just try leaving your kids in the car with iPads when you go shopping, have them climb a high tree or letting them sleep outside in the cold. You will pretty quickly realize that there is an American way and that violating it brings about universal shock as well as polite and friendly condemnation ;)

    Still, we had great fun having our kids partly grow up in the US and by now, they know the pledge of allegiance (which is a really weird tradition when coming from abroad) by heart. Hope you enjoy parenting in Norway despite the cultural differences!

  58. The Law of Jante is satire – with some truth to it.

    The idea is that there is a pattern of group behaviour towards individuals within Scandinavian communities that negatively portrays and criticises individual success and achievement as unworthy and inappropriate. The Jante Law as a concept was created by the Dano-Norwegian author Aksel Sandemose, who in his novel A fugitive crosses his tracks (En flyktning krysser sitt spor, 1933, English translation published in the USA in 1936) identified the Law of Jante as ten rules. Sandemose’s novel portrays the small Danish town Jante (modelled upon his native town Nykøbing Mors as it was at the beginning of the 20th century, but typical of all small towns and communities), where nobody is anonymous. Generally used colloquially as a sociological term to negatively describe an attitude towards individuality and success common in Sweden and the rest of the Nordic countries the term refers to a mentality that de-emphasizes individual effort and places all emphasis on the collective, while discouraging those who stand out as achievers.

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  60. I’m an American living in Oslo with my Norwegian husband and our 3 kids. I have lived in Oslo for a while. I’m originally from Maine. My husband was the one who told me about this article online. I know exactly how the author feels. I thought I was the only one that felt that way. It’s tough at times (homesickness). I feel like I’m being pressured and smothered by barnehagen and being questioned about my parenting skills by the helsestation. We have tried the barnehagen and open barnehagen with our first child and it did not go well at all. I noticed their aren’t much kids playing outside the neighborhood after school (biking riding, playing basketball, hanging around) because most are in barnehagen or smaks. There aren’t much playgrounds around my neighborhood, so I would drive them to Frognar park, or the duck lake at oppsal. I remember as a kid after school I would ride my bike to my friends house or go to a ball game until my parents would call for me to come home. I’m still in shock about the food prices because all the healthy produce and lean meat are too expensive and it’s hard to save when you have 3 kids. I’m still in shock how products I usually would buy in the States and when I see it here, it’s 3 times the price. Everything is expensive. What I like about Norway is the drinking water, the nature, the beautiful scenery. It’s so green during the summer.

  61. Its so true! :) I am a dutch mum and live near Oslo. I really miss the individuality in norway.

  62. Let me translate janteloven for you, and it might not seem as positive as you make it to be:
    You shall not believe you are anything
    You shall not believe you are worth anything like us
    You shall not think you are wiser than us
    You shall not think you are better than us
    You shall not think you know more than us
    You shall not think you are more than us
    You shall not think you are good enough
    You shall not laugh of us
    You shall not think anyone cares about you
    You shall not think you can teach us anything

    The author of this “law”, Aksel Sandemose stated that the text gives a good impression of “Humans inherent evil and ability to force each other down”.
    Go figure

  63. In a way you are really grasping the majority way of living. But I would like to inform you that there ARE alternative ways to raise children here. While many do live on a tight schedule, for both the parents and children, there are many that don’t as well.
    I live only 5-6 bus stops from you, at St. Hanshaugen. Here, almost half the kids in kindergarten arrive closer to 10 AM, and thus go to bed later and wake up later. Not because the parents don’t work, but because many of us have jobs with other schedules. (But yes, I also feel the disapproving looks if we are out with kids at 9.30 PM).
    I believe that mainstream Norwegian child rearing, while being quite schedule driven, is milder / somewhat closer to attachment parenting than mainstream American child rearing. Physical proximity with the newborn is normally adviced from both midwifes and pediatric nurses. Co-sleeping is quite normal the first year. Around 40% still breastfeed at 12 months. Any kind of physical punishment is totally unacceptable in Norway. Children should be heard and have a saying. But Norway, as other cultures, do have a variety of child rearing. There are parents here that believe in stright rules and have Supernanny as their inspiration. And there are popular forums for parents that ideologically adhere to attachment parenting.

  64. What a stereotypical view of Norway and Norwegians. As a Norwegian I will now pack up my family and move to Portland, OR and tell you all: THIS is how Americans are!

    Rebecca has experienced one limited side of Norwegian culture and gives us these labels which I can’t recognize from either myself or my friends. If she had actually gone outside her closed environment at Oslo west end, she would have seen that there are as many different versions of parenting as there are parents. Of course, she gets the superficial things right, but then again, ALL Americans are superficial. Riiight?

  65. I had a good laugh and enjoyed this read!
    Hugs from a norwegian mum.

  66. Some of the things written here make me really proud. Yes, the children should get used to cold because they are northeners after all. Let your son play outside, explore nature, handle the elements including low temperature. He will grow up not only accustomed to the harsh northern habitat, but also appreciate the nature. From my perspective the biggest problem is when in their teens they abandon this lifestyle under the lure of comfort. You can often spot them by their… weight.

    Janteloven is indeed a dark spot on our society, a relatively new thing as well. We all want to be individualistic and free, but it is being actively suppressed by social engineering by the governing elite.

    Well, otherwise a nice article to read, I could comment more, but the weather is nice so I plan to paddle over to the other side of Mjøsa today in a kayak.

  67. I always love the views of “foreign norwegians” and really appreciate your perspective. Your way of explaining Janteloven really made me understand it…and I have been living after it for 29 years.

    However, I feel like some of you experiences are locality specific and does not apply to norwegians in general, eg. about pregnancy, and to some degree about friendliness.

    As to what you say about drugs, I would rather take the calculated risk than to be pumped full of something just to be safe…but then again, this is what I love about intercultural perspectives. We norwegians are just historically used to getting by with the basics, that’s where the “matpakke” comes from, and the “less drugs”-policy, although I never eat “brown cheese”. I do, however, eat “leverpostei” :)

    Thank you for this!

  68. I am Norwegian and this was fun reading :) Hope you like it here!

  69. I agree with viiru. This was a very negative description of Norway. Children don’t need to go to playgrounds or have playdates or go to children’s museums all the time! Just take them outside for a walk, or go to a park. It seems to me Americans are over-organising everything.

    And I think she is confusing the term “Janteloven” with just beeing a genuine and nice person.

  70. I am fascinated about the posts in this series. Having traveled to various parts of the world, I have been amazed by the lifestyle differences – especially when it comes to children and parenting. I am a newspaper journalist turned middle school teacher of Spanish, English as a Second Language, and World Cultures. As you can imagine, these topics are right up my alley! I recently posted my thoughts about the books “How Eskimos Keep Their Babies Warm” and “Bringing Up Bebe” on my own blog. Fascinating stuff!
    I may have to give your series a mention in my blog soon (not that my blog is followed by many. I only just revived it from a long period of neglect.) Feel free to stop by sometime!

    Amy @ http://giftedgabber.blogspot.com/

  71. I love these photos! I’ve always wanted to try living in Norway. Thanks for sharing this with us Joanna, Rebecca, and Lina!

  72. Thanks for these comments! Here’s a note from a reader that I got over email (she said she couldn’t post to the comment section for some reason and asked me to post it here)…

    My name is Kristine, I’m one of your Norwegian blog fans:-)

    The article “10 Surprising Things About Parenting in Norway” was spot on in so many ways, except the part with the Janteloven (the law of Jante). Janteloven is a big issue in Norway and we are not proud of it at all. It’s worrying that readers seems to think Janteloven is a good idea, both readers and the author of the article has misunderstood it. This is the full text Janteloven:

    “Janteloven” (the law of Jante in English) is written by the Norwegian author Aksel Sandemose and describes how groups in (Norwegian) communities criticises individual success as inappropriate. Many of us are fighting Janteloven and it’s difficult because it’s rooted in our culture in so many ways. Nothing good comes with it as you can see:

    Janteloven/Law of Jante:

    You’re not to think you are anything special.
    You’re not to think you are as good as us.
    You’re not to think you are smarter than us.
    You’re not to convince yourself that you are better than us.
    You’re not to think you know more than us.
    You’re not to think you are more important than us.
    You’re not to think you are good at anything.
    You’re not to laugh at us.
    You’re not to think anyone cares about you.
    You’re not to think you can teach us anything.

    Hopefully you can show this to the readers so they won’t misunderstand what Janteloven really is all about.

    Kind regards,
    Kristine Svenningsen, Oslo, Norway

    • I’m Norwegian as well. And I agree that Janteloven sounds terrible when you quote the original text like that. But the idea behind it, in my opinion is that you should keep your head down and work for the good of the community – not seek self-promotion.

      I think it’s wonderful that we have all these benefits that are available for everyone, because everyone works together by paying their taxes.

      Also an idea I like, is that no-one should be left behind. If someone struggles in school they should get help. What is negative is that a lot of the top students don’t get challenged as they should be. The idea is that if you’re smart, then you should seek to challenge yourself. “Ansvar for egen læring”, or “responsibility for your own learning” is a flawed concept. We then assume that young kids or young adults will seek knowledge themselves – this will very rarely work out.

      For myself, I lived abroad when I was 6-8 years old. I learned English and was fluent when I came back to Norway. I still had to sit through all the boring English classes, learning shit I already knew. This is something of a challenge though. How do you find that balance between not leaving anyone behind and still motivating and challenging your top students? I don’t know, but if someone does, please run for office and make a new school reform :)

    • Janteloven is a parody of small town attitudes in Denmark, written in the 1930s. I think it has limited application in Norway in 2013.

      It does touch upon a national characteristic that we recognize, that is probably why it has survived as long. But it shouldnt be taken entirely literally.

  73. Fascinating. 100% maternity pay. WOW. looking forward to the series! If you want uk/Ireland perspective let me know!

  74. Fascinating!! 100% maternity pay. WOW.

  75. P.S. Those books are great reads for anyone! Re-reading my post it made it sound like “As an American….” Weird. They are reflections made OF American ex-pats and I loved reading those. :)

    Cheers.

  76. I loved reading this post. I’ve always appreciated hearing cross-cultural views of people who are lucky enough to have these experiences. As an American, if you’re a reader, the book “Stones for Ibarra” and “Consider This, Señora” by Harriet Doerr are great examples of how the Mexican Culture (in the book) reflects on the strangeness of the ex-pats living in their midst.

    Also, it’s sort of old, but the movie “Babies” is so much fun to watch for the very reason this post is so intriguing and thought-provoking. It showcases babies being raised in three (or four) VERY different cultures and I LOVED it – especially the little baby in Mongolia tethered to the stick who shared the space with a family goat. LOVED it.

  77. Oh, I recognize these kiddos’ faces from you are my wild! How cool. This is truly fascinating. I’m constantly obsessing about how I’ll do the working mom thing after I have kids (yes… I am constantly obsessing over this and we don’t have kids yet), so it’s super fascinating to hear that everyone works in Norway!

    I think I’d be more comfortable with working if it was 8 to 3:45. That’s reasonable. Here in America, of course, you’re seen as a slacker if you routinely leave at 5 on the dot and also if you don’t email later.

  78. This is one of my favorite Cup of Jo posts ever! I am in the Foreign Service (the U.S. one, not the Norwegian one :) and am looking forward to raising my future children abroad. This post was really thoughtful and lovely and got at both wonderful and challenging aspects of raising children in a new culture. Love it!

  79. The hotdog thing completely cracks me up! I bet they’d find it odd that we think it’s odd!

  80. My husband and I seriously considered moving to Trondheim several years ago. We were absolutely charmed by the town, fascinated with Norway and tempted by job offers. After a stressful period of contemplation, we decided we would be too far from our families (in Italy and the States). We worried about raising children without that support system. We decided not to move. This wonderful post made me think about both the benefits and the downsides (oh, the isolation!) of child-rearing in Norway. I wish the author the best of luck.

  81. Gosh! How narrow minded thinking of your country where you live in… Norway is so much more than these points and this gave really negative picture of the country! Do you actually even live there?

    • Narrow minded, well, nevertheless truth. Not objecting to that there is MUCH more to Norway, for better and worse. I also dont see all these curiosities as negative things. By far. Do YOU live in Norway? Its not for everyone, but in my opinion highly recomendable :)

    • I am a Norwegian and live on the other side of the town from Rebecca, and this is really narrow minded. And not all of the things are true. True for some, but our society is more diversed than this.

    • It’s pretty hard to narrow down an entire parenting culture to 10 points–it’s going to be a bit generalized. As another American parenting young two young children in Norway, I think Rebecca has pretty much nailed it–barnehage, outdoor life, no “playground culture”, working families, maternity care. Although, as a midwife myself, I think the use of midwives here and their approach of to providing maternity care via socialized medicine is a good thing.

  82. This is so funny, every word is spot on! From daycare to janteloven to goat cheese. Its written in a very descriptive manner so its a little hard to tell if rebecca find all these weird traits and customs to be a good thing or not… But as born, raised, now raising kids of my own in Norway I can wouch for an overall sense of safety. Sure, we dont encourage people to excel (i.e. janteloven) but that also means that we provide equal chances independent of backgound.

  83. I live in Switzerland and I find after being here for two years I am still an outsider. At first you think the Swiss are very cordial because they say hi to you and make small talk but truthfully they just have good manners and I find it hard to make friends. The very few friends I have are mostly immigrants from other parts of the world. On other hand I do admire how full of life the elderly population are, they seem to enjoy the outdoors and generally have a good life. Switzerland is also a good place to raise children, it just takes some getting use to.

  84. This is such a cool series! Can’t wait to read more.

  85. Fascinating article and Im definitely looking forward to the rest of the series. Im from south Texas (few miles off the coast) and I when I first started reading your blog I could already tell our parenting styles were different and we live in the same country. Congrats on the new arrival!

  86. I loved this. I just moved to Sweden in January with my little family and have found that its practically identical to this! Thanks for sharing!

  87. This was incredibly fascinating! Thank you for sharing. This line made me laugh out loud, “It’s good for him to freeze a little bit on his fingers.”

  88. She got janteloven all wrong -she thinks it an idea we have, a way of living ,but it is the oposite .Its a thing we try to get rid of .The word Jantelov is from a poem written in the seventies I think. Best regards a Norwegian.

    • This comment has been removed by the author.

    • When my sons attended 2nd & 6th grade at Byåsen Skole, Trondheim, some well-educated parents who’d travelled abroad didn’t want Janteloven to hold back their children’s progress in school, (i.e. students from the same housing area learn together at the same pace, albeit slower than many parents wanted). There seemed no way for gifted children (top few %) to learn at an advanced pace, with extra assignments or homework or even skip a grade). Some wanted the best education for their children with extra assignments and homework. U.S. law requires special programs for both handicapped and gifted/exceptional children so they can advance at their own pace with others sharing similar abilities. Some Norwegians I’ve met, particularly those with gifted children, like this approach, although it seems to fly in the face of Janteloven. The issue seems controversial in Norway, just as it is with some in the U.S.

    • I totally agree, Janteloven is a very negative thing. I’ve lived in Norway for the first 23 years of my life, and now I’m living in the US on my third year with my american husband. I find the US very liberating and you can actually be proud of your own accomplishments without people judging you in a negative way.

      This is what it really is:
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Law_of_Jante

      Now for the rest of the article I think its pretty spot on, One of my husbands first norwegian term was “pølse i brød” (hot dog) :)
      We don’t have any kids yet, but I’m definitively feel there are a good things and bad things to each country. I love the thought of being a stay at home mom here, and actually get to raise my own kids and watch them grow up.

  89. It was interesting to here the American perspective. As I live in Norway myself now (I am from Lithuania)

  90. I’m an American raising kids in Quebec, and it is tough raising kids in a different culture, though there’s a lot of good, too. I would love American parents in America to know, though, that the subsidized system (health and childcare) is a mixed bag. There’s a lot to be said for it, but it does constrain you quite a bit. I choose to be a stay at home mom (actually, I’m not even allowed to work here, but I’d choose to be home anyway) but bc the assumption is that your kids are in daycare and you’re at work, it can be very lonely, and you tend to feel out of place and indulgent. And the socialized tax system assumes you’re a two income family, bc the taxes are so high that it’s pretty difficult to live on one income. As for health care, I love that it’s subsidized, but it does mean that you might have to wait months (as my friend recently did) for a life saving operation, with the risk that you could die in the meantime. BUT no one is excluded from the surgery or has to go bankrupt for it. It’s a trade-off. It always is. There’s no perfect society. Anyway, Norway sounds fascinating!

  91. i love this. i can’t wait for the next one. after living in taiwan for three years, and watching parents there, how culture affects parenting is fascinating to me.

  92. I enjoyed reading this. Being a maternal and child health grad student, I love learning about pregnancy and motherhood in different cultures. Thanks for sharing!