Nisse Season: Picking the Fjøsnisse from the Julenisse

nisse-everywhere-15 Nisser are everywhere!  Little men or women that hide in your barn, looking after the animals and the farm; playing tricks on you if you don't look after them properly, like giving them a bowl of grøt and a beer for Christmas. nisse-everywhere-14 nisse-everywhere-8 Nisser are the traditional Norwegian Christmas elves that extend back to the nordmenn times, so instead of one jolly old fellow, there can be a whole barn full of little elves - men, women, children, aunties, uncles... nisse-everywhere-5 nisse-everywhere-10 They are called Fjøsnisse, literally meaning barn elf, (nisse for short), and are little magical creatures that hide out in the barn using their powers for good or bad, which depends of the care you give them.  They are seen as tricksters; so if your axe is not where you left it or the tractor has been moved to another field without your knowledge, it must have been the barn elves. nisse-everywhere-11 They shouldn't be confused with Julenisse, which is the modern-day Santa Claus - the guy that now drops off presents to children in his sleigh.  The traditions don't cross in Norway, however, Julenisse and fjøsnisse are beginning to look a lot like each other through cross-dressing the traditions. nisse-everywhere-6 nisse-everywhere-13 nisse-everywhere-7 The usual way to tell them apart in the stores is by their clothes.  Norwegian nisser use traditional sweaters with knitted designs, or perhaps fur, and grey is the prominent colour.  Sometimes nisser have a red cloak but if the pants are grey or brown, you'd think it is meant to be a barn elf. These are definitely julenisser: nisse-everywhere-4 nisse-everywhere-3 However, it seems that julenisse is starting to steal fjøsnisse's style and colour, as Norwegians prefer natural fibers and designs.  Julenisse is beginning to drop it's all red suit and go for grey, fur and Norwegian patterns instead.  So to tell them apart we need to look at his accessories; if he is carrying a sack full of toys or wearing glasses it is likely he is meant to be a julsnisse.  With a walking stick, skis or a traditional sled, it is likely a fjøsnisse. Definitely a fjøsnisse: nisse-everywhere-9 Norway used to be a place where most people lived on farms but now, as the population moves into modern living, the barn elf tradition is slipping away.  It is sad to lose traditions, but when farms and barns are not a part of everyday living anymore, it is also natural.  Traditions change, just like language and ideas. However, even though the American idea of Santa Claus is becoming the norm in Norway, Norwegians are making the jolly old fellow their own by taking away his unnatural red clothes and flying sled with reindeer (as Norwegians know, reindeer don't fly) and giving him a natural, earthy makeover, with skis and a sack full of clementines and raisins to give out to children.  Julenisse doesn't slide down the chimney when everyone is asleep, he knocks on the front door to visit with the family and hands out presents in person so the children can say thank you, usually with a Christmas song.  He might stay for grøt or a game, but he is quickly off to visit the neighbours.  You just might say, Norway is reinventing Santa Claus! Link: Decorative Christmas Elves

The Inside Story on Looking for Work in Norway

A new year is approaching and often it is a time for people to think about where they are headed.  Some people think Norway would be a good place to work - they have heard about all the benefits and the good working conditions.  However, it isn't as easy to get a job in Norway as you might think.  If you are looking for some insider perspective, then this is for you: In order to be successful in getting work in Norway, you need to know the odds.  The odds are against you.  If you are not qualified, if you are over qualified, if you don't already live in Norway or if you don't speak Norwegian fluently, it is likely you won't get the job.  Most 'success stories' you hear about people getting jobs in Norway are from International employers where English is the working language. In my personal story, the reason why I get jobs without speaking fluent Norwegian (well, to be fair, now I just speak bad Norwegian) is because: 1) I work in the Arts where English is generally a must.  I work regularly with international artists and my English has actually been a benefit for my employer.  2) I have qualifications that you can't get in Norway.  I also have work experience that you can't get in Norway.  3) I am qualified in many areas of my industry, so am very versatile.  4) I have very good connections. 5) I already live in Norway.  6) I have a Norwegian family, support, responsibility.  7) I always seem to be in the right place at the right time.  8) I have a fantastic reputation that I built through getting involved in the community.  Yes, luck has had a lot to do with it.  I got the job I'm in now because someone saw me perform at a private birthday party.  Word-of-mouth and connections are very important in getting jobs in Norway.  The job that I am in doesn't exist in Australia; I've had to come to the other side of the world to find and live my dream job.  Not everyone is as lucky as me, not by a long shot.  Believe me, I am very grateful and I feel blessed that all my hard work over the last 20 years has paid off.  But unfortunately my experience is very rare. Norway is a small town, so referrals and networks play a strong active role in getting employment.  Norwegians trust people they know and like to employ people they know.  Norwegians watch out for each other.  Especially in small cities and towns, Norwegians give each other a fair go, they help each other out, so everyone benefits.  A lot of outsiders don't understand the importance of a community working together for its own survival.  In the cold, dark winters of Norway everyone needs each other to live.  You can understand how outsiders from dog-eat-dog over-populated cities from around the world can throw things off balance in Norway. In recent years, I have seen Norway starting to pull shut.  There is not as much room for outsiders as there used to be.  It might be a good thing, but it also might mean Norway will fall behind in the stakes for an elite workforce like the USA, UK and Australia.  And there is the struggle - the conflict of progress.     But Norway hasn't closed off completely, not just yet.  There are still avenues to a working life if you are realistic and accept your limitations.  I have a lot of friends and acquaintances who are in the position of employing people so I'm going to give you some insider knowledge on what they are looking for, just coz I like you so much! On average, for most descent career-jobs advertised, there are at least 40 to 60 applicants, depending.  All the applicants who do not speak Norwegian are binned without question.  All the people who are under-qualified are binned.  And all the people who are over-qualified, especially with PhDs, are binned.  All the people who do not live in Norway, and if the company doesn't want to go through the hassle of immigrating them, are binned.  That generally leaves about five people left to sort through.  Out of that, two or three make it to interview.  However, all this process is just a law-abiding routine when they have already chosen someone internally to take the job.  Remember, a good amount of jobs are filled even before a job is advertised in Norway. Even though unemployment is low in Norway, full-time employment is also low.  Many Norwegians, especially in smaller cities, have to take on two or three jobs to be full-time employed.  The way that they do this is like a job share system.  Rather than employees sharing a full-time job, employers share a full-time employee.  Kommunes and other government agencies do this a lot to reduce costs in each department.  For example a secretary could be hired to work for the front desk at the kommune office, the front desk at the Middle school and then a day at the front desk of a nursing home.  When a job comes up in the government, current employees of the government get first dibs.  As I work for the government, I can tell you, that all part-time employees fill out forms stating if we want to increase our hours and wish to be considered for any job offers within our sector.  So when you think about it, every State run institution (the government is the biggest employer in Norway) operates like this - universities, schools, libraries, hospitals, transport, buildings and roads, etc.  Private employers also operate like this when they can.  The point - getting into the system is hard, but once you are in you can benefit. Many jobs are offered on a one year basis, with option to extend.  This is so 1) employers can trial an employee before committing. It is very hard to fire an employee in Norway.  Often you need government approval and Unions are very pro-active.  The regular trial period is three to six months to quit or be fired without consequences.  One year temporary positions give employers a way around the law but also means that they have a way out if they don't have the funds anymore (which happens more often than not) to keep the position open.  And 2) A lot of times an employer's budget only allows the employment of a person for one year.  They create 'project' work.  This means they only take on a one year expense rather than a lifetime expense of an employee. You'll find that not as many jobs are on offer when the government is about to change - each governemnt likes to cut funding and no one likes to be stuck with an employee they can't afford. I'm amazed at how many people go for these positions.  Two years ago, Moose and I did an experiment.  He applied for a førstekonsulent position for fun - a first consultant position, which is just a basic administration job.  It was for a one year appointment with option to extend at the Finnmark Høgskolen (now non-exstistant).  These jobs are a dime-a-dozen.  Because this was a public position, they were required to let all applicants know who else had applied for the job.  We received all the other applicants information, bar name.  It was rather scary to have such details - as an Australian such stuff is generally private.  There were 41 applicants from all over the country.  There were many just out of High School with no credentials, and also immigrants with minimal education, but there were also a large amount of 40+ female applicants that had many years of higher education, and some were currently studying.  There were only a few applicants that had basic admin education (which you would think would be a given for an admin job) but the oddest thing was the amount of people who were working on or who had their Master degree in a Humanities subject.  There were a good handful that had several degrees.  These people also had a long list of part time admin jobs over many years, bouncing around from sector to kommune.  Their education screamed overqualified, but their job experiences were just secretaries or basic administration workers.  This is what happens in a population that is spread out over small cities - over qualified people that have to take basic jobs because of where they live.  Nearly all 'capital' kommunes have a higher education facility.  It means that when people can't get jobs, they study.  The more they are jobless, the more they study, creating an over-educated population for the jobs that are available.  The person who got the position was a local 40+ year old woman who was currently doing a Maters in the Humanities and who was already working part-time at a tourist venue.  The next week the tourist centre opened a one year part-time job. Through further investigation and observations it has become clear that our city, at least, has a group of 40+ highly educated women bouncing around from entry job to entry job.  They are 'one year appointment' freelancers, or 'temporaries'.  When a job comes up, they are the first to be asked because they are known, trusted and are usually available on short notice to take the job.  These 'free-movers' are very handy especially in small communities where many jobs have time limits to reduce costs. These 'temporaries' are great for the permanent employees.  It is common for permanent employees to take a break from work, to study, to go on an extended vacation or to develop a project, a sabbatical, if you will.  Good employers like it because it generally means the employee revitalizes (as it is still common for employees to stay in a job for a lifetime).  Adding new employees shift things around a little and enhances the workplace.  I find that good employers are very flexible and accommodating.  In my work employees take time off all the time to study and to travel and to go to conferences because it is seen as part of developing a good employee, and a good human.  Norway is focused on quality of life for all people.  And I work for the government!  I've also seen private companies allow employees to create their own work hours, perhaps working three 12 hour days and taking a four day weekend.  Employers tend to trust their employees.  There are no meters or clocking-ins.  The goal of most good employers is to create a happy and pleasant working life for all.  But, of course, those private entities touched by a commercialized world have different objectives.  The woman above who got the job at the Høgskolen likely was on a 'job-break' and would return to her usual part time job at the tourist centre once her one year appointment was finished at the tertiary institution.  The point - you have to compete with the locals who know and work the system, but if you get in, work life is amazing (depending on your agreements). We have a big mining employer in the north who look for full-time permanent employees.  When they hire they don't look for potential, they look for who is perfect for the job - Norwegian language, at least a degree for the laboratory or the relevant certificates for the mine.  They have been employing for a long time.  They know that PhD employees are always looking for something better and will likely leave when they find it.  They know that younger employees will likely leave also because they are still establishing their lives and the far north is not that great on your social life.  The working language is Norwegian and because there are a truck load of safety rules in the mining industry it is essential that employees know Norwegian.  However, they are still open to 'exceptions' out of necessity.  I know of one Australian who got a job at the company with only little Norwegian, BUT, he had the right degree in geology, he already lived in the Arctic city and he was personal friends with one of the other workers.  The point - you have to be in the right place and know the right people if you don't speak the language.  You need to prove you are a 'keeper' if you want a permanent job, and that usually means having a family or paying off a house.  Your position in life says a lot about you and your motives.  All the promises in the world won't make an employer believe you will stay after initial training - your life situation comes into play. Another large energy company in the north gets an insane load of applications when they advertise jobs, many from other countries.  When they get an application that is more than a few pages, it gets binned.  Apparently, European countries, especially from the East, are in the habit of telling their life story in job resumés, which turns HR off.  People from English speaking  countries are too sparse with their information.  They write all their education and work experience but say nothing about themselves.  In fact, many Norwegian companies want to know what your hobbies are, what you like to do for physical activity and if you are a member of any clubs.  Norwegians socialize a lot at work.  They want employees who will fit into their working life, who will be a good addition to their tight group, especially since they will be working with you for eight hours a day for the next twenty years.  They need to know you will get on with everyone and everyone will get on with you.  During the dark season, especially in the north where depression, insomnia and fatigure are normal, and everyone is stuck at work because of a freaky storm and a two meter dump of snow blocking the door, they need to know you are not going to go all 'Jack Torrance' on them.  It takes a special type of person to survive Norway, especially the North, if they aren't Norwegian already.  The point - you need to be likable and sane, and you need to show it.  Norwegians like NORMAL, positive, friendly and welcoming co-workers, who are reserved with their personal commentary. job-vacancies-2014-3 People looking for work in Norway need to realize that Norway is a very small place.  There are only 5 million people in the country and only half of them are working.  There is just not that much need for a big workforce.  For example, from Statsnorway there were only 54,700 job vacancies, most of them were part time (from 10%) in the third quarter of 2014 - down 4400 from last year.  In fact, take a look at all the job vacancies for each sector over the last few years: job-vacancies-2014-1 job-vacancies-2014-2 There's not really that much going around for a whole country, and these are jobs for Norwegians.  Pickings are slim.  If you have a look at how many immigrants are actually working in Norway, it gives you an idea of the jobs available for immigrant workers: job-vacancies-2014-4 The table above shows only the representation of immigrant workers in different sectors.  For example, take the Alle næringer with both men and women/ Begge kjønn, it says 96 for 2012.  Now that is not a percentage.  That is a ratio that reflects the ratio of immigrants in the area of business.  In practicality, the immigrant population is just under 20% in Norway, and lets make it 20% to be easy.  So, in all businesses immigrants are not represented 20% but are pretty close - about 18%.  If you have a look at the different sectors, cleaning Rengjøringsvirksomhet has 542% representation in 2012, meaning that most cleaners are immigrants.  Likewise with hotels and accommodation Overnattingsvirsomhet at 373% representation.  Another interesting thing that you'll find if you follow the link below to the webpage with the stats (all in Norwegian) is that cleaners are mostly African and Asian, and Primary and Secondary Industries Primær- og sekundærnæringer are mostly Western men, and higher education staff Undervisning and Health Helsetjenester are mostly Western women.  One of these sectors is the biggest employer of immigrants but also the lowest paying.  I bet you can guess which one that is. I would suggest studying the links below so you can work out for yourself the odds of getting a job in Norway.  Remember, you have to compete with all Norwegians, who will always be first.  Then comes the Scandinavian language immigrants - the Swedes and the Danes.  Then comes anyone else who knows the language better than you.  Then comes anyone else who lives in Norway, or has the correct qualifications and can do what other Norwegians can not do.  Then comes the people who are settled with responsibility and family.  Then, usually if employers can't find the person they want, they won't employ - they'll wait until next year to advertise again. So to be on top - 1. Correct EDUCATION; 2. Fluent NORWEGIAN; 3. Living IN NORWAY.

Hosting Our First Norwegian Birthday Party

birthday-card Our kids have been to many birthday parties over the year but yesterday was Lilu's turn, and boy, was it a crazy ride. I didn't know where to start.  I hadn't really been to any of the other kid's parties throughout the year because of my work hours, so Moose had all the experience.  However, being Norwegian, Moose never thinks that Norwegian things are special, different, or that there is anything particular he should mention about normal Norwegian things - he is usually no help when he answers 'same as everywhere else'.  It seems I am right to never believe him. Catering for seven year olds can be tricky, even in my own culture.  There are certain expectations that must be fulfilled - cake is one of them!  I didn't want to do anything weird or crazy (being an outlander), but I still wanted to put in a little of Lilu's Australian heritage.  Pass-the-parcle is a regular party game in Australia but is not heard of in Norway so it was perfect for the party, and as it has no name in Norwegian, we decided to call it 'send pakke' (send the package).  I wanted to call it 'varm potet' - hot potato - but that would take too much explaining for little kids.  Moose and I often have to make up Norwegian names for things that are only found in English.  It is quite fun; one of the perks of living in a bilingual family.  We also decided to have fairy-bread (sprinkles on buttered bread), which, therefore having no name in Norwegian, we have dubbed 'Tingelingbrød' (Tinkerbell bread).  Everything else I tried to do the Norwegian way (which basically means down-playing everything).  Well, I tried, at least. Lilu loves crafts so we decided to make the invites ourselves.  We got very creative with glitter, cut outs and stickers.  They turned out lovely, like a little girl's dream.  But apparently, making our own cards was a very elaborate thing to do, a little 'over-the-top'.  Most are just bought at the store or are computer print outs, so when Lilu handed the cards out they were received with extra excitement. We invited 20 boys and girls.  The school rule says that if we want to invite people from school then we have to invite the entire class or all the girls or all the boys in the class.  No one is allowed to be left out.  There was a big story in the news last year in Norway about passive bullying by exclusion and kids not turning up to parties because the birthday kid wasn't popular.  Norwegians took it to heart and now social rules are set that everyone should be invited.  I have no problem with that.  But the school didn't tell us they also changed a rule saying that cards weren't allowed to be given out during school hours.  What?  Before or after school was the time to hand them out, they said.  (So that's why we've had a number of people hand-delivering invites to our front door.  I thought it was strange; that maybe they had just forgotten to hand them out and now had to quickly race round to every house to get them out in time.)  So now we also found ourselves making a 20-stop trip around the neighbourhood hand-delivering invites.  (Probably another reason why the school hands out a class list of contacts to all families with kids in that class).  Lilu was graciously welcomed at every door as she handed over the invites, which action seemed to create even more excitement for the coming event. One of the weird things about Norwegian birthday invites is the RSVP.  Rather than 'tell me if you are coming or not' cards say only 'tell me if you are not coming' as if everyone is expected to come unless otherwise stated.  This can be problematic because you don't know if everyone is actually coming to the party or they have just forgot to reply back to say they aren't.  We found we had to sms everyone to confirm they were all coming as we hadn't heard anything from anyone.  I didn't know how much food I needed to buy or make, and I had a fear that perhaps no one would show up and just forgot to cancel.  But the group-sms proofed valuable as everyone got back to us to say they were coming - all 20!!! To gather info about what was expected for a Norwegian party today (Moose is a little out of date with his party-going-info) I asked around my dance students.  Pølse med brød, or hot dogs, were a must.  Lollies, potato chips and cookies, and of course, the birthday cake.  It seemed easy enough.  Lilu wanted a marzipan layer cake, but with so many kids there would likely be a nut allergy somewhere.  So I made a fondant layer cake instead.  I must of done well because the kids at the party couldn't stop looking at it and 'awwwing'. birthday-cake We held the party at the SFO, the school's After School Care room.  It is a big activity room with everything you need - kitchen, media equipment, tables and chairs, etc.  No hiring necessary, just a booking and the keys were handed over happily.  No rules or must-do's, they knew we would look after the place and thoroughly clean up.  (It is rather nice to be immediately trusted.) The party was after SFO on a Monday from 16.30 to 18.00.  This time was perfect, un-intrisive of people's schedules, (as you need to choose days and times a little more wisely with a birthday in December) and short enough to not feel like we have to 'entertain'.  Activities went as follows: welcomes (The other parents all took off and left us to it.  I was surprised at how trusting they were.  Some didn't even come in to meet us.); pass-the-parcle game in which the kids thoroughly enjoyed with all the pulling faces, yelling cock-a-doodle-do and swapping places.  (I had to convince the girl who won that the gift was for her, not for Lilu.); pølser and a buffet of goodies for the meal; making balloon dogs; birthday cake - they wanted to sing happy birthday in English!; opening presents; and home-time with 'thanks yous' and giving of goodie bags. The party was a success, I think.  It went so fast.  All I can remember is blowing up sausage balloons constantly (Moose was the star turning them into dogs), refilling up cups over and over for the boys (I felt guilty about all the liquid sugar I was giving them and was sure one kid was going to wet the bed, he had so much!), and trying to convince the boys that they will like their goodie bag even though there were no lollies in it. (We put a bunch of lego in and other toys we got cheap off ebay - couldn't bring myself to give them any more sugar; I felt guilty enough with the soda and cake).  Even still, the boys were asking where all the lollies were (hehehe - I didn't buy any - I thought the fairy bread, cheezles, pretzels, soda, cookies, hot dogs and cake was enough sugar - and I was right!).  The kids were a little psycho and we forgot that at seven, boys don't want to play with girls, so keeping the party in one piece was not going to happen.  And I forgot one kid was Muslin and I had to check out everything she was eating - no hot dog for her!   And OMG! the birthday presents.  They were so expensive!  I felt so guilty.  For the whole year I've been sending Lilu to all the other parties with just a little gumball machine gift, thinking that Norwegians would prefer a cute, but un-intimidating gift.  Boy, was I wrong. I've learnt so many lessons about holding a Norwegian birthday party yesterday.  I'm glad we made it easy on ourselves and just went with the flow.  The kids seemed to have a blast just running around and jumping on everything.  It was a wild 90 minutes, any longer and I think I would have needed some oxygen.  I have never seen Norwegian kids so excited and hypo.  The birthday girl had a great time, it seemed like the other kids did too.  (I felt a little sorry for the parents, giving them back a hypo-delic kid to settle down for the night.) Next year - bring it on!

Julebord – Work Christmas Parties

julebord Julebord is the adult version of Nisse parties; a work Christmas party to celebrate the year.  They begin as early as November and can be extravagant, in big hotels or conference centres, or low-key, in a local hall or even a mountain cabin. Julebords are notorious for being a little risqué in Norway.  For a lot of people it is time to let loose, (a bigger deal in Norway than other countries as it is Norwegian character to be reserved in all other areas of life) and they are not afraid of a little, well, a lot, of party spirits. There are many myths and legends about julebords floating around.  A lot of alcohol is consumed at julebords and where there are adults ready to make the most of it, all sorts of mischief is ripe.  Actually, the P4 radio said on their 27th Nov broadcast that julebord season is the peak for infidelity and that four out of five infidelities happen at julebord.  At one particular julebord one of us went to in Oslo with a big security company (we won't mention names), two of the head-honchoes had taken their wedding rings off for the evening.  And we have just heard on the news about the first 'julebord casualty', which happened because of a full-on brawl involving four men in Norland (three of them now charged with second degree murder).  But stuff like this is very unusual, the exceptions. But no julebord is the same.  We have been to many over the years in different cities - Oslo, Harstad, Tromsø, Alta - and all have their own traditions and customs (like Oslo tends not to allow partners but Alta encourages them to come).  All-in-all, it is Alta, way up in the cold North, where the julebords have been the best for us.  They are a mixture of local tradition, great comfort food and just plain good fun. Last night we went to Moose's julebord, which kicked-off the Advent season perfectly.  The party was at the Scandic (the most 'luxurios hotel in Alta) and started at 7pm.  Parties at any hotel always take longer to progress than at private places, so Moose and I rocked up at 7.30pm and jep, everyone was still in at the foyer bar having their 'introductory' drinks.  By 8pm we were stamped and in the door. Seating was arranged so we had to find our place names - harder than you think with 150 other people trying to do the same.  Once settled our MC for the night introduced himself.  He was a local comedian who was popular in traveling revys (a Norwegian form of cabaret).  In between dinner and speeches he provided entertainment with comedic sketches about local culture and people.  He was very entertaining and went all the way with costumes and audience participation.  He certainly earnt his money. But, for the first of the night, we all had to sing!  It is tradition for every julebord (wedding, conference, actually, any gathering for party purposes) to make up their own songs using a familiar tune.  The songs are usually funny and relate to the working life or employees of the company.  Singing songs in public is a part of everyday life in Norway.  There are no party-poopers, everyone joins in to add spirit to the event.  Public singing is one of the lovely customs Norway has, everyone grows up with, so it is second nature to Norwegians to open their mouths and join in the chorus. The director of the local branch, (Moose works for the biggest mining company in Norway), made his impressive statistical speech.  The company had done very well over the past year with a huge increase in profits.  An interesting  introduction was of the Scandic staff, standing and waiting to serve, even the apprentices were introduced to everyone.  Then there was a raffle to win two different gifts - a NOK600 gift voucher at the hotel and a weekend stay for two (which I though was a little odd as who stays in a hotel only 10minutes away from where you live?) While all this was happening, our glasses were filled on the table - three of them - water, red wine or beer and a hard liquor, Aquvit.  I was very amused.  All this on an empty stomach, it seemed we were expected to get drunk.  But alas, Moose and I don't drink, all our full glasses didn't deter the waiters from setting more drinks in front of us during the night, another two aquavits and coffee.  Halfway through the night we went out to get cash for the babysitter and when we got back our drinks were empty.  Later, a man from our table apologized so elegantly for drinking them, or as he put "took care of them", he thought we had gone home. However, there was a good reason for the Aquavit.  This spirit accompanies the Christmas dish Lutefisk.  Julebord literally means Christmas table.  It is a spread of Christmas food, and Norwegian Christmas food in Alta is roast ribbe, pinnekjøtt and  That's what was served on the warm buffet table with minted potatoes, mashed swede, sauerkraut and Christmas pølse.  Nothing special, in fact, it was exactly what you make at home - not 'restaurant quality' but the same ingredients that you'd buy at the local supermarket.  This is one of the reasons why not many eat out in Norway.  Usually you'd go out to a restaurant to eat food that you can't make, or don't make, at home.  However, I've found that most local restaurants serve food exactly they way you make at home (but costs ten times more because someone else has made it).  In bigger cities it is a little different, but all julebords that we have been to have 'home-cooked' food. We also had a cold buffet (on the dance floor, which freaked me out, being a dancer and all).  It was what I would call an Aussie Christmas lunch, which I was very excited about.  Cold cuts, and ham off the bone, a cold turkey, and a selection of rustic bread that you carved yourself.  They also had a seafood table, (which I generally stay away from because I'm allergic) which had prawns, smoked fish and crab.  The salad, well, a Waldorf without the walnuts, coleslaw and a mixed green salad was over powered by the rest of the meat selection.  Interestingly, there were no cheeses or other gourmet foods such as paté or hummus, mainly flesh foods.  The platter decorations were gorgeous, make of fruit and vegetables, a tragic waste.  These foods that I'm used to eating in a summer Christmas.  After asking the chef I got to take back to my table some fresh fruit including passion fruit.  The Norwegians at my table thought it was very odd that I could eat a passion fruit on its own.  Passion fruit is only seen as a flavour or decoration for cakes in Norway.  It is not really a fruit to eat like an apple.  (Boy, they are missing out!) After dinner there were more comedy sketches (about the bosses), more talks, and then the band started up - a four piece 'dance band' from Burfjord.  Dance band music is a typical North Norwegian style of swing music.  It is not Jazz Swing from America, but folkeswing music.  Folkeswing is a North Norwegain swing dance that has developed over the years.  It is the most popular dance form in the North and at one time or another, most Norwegians have taken lessons enough to do the basics on the floor.  As a teacher of ballroom dances for the last 25 years, I find the folkeswing is still very primitive.  The dance has organically evolved, which is what a good social dance must do, but the knowledge of the day, such as ergonomic movements for comfort and to protect the body, are not present in the dance.  The dance is very rough, puts strain on one arm and the knees and is very limited in styling.  The dance can fit to any 4/4 music, but not the waltzes, 3/4 and 6/8.  Danceband music for folkeswing can get a little boring because they keep the same tempo, rhythm and style for every song  With that said, if you are in Norway, you must go to a folkeswing lesson just for the experience because the atmosphere and the people are the best!  Though, on the floor with the folkeswingers, we were able to dance a few Rumbas, a Cha Cha and an East Coast Swing before dessert was served at 11.30pm. Following the comfort food of the main course buffet, we had a dessert buffet of 'soft sweets'.  Marzipan layer cake is always a must.  Restaurants always serve a gelled caramel pudding, sometimes chocolate.  Moltekrem, which is just whipped cream and cloudberries.  There were brownie squares and strawberry cheese cake squares, but the surprise of the night was trollkrem (troll cream).  This is a fun dessert that kids love.  It is uncooked meringue with a mix-in of lightly stewed berries, usually cowberries because they are very tangy. After all the sugar we called it a night.  The rest of the party-people were just getting going, it seemed.  It was expected that the night would go until 2.30 in the morning.  We were home before we turned into pumpkins, we had a big First Advent Sunday planned with the kids, but we were very content with the night, from the good company, good entertainment and the comfort food in our bellies. My work Christmas party is a little later in December.  We have the same food, play games and hear speeches, but because I work for a culture school, we generally have a mini concert with the teachers performing musical items or skits. Anything goes at julebord.  But remember, anything that happens at julebord, does not stay at julebord!

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