Cultural differences between Belgium and Norway

I’m originally from a small town in Belgium, but in 2014 I immigrated to Norway. Since then, everyone has been asking me in what the cultural differences between Norway and Belgium are. I see a lot of differences when it comes to politics, public services, and healthcare. For example, I pay fewer taxes now, but my asthma medication is free. But both countries are Western European, so living in Norway is generally pretty similar to living in Belgium.

I don’t want to go into politics with this blog post, so I wrote down the five biggest cultural differences when it comes to how people live and behave in both countries.

1. Friendlier

I find Norwegians to be generally friendlier and nicer than Belgians, I’ve received fewer homophobe comments and notice less racism as well. People are also more eager to help you in Norway. In Belgium, if you don’t speak the language, people will give you dirty looks, get angry at you or refuse to help you at all. Here in Norway everyone understands and speaks English, and people will try to be helpful no matter which language you speak.

2. Humor

I’m not sure how to describe the Norwegian or Belgian humor, but there is definitely a big difference. Norwegian people never find my jokes funny, and I don’t understand their humor either.

3. Importance of nature

Of course, nature is important to Norwegians. After all, Norway is one of the most beautiful countries on earth. But I never imagined it to be this important. In Belgium, people go shopping or partying during the weekends (or they relax at home), while Norwegians spend most of their spare time in the mountains or the forest. And most families here own a cabin where they will travel to whenever they can.

Cultural differences between Belgium and Norway: Being in nature is so important for Norwegians,

Cultural differences between Belgium and Norway: Being in nature is so important for Norwegians,

Cultural differences between Belgium and Norway: Being in nature is so important for Norwegians,

4. Pre-parties

In Norway, or at least in Oslo, people will meet up at someone’s apartment and get drunk before going to the real party. It never happened that way in Belgium, especially not within my group of friends. We just met up in bars or went straight to the party or concert and got drunk there. The first party I went to in Oslo I actually got way too drunk, way too early in the evening, because the pre-party started at 6PM.

5. Studying longer

This is one of the biggest cultural differences I’ve noticed. Among everyone I know in Belgium, only a few people that are close to 30 are still in school. People start college or university when their 18, finish it within 3-5 years and then start working immediately. Here in Norway, many people take a year (or even a few years) off in-between high school and college, change studies frequently or take a break before starting to work.

Have you moved to another country? What cultural differences did you experience?

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31 Comments

  1. Hello
    Thanks for a very informative and very interesting reading.One would guess that these countries will be similar,but reading your post,l realize this is not so.
    Well done,really enjoyed

  2. Haha we call pre-parties ‘predrinking’ here in the UK! It’s a case of getting tipsy from a £5 pack of 4 cans of beer instead of paying £3 for a pint down the local! Although I hear the prices in Norway are pretty expensive compared to what we pay here…

    Norway is a country that I’d love to visit because it looks like it has some of the most beautiful scenery. Oh, how I’d love to have a little ‘cabin in the woods’ to get away to!

    Marc x
    http://marcandrew.co.uk/

    1. That’s pretty cheap! We do it for the same reason in Norway, but it’s still more expensive than what you mentioned. It’s crazy, in Belgium, I could buy beer for less than €1.50 in pubs, in Oslo, I pay at least 70NOK (€9).

  3. these are interesting differences. i think when it comes to Uni, I have seen both styles, when I was in New Zealand some went straight to un whereas a lot went years later. I think pre- parties are an interesting concept, maybe not so good if your drinking though.

  4. great post thanks for this article learnt a lot. i live in Nigeria so you see how far i am from such a country as Norway thanks for bringing loser to their rich heritage

  5. Pre drinking is pretty big in the UK for students. I definitely don’t do it anymore now I’m older- I can’t handle as much! I’ve never been to Norway but it does look truly beautiful.

    1. I’m not drinking that much either. I think I mainly do it in a work-related context (we always have fredagspils, which means Friday beer) but even then I usually don’t go crazy with the alcohol.

  6. I haven’t met anyone from Norway or Belgium. Very interesting. I have friends from different countries and love learning about different cultures.

  7. Love this post mainly because I can relate. I’m from Holland and moved to the US. There are big differences in the culture. I love how you used to get drunk before the party ha ha. Been to Belgium many times by train from Holland. Lovely people, lovely city and awesome French fries (But you knew that already 😉 thx for this post. It rocks!!!!

  8. I’m from Philippines, and also an Asian. And when I travel to nearby countries I also experiences lots of cultural differences, which are funny mostly, but can easily adjust.

  9. What an interesting post! I am always curious to know more about other countries and culture differences! I never heard of pre-parties, how funny is that!

  10. This was a really interesting post, unless you have lived in both countries as an adult you would never know these things. Thanks for sharing. Reminds me of a book series called CultureShock!

  11. Interesting differences. It’s always surprising how different all the countries within Europe actually are. I live in the Netherlands and there’s already a huge difference between Belgium and the Netherlands.

  12. I loved this post, it was so interesting to read from your perspective the differences in the two places and think about how they are different from here where I live. In the UK it’s common to predrink before going out, spend the weekend drinking or relaxing at home and we’re expected to be in education till we’re at least 16, go to university then get a job.