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.
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.
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.
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?