Dugnad: Norwegian forced socialization?

In the coming weeks, Norwegians will send you letters

With the word "Vår-dugnad"

A dugnad is a voluntary contribution to the community usually in form of manual labour

But really it is not voluntary

If you do not participate you risk to be socially excluded from your community over a long period

Instead of employing a firm to clean the garden or paint the outer walls of the apartment block where you live

Or the street where your house is

A group of motivated Norwegians will send you letters to invite you to the Dugnad

It is socially unacceptable to even propose to pay professionals to do the work instead

Never refuse to attend a Norwegian Dugnad

Very few Norwegians like to go on a Dugnad, yet everyone feels that they need to 

It is somehow understandable 

In a place where one needs a reason to talk with the neighbours

Where social contact is much more comfortable around an organised activity

A Dugnad provides such frame for socialization

just like a sport group or a forening


In its most aggressive form

Dugnads can also be organised at work

You assemble new furniture, reorganize the workspace or change the decoration

Everyone participates including the top leadership

It can be seen as a way to flatten social classes

In addition to providing a unique opportunity for employees to speak together without the usual awkwardness


You have a reason to speak to others at the Dugnad

So when The Dugnad leader asks you to clean the street and the park nearby

Or paint the apartment block

Do it

Your neighbors or colleagues who avoided

Eye contact

And never stopped to greet you since you moved in

May suddenly smile and invite you for dinner after the dugnad

They have a reason to invite you

You did practical work together

In Norway one often needs to "suffer" before enjoying something

It is much easier to invite for dinner if you worked hard together first

Then just inviting for dinner because you are curious about someone

Or because you want to enjoy a great time around food

This being said

Many Norwegians do not like the Dugnad

And will not attend

The two acceptable excuses are

1. to go to the hytte or

2. to go abroad

Some will plan their travels many months in advance to be sure not to be there for the Dugnad 

But everyone who cannot go abroad or to a hytte do the Dugnad

So just do it

Norwegians will love you

And you may make friends with them

GENERAL TIPS: Take part in activities with a purpose and you will be successful socially in Norway.


Read more about our amazing Norwegian friends in Our Social Guidebooks to Norway 


By Julien S. Bourrelle

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