Dugnad - A ritual of Norwegian Socialization and an important tradition

These days, Norwegians will send you letters with the word "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 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 a frame for socialization

Just like a sport group or an organisation (forening)


Dugnads can also be organised at work, by sport groups or at school to finance extracurricular activities for children

At work you would assemble new furniture, reorganize the workplace or change the decoration

For your kids, the school may ask you to bake some cakes to sell, have a toilet paper sale where your kids need to overcome their shyness and take the uncomfortable step to go to neighbours and family to sell a product.

This process teaches a lot about getting outside your comfort zone and let kids have hands-on experiences selling products which in turn is the basis of running a business. 

Sport groups for kids may ask parents to stand at a kiosk, kids to knock on people's door to collect empty bottles which they return to the grocery store to get money (pant). Sport groups may also organise lottery where kids and parents sell tickets to acquaintances, family and neighbours. 


Everyone participates and by doing so get to know other parents and kids. This is one important ritual within the Norwegian society that foster bounds between people in a society where it is otherwise difficult to come in contact with others. 

It provides that good reason for socialization - one of the three things Norwegians require to socialize as Julien explains in his courses.  

At work, all levels in the organisation will participate, including the top leadership

It can be seen as a way to flatten social classes both at work and in society

In addition to providing a unique opportunity for employees, parents and neighbours 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

Or move the furniture at work

Do it

Your neighbours or colleagues who avoided eye contact and never dare stopping 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" together in order to get to know each other

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

Than just inviting for dinner because you are curious about someone

Or because you want to enjoy a great time around food

So, do the dugnad, it is a unique opportunity for socialization, to put conflicts aside, to feel part of a group and it gets things done

Norwegians will love it

And you may become 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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