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
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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