How to survive a Norwegian winter?

This is a question that most of the foreigners (me included) first ask themselves when moving to Norway. Darkness and cold may seem difficult to face, especially if coming from a South European country. But everything is about attitude, and it’s possible to enjoy a Norwegian winter as a new experience full of opportunities.

Here are some tips to survive when finding a cave and hibernating until spring is not an option:

  1. Don’t stay inside

One of the most widespread ideas is that winter is made to stay inside the whole time. And, of course, that’s ok when winter lasts a month or two. But staying at home for six months… Seriously?

I admire Norwegians, the ability they have to enjoy the ‘here and now’ without complaining. How they go skiing every evening after work, no matter the temperature. Even the kindergarten kids are suited up every day so that they can play outside. And Norwegians wrap their babies up and put them outside for a nap. The air is fresh, clean and healthy!

Cross-country skiing in the Norwegian mountains. Photo: Wikipedia
  1. Keep moving

There are so many things to do in winter time in Norway: skiing, snow boarding, sledging… And not only sporty activities! So if you feel a bit down, don’t even think about it. Put on the coat, hat, scarf and gloves, walk to the bus stop and go to the library, café, theatre… No matter where! Just going out will make you feel better.

Winter evening in Oslo. Photo:
  1. Find the light in dark days

This may sound as one of these self-motivation quotes but it’s true, winter in Norway is full of light. Everyone lights candles at home that increase the koselig (or coziness) level. The Christmas lights stay in the cities until mid January.

And you can always enjoy the natural light! Snow is bright; it’s very reflective, and a little bit of light will seem as much more. Don’t forget that even when the sun doesn’t rise over the horizon, there is still daylight, depending where you live of course.

This is also the best time to enjoy the ‘blue hour’, the magical play of colours that appears on the sky right after sunset. And hey! It’s only in the dark and long winter nights when we have the chance to see Northern Lights.

An example of koselig café 🙂
  1. Wear wool

When I moved to Norway, everyone was telling me that I should buy wool underwear for winter. Norwegians say something like “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes”. I was quite skeptical, but finally understood that they are right. The most important thing is to layer your clothing in a right way. Yes, there is a way!

  • The base layer (the closest to your skin) must be thin. The best is wool as it retains heat even if it gets wet. Wool underwear is a basic in a Norwegian closet, you will see.
  • The mild layer has two tasks: to keep you warm and to transport excess heat away from the body. And here, again, the best option is… yes, wool!
  • The outer layer is the coat. It should be, of course, waterproof.
  • You could have the best layering system in the world, but unless your extremities are well protected, you’ll still be cold. Don’t forget about the hat, socks (when it’s very cold you’d better wear two pairs of socks). Guess, made of which matterial… Wool!
  • You should buy shoes larger than those you usually wear. Wool soles are one of the best inventions ever to keep your feet warm.

Don’t forget it, the most important is to keep your feet and head warm!

Marius sweater, a must in Norway! Photo:
  1. Don’t over-sleep

With the lack of daylight, you may be tempted to stay in bed the whole morning. But don’t do it, too much sleep make you feel even more tired. So wake up and move!

A normal morning in Norway. Illustration: BuzzFeed UK
  1. Be aware of SAD(ness)

Yes, even for locals, Seasonal Affective Disorder is around the corner. SAD is a winter depression that affects especially those who live in Nordic countries. We all need the sun, and when we don’t see it for a long time, it may cause tiredness (and oversleeping), irritability, sadness, pessimism… You can read more about this topic here.

Just a warm winter day 😉

One of the reasons of this SAD is the lack of D-Vitamine, that’s why it gets so important to…

  1. Eat well

If you don’t get enough vitamin D from the Sun, you can replace it with food rich in it: Oily fish (like salmon) is an excellent example of healthy winter food. Citrus fruits, including lemons, oranges, limes and grapefruits are loaded with vitamin C, which is great to prevent cold. Another cold-weather food full of vitamins are broccoli, cauliflower, oatmeal, carrots, eggs, milk, liver pâté, mushrooms…

Cod Liver Oil – as well known as tran – has a lot of good Omega-3, vitamin A and vitamin D. In Norway, most of kids and adults start the day with a spoonful of tran every day in winter months.

Vintage 50s advertising that could work today as well
  1. Enjoy winter time!

Experiencing Norwegian winter is a perfect chance to learn that life is not always a sunny path. It’s all about the positive mindset! For Norwegians, winter is not something to be enduring, but enjoyed with small pleasures. A koselig dinner with friends and candles, a varmsjokolade (hot chocolate) after a refreshing hike in the mountains, a weekend spent in a cabin in the middle of a winter wonderland… Take this experience as an opportunity to learn… and enjoy!


This article was written by two foreigners who are now experiencing their first real winter in Norway

Photo on the top: Nils Tamlag

written by María de la Cruz Gutierrez & Katarina Vlkova

4 thoughts on “How to survive a Norwegian winter?

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