Columnist: Indigo is an American  studying at UiO, hoping to come closer to figuring out Norwegian society. She will be writing a biweekly column about how to navigate Norwegian life for Universitas.
Columnist: Indigo is an American studying at UiO, hoping to come closer to figuring out Norwegian society. She will be writing a biweekly column about how to navigate Norwegian life for Universitas.

How to join a Norwegian cult

Welcome to next-level indoctrination: skiing culture in Norway.

Happy Easter! No matter how you grew up, whatever religion or lack thereof you know, Norwegian Easter is for all. The religious meaning of the holiday has dissipated, but that hasn’t stopped Norwegians from holding it holy. The difference is instead of worshipping in a church, they’re now in the mountains. Easter is when a mass exodus occurs, and whoever makes it to a cabin can be found there eating Kvikk Lunsj and oranges, drinking Solo, decorating with anything yellow, and reading crimes novels.

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Skiing is much like Christianity in Norway. Almost everyone says they’re part of it, and that they participate regularly. But dig a little deeper, and you realize most of them only go twice a year, at Christmas and Easter. All citizens are born into it, but not everyone stays. In a way, skiing is even stronger, a cult.

For example, you cannot leave the cult, but if you do, you will be ignored. The fact that you gave up skiing simply won’t be acknowledged. Your family will persist in taking you on ski trips, despite your obvious dislike for them. Skiing is not an optional activity, it is a lifestyle – but a lifestyle that all 5 million inhabitants have officially adopted. Unofficially, there are some closet cases who truly prefer not to participate, but they keep that sentiment hidden.

Similarly, like any good cult, Norwegians will not acknowledge that anything is amiss if you don’t adhere to their rules. If you have never skied for example, and have no idea how, it will not be taken as reason to exclude you from a cabin trip (or «hyttetur«) – rather, they see it as an opportunity to indoctrinate you.

They say Norwegians are born with skis on their feet. This is the cult’s origin story. International visitors however were not born with skis on our feet, because we come from countries that don’t consistently take first through fifth places in multiple events at the winter Olympics.

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So what if you do end up on a ski trip, despite your own misgivings and lack of experience? Embrace this invitation to the cult, because it means you’re being accepted.

The most important thing is to never complain. No matter that your toes are freezing, your fingers are numb, and yet somehow your whole body manages to sweat. You might be exhausted, with blisters on your heels. Keep it together, because there’s almost nothing Norwegians like less than complaining.

On the other hand, remember this paradoxical mantra: everything in moderation, including enthusiasm. They also don’t like an outpouring of emotion, even positive ones, so be cool.

If you want to appear highly knowledgeable about the cult’s practices, learn about ski wax. There are multiple colors for different snow temperatures. And for bonus points, find a chance to drop some trivia about how Norwegians were among the first skiers. Just keep the conversation away from recent skiing news and Therese Johaug (don’t ask).

If all else fails, choose the nuclear option: to prove you’re one with nature, roll around in the snow naked. Norwegians call this «snow bathing.» Others might call it cruel and unusual punishment. But if you do it, every Norwegian in the vicinity will recognize you’re hardcore.

Read more articles in English here