Tor is a popular guy – he meets many people every day; family, friends, colleagues and complete strangers. And he has just the right greeting for each and every one of them.
Here’s how you exchange greetings with the Norwegians:
Hei på deg
Depending on the time of day Tor says:
Morn (short for God morgen)
God aften (most people only use it jokingly – like Good evening in a posh, British voice)
So you’re feeling pretty confident with these basic initial greetings.
But do you know what to say when someone greets you? Can you always follow the flow of the common Norwegian greeting “rituals”?
It’s a bit like dancing; know the steps and you’ll survive on the dance floor!
Let Tor help you get past the common mistakes. Read on and become an expert meeter and greeter in less than 5 minutes!
Use har or går
When Norwegians greet each other, certain phrases always go together. When I say X, you’re supposed to answer Y. And some phrases really don’t match up, so beware.
Let’s say you meet Tor in the street. He says (with literal translations):
Hei! Hvordan har du det? Hi! How do you have it?
You then answer with one of these phrases:
Jeg har det bra, takk! I have it good, thank you!
You must use the same verb “har”.
Bare bra, takk! Just fine, thanks!
Jeg har det fint! I have it great!
Or Tor might say:
Hvordan går det (med deg)? How goes it (with you)?
You would then answer:
Det går bra. It goes good.
Again, you must use the same verb as Tor did.
Bare bra. Just great.
Bare bra, takk. Just great, thank you.
DON’T mix up har and går if you choose one of the the full sentence options!
You must use the same verb as Tor picked, he sets the stage and you have to follow.
Upping the stakes
I’m bored with just “bra” or “fint”. What if I want to be a little more adventurous? Could I use one of these?
Sure, that might work great, but you should know that “ganske bra” translates to so-so, quite good, somewhat good or even pretty good.
There is a chance this phrase could sound too tepid or too specific. It depends on your level of honesty that day.
Translates to really good or amazing. It’s pretty emphatic, so you may not want to be using it all the time.
As you know, Norwegians tend to be more moderate or neutral.
Does not mean “giant good” – but “kjempe” does mean giant. It is used more often as a compliment to someone who has done really well. Like “Fantastic! Well done!”. It might sound a little over-enthusiastic, cheeky or even childish in response to “How are you?”
If you just want to translate the uncomplicated, slightly superficial English phrase “very well”, I’d say use “bare bra” in Norwegian.
Avoid these traps
Many Norwegian learners try to translate directly from English. That rarely works. Here are some terrible examples:
Hvordan er du?
“How are you?” does NOT translate directly into Norwegian. This is the kind of in-depth question you could get in a job interview, not in everyday greetings.
Jeg er fin!
“I am fine” does NOT translate well from English into Norwegian. You might be good looking and know it, but it is not generally accepted to say it out loud.
For the next few days, work on cementing your basic Norwegian greetings. Next week we’ll take our greetings to the next level.
Now go out and meet some people – you know exactly what to say to them!
Check out the Part 2 of Norwegian rituals of meetings and greetings, and the other articles here before you go.
And don’t forget to leave me your comment below!
Yngvil is an experienced immigrant herself; she has lived and worked in the UK, Canada and USA. When not teaching, she is busy playing music, researching economics and politics or saving the world.
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