Time of the season

Recycling is good, even those that don´t participate can hardly criticise. In that vein I decided it would only be right to recycle a couple of blog posts from 2015 that first appeared on Life in Norway.

Snow and ice, be gone

It is the time of the year where sun lovers are cranking out the sunglasses and peeling off the layers of wool and winter fanatics are defiantly keeping their skis waxed despite the dwindling snow. It is Spring in Oslo and despite the greyness today, it is definitely lighter and brighter. That means the time is right for two critical change of season activities in this part of the world:

Loppemarkeds and dugnads!

What are they you say? Well, read on.


snow and ice, be gone

The day of the dugnad

If I were challenged to describe Norwegian culture and society in a few words dugnad would definitely be one of the words thrown in to the mix. Dugnad is one of those concept type words. You know the ones that cannot be defined by a few sentences on paper because they embody so much more than that. They are words with cultural resonance that represent a way of life or an expectation, which is not easy to translate.

What is a dugnad I hear you say? Well it is what I can best describe as a type of community day where people get together and fix, clean, paint or tidy things up. It is usually based outdoors involving some sort of manual labour. If you live in Norway and live in a flat or house with communal areas I am pretty certain you will have already heard this term or even participated.

Dugnads happen around the change of seasons – in autumn to prepare for winter and in spring to prepare for summer. They are arranged in neighbourhoods, blocks of flats, at summer homes, marinas, mountain cabins even at schools and places of work. The dugnad knows no bounds! It can be summed up as a time of coming together and contributing to the community that you are a part of. Most of us belong to several communities or groups so it is possible that your presence is required at multiple dugnads per year.

Embrace the dugnad

I live in a group of apartments with shared gardens and a car park and twice a year there is a dugnad. Everyone shows up and helps out with a few of the tasks that the Board of the complex has decided need to be done this time round like trimming bushes, weeding, gathering leaves. Once I even painted the tool shed. I took such pride in those mustard yellow walls.

I learnt about the dugnad quite early on in my Norwegian indoctrination. It was during my Norwegian language course in the beloved “På Vei” text book. The story was about a family who were new to Norway. They had recently moved to a block of flats and were invited to come along to the dugnad. The moral of the story was that dugnads are important and everyone participates. This, I can tell you, is true to the experience I have had so far. In Aftenposten this weekend I read an article by Hadia Tajik the deputy leader of the Norwegian Labour Party she was writing about the hot topic of immigration to Norway and she sums up the “Norwegian community contract” as: first do your duty then claim your rights (in this order). The dugnad embodies the first part – duty.

For those of you that are reading this and thinking – you have got to be kidding me, I assure you the dugnad is no joke. There really is no escaping so my advice is to embrace the dugnad. If you are not a fan of manual labour there just might be another incentive to join in as typically the activity culminates in a barbecue or some sort of refreshments: hot dogs and waffles and coffee or occasionally the odd beer or two.


Second hand season

I am not sure I can be defined as a bargain hunter, but I do love a bargain. My downfall is that I am a quality over quantity type of person. So I am one of those types that often ends up liking the most expensive item in the shop. Unfortunately good quality and bargain do not often go hand in hand. But twice a year across the whole of Norway there are bargains (of good quality) to be found.

Twice a year, every year, flea market season begins. Typically, in the spring and autumn. Throughout March/April and September/October every neighbourhood participates. Loppemarked (or loppis for short) is the word to look out for.


signs go up everywhere

Often based in schools, these flea markets are essentially huge fundraising events for the school marching bands and they are a community affair. Everyone gets involved. Flyers go up around neighbourhoods asking people to donate all their unwanted items. From furniture to books, toys and clothes, everything is welcome. Some schools even organise pick up drives so you can make a pile on the pavement and not even have to make the effort of delivering it. You can of course deliver it to the local school too.

In fact drop off day logistics at schools are impressive. Perfectly coordinated drop off zones are well signposted. Parents and pupils await donning their high-vis vests to direct you in and out. In the matter of minutes you are rid of all that unwanted junk and you have also done a good deed for the day.

Shoppers and bargain hunters need just turn up at school gates armed with cash, ready to find that much-desired coffee table or vintage bicycle. Price haggling is acceptable too for those of you that are up for it. Even if you make a regretful impulse purchase, never fear, because you can just get rid of it when next loppis season comes around. My 50 NOK yoga ball was re-donated last week – it just took up too much space!

If you are into all things vintage and retro – loppis season is your dream come true, especially if you get to the markets early. Although, I must warn you there are people who take this very seriously and wait outside the school gates for opening time. For those of you that have been to the UK during the Christmas shopping period think Selfridges on Boxing Day. People literally storm the school gates and charge!

What I love most about loppis season is that it is for everyone. It is more than a niche group of people that like old things and love a rummage. In Norway everyone gets involved with loppis season in one way or another. One year I visited Kjelsås school (in Oslo) and the parents staffing the event were awfully proud that Jens Stoltenberg himself (former Norwegian Prime Minister and now Secretary General of NATO) had popped by and dropped off his old suits that he wore when he was Prime Minister. The suits were going to be auctioned off later in the day like all the most valuable items. Even Jens gets involved.

Loppemarked season is more than an event that takes place twice a year. It is tradition – it goes right on the list with dugnad (a kind of community service day where everyone is expected to show up. Usually involves gardening and or repairing/cleaning of communal areas) and brown cheese. People buy used stuff and most importantly people give away stuff when they upgrade. One man’s junk is truly another’s treasure here. You would be surprised what people are willing to part with. I always am.

I totally advise a weekend visit to your local loppemarked whether you are a bargain hunter or not. There are waffles, cake and pølser (hot dogs) on sale and the vibe is always upbeat. If nothing else any purchase you make will be contributing to the budding marching band musicians of Norway.