Greetings are an important part of our daily communication — can you imagine a successful conversation in your own language that didn’t start with a warm, open greeting? It probably goes without saying that the right greeting, combined with a smile, can open doors for you. This is especially true when learning a new language.
Still, there are many ways to greet someone, and it’s not always clear which salutation is best to use when. In English-speaking countries, a friendly “hello” or “hi” is a good start, frequently accompanied by a hearty handshake. Meanwhile, Norwegians are often described as distant and reserved at first, so you shouldn’t go in for a hug when you greet someone for the first time. You also might get a blank stare if you try to start some small talk with a complete stranger. But don’t worry, Norwegians are warm and open once the ice is broken for the first time. In order to get you there, let’s take a closer look at the most common ways to say hello in Norwegian.
Hei — The Jack Of All Trades
If you want to be on the safe side, Hei! is always a good option. A simple hei can be used any time of the day, and it is pronounced basically the same as the English “hi” or “hey.” Wait, what?
If you’re thinking to yourself: “But ‘hi’ and ‘hey’ aren’t pronounced the same way at all!” there is a simple explanation: Norwegian doesn’t have an official pronunciation — instead, everyone speaks in dialect. This means for even simple words like hei, the same thing can be pronounced in two very different ways (or even have different words for the same thing). Don’t let that drive you crazy, but rather see it as an advantage. Your pronunciation will rarely be seen as wrong!
Besides hei, you can also use the informal variants “hei, hei,” morn or heia. In the morning it’s also common to wish a friendly god morgen (good morning) to others.
What About Something A Bit More Formal?
In formal settings you can also use the classic god dag (good day) during the day and god kveld (good evening) once the sun goes down. In general, there are fewer situations that would be considered formal in Norway than in English-speaking countries. In school or at university, it’s normal to greet your teachers or professors with hei and to call them by their first name. In the off-chance that you ever meet the king or queen (yes, Norway actually still has a monarchy), this would be the perfect opportunity to use a formal greeting.
The Quick Guide to Saying Hello In Norwegian
In a café, restaurant or store, you’ll never go wrong with a simple hei and a smile. If you meet the in-laws or are invited to a job interview, it’s a good idea to shake hands and say hei or, if it’s the morning, god morgen. Friends might hug, but that depends on the friendship. If you’re meeting the king, you should bow and say “God dag, Deres Majestet” (Good day, your Majesty).
And as mentioned above, dialects are highly regarded in Norway. That means that there are many more local and regional ways to greet someone that you can learn on your travels! Doesn’t that sound exciting?