Hodgepodge

What Is Fellesferie? The Norwegian Tradition Explained

[dropcap]Planning a summer trip to Norway? If you’re thinking of exploring a bustling Norwegian city like Oslo or Bergen while you’re there, you might be surprised by the city’s closed stores and empty streets at certain times during the season.[/dropcap]

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For much of July, the Norwegian workforce leaves the cities and goes on an extended vacation, a public holiday period known as fellesferie. Though there’s no specific starting date for fellesferie, the Norwegian workforce’s annual joint holiday lasts for about three weeks, usually beginning in the second week of July. But, for some, fellesferie can stretch for up to four weeks, spanning the entire month of July. This annual respite gives Norwegians the opportunity to escape the cities and spend time in the country’s picturesque fjords or vacation abroad.

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Norwegians don’t necessarily take more vacation time than other Europeans, but it can appear that way because virtually all Norwegians take vacation at the same time, annually turning Oslo and other major Norwegian cities into ghost towns. The origins of fellesferie date back to the early twentieth-century, before World War II. During this period, factories employed much of Norway’s workforce, and a large, simultaneous vacation made more economic and practical sense than each employee taking time off at different times in the year. The modern day fellesferie was born from this industrial practicality.

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For visitors to Norway, fellesferie can, unfortunately, cause considerable inconvenience. While most of the workforce is on vacation, it can be difficult — if not impossible — to find things to do in the cities. Unlike virtually every other major city in Europe in July, finding something as simple as an open restaurant or store can be a major undertaking. Tourists coming to Norway in July might consider skipping exploring the cities and instead plan to see some of Norway’s natural scenery, including Oslo Fjord, Lofoten Island or another iconic, must-see destination.

In short, fellesferie is more than just a public holiday: It’s an annual opportunity for Norwegians to experience warm weather, a relatively unusual meteorological phenomenon for a country known for its frigid temperatures and harsh winter weather. Fellesferie gives Norwegians the opportunity to enjoy the sunshine and celebrate the beauty of their country.