Although the sun deals them daylight hours with a hard-line stinginess that, from Spain, seems particularly painful, Norwegians don’t give in to melodrama. Here, no one knows how long the sky will be clear, so a special kind of joie de vivre is their approach. In good weather, if you take a walk around Oslo you’ll be surprised by the speed at which blankets spread out and occupy the grass in the parks. It’s said that to really know Oslo and understand Norwegians, you have to take a Sunday trip into the surrounding forests. Half of the population will be there, taking a walk or munching on waffles and jam inside a wood cabin. The city is passionate about its green spaces. Nobody stays inside here unless there’s a howling gale. Some call it friluftsliv — a lifestyle trend that translates literally into English as ‘free air life’ — although perhaps it’s just a need for Vitamin D.
Sarah Hope, 28 years old. Graduate in Tourism Studies
Born in Bergen, Sarah moved to the capital two years back. She admits that Oslo seemed too big at the start but she got used to it over time. Today, everything’s a positive, especially when it comes to leisure time. “In the summer, the parks are fantastic,” explains Sarah. “People enjoy themselves having a beer in the sunshine, chilling out. What’s more, there are loads of open air concerts.” This hotel receptionist confesses that the real flavour of Oslo is to be found in the Grünerløkka quarter “in any cafe.” She recommends visiting in summer, but doesn’t overdramatise winter-time either: “It’s easier to enjoy Oslo in the summer, of course. But in winter, if you like ski-ing, for example, we have the Oslo forests just 20 minutes away, which are full of routes for cross-country.” “Of course,” she warns, “it’s best to wrap up warm.”
Siri Wendelborg, 41 years old. Expert in diversity and immigration
After living in Barcelona for almost five years, Siri had no choice but to come back home in 2007: “I had to pay off my student loan,” she explains, with a pained expression. Ten years after returning to Oslo, this cheerful Norwegian still misses the Gràcia quarter, but has no trouble listing the things she loves about her own city: “The light in summer is incredible; it’s a green city, with loads of parks right in the centre. There’s always a decent rock concert; and we have great architecture, like the Barcode Project.” She also highlights Norwegians’ tendency to make the most of any let-up in the weather: “If it’s fine, you’ll see that when people come out of work they improvise a picnic in the park. You never know whether or not the weather will be good tomorrow, so you have to enjoy the sun while it lasts.”
John Wasserfall, 71 years old. Retired
John worked in industrial manufacturing his whole life and has always lived in Oslo. He’s seen the city evolve and when he looks around him, is completely taken aback: “Everything has changed so much,” he says. “Here there only used to be low-rise buildings, with three floors. Now they’re up to twelve floors high. Demand for housing means that home-owners sell up and apartments are now built where there used to be individual homes.” Despite this growth and the changes in Oslo’s urban landscape, John’s convinced that the city’s residents are still nature lovers at heart. “We have the sea and the forest. Everything is near. This is a real luxury for people who like the open air. In my family we’re skiers but we have a little sailing boat too. Here, we enjoy all four seasons in the open air.”