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Students and alcohol – they are a solid couple in itself, but Norwegian students tend to take it up a notch. For exchange students in Bergen, these drinking practices can be quite different from what they are used to. How should they handle this particular drinking culture?

One-night friend

Ingvill Skjold-Thorkildsen, who works as a career counsellor at Sammen, gave a talk about Norwegian culture on the introduction day for exchange students at the University of Bergen (UiB) in January. During her talk, she recalled a story told to her by an exchange student who found it rather hard to make Norwegian friends. At a certain party, she finally really connected with a Norwegian student, and she thought this to be the beginning of a great friendship. The next school day, however, the Norwegian student did not seem to recall much about that fateful night, and things were just not the same. The disappointed exchange student called this phenomenon ‘a one-night friend’. Skjold-Thorkhildsen considers this story to be illustrative of the drinking culture amongst Norwegian students, and of the way it is experienced by exchange students. According to her, Norwegians can be ‘kind of up-tight’, and it can be ‘difficult to get to know each other without alcohol’. Many exchange students, meanwhile, would often drink for other reasons.

— Drink, drink, drink!

Various internationals studying at UiB confirm that they experience the drinking culture amongst Norwegian students as very different from their own.

— We appreciate the taste, tells Lucia Marchionne about the Italian attitude towards alcohol.

— Here, it’s basically a drug, he continues.

Ruben Lopez from Spain tells a similar story: Other than Norwegian students, the Spanish

— I don’t drink just to get drunk. We drink more for pleasure

Both internationals prefer their own drinking culture above the one amongst Norwegian students

— I don’t really like that kind of attitude towards alcohol, says Ruben about the latter

— But they do feel like they have started drinking more since their arrival in Bergen nonetheless.

— If you say, «I don’t want to drink», everybody tells you, «no, you do want to drink – drink, drink drink»… So I do feel like there is a lot of pressure, Lucia tells us.

Be safe

Maren Iversen, representative of UiB’s Student Parliament, acknowledges that

— Alcohol consumption is a big thing in Norway, especially amongst students.

Yet, she also states that the heavily alcohol-influenced introduction weeks of UiB are not necessarily representative of Norwegian students’ drinking culture in general. She emphasizes that it is perfectly fine to join a party without drinking alcohol, and would like to recommend exchange students to join student organizations and see that the drinking culture isn’t as hard as it may seem the first two weeks. Likewise, Skjold-Thorkhildsen encourages exchange students to enjoy their time here, while also keeping in mind their own boundaries.

— Go out and have fun, meet other students, and… be safe.