Updated: Jun 27
With the world slowly beginning to reopen again many of us are starting to think about travelling once more. Scandinavia has always been a popular choice for travellers, and for lots of people it's a dream destination that needs to be savoured and treasured even long after they have returned home. After the memories taken and cemented in photos, souvenirs of the trip are the obvious reminder, but souvenirs don't need to be tacky tourist trinkets. Memories can also be triggered by smells and tastes and the beauty of a vintage treasure and even the promise of a unique item that can be passed on to future generations.
Living in Norway has given me a special insight into the kinds of things that are typically Norwegian, but also the kinds of special items that as foreigners we find so endearingly Nordic and are almost impossible to find outside the Nordic region.
I have a few suggestions to add to your shopping list when you are in Norway and Scandinavia:
Vintage or antique rosemaling
Just a glimpse of rosemaling and everyone knows exactly where it is from. Norwegian folk art is well known across the world and it's certainly possible to pick up a beautiful and vintage item at an antique store in Norway. Every town has at least one antique or second hand shop, but if you are venturing out into the countryside, don't be afraid to stop at a "gjenbruksbutikk" and have a browse. Many are stuffed full of treasures that are hard to resist.
Bunad is the Norwegian national dress and is worn most often on National Day, at Christmas and for special occasions. Each region has it's own unique version and the the most beautiful and intricate filigree jewellery. But there is no law to say that you couldn't wear (or give) bunad jewellery with just a bunad or only if you are Norwegian. Much of it is carefully and lovingly handmade and is a beautiful reflection of the area you have visited and a treasure to be enjoyed and passed down as a new family heirloom.
Norwegian chocolate has a different flavour and texture even to other chocolate in Scandinavia and is in my opinion the nicest and creamiest tasting chocolate (I've done plenty of testing!). Add to that the unusual flavours that are added and you are going to be taking home something that is a flavour of only Norway. Depending on the time of year you visit you can find chocolate flavoured with salted liquorice, Daim, or orange and sea salt. Our most well known chocolate producer is Freia and it is a company that is constantly innovating and brining out exciting new typically Norwegian flavours to their chocolate.
Nordic fairytales are famous the world over and what could be better than bringing home a book of tales that remind you of your magical trip. Many bookshops in Norway (especially in the bigger towns and cities) have books in English. But maybe you are adventurous enough to take home the version in Norwegian. Kittelsen was Norway's most famous fairytale illustrator with striking and unforgettable drawings to take us on the journey with our heroes and heroines.
Pretty napkins and paper plates
Before I moved to Norway I rarely ever considered using paper napkins and paper plates, but the Norwegians have a certain panache for these things and they can immediately brighten up your décor with one simple and well placed disposable item. Around National Day on 17 May is the time to pick up the most "Norwegian themed" napkins with beauties like these rosemalt designs and Norwegian flags, but each season also carries its own unique design and there are many with fun and well known Norwegian phrases on that will easily start conversations at any party or event your are hosting.
A cheese slicer
Once you have a Norwegian cheese slicer you will wonder what on earth you did without one all this time!
Can you really leave Norway without this iconic cheese? Brunost is the perfect food item to carry home as it's firm, well packed and tolerates some changes in temperature very well. It's best to leave it in the originally packaging and put it in your hold baggage if you can as cheese sometimes shows up as something suspicious in carryon luggage (so I was reliably informed by a customs official at London Stansted airport when I was taking 3kg of cheddar back to Norway in my carry-on. Needless to say after that it always went in my hold baggage).
It doesn't seem to matter which kind of shop you step into in Norway, you will inevitably find something knitted for sale. I even spotted handknitted socks and hats in the toy shop recently. If they have hand written tags on them there's also a good chance they were knitted by someone locally. Each region has it's own style of knitwear so do a little bit of research before you travel and you will be able to identify something from the area you are visiting.
Not my favourite ornaments, but so incredibly Nordic that it would be criminal not to include them in this list. Lots of trolls that you find for sale are quirky and induvial, many reflecting the area in which they were made.
Spices may not seem the most obvious choice to take home from a country like Norway, but there are many spices used in Norwegian cuisine that are not used very much elsewhere or are even more expensive than in Norway. If you are an enthusiastic cook (or even if you are not) and want to recreate some of the flavours of your visit you will need the key flavours, The most widely used spices in Norway in both sweet and savoury dishes are cardamom, juniper, cinnamon and dill.
Don't forget to leave a little bit of space in your suitcase for the wonderful memories you will be bringing home? What would be on your list?
Join us in the Living a Nordic Life Facebook group for more Nordic chat. We'd be delighted to have you join us there....