top of page

The Harryhandel, some Modern Norwegian culture

I want to tell you about a bit of modern Norwegian culture that you have probably never heard of unless you live in Norway or Sweden. It's called the "harryhandel" or simply a "harry". Or if you want to use the politer expression, a "grensehandel" (border shopping).

A harry is a daytrip shopping across the border from Norway into Sweden. The idea is that it's meant to be cheaper than shopping at home in Norway and it's a quick and fun trip for the day.

Norway has a long border with Sweden and although they share many things like a similar language, some traditions and similar foods, there is one thing that is very different - tax. And especially tax on food. So this makes shopping in a Swedish supermarket for anyone living in Norway very desirable.

But the fun is not just shopping for things that you can't get at home. It starts on the journey itself and from my home town of Sandefjord that's a 2.5 hour ferry trip actoss the fjord. If you are a club member of the ferry company (which is available to anyone) the journey itself is free of charge. I guess the ferry companies know that they will make plenty of money with their tax free shop on board! We like to make it a little more fun by booking a table in the buffet restaurant for breakfast and adding a bit of Nordic "koselig" to the day.

Most people arriving on the ferry from Norway head straight to the supermarket and it quickly gets busy with Norwegians stocking up on cheese, meat and candy.

Candy Sweden
The sweet (candy) shops just over the border are HUGE

There is a sugar tax in Norway what makes things like candy, cordials and fizzy drinks like coke quite a lot more expensive than our European neighbours. Here's a fun fact - one of the biggest savings that can be made by shopping in Sweden for Norwegians is on Capri Sun drinks. These are a ready made cordial in a little bag and usually sold in packs of 10. In Norway they are about 25nok (approx$2) each, but in Sweden they are about 50nok for a pack of 10, so there is something of a saving to be had.

There used to be a TV program in Norway called "Alt for Norge". It stopped a few years ago, but it was hugely popular. It was a competition for Americans who have NOrdic heritgae to compete in Norway to win a trip to visit their distant family and leanr all about their personal family history. They have to take part in various tasks that are centered around Norwegian culture both new and old. Of course the harryhandel is one of them and the the winner of that part of the competition is the one who makes the most savings by shopping in Sweden compared to Norway. Of course the whole of Norway is shouting at the TV "get the Capri Suns!!!" and these poor competitors don't know that the Capri Suns are going to save them the most money and they are flailing around trying to find the cheapest bananas or tins of beans! There was one particularly memorable episode where a team of two bought ONLY Capri Suns and won hands down.

Ferry Norway Sweden
The ferry off-license is reminiscent of the glory days of the "booze cruise" ferry trips between England and France.

But Capri Suns are only the half of it. cheese, bacon, meat and more international foods are amongst the popular items for Norwegians on a "harry". And of course, wine, beer and spirits. There is a considerable difference between alcohol in Norway and Sweden. And there is a cross border agreement that tax that is paid on alcohol duty in Sweden does not need to be paid again on the way into Norway (provided you are below the very small toll quota!).

It sounds like all we do is eat cheese and bacon, and drink Capri Suns and wine! But it's a chance to stock the freezer up and this is especially pouplar in the summer months and before Christmas.

So next time a Norwegian tells you they are going on a harry you will know exactly what they are talking about and you'll be able to impress them by asking how many Capri suns and how much bacon they plan on buying!

For more Nordic living chat. join me in the Living a Nordic Life Facebook group, where we'd be delighted to meet you.

Recent Posts

See All


Rated 0 out of 5 stars.
No ratings yet

Add a rating
bottom of page