The Power of the Dugnad
Updated: Apr 27
The dugnad is one of those magical things that is unique to Nordic countries and can be baffling for those of us who are not Norwegian, Swedish or Danish and haven't grown up with it.
There isn't even a word for it in English. Dugnad is, in short, a collective coming together for a common cause. It usually revolves around a voluntary activity for a community cause such as cleaning the village hall, or doing the gardening in the communal apartments gardens.
In 2004, "dugnad" was voted Word Of The Year. It was considered to be a "typisk Norsk" (typically Norwegian) word that epitomised all things Norwegian and the spirit of Norwegians.
No-one is safe from the dugnad. When you are living in Norway at some point through the year you will be expected to take part in a dugnad of some sort. There are countless opportunities for it from school to work to sporting groups and they all have a dugnad at some point in the year usually at the start of the spring or just before the all important National Day on 17 May when everything is spruced up to look it's best. It's much less common or popular in more urban areas, but much of Norway is rural and in the rural areas and villages, the dugnad is alive and well.
Once a dugnad is decided on a date is set, everyone is invited (quite often with public notices or social media announcements) and work is assigned as people arrive. Usually the whole day is used to clean and spruce up, and people arrive ready for manual labour. At the end of the day some food and drink is shared such as waffles or hotdogs and plenty of coffee or the odd beer to celebrate the mutual sense of accomplishment in the day's endeavours. Its a source of great pride and communal spirit. What could be more rewarding than knowing you have had a part in keeping your sports club or park looking it's best and nicest.
You may think a dugnad is something that only happens in Norway, but if you have been in lockdown recently (or even partial lockdown) then you have been taking part in a national dugnad. So well done, you!
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