Un-translatable Norwegian

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The Norwegian concept of "koselig". Photo: CH/visitnorway.com.

Every country has expressions you simply cannot translate easily into any other language. Often these words express an essential part of a country's culture. Here are our top eight Norwegian words that may help you understand the distinctive and peculiar parts of the Norwegian lifestyle.

1. Koselig
One of the first words you need to learn is koselig. Especially if you visit Norway during the wintertime, this is an essential part of surviving the dark and cold climate. Most say "cosy" is the closest English translation, but whereas cosy describes a jumper or pair of slippers, koselig encompasses the broader feelings of intimacy, warmth, happiness and comfort. Imagining being tucked in a blanket while enjoying a cup of hot chocolate with your best friends after a long day of skiing or hiking, preferably in a remote mountain cabin. Add the intensifier skikkelig (as in skikkelig koselig), and you will pass for a true Norwegian.

2. Utepils
A brilliant Norwegian word that simply means: To sit outside and enjoy a beer. 

3. Kjæreste
Literally, it means “dearest”. What makes it beautiful, though, is that this is the non-gender specific Norwegian word for boyfriend or girlfriend. 

4. Glad i deg
Speaking of dear ones: Glad i deg is what you say to someone you hold dear, but who is not necessarily a kjæreste (to whom you would say Jeg elsker deg, meaning “I love you”). Literally, it means “happy in you”, and you can say it to friends and family to express that you care about them. 

5. Dugnad
The dugnad is a vital part of Norwegian society, where all residents in an apartment block, housing estate or street are expected to chip in at volunteer sessions like grass cutting, fence painting, litter picking and so on. The most important dugnad is held nationwide in early May, to make sure the streets of Norway look their best for the National Day celebrations on May 17. 

6. Ildsjel
This word is used to describe that person in your town who coaches and runs the entire sports club, sits on the town council, organizes community events - without asking a single penny for it. They are an ildsjel — a fire soul, literally translated. Due to the Nordic social model and the small size of most of our towns, Norwegian civil society is basically runned by these women and men. They are so important that an “Ildsjel of the Year” prize is awarded at the same ceremony as the other major sports awards. 

7. Marka
Marka is the finite form of “mark”, stemming from Old Norse, meaning woodland or forest. Today it refers to the hills and forests that border on cities and settlements – especially Oslo. Indeed, the capital is surrounded by more than 1000 square miles of untouched nature, in walking distance from the city, and accessible by public. 

8. Døgn
A large chunk of Norway lies north of the Arctic Circle, where the sun never sets for parts of the summer. It does not make much sense to talk about day and night, so we have a word for the time between one midnight and the next. That word is døgn. It can also be used for any 24-hour time period.

Story sourced from VisitNorway.