Norway

AquavitAquavit Norwegian: akevitt is a distilled beverage of about 40% alcohol originating in the Nordic countries and Germany. Norwegian aquavit, however, is distinguished from other aquavits in that they are always made from potatoes, and that they are aged in used sherry casks. Recipes remain secret, but most Norwegian aquavits are spiced with caraway and anise. There are at least 27 different Norwegian aquavits, suitable to different kinds of food, in drinks or as avec. Aquavit is especially popular with traditional food for Christmas. The classics are Lysholm Linie a nice all-round aquavit to go with not too heavy food, Løiten Linie with salted and smoked meat, Gammel Opland all-round, especially good with traditional lutefisk and Simers Taffel to go with herring, you should also try Gilde Non Plus Ultra as avec if you enjoy the taste. The "Linie" aquavits have in fact travelled across the Equator twice while aging!

Norway is often described as a "dry" country because alcohol is highly priced and a glass of wine/beer in a restaurant is in the range of NOK80. When in cities/towns with many students Oslo/Bergen/Trondheim/Tromsø in particular, you can very often find prices to be lower. Ask at your place of accommodation or young people in the streets for hints and tips on where to go. Beer can be bought at supermarkets, however wine and stronger alcoholic beverages have to be purchased in state owned liquor stores Vinmonopolet (http://www.vinmonopolet.no). The price of alcohol, however, does not stop the locals from having a good time. They are often found drinking and carrying on in local street parties and on their porches.

The high prices are most likely part of the reason why the tradition of holding vorspiel and nachspiel before going out for a night on the town is very popular in Norway. The words derive from German and can be translated as "pre-party" and "after-party". If going out on the weekend, it is not unknown for Norwegians to gather at a friend's house and not depart for a chosen night-time venue until after midnight. So if you've seen Norwegian drinking culture abroad and are shocked by the empty bar/club at 22:00, call your Norwegian friend and ask where the vorspiel is. It's likely to be a whole lot of fun. Clubs tend to fill up around midnight-01:00. However, this is normally the case on weekends only; during weekdays, you will often find Norwegians sitting in bars enjoying a couple of beers or a bottle of wine.

You must be at least 18 years old to purchase beer/wine and 20 years old to purchase spirits alcohol levels of 22% and above in Norway.

Technically, drinking in public is prohibited. This law is very strict, and encompasses even your own balcony if other people can see you! Luckily, the law is very seldom enforced, and Norwegians indeed do drink in parks. There are calls for modifying the antiquated law, and recently, there has been a debate in media: most people seem to agree that drinking in parks is alright as long as people have a good time and remain peaceful. However, if you bother others and get too intoxicated or a policeman happens to be in a bad mood, you may be asked to throw away your alcohol, and in a worst-case scenario, fined. Drinking openly in the street is probably still considered somewhat rude, and it would be more likely to bring the police's attention than a picnic in a park, and is advised against. Having a glass of wine in an establishment that legally serves alcohol at the sidewalk, of course, is not a problem.

Be careful about urinating in major cities like Oslo if you're drunk, as fines for public urination can be as high as NOK10,000 USD1750! However, this is normally not a problem if you urinate in a place where you cannot be seen, such as a couple of yards into the woods. Public intoxication is also something you should be a bit careful with, especially in the capital Oslo. In smaller towns the police will have no problem giving you a night in the local jail if they think you are disrupting peace and order.

In Norway, all alcohol with a volume percentage of under 4,75% can be sold at regular shops. This means you can get decent beer all over the place. The price varies, but imported beer is usually expensive except Danish/Dutch beers brewed in Norway on licence like Heineken and Carlsberg. Shopping hours for beer are very strict: The sale stops at 20:00 every weekday, and at 18:00 every day before holidays incl. Sundays. Since the sale is decided in the local council, it may vary, but this is the latest times decided by law. This means the beer will have to be PAID before this time. If it's not paid, the person behind the counter will take your beer, and tell you "Sorry pal, too late!". On Sunday, you can't buy alcohol anywhere except bars/pubs/restaurants.

For strong beer, wine and hard alcohol, you will have to find a Vinmonopolet branch. The state shop have a marvellous choice of drinks, but at mostly sky-high prices. The general rule is that table wines are more expensive than in nearly any other country. Expect NOK 80-90 for a decent, "cheap" wine. However, as the taxation is based on the volume of alcohol per bottle rather than the initial cost, you can often find more exclusive wines at comparably lower prices than in private establishments in other countries. Vinmonpolet is open until 17:00 M-W, 18:00Th-F, and 15:00) on Saturday.

BeersNorwegian beer isn't the best in the world, but it's certainly worth trying. The brands you are most likely to see in pubs are Ringnes, Hansa, Aass and Frydenlund accompanied by a vast array of imported drinks. In northern Norway, Mack and Nordlandspils are the commenest beers. There are also craft brew available from Nøgne Ø and Haandbryggeriet, some of which are of very high quality. Other varieties are available at places such as Mikrobryggeriet Bogstadveien, Lorry's Parkveien or Beer Palace Aker Brygge all in Oslo.