Posted by: Sarah | May 8, 2011

The Dugnad: A Big Community Clean Up

Last week Eliot and I took part in our very first Dugnad – a typical Norwegian tradition where the local community all come together for a big tidy up.  This often happens before the Norwegian National Day on May 17th.  I think there’s an expectation that the country needs to look at its best in time for the celebrations.  It’s also a good opportunity to get kids involved so they understand the value of community volunteering.

If I’m being honest we weren’t looking forward to it.  If my friend Finn at work hadn’t said that it would be frowned upon if we didn’t turn up, we probably would have just paid the 200NOK contribution and skipped it.  We had no idea what to expect.  In reality it was really good fun.  All the neighbours congregate outside of a nominated house and then are assigned tasks.  Eliot and I were put on “leaf tidying” duty.  Just behind our house we have communal tennis, basketball and football courts so as you can imagine…just a small space to be cleaned!

Luckily there were a few more people to help out although I would question the efficiency of the operation.  As quick as I was sweeping up piles of leaves, some chap would come along with a noisy leaf blower and disperse them across the pitch again. 

Eliot was working with a another chap raking the leaves off a steep slope.  At one point he lost his footing and found himself sliding on his backside to the bottom.  Of course I asked if he was okay and then asked if he could do it again so I could catch it on camera.  I won’t repeat what he said.

After 3 hours we all decided enough was enough.  I’m not entirely sure it looked a lot different to when we started but it was a great opportunity to meet the neighbours and practice our Norwegian.  We skipped the after party since it was getting pretty late but the “road boss” hosted beers, bollers and wine for all the workers.

I think the Dugnad is such a wonderful concept – bringing neighbours together to do something good for the community.


  1. I must be honest – I hate dugnads – and I normally send my English husband who likes the thought of getting to know his neighbours and all that stuff ;-) The last place I lived everybody in the building got together to do the work – but then half of them would try to hide behind the corner of the building to chat instead of work, and the other half would sneak off after a bit – leaving just a couple of people to do all the work. I do like the thought of it, getting together with neighbours to make your neighbourhood a better place, but I would rather just pay the money and get on with all the other things I have to do :-)

    • Ha ha – good to hear a Norwegian point of view on the dugnads. I did notice that most households sent a representative rather than the entire family. I also noticed that a few folks did more talking than working which I think is why it took 3 hours instead of the planned 2 hours. It was a good bit of excercise I guess :-)

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