Volunteer like the Norwegians. It’s fun! 

For centuries Norway was a nation of farmers and fishermen. Long before oil was found. Back then the only insurance they had was the helping hands of their fellow villagers. In good and bad times, they always relied on each other for support. It is this sense of togetherness that is still so alive in the Nordics.

They say it is the glue of society. Call it volunteering or dugnad, it is something that even modern Norwegians consider as their duty to the community. They help and get help when in need. It is a give-and-take that has contributed enormously to the Nordic people’s happiness.

Finland is now ranked at #1 when it comes to happiness and they do have their own word for communal work. But what is this volunteering in the Nordics all about?  How do they do it?

It’s all about the dugnads
May 17th is Norway’s National Day and preparations for the celebrations take place all over the country. But no one can make it alone. And it’s also fun to prepare and decorate the homes and schools together. Afterwards, there is usually a shared lunch, for people to rest and eat, for an extra dose of togetherness.

Other popular dugnads are about spring outdoor cleaning, maintenance works in schools and helping neighbours with repairs or gardening. Anything goes.

Norwegians also like records. And they hold records with volunteering events too. The largest youth football tournament is in Norway. Before and during it, hundreds of volunteers of all ages help with all kinds of tasks, from hands-on work to blow the whistle in the matches. Also,  the largest televised charity marathon takes place in Norway, in October each year. Tens of thousands of people take to the streets and door-to-door, to collect money for those in need.

It is estimated that over 60% of the population takes part in any kind of volunteering, during the year. And the size of the unpaid communal work in NGOs is larger than the paid one, representing over 5% of the country’s GDP.

Volunteering is huge in the Nordics. Even whole nations rely on it. Just like the Faroe Islandsthat decided to close down the country for a weekend in April, for maintenance, calling international visitors to come and help the locals. Free stay and food included. Fancy?