How to make your bed in Norway

There are some frustrations of life abroad that are hard to categorize.

Some of you may remember my blog post from a few months back where I announced my decision to make Oslo my home. I finally unpacked all of my boxes, threw some pictures on the walls and even bought a few plants. My husband and I made what we hope is our last epic trip to Ikea to, at last, replace our cardboard box night stands with ones that have actual drawers. It’s nice to be able to put a book down without the risk of the lamp caving into the box.

And, after a year and a half of refusing to purchase towels and linens in Norway, instead lugging back extra suitcases from the US or demanding my mom to snail mail me pillow covers, I finally came to terms with the prices in Norway and headed to the shops to pick out a new duvet cover.

It took me two months and five trips to the store to get it right.

After a bit of browsing, I found a cover I liked. It was my third trip, the one I was hoping would result in the successful purchase of a purple floral cover for my bed. But it turned out that I had confused the Norwegian words for “bedsheet” and “duvet” and had been browsing sheets all along, so I had to start again in another section.

When I finally found the perfect new design that was, in fact, a duvet cover I realized that I couldn’t just pickup a queen-sized duvet cover because the sizes were marked differently. I was supposed to choose from mishmash of sizes expressed in what looked too much like algebra for my understanding: 140cm x 200cm, 140 x 220cm and 200cm x 220cm.

I went home empty-handed.

Somewhere between work, family, a social life and the ludicrous opening hours of shops in Norway, it took me another two weeks to measure my duvet at home and get back to the store. I went after an exhausting cardio class at the gym and somewhere along the way I had lost the piece of paper with the measurements. So there I was, standing at the store, back to square one. I turned to the saleswoman for help. After all, how hard can buying a duvet cover be?

Very, very hard, apparently. The saleswoman was kind and helpful but we just had different definitions of what a “normal” bed cover is. She was convinced that I needed the smallest size because the others were enormous and the smallest size listed is the normal one, the one that everyone gets. At this point I was so irritated that a menial task had become so complicated that I went with the woman’s suggestion.

It was way too small. Then it hit me – just a few days earlier I was hanging out with some friends from the American Women’s Club and they were making fun of the way Norwegians make their beds. Apparently the local standard for couples sharing a bed is to have two separate, smaller individual duvets. So the saleswoman did sell me a normal cover. It just wasn’t my “normal.”duvet covers

A few days later, I headed back to the store (for the fifth time) and exchanged the cover for the largest size, despite the saleswoman’s funny looks.

My story doesn’t end here.

First of all let me say that I know my way around the domestic sphere. I’ve changed duvet covers many times. In fact, in a strange way I relish the awkward act of shoving a duvet into a cover because I’ve found the perfect technique.

It took one Norwegian duvet cover to cut me back down to size.

The covers I’ve used in the past have the opening to put in the duvet on one side, with a few inches sewn shut, leaving plenty of space to get the duvet in and then neatly button up the opening. For some reason, the cover I bought here had a tiny, letterbox-sized opening just a few inches wide. I spent most of that Sunday afternoon struggling to squeeze the duvet into my new cover.

What does it say about Norwegian culture that couples have separate blankets and that those duvets are impossible to manage? Is this what drives the great work-to-life balance? They get home from work at 4pm everyday, have the typical early dinner at 5:30 and then from 6-9pm work on their duvet covers, then have a slice of brown cheese with bread at 9pm and snuggle next to their partners, under their very separate blankets.

When I proudly showed my husband the queen sized duvet I had just stuffed into the tiny open space in the cover, he said: “You got inside it, didn’t you?”

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13 thoughts on “How to make your bed in Norway

  1. Help! Been there, done that! Why doesn’t someone make the covers with a zipper at the bottom, so that placing of the dyne is made simple? I would do it if I had the money. btw, Your Apartment looks lovely. Don’t you love the wood floors? Oh yes, the typical dinner, typical hustle with the dyne covers, gagging on brown cheese…you got it right. I am laughing my head off.

  2. That’s so strange, separate duvets. Although it’s not a bad idea if you share a bed with a cover hog. But what’s up with the tiny openings for the duvets? I’d go insane trying to put a cover on. That schedule you mention is probably true–after they’ve got their duvet covers on, they’re too tired to much else except chill out and call it a night.

      • So what I’m looking for is duvet covers?

        Look, I am as amused by anyone about your experience, but I am on a quest. I am often sent to stay on Norwegian ships and to be quite honest have never slept (in the last 20 years) as soundly as I do on them. And I’m certain it’s the pillows and the “top blanket thing” they use. The “top blanket thing” is apparently a duvet and duvet cover. Like a blanket covered by a blanket sized pillow case, and I’m dying to find one for my bed.

  3. Pingback: Winter Bedding | First Home Diva

  4. I’m an American, recently moved to Norway after years in Iceland, and engaged to a German (so, three individual-duvet cultures on top of a one-duvet-for-all culture) . I’m in love with the double-duvet idea because we can each have the perfect thickness to suit our sleep temperature. As you’ve also learned, the small ones are easier to wrangle.. Doesn’t look as pretty when you make the bed but I don’t see any other cons anymore- if you want to snuggle and spoon, the duvets don’t prevent it, and you also can rest easy knowing your partner’s not going to burrito away the covers and leave you hanging out in the cold.

    don’t get me started on the crazy enormous German pillow preferences though…

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