“Dugnad”. Google translate says it means voluntary work. I live in the land of “dugnad”. It is actually unpaid work, usually for a common cause. (And pronounced sort of like “doog-nahd”.)

Dugnad is not always pleasant or even voluntary. Certainly jokes abound about creative efforts to get out of doing dugnad, born out of how a lot of HOAs/co-ops in Norway run on unpaid labor. The spring replanting of flower beds, the summer-long mowing of communal lawns, repainting the garages everyone uses, taking turns washing the stairs to your floor. Stuff like that. If you live there, you pitch in. That’s part of the deal.

The screenshot from Twitter about how to behave as a customer during these coronavirus times, when home delivery has never been more crucial, reminded me of how dugnad in Norway immediately signals the same reminder. Norway’s national dugnad is a joint, unpaid effort—voluntary labor—to help our country function as well as it can, while closing shops, reducing most services, and avoiding personal contact.

The dugnad spirit reminds us that now is not the time to whine and complain. Our focus has to be on the common good because helping each other ultimately helps ourselves. We remind ourselves to be grateful for everybody else’s dugnad, especially the ones putting themselves in harm’s way.

By Keera Ann Fox

I am a bi-lingual American who has lived most of my life in Norway.
Jeg er en tospråklig amerikaner som har bodd mesteparten av mitt liv i Norge.

3 replies on “Dugnad”

Very nice posting, Keera. We have gotten restaurant take-out three times this week, far more than we usually eat out. We feel some obligation to help our favorite restaurants survive all this. Tonight, the restaurant guy said he had just bought a house when all this started. I hope he makes it through these difficult times. And you too.

Liked by 1 person

Nice to hear from you, Ed! Good for you for supporting your restaurants! These are rough times and some countries/areas are doing better than others. I’m really noticing the importance of having good leadership and emergency plans, also for individuals. I am one of the lucky ones, with nothing to worry about at this time. Say hi to Irene! I hope you make it through, too.


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