Yesterday morning, I needed to fuel up for my long trip from Oslo to Gothenburg in Sweden. I drove past a total FOUR petrol stations before I found one that DIDN’T have a long queue of cars waiting to fuel up. “What was going on? Why is everybody in line for fuel?” I asked myself. “Did I miss something on the news? Have the OPEC countries announced a new oil-embargo?”

And then I remembered … it was Monday morning. And Monday morning in Norway means two things: back to work, and the lowest fuel prices in the whole week. Yes, every Monday morning, from dawn until around 1PM, petrol stations all over Norway slash their fuel prices by as much as much as 20%. Now, that is some kind of special offer, right? And so it is completely understandable that Norwegians should flock to their local petrol stations and fill up their tanks for the week when it costs 20% less. Anyone would. It seems pretty logical, right? Except for one thing …

According to the OECD figures for last year, Norwegians had the 5th highest average salaries in the world. In addition, even though the cost of living in Norway is the second highest in the world, – Switzerland being the only country which is more expensive – Norwegians still come in the world top 10 in terms of actual Purchasing Power. In simple terms, Norwegians earn a lot, spend a lot, and there money goes a long way. Wonderful!

So, if Norwegians are so well off, why on earth do so many of them need to spend so much of their time WAITING for Monday to arrive so that they can stand in queues just to save a few of their supposedly abundant kroner? I worked out that with an average family car with a petrol tank of 60 litres, this amounts to a saving of around 80 NOK (8 Euro / 9 USD). I should also add at this point that I live in a suburban area in Norway that has some of the highest average salaries in the country. You would think that these people would have better things to spend their higher than average salaries on than saving a few pennies at the gas station. What a mystery!

Perhaps it is just the part of the Norwegian DNA to be frugal with money. Perhaps somewhere in their cultural DNA there is a gene that still remembers the time before they found huge natural reserves of oil and gas which led to national prosperity.

Perhaps it is as simple as the fact that we can’t resist a good deal. I mean, it’s an easy way to activate the reward centres of the brain, knowing that you have just struck a good bargain, a bit like when you manage to haggle down the price of a souvenir at a local bazaar or market when you are on holiday in another country.

Or could it just be that Norwegians are cheap? You know, tight. Deep pockets, short arms. Squirrel arms.

I once heard of a man who was so cheap that whenever he drove his car in the rain, he would turn off his windscreen wipers every time he went under a bridge! Perhaps that man was Norwegian … and he was on his way to fuel up … on a Monday morning.

Trine Riccardi