Norwegian mayor suggested 26-hour days to attract workers to the Arctic | Polarjournal
Time moves slowly in the Norwegian town of Vadsø, which is why their mayor suggested to make its days 26 hours long. Photo: Aurora Lab, Vadsoe
Time moves slowly in the Norwegian town of Vadsø, which is why their mayor suggested to make its days 26 hours long. Photo: Aurora Labs Norway

The request made to the EU Commission gained world-wide attention but was never meant to be taken seriously, the mayor of Vadsø told Polar Journal. Instead, she wanted people to know about the slow life of her Arctic town.

In April, 25 municipalities in the Arctic region of Finnmark in Northern Norway sent an unusual request to the European Commission. The region, on the initiative of the mayor of local town Vadsø, wanted to know if they could be allowed to add an extra two hours to their days, extending the usual 24 hour days to 26 hours.

The request, which didn’t include an explanation on how it would affect the region’s calendar, was picked up by media in Brussels and soon spread like wildfire. In fact, according to Vadsø’s mayor Wenche Pedersen who was keeping track, it was covered by media in all of the world’s continents.

“We had seen the story everywhere except Australia, but then a neighbor of mine called and said that she had been called by Australian friends who had read about Vadsø in the newspaper. Then we had all the continents,” Wenche Pedersen told Polar Journal.

Unsurprisingly, this kind of attention is not a common thing in the sleepy town of 5000 people near the Norwegian border with Russia. “It was very, very special. I was doing interviews and podcasts with people from all over the world. That definitely isn’t something I do everyday,” Wenche Pedersen said.

Wenche Pedersen, mayor of Vadsø, was surprised by the attention her idea for a longer day got. Photo: Wenche Pedersen on Facebook
Wenche Pedersen, mayor of Vadsø, was surprised by the attention her idea for a 26-hour-day got. Photo: Wenche Pedersen on Facebook

Vadsø has more time

One reason the request garnered so much attention was its unusual nature. Readers around the world were fascinated by the idea of having more time in their days.

Unfortunately, the length of a day is determined by the rotation of the earth, and is, as such, carved quite inflexibly in stone. In the Arctic, however, where Vadsø is located, the sun never sets in (parts of) the summer and never rises in (parts of) the winter. Here, it would seem, there is room to maneuver.

But that fact was not part of the considerations when Wenche Pedersen and her colleagues came up with their idea. Instead, they wanted to point attention to their region’s slow and relaxed lifestyle.

“We asked ourselves what is it that makes us special compared to other parts of the world,” Wenche Pedersen said. 

“And what we realized is that we simply have more time. We don’t have to stand in lines, and we can drive our kids to school in two minutes and go grocery shopping in another two minutes. That’s the reason we decided to promote a 26-hour day,” she said.

During winter, Vadsø is engulfed in the darkness of the polar night for large periods, and a 26-hour-day be difficult to notice. This photo is from January 13th, 2023, a few days before the first light of the year. Photo: Aurora Lab on Facebook
During winter, Vadsø is engulfed in the darkness of the polar night for long periods, and a 26-hour-day be difficult to notice. This photo is from January 13th, 2023, a few days before the first light of the year. Photo: Aurora Lab on Facebook

A publicity stunt

Two months later, Wenche Pedersen is still waiting for a reply from the EU Commission. Once it arrives, though, she has little hope that it will be a positive one.

She concedes, too, that the suggestion was somewhat of a ‘publicity stunt’, and that she never seriously considered how the idea might work in practice. But the publicity they got came from unexpected places.

“I had hoped that the story might be picked up by some Norwegian media outlets. Instead the requests came from all over the world, and the Norwegian media only came after all the attention from abroad,” she said.

“The story also became very big on social media, both in Norway and abroad, which we are very happy about,” Wenche Pedersen said.

During summer, too, a 26-hour day would be difficult to notice in the eternal day of the midnight sun. This photo is from June of 2023. Photo: Aurora Labs on Facebook
During summer, too, a 26-hour day would be difficult to notice in the eternal day of the midnight sun. This Vadsø photo is from June of 2023. Photo: Aurora Labs on Facebook

Workers are welcome

This attention was meant to attract workers to Vadsø and the other municipalities in the area. Because, like many areas in the Arctic, they are struggling to fill a wide range of different jobs.

“Right now, we are especially looking for doctors, nurses, or teachers. Those who don’t speak Norwegians, will have to do a few classes, but that is something we will manage,” Wenche Pedersen said.

So, if a stint in the Arctic sounds attractive to some, Vadsø will be happy to welcome them. And while this might sound a bit too adventurous, Wenche Pedersen stresses that it is, in fact, not so different after all.

“Of course, it is colder in the winter and full of light in the summer, but the communities here are completely ordinary. We make a living doing the same things as everyone else, we have a rich cultural life and many associations,” she said.

“You will get a good job here, you will get favorable living conditions, and then you will get a bit more time,” Wenche Pedersen said.    

Ole Ellekrog, Polar Journal AG

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