How is government affected by including populists in a governing coalition? We investigate if populist political parties behave ‘normally’ when they attain power, or if they govern differently from mainstream political parties. Empirically, we use survey data from 282 ministerial advisers from three cabinets in Norway. Our conclusion is that populists govern normally on some governance dimensions and exceptionally on others. Populists in office had ample professional experience, adhered to collegial decision making and thought the bureaucracy delivered quality and was politically responsive – on a par with the non-populists. However, populists differed from non-populist politicians in their contact patterns and their communicative concerns. That populists in this context belong to a party with a long history of parliamentary representation (Norway's Progress Party) suggests elements of exceptionalism are things one should expect to find in practically all populist parties that attain power.