People and Culture

Population and language

Norway is located on the western side of the Scandinavian Peninsula and covers an area of 385,155 square kilometers  with 4.8 million people and the capital at Oslo. The languages that are spoken are Norwegian Bokmål, Nynorsk and Sami.

Climate

The climate of Norway is temperate due to the warm Gulf Stream current that moderates the coastal waters. The west coast is characterized by gales, rain and clouds in the summer, and the winters are relatively mild. 

The inland highlands experience an Arctic climate in winter with snow, strong winds and severe frosts, while the summers are sunny and warm with temperatures that reach 30 degrees. 
 

Culture and traditions

Norway’s culture maintains its roots from the old era, featuring at the same time the characteristics of a modern Western European country.  People have a close relation with their natural environment that has fostered many outdoor social activities.

Traditions and festival happenings throughout the year, along with the people’s peaceful manner, good mood and humor, are all part of the Norwegian cultural heritage that continues to flourish. 
 

Cultural heritage

Although occupied by Denmark for a period of over 400 years, Norway has been able to preserve a rich cultural heritage of which they are proud.

This heritage is illustrated within today’s society in Norwegian architecture, folklore, arts, literature, music, traditions and celebrations.

The unique stave churches and the Gothic Cathedral of Trondheim, the traditional costumes called “Bunad”, the paintings of Edvard Munch, the masterpieces of Henrick Ibsen, including “Peer Gynt,” and the music of Edvard Grieg, are marks of the Norwegian culture that has flourished over the years.

Heroic tales with their trolls, elves, kings and witches are also included in the people’s cultural heritage.  The stories fascinate and entertain the young and old alike.
 

Among the traditional celebrations,the most important ones are the Norwegian Constitution Day, the days of Advent and the Christmas season, and the Easter celebration.

The Norwegian Constitution Day is held on May 17th.  This “national day” celebrates Norway’s Constitution that was adopted in 1814 with street parades, national costumes, dances and dishes.

The Christmas traditions features the children visits made by a “Nisse” who is a prankish gnome or elf, while Easter traditions are celebrated  by worship, religious music, and special meals.

Festivals take place throughout the year, with celebration events coming in many forms expressing a wide variety of cultural creativity,  including the preparation of special foods, going to movies, listening to music, enjoying art and literature. 

Bergen’s Food Festival, International Film Festival (BIFF), Contemporary Music Festival, and its Norway Arts Festival, represent local events that have counterparts that are an integral part of the social life within every Norwegian region.

Nature

Norway is a country of natural beauty characterized by deep fjords with carved valleys, high mountains and a coastline of approximately 3000 km. 

The incredible fjords have many scenic and narrow branches and are sprinkled with picturesque villages, waterfalls and imposing glaciers. 

The mountains are covered by forests and are crossed by the narrow valleys of  mountain rivers, offering at the same time wilderness and unspoiled areas.

These mountains can be crossed by trains that offer great views of the best spectacular landscapes.

This coastline is broken by many fjords with steep, high and rocky banks. This coastline stretches from the far south to the Arctic North Cape and in some areas is dotted with houses and   farm sites painted in bright colors.

Whether you come in Norway in the winter or in the summer, you will always find natural challenges and great beauty: northern lights in the winter, the midnight sun in the summer, safari, wind and rain and snow, deep fjords and rugged mountains.

Norwegians have a close relation with their natural environment, and outdoor activities such as hiking, biking or skiing are very common for people who start these activities at very early ages.  
 

Norwegian life today

Norwegian society today is based on values such as democracy and freedom of expression and features a strong feeling of fairness and egalitarianism.
 

At the personal level: Informality of manners and conversation, punctuality and getting strongly to the point are typically Norwegian, along with modesty, keeping calm and not showing strong emotions.

Boasting is disliked, kissing cheeks as a greeting is not common, but consumption of coffee is, in very large amounts.

At first, it may seem a little bit difficult to get to know Norwegians on a deeper level, but once the first stage of calm courtesy and politeness are overcome, the visitor will find that support and communication come naturally.

Honesty, tolerance and care for the other are also specific relationships that are highly valued in Norwegian society.

“Vorspiel” and “Nachspiel” play an important part of every young Norwegian’s social life.  The former term refers to a pre-party when a few people gather at someone’s place to talk and have drinks before going out to a pub or club, while the latter is the after-party that continues the merriment, often lasting until the morning hours.

Marriage is not a requisite in Norway, and it is common for people to live together without being married. Cohabitation is actually perceived as a form of relationship similar to marriage and as acceptable as marriage.

There is a small group of people who follows the traditional form of engagement – church weddings; usually they are people with a religious background. Most of the people today choose to marry in a civil ceremony.

Single or divorced parents with children benefit from a generous social security that consists in additional child benefits and special tax allowances. 
There is a special care for children of single or divorced parents.

These parents receive additional child benefits and there are special tax allowances in these circumstances.

What to expect

When you come to Norway, do expect to find a peaceful country with cold weather but warm people willing to help you “feel at home.” Warm feelings, good humor and good mood will welcome you whenever you take your first steps on Norwegian ground.

You can find here a country that seems to take you back to “the old days,” with fishermen, farmers and sailors, and with its unspoiled countryside and even wilderness areas, and yet it pulls you into the modern age with cosmopolitan cities featured by  lively music scenes and active nightlife, its blending of cultures and other miscellany and the things to do.

All these will introduce you to the varieties of the Norwegian mood.

As celebrations and festive events seem to happen almost every day and in all the seasons, you will have many chances to get a good taste of Norway.

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