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Norway: Etiquette, Customs, Facts and Vital Information

by Melissa Chang |

Europe, Norway

Town in Norway
Photo by ezioman

FACTS & STATS

Norway mapLocation: Northern Europe, sharing borders with Finland, Sweden, and Russia with the North Sea on the west and the Barent Sea to the north.

Capital: Oslo.

Climate: Temperate along the coast and colder in the interiors.

Population: 4,660,539 as of July 2009. There are no Norwegians living below the poverty line and the unemployment rate is just about 2%. The Norwegian economy is on the right track with the government controlling vital areas such as the petroleum industry. Rich resources such as hydropower, forestry, minerals, and deep sea fishing bring in considerable revenue for the State.

viking shipEthnic Make-up: Norwegian 94.4% including about 60,000 indigenous Sami, Others 5.6%.

Religions: Church of Norway 85.7%, Pentecostal 1%, Roman Catholic 1%, Muslim 1.8%, Others 10.5%. The Constitution grants freedom to practise all religions in Norway. Proselytisers of Christianity and Islam work freely within the country.

Language: Bokmal Norwegian, Nynorsk Norwegian, Sami, and Finnish.

Government: Constitutional Monarchy.

Travel Issues: Norway is part of the Schengen co-operation and so travellers from other Schengen countries can enter Norway without a passport as long as they have satisfactory identification. Croatian citizens do not need a visa to enter Norway. All others need a valid passport, visa, and onward or return travel documents.

Health & Safety: Norway has excellent health standards no travel warnings exist for travelling to the country. However, it might be good thinking to take a tetanus shot and flu shot and take precautions against Hepatitis A. 

Cascading Ice in Norway

SOCIETY & CULTURE

Nightlife in OsloThe People

The Norwegian population consists mainly of the Nordic people and the indigenous Sami people. Though relations between the two have historically been not very smooth, they co-exist peacefully in these modern times. Recently Norway has seen fit to take in immigrants and asylum seekers from other parts of the world and this makes up about 6% of the total population. most of these immigrants come from Sweden, Denmark, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan.

Norway PortThe Religion

The Church of Norway is the State religion and has the highest percentage of adherents. Other smaller denominations have their own followers and many are engaged actively in the spreading of their brand of Christianity. The government has faced issues regarding the wearing of the Muslim women’s dress, Hijab, in public places inviting protests from many quarters.

Role of Family

Norwegian families are nuclear and it is not considered unusual for partners to have children without marriage. Young folks fall in love and set up family units according to their wishes with or without formal marriages. 

Ancestors

Norwegians treat their ancestors with cordiality but are not particularly sentimental or attached to them.

norway sheepRecreational Activities

All modern recreational activities that you would expect in any western country will be found in Norway. Norwegians love the great outdoors and have a number of parks and gardens to make the best of what little sunlight they get.

Anything else important for this culture

Norwegians enjoy an excellent standard of life and are simple, practical people who are not entirely given up to consumerism or pointless extravagance. A striking feature of Norwegian society is that children as young as 13 years are allowed to drink alcohol, although with 22% proof. Only 20 year olds are permitted to purchase stronger drinks.

Bergen, Norway
Photo by JRFoto

ETIQUETTE & CUSTOMS

historical church in norwayMeetings & Greetings

Meetings are initiated as in any western culture with a firm handshake for both men and women with a short exchange of pleasantries. First names are exchanged right at the beginning during introductions. However, it would be wise to be invited to do so by your host. 

Courtesy

Norwegians value their ‘please’ and ‘thank yous’ just as anybody else. They are generally soft-spoken and well-mannered and rarely given to show of temper or disagreements. Humility and broadmindedness mark their attitudes to others. This is endorsed in the Jante Law which perfectly sums up the Norwegian attitude.

norway trollGift Giving

Gift giving is usual for Christmas, birthdays and other occasions. If you are invited to a Norwegian home, it would be a nice gesture to bring along some expensive wine, flowers, or chocolates for the hostess. Gifts are opened right away.

Dress Code

Western attire is the norm and the degree of formality depends on the occasion. However, Norwegians do not take kindly to dressing down in tattered clothes and wearing dusty shoes even at the most casual affairs. Business attire leans to the darker shades and classic cuts. 

Dining Etiquette

norway grass roofIf invited to dinner, be punctual. Ensure you have the right dress code. The fork goes in the left hand and the knife in the right. Even sandwiches may be eaten with cutlery. To signal you’ve had enough, place your cutlery face down and crosswise across your plate. Beer is never used to toast. At the end of the meal you may offer help to clean up. Before leaving, invite your hosts for a dinner at your place.

Visiting a home

If invited to visit a Norwegian home, arrive on the dot. Dress formally and have a gift for the hostess in the form of flowers, candy, or wine, well wrapped. If gifting flowers, avoid carnations, lilies, or any white flowers as these are used at funerals.  Norwegians do not discuss business at the dinner table, so refrain from bringing up such topics. 

Communication Style

Norwegians are friendly, uncomplicated people and quite informal in their communication. They always show genuine interest and give you undivided attention even if you’re discussing the weather. It is common to have long gaps in conversation without any urgent need to cover the gaps. Interrupting someone mid-conversation is considered extremely rude. Norwegians like their personal space and so maintain arms length when conversing. 

fjord

Dos and Don’ts

Though informal in nature, Norwegians like to keep dining and other such occasions quite formal. They make every attempt to be politically right in their conversations and you should do the same. Bragging or sounding off on personal achievements are looked down upon and will definitely lower you in their eyes. Women enjoy equal rights in society and in the work place and make very good negotiators; do not take them lightly or make sexist jokes. Waving your index finger and even pointing at someone with it is considered rude and of course, so is the use of the middle finger. The possession, use, and trafficking of drugs invites long prison sentences and heavy fines if found guilty.

Sheep photo by Ola Wiberg
Troll photo weisserstier
Ship photo by Jame Cridland
Port photo by jaybergesen
Church photo by zoetnet

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