So, you are planning a visit to Norway? Here’s what you should know about Norwegian people to help make your trip more comfortable and enjoyable.
Norway is one of the northern countries in the Scandinavia region. It is known for its mountains, beautiful fjords, and some of the world’s best landscapes.
But, that’s not everything. Norwegian people are amazing too. They are some of the coolest people you’ll meet anywhere in the world.
So if you’re planning on visiting Norway one day, it is good to know a few things about Norwegian people. These include some of their most outstanding traits, habits, and some aspects of their culture and lifestyle. This will prepare you for what to expect once you get there, and how to behave around Norwegians.
Here are 16 things you need to know about Norwegian people before your planned travel.
Table of Contents
Top Things to Know About Norwegians
1. They Are Some of the World’s Happiest People
Every year, numerous studies are conducted to measure the happiness index around the world. Some of these studies are commissioned by various credible bodies, such as the United Nations. Not surprisingly, Norwegians, together with their Scandinavian neighbors, are ranked as some of the happiest people in the world.
For example, in the 2019 World Happiness Report that was released by the Happiness Research Institute, Norwegians came in third behind Finland and Denmark.
Norwegian people are proud and very patriotic individuals. They also demonstrate a lot of togetherness that is pretty much evident to anyone visiting the country.
Many experts attribute their happiness to the Norwegian welfare system that ensures that all people of Norway are well taken care of. They have very high standards of living with very minimal differences between them in terms of the quality of life. Also, they are also blessed with a charming natural environment and they enjoy unparalleled freedoms, peace, and security.
And if there’s a people that trusts its government, it’s Norwegians. Truly, living in Norway is just pure bliss.
2. Norwegian People Love Skiing
Did you know that Norwegians have won the most medals in the Winter Olympics? And, deservedly so!
One of the trademark sports in the Winter Olympics is skiing, and this is where Norway trumps all other nations. Norwegians have a rich tradition of skiing. In fact, many of them love skiing, not just for purposes of competition, but as a means of having fun.
They were the pioneers of modern skiing. Norwegians have a saying that they are born with skis on their feet. This shows just how deeply skiing is ingrained in their culture.
Children are introduced to skiing at a very young age. Skiing is even part of the curriculum in schools.
Because the country is located near the polar region, there are some parts of the country where people ski even during the summer. If you are a skiing enthusiast, then a visit to Norway would be incomplete without hitting the ski slopes or resorts in Norway.
And, when it comes to finding the best venues to visit in Norway, you certainly need not worry. Platforms like Viator helps you plan your itinerary, making sure that you get the best from your tour.
3. They Speak Norwegian
The official language in Norway is Norwegian (Norsk). It is part of the East Scandinavian family of languages. Swedes, Danes, and Norwegians can easily understand one another.
So, how many people speak Norwegian? In Norway alone, the language is spoken by 4.6 million people. And that number goes up to over 4.7 million people, when you factor in Norwegian speakers who live in other parts of the world such as Europe and North America.
However, the Norwegian dialects differ depending on the region the speaker comes from. Therefore, do not be surprised to find noticeable differences in their speech.
For visitors and beginners, some dialects may be harder to understand than others. But if that happens, most Norwegians will switch to a closer version of the written form, which is the easiest to understand.
When it comes to writing, there are two different versions of written Norwegian; Bokmål and Nynorsk. Bokmål is more widely used by about 85 percent of Norwegians. The other 15 percent uses Nynorsk, which translates to ‘new Norwegian.’
4. Most Norwegian People Can Speak English
Although we said Norwegians mostly speak their native language. That is not to say they do not speak other languages. Some can speak up to 4 languages.
Apart from Norwegian, one of the most widely spoken languages is English. Even though a few cannot have a full conversation entirely in English, they can understand other English speakers and even offer satisfactory responses.
Statistics show that 86 percent of Norwegians can speak English, which is a relatively high proportion. Contrast this with Canada, which is considered a native English-speaking nation, but where only 78 percent speaking English.
Most of them have a noticeable accent but it’s light and doesn’t affect your ability to understand them. However, there are still those who speak English fluently and can rival native speakers.
English is taught in many schools and institutions of higher learning and they even have courses that are taught in English.
This means that even if you do not know Norwegian but can speak English, you can still have some amazing times in Norway. And if you are looking for an affordable way to visit Norway, discounted flight tickets from CityPASS, might be a great start.
5. Loves and Knows how to Cook
Why do you think Norwegian people look so healthy and radiant? The secret must be in their cuisine. Norwegian food is an absolute delight, where the traditional cuisine consists of fish, meat, and vegetables.
Norway has very many water bodies within and outside its borders. This explains why Norwegian people eat a lot of fish. Their fish is always fresh and of very high quality.
One important fact to note is that it is Norwegian people who introduced salmon sushi to the world. Norwegian food is also more savory compared to other European countries. A typical breakfast for example will include cheese, bread, meat, cheese, and fish.
They have a staple food called lutefisk, which is based on lye–soaked cod. Other foods enjoyed by Norwegians include brown cheese, waffles, and reindeer meat. Such wonderful treats await you, so don’t delay your visit any longer.
Irrespective of where you are, you can travel comfortably by air to Norway and its major cities. And, you can add comfort to your flight, by booking an affordable, first-class airport lounge access via Priority Pass. This ensures that you have somewhere comfortable to relax, away from the hustle and bustle of airport terminals, before or after your flight.
6. Norwegian People Are Outdoorsy
Norwegians have an immense love for nature. Despite the cold polar weather in Norway, they enjoy outdoor activities. That is why you will find many of them skiing, hiking, and fishing.
Mountain biking is also a hobby for many Norwegian people. As snow decreases due to global warming, many Norwegian people are replacing skiing with bike-riding.
There is a government policy in Norway that permits all citizens to access any public property for their personal use. This makes it fairly common to find people pitching tents wherever they find space.
There are also hundreds of managed campsites all over Norway. These campsites offer extra conveniences, such as running water and electricity for those who desire a more comfortable outdoor environment.
Most Norwegians also own or rent cabins or mountain huts, with some of these cabins located in very remote places. If you would like to experience this outdoor lifestyle as well, you can book a camping site or cabin through Airbnb and come prepared to have a wonderful time in the midst of nature.
7. They Don’t Eat Out Often
Norway is an expensive place to live in. In fact, Oslo, the capital, is ranked among the most expensive cities in the world to live in.
Naturally, most things are more expensive here than in other countries. And eating out is one of them. It costs a fortune to dine in Norwegian restaurants.
As a result, many Norwegian people prefer cooking their own food at home. It is cheaper for them to buy food at the supermarket and eat at home with their families. This is something that makes many visitors raise eyebrows especially tourists from other parts of Europe and the United States where eating out is big.
However, there is also a downside to this habit. While eating at home is healthy and cheap, it limits social interactions.
Ideally, most social gatherings tend to happen in restaurants. And now that Norwegians don’t frequent restaurants, it might be hard to meet with them in restaurants as often as you would like to.
8. Norwegian People Are Big Fans of Slow TV
Slow TV refers to a TV program that covers ordinary events in their entirety. Such programs allow viewers to be part of the experience in real-time. It is described as slow because of the slow pace of the events.
Norwegians were the first people to popularize slow TV. It happened in 2009 when the Norwegian state broadcaster gave a live broadcast of a seven-hour train journey involving the Bergensbanen express train.
The broadcast became so popular that the state broadcaster added another broadcast of a 135-hour train ride. It is estimated that at one point, over fifty percent of Norwegians tuned in to watch.
This set the stage for mainstream slow TV. Today you will find Norwegian people sitting down to watch 24 hours of knitting pins in motion during the National Knitting Night.
Other popular shows include watching a log-fire burning for twelve hours or an 18-hour show of salmon spawning. Slow TV has become such a phenomenon in Norway that even international viewers have joined in.
9. They Aren’t Chatty
Norwegians like keeping to themselves especially around new people. Rarely will you see anyone trying to smile at a stranger or worse still, engaging in small talk. So do not be surprised when you try to strike up a conversation and are met with a raised eyebrow.
Although some people find this strange and even rude, Norwegian people consider it their version of politeness. If they do not know someone, they prefer keeping their mouths shut. And even though this kind of behavior is unnerving for visitors at first, it comes with benefits.
For example, there is no pressure to start or keep a conversation going. It, therefore, means that when you are hanging out with Norwegians, you don’t have to feel like you’re supposed to fill moments of silence with conversation. Silence is normal.
As a visitor, you should just learn to accept and adjust. Remember this is part of Norwegian culture and etiquette is, therefore, ingrained in them. They are also very direct in their speech and do not waste time on niceties.
10. They Take Their Shoes off When Visiting Someone Else’s House
This is another behavior that is just peculiar to the Norwegian people. When you want to get into someone else’s house, you have to take off your shoes first and leave them at the door. To them, this is a way of showing respect to your host and their home.
It’s also a way of ensuring that the home environment remains clean and comfortable for everyone. Instead of shoes, Norwegians wear socks around the house even during the winter season. So, if you are planning to visit someone while there, ensure you are wearing clean socks.
While it may seem strange to people just visiting Norway for the first time, it certainly is beneficial to both the host and other visitors. Why? Because shoes carry so much dirt and germs.
And, oftentimes we do not even realize we are carrying all this under our shoes. We, therefore, end up contaminating people’s homes or even our own homes. It is a habit that should be replicated in other countries, don’t you agree?
See related: 12 Things To Know Before Traveling To Bosnia
11. Norwegians Are Some of the Most Literate People in the World
Worldwide, Scandinavian countries lead in terms of literacy levels. And Norway is no exception. In a study done by the Central Connecticut State University, Norway was ranked second behind Finland, in the list of the world’s most literate nations.
These findings are based on five pillars of literacy. They include having a wide variety of newspapers, availability, and accessibility of public libraries, and access to computers. Researchers also consider the educational resources available.
9 out of 10 Norwegians read at least a book in a year. Among women, it is even higher with about 97 percent reading a book a year compared to 89 percent in men. Over 40 percent of the population says they read one book per month translating to at least 10 books in one year.
Very few other countries come close. There is a peculiar tradition during the Easter holiday when many Norwegians read crime thrillers. It is worth noting that books are not taxed here, which is a good thing if you want your citizens to read.
12. They Value Social Equality
Norwegians are very egalitarian. From a young age, they are taught that all people are equal and therefore deserve equal rights. This helps them to grow up upholding this value of equality. It applies to all aspects of life including gender, sexual orientation, race, and even at the workplace.
For example, when it comes to gender equality, Norwegians do not discriminate against any women whether at home or in the workplace. Men and women often share roles equally even at home. It is possible to find a woman repainting a wall while the husband is drying dishes.
The Norwegian school curriculum is also responsible for inculcating such values. At school, students are taught that there are no gender-specific tasks. Boys are taught that they should take part in house chores, while girls are also taught how to perform tasks that are considered manly. Even economically speaking, the difference between high and low paying jobs is minimal. A CEO for example earns just slightly higher wages than their employees.
13. Norwegian People Love Saunas
Although saunas are considered a Finnish invention, Norwegian sauna culture is equally strong. Saunaing is an integral part of the lifestyle of the Norwegian people.
They have saunas of all kinds, including private and public ones, floating saunas, and so forth. And being very active and sporty people, they like visiting saunas to sweat, remove toxins, and improve blood circulation.
Norwegians have their own way of doing it. They prefer the hot-cold cycle which involves following up a sauna session with a swim in cold water. Traditionally, most of these saunas were located in private homes and public places like hotels.
But recently, public saunas have sprouted in many cities and towns across Europe. They are found in convenient locations such as restaurants, public libraries, and concert halls. They even have mobile saunas on buses and boats.
Norwegians even have sauna events that are held regularly. As a visitor, you should make a point of popping into one to experience a taste of this charming Norwegian culture. You can easily browse online and make reservations in hotels with some of the best saunas right from where you are.
14. They Consume A Lot of Coffee
Norwegian people are obsessed with coffee. According to international statistics, Norway is ranked among the top three nations in the world that consume the highest amount of coffee.
On average, Norwegians take at least 4 cups of coffee a day. This translates to an average consumption of about 10 kilograms of coffee beans per year for every Norwegian. To put this into context, the world average for coffee beans consumption stands at 1.3kilograms per person.
That difference is astronomical, which makes me think that coffee might, as well, be the national drink for the Norwegians. There are coffee shops at almost every turn. The coffee is usually made in a stove-top kettle and most love it black.
Several theories have been put forward to explain this phenomenon. But the most plausible one is that coffee was introduced by the government to replace alcohol between 1916 and 1927. Before then, the country had a serious drinking problem.
To this day, Norway has very strict alcohol laws to limit alcohol consumption. All the same, coffee seems like a perfect alternative, doesn’t it?
15. Norwegian People Are Not Religious
Norway is a secular nation. Although about 70 percent of Norwegians identify as members of the church of Norway, only 2 percent of them attend church regularly.
Statistics provided by the University of Agder in Norway show that over a quarter of the population does not hold any religious beliefs. This group does not believe in the existence of any higher power.
If you look at a country like the United States, over 80 percent of the people believe in the existence of God. Interestingly, even some of those Norwegians who do not believe in God still attend church, albeit for ceremonial reasons.
It is worth noting that most of the world’s religions are still represented in the country. These include Christianity, Islam, Jewish, and even Oriental religions. Norwegians also take part in religious holidays such as Easter and Christmas although they are highly secularized.
Some scholars attribute this irreligiosity to the welfare system of Norwegian society. It provides secular solutions to issues that made religion relevant.
16. Some Norwegians are World-Famous
Apart from its happy people, majestic landscape, and stunning cities, Norway is also home to remarkable people who have left an indelible mark on the world. They are extremely gifted and have come up with creations that have impacted the world in one way or the other. They range from scientists and academics to musicians, humanitarians, and artists.
For example, did you know that the world-famous writer Henrik Ibsen was Norwegian? He is a towering figure in the literary world and is considered by many as the father of modern realism. Although he later emigrated from the country, most of his plays are based in Norway.
Edvard Grieg, the critically acclaimed composer and pianist was also Norwegian. He is regarded as the foremost Romantic-era composer. His music is also included in the standard repertoire of classical music.
Other contemporary famous Norwegian people include;
- Magnus Carlsen, the chess grandmaster, and current world champion
- Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, the professional football player turned coach
- Kristofer Hivju, the actor and Games of Thrones star
- Sigrid, the singer, and songwriter
- Jens Stoltenberg, the current Secretary-General of Nato