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Culture & Identity of Norway

Introduction

Norwegian Culture - Kids playing in Lustrafjord
Kids playing in Lustrafjord

The way of life in Norway seems to be a contradiction of itself, but upon closer inspection the seemingly contradictory facts are just a sign of the people maintaining their roots while progressing into the future, and at many times leading that charge. The Norwegians are, as a whole, fairly rural as the landscape in many places prevents settlements from expanding. This simple rural lifestyle seems to be in stark contrast with the ultra-modern architecture, technology, and pulse in the larger cities, such as Oslo. It's two very different ways of life, but one very distinct culture based in the towns and villages of the country.

Throughout the country, the people are well educated and today more jobs are found in cities, but this doesn't detract from the farmers, fishers, grocers, and shop owners found in these cities as well as in every town and village. In fact most of the people still make a living off the land, whether that is in the form of farming and fishing or oil drilling and mining. This expands to include those who sell and transport these goods. The land even provides jobs in the tourist industry as the natural beauty attracts more visitors nearly every year. Of course others work in all different industries, including factories, services, healthcare, and many more.

No matter the industry or occupation, most people in Norway tend to work about 37-40 hours a week and their workday beings Monday at about 8:30-9:30. A 7-8 hour day is common and few people work on the weekends unless they're in the services industry and even then hours are often limited on the weekends. The pay in Norway is very high, in fact it's one of the highest in the world as the GDP per capita is between $53,000-60,000 a year. However food is expensive, transportation is expensive, housing is expensive, and taxes are between 30-35%, which helps pay for the many social programs Norway has, including free education and healthcare. Once these expenses are paid, the Norwegians live a comfortable, but not a wealthy lifestyle.

Most evenings are spent at home with family as many shops close at 5:00 pm. This same schedule shifts to the weekends as shops are open only until early Saturday afternoon in most locations and many places are closed on Sundays. However the weekends are also usually filled with any number of activities. The Norwegians love sports, outdoor activities, and just experiencing nature and most people would prefer to spend the day hiking, canoeing, skiing, playing handball, or swimming than shopping. When the weather is nice, the people like to get outside as the parks fill up with locals enjoying the outdoors as others get away for the weekend to relax on a beach or enjoy the scenery Norway has to offer.

Despite the Norwegians' love for the outdoors, they also love concerts, parties, dinners, dancing, movies, and numerous other forms of entertainment. During the summer months the country hosts a huge number of international musicians who fill large concert halls and outdoor venues. During the winter months a night at a bar with friends or checking out a new movie (Norwegian or otherwise) is not uncommon.

In many ways, the Norwegians are no different than anyone else in this world. They work to enjoy life as family, friends, nature, and entertainment always seem to take precedence over work and earning more money, although they work hard to enjoy this lifestyle. Despite this, there is little arrogance or acts of superiority as they tend to believe they must earn that which they gain and this hard work has created a people who are modest, realistic, and focused on their communities over the tiny role each individual holds in the greater world as a whole.

Identity

Most Norwegians identify as such and this identity is almost entirely based on Norwegian traits and culture, which were formed over the people's long history. The people have experienced a long period of time under foreign rulers, which has made them modest, yet proud. This foreign rule also prevented economic and social mobility, meaning few people were of high social standing as all were equals, a trait that remains a cornerstone in Norwegian society today. Outside rulers also demanded the people remain tied to the lands as farmers and fishers and in the modern age most people are still linked to the land in these industries and in others.

Despite the long stretches of time under foreign rulers, Norway also had a long stretch of power and greatness under the Vikings. The Viking Age established the people as adventurers and explorers, something clearly in their nature, as these characteristics were required in order to overcome the physical obstacles to settle the country. The landscape also limited the expansion of cities and therefore made the people isolated from each other and further reliant on the land and sea.

Unlike some identities, nationality has very little correlation with Norwegian identity. The Norwegian identity has existed for much longer than their nationhood, so their citizenship isn't a very important contributor to their identity. In a way this excludes the immigrants from being included in the Norwegian identity and it also excludes the ethnic Sami, who cling to their own identity based on their ethnicity. Despite the separation of the identity and nationality, the Norwegian government represents many of the traits that define Norwegian culture, including the heavy reliance on social wealth and the many social programs the government offers.

As second generation immigrants and Norwegians intermarry the definition of the Norwegian identity may face challenges as the Norwegian language, ethnicity, and culture may all take on differing roles in what it means to be Norwegian.

Finally, there are numerous Sami in the country, primarily in the north, and these people generally identify as being Sami, which is, like the Norwegians, almost entirely based on their culture and lifestyle, but also reliant on their ethnicity and language. These people are strongly tied to the land as they rely on the seas, while also clinging to their own language, ethnicity, and culture as the very definition of who they are.

This page was last updated: October, 2013