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Norway flag

Country Overview
Norway is the 'Land of the Midnight Sun.' You may think of cold, ice, and fish, but Norway has a great deal more to offer.

Norway is home to 4.3 million residents, most of whom live in urban areas. The capital, Oslo, has a population of 465,000, and is the center of government and culture. Norway, which is just a bit larger than New Mexico, is one of the most sparsely populated countries in the world due to the icy portions in the North. Residents find Norway an uncrowded place to live.

The population is primarily of Nordic descent. About 30,000 Sami (formerly known as Lapps) follow their traditional nomadic lifestyle as reindeer herders in the north. Norway limits immigration, but the number of immigrants has been rising in recent years.

Norway has a constitutional democracy headed by a prime minister. Members of Parliament are elected every four years. The king has no real power, but the Royal Family is still valued by Norwegians as a symbol of their heritage, culture, and stability. The current king is King Harald V.

There are two forms of the official Norwegian language. Bokmal is used in most written works and is the most commonly spoken (75%), especially by those living in urban areas. The second form, Nynorsk, was created in the 1800s as a combination of many rural dialects. Laws require that Nymorsk be used in a certain percentage of schools and broadcasting media.

Norway is cold; there is no doubt about that. The Arctic Circle crosses through the middle of the country. Beautiful fjords pierce the coastline and the mountainous interior is home to some of Europe's largest glaciers. There are also, however, fertile valleys and small plains. The western coast stays ice-free year-round most years due to the warm waters of the Gulf Stream.

Forests have suffered the damage of pollution from other countries. The lack of fertile land focuses Norwegians' attention on the sea and fishing is an integral part of both the economy and the culture.

Norway is at its best from May to September. The cold, dark months are November to March when the average temperature is below freezing. The sun never drops below the horizon during the Midnight-sun days, which last from 14 May to 30 July in the north. Even southern Norway has daylight from 4 a.m. to 11 p.m. at this time.

The Norwegian economy is based on the country's natural resources. The major industries are oil and natural gas, fishing, shipbuilding, and paper production. Norway's currency is the Krone.

Norway has one of the highest standards of living in the world and remains strongly focused on preserving its culture. It is not uncommon to see elaborate folk costumes worn at weddings and other festive events. Several Norwegian artists have impacted the world's art scene. Commonly known names include painter Edvard Munch, composer Edvard Grieg, and playwright Henrik Ibsen.

Norwegians have also preferred to stick with their traditional foods and have resisted the fast food chains that have made inroads in many other countries.

Pure foods made from the ingredients of the season are the favorite selections. Meatcakes, potato dumplings, and different types of fish are typical foods.

Fish dishes include: laks (grilled or smoked salmon), reker (boiled shrimp), and torsk (cod). At Christmas-time, lutefisk (dried cod smoked in lye) will have a place on the table.

Breakfast usually consists of open-faced sandwiches and milk or coffee. It may include geitost (sweet brown goat cheese) and pickled herring.

Students and adults generally bring packed lunches to school and work. Sandwiches are popular.

School
Norway has been reforming its educational system in recent years. The goal is to develop a high quality system that will reach the greatest number of people. The Norwegian government believes that an educated population is essential not only for success in the global marketplace but also for maintaining the country's high quality of life.

Norway believes that all children should have equal access to education and training no matter what their gender, economic situation, social/cultural background, and physical ability. Education is free.

Ten years of schooling are compulsory, beginning at the age of six. The first six years are spent in primary school, the next two in middle school, and the final two in lower secondary school.

Three years of upper secondary school, from the ages of 16 to 18, are offered, but they are not compulsory. Upper secondary school includes courses to prepare students for higher education and vocational training.

There are four universities and a large number of specialized colleges. Higher education is free.

Teenagers
Norwegian teenagers are much like American teenagers. They enjoy films, hanging out with friends, playing sports, watching TV, and enjoying the outdoors.

Serious dating is discouraged for teens, but group dating starts between the ages of 14 and 18. They go dancing, to parties, and to movies.

Dress is fairly informal and necessarily practical due to the climate.

Community
Community is very important for Norwegians. Tolerance, kindness, and independence are all highly valued. Neighbors tend to be good friends.

Norway is a Christian country. Ninety-three percent of the population is Evangelical Lutheran. This is the faith of the Church of Norway, the official state church. Freedom of religion, however, is guaranteed, and many other churches are active. Most people only attend church on holidays and special occasions.

Business hours are usually from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. Stores open at 9 or 10 a.m. and close at 4 or 5 p.m. Shops are closed in Sunday and close early on Saturday.

The Family
The family is very important in Norway. Families like to spend time together. A popular time to do this is on vacation in the mountains or by the sea.

Teenagers are expected to help out around the house. Equality for women is well advanced in Norway so households typically have both parents working.

Norwegian teens are accustomed to cleaning up, cooking, and just pitching in.

Customs Punctuality, good manners, and kindness are extremely important for Norwegians. The country does sponsor the Nobel Prize, after all.

Personal privacy is respected. It is considered very rude to ask personal questions in casual conversation.

Independence is also valued so do not be put off if your student seems reserved and quiet. In time he or she will begin to feel more comfortable and begin to open up.

Being a good friend is important, but affection is often understood rather than expressed.

The biggest holiday in Norway is Constitution Day on May 17.

Norwegians take to the streets in traditional folk costumes and the fun begins. Midsummer's Eve with its bonfires on the beach is also popular.

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