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NORWAY - Answers to some common questions.

This e-book was written because I wanted to answer some questions about my
country. Some of these questions come from friends abroad, and some are
questions I have found on various internet sites.

Chapter 1: General questions about Norway
Chapter 2: History
Chapter 3: Culture and religion
Chapter 4: People and lifestyle
Chapter 5: Food
Chapter 6: Holidays and celebrations
Chapter 7: Christmas
Chapter 8: Myths
Chapter 9: Government and laws
Chapter 10: Nature and animals
Chapter 11: Agriculture and fishing
Chapter 12: Various themes
Chapter 13: Some common misunderstandings about Norway
Chapter 14: Do’s and don’ts

Who am I, and why am I writing this book? Well I am a regular Norwegian, and the reason why I
made this book is that I have gotten a lot of questions about Norway from my pen-friends and e-mail
friends abroad. In addition I have also read some of the questions people have posted on various
internet sites. There seems to be a lot of misunderstandings about my country, and I hope this book
will help clarify some of them.
This book is written for anyone who is interested in Norway, whether you plan to come here as
tourists or not. Perhaps you are just curious to know more about Norway.
I hope I can answer some of the most common questions. However there are certainly some
questions I have not included in this book. I still hope you will learn more about my country from
reading this book, and perhaps you will get so curious that you decide to book your next holiday in
Norway. You would certainly be welcome!
Chapter 1: General questions about Norway

In this chapter I will try to answer some of the basics about my country.

Where is Norway?

Mainland Norway covers the western part of the Scandinavian Peninsula. In addition to the
mainland, Norway also includes the islands of Svalbard and Jan Mayen.
Bouvetøya, off Antarctica, is also Norwegian territory.

What is the longitude and latitude of Norway?

Norway is a very long country. The mainland stretches from about 57 degrees N to 71 degrees N.
The arctic city of Longyearbyen on Svalbard is at 78 degrees N.
Norway stretches from 5 degrees to 11 degrees E.

What is the time zone of Norway?

Norway follows Central European Time (CET), which is 1 hour ahead of GMT. (2 hours when we have

How big is Norway?

Mainland Norway is 323 878 square kilometers. (125 050 sq miles) In addition there are the arctic
islands of Svalbard and Jan Mayen. Svalbard is 61 020 sq kilometers and Jan Mayen is 377 sq km.
16 360 sq km of the country is covered by lakes.

What is the capital of Norway?

Our capital city is Oslo.

How many people live in Norway?

About 4.7 million people live in Norway. (January 2009)

Which countries share borders with Norway?

Norway shares borders with Sweden (1619 km), Finland (727 km) and Russia (169 km)

Is Norway a member of NATO?

Yes. Norway joined NATO in 1949.

What other international organizations is Norway a member of?

Norway was one of the first countries to join the United Nations. We are also members of the
Council of Europe, EEA, EFTA and OECD. (The European organization for security and defense)

How many counties are there in Norway?

There are 19 counties in Norway:

Oslo, Akershus, Aust-Agder, Vest-Agder, Buskerud, Vestfold, Østfold, Hedmark, Oppland, Hordaland,
Rogaland, Telemark, Sogn- og Fjordane, Møre og Romsdal, Sør-Trøndelag, Nord-Trøndelag, Nordland,
Troms and Finnmark.

What are the major cities in Norway?

The five biggest cities in Norway are:

Oslo (575 000 people)

Bergen (252 000 people)
Trondheim (168 000 people)
Stavanger (121 000 people)
Kristiansand (80 100 people)

How many cities are there in Norway?

There are currently 96 places in Norway that have official city status. Some of these places are quite
small, though, and tourists would probably regard them as small towns or villages.

What are Norway’s main export articles?

The main export articles include oil, natural gas, hydroelectric power, fish, pulp and paper-products,
and minerals.

What types of industry does Norway have?

Norway has a lot of industry. It is a major country in shipping and ship-building, we have off-shore
industry, metal industry, chemical industry, mining, fishing and paper production.

Which countries are the main trade-partners for Norway?

74 % of Norway’s export goes to the EU. And about 68 % of the import comes from the EU-countries.
The Nordic countries, Great Britain and Germany are the main markets for Norwegian export.

What jobs are common in Norway?

76 % of the Norwegian workers are in the service industry. 21 % are employed in the regular industry
and 2.9 % are employed in agriculture and fishing.

What is Norway really like?

Norway is a long country, and the nature changes a lot depending on where you are. So does the
dialects, the food, the weather, the culture and traditions. Mountains and plateaus cover about 2/3
of the country, and we also have a lot of woods. Norway’s coastline is long and rugged, scattered
with fjords and thousands of islands. About 70 % of the country is not inhabited.
Norway has 4 distinct seasons, and the amount of daylight varies a lot through the year.
There are lots of old buildings in Norway, and many historic sites. The country has a rich and varied
culture, and tourists can find a lot of traditional food.

Norwegians usually divide the country into five regions; Sørlandet (the south), Vestlandet (the
southwest), Østlandet (the southeast), Midt-Norge (central Norway) and Nord-Norge (northern
Every part of the country has its distinct charm.

Sørlandet is known for the coastline, which is scattered with rocks and small islands. This region of
Norway has the mildest climate, with little snow in the winters. The farmers in Sørlandet usually
plant their crops at least 1 month before the rest of the country. The summers in Sørlandet are often
warm and sunny. Summer temperatures in this area can get just as high as temperatures in Central
Europe. Sørlandet is also famous for its small coastal villages. Often all the houses in these villages
are painted white.

Vestlandet is most known for the dramatic fjords, the mountains and the waterfalls. The climate
there is also very mild. The fjords don’t freeze in the winter, and the area get a lot of rainfall even in
the winter. The mild climate in the fjords makes them the ideal places for growing fruit. And
especially the fruit blossom in Hardanger is famous. Vestlandet is probably the region of Norway
that is most known in other countries. Foreign cruise-ships usually go to Western Norway, and the
coastal steamer is also popular with tourists.

Østlandet is the only region of Norway that has an inland climate. This area gets the most snow in the
winter, and often very cold temperatures. The summers in Østlandet are usually warm and dry. The
nature in this area is less dramatic than in the west. Østlandet has big forests and round mountains.
The majority of the people in Norway live in this region. Oslo is also located here. Østlandet is
shielded from much of the wild winds that sweep the western coastline of Norway, and this region
has a more stable climate.

Midt-Norge also has fjords, but they are less dramatic than those in the west. The nature in Central
Norway combines round mountains, woods and long fjords. The region has a lot of islands and a mild
climate. Central Norway is often referred to as the “average” of Norway. This does not only refer to
the nature, but also to the people. In most statistic studies the people in Central Norway will be the
average of the population. Central Norway has a very varied nature and lots of historic places.
Trondheim was the country’s capital for over 400 years during the Middle Ages.

Nord-Norge is also famous for the nature. A lot of tourists go to this region of the country. Northern
Norway has midnight sun in the summer, arctic night in the winter, lots of fjords and islands. The
region is known for the rich fishing and for the North Cape. Although the region lies far north, the
coastal areas have a fairly mild climate. There is a lot of snow in the winter, but the summers can get
surprisingly warm. The plateaus in the inland can experience very cold temperatures in the winter.
Most of the country’s Sami population lives in this region of Norway.

What is Norway known for?

Norway is known for the nature, the fjords, glaciers, islands and the mountains. Unlike much of the
world it isn’t just the untouched nature that is famous. Part of what makes the fjord-landscapes
special is the way they have been shaped by humans. The tiny farms in the steep mountains are big
tourist attractions.
Norway is known as a major country in shipping and fishing.
The country has also played an important role in several peace negotiations around the world. We
are also known for The Nobel Peace Prize.

Wasn’t Alfred Nobel Swedish? Why is Norway handing out this price?

Yes, Alfred Nobel was Swedish. And all the other Nobel prizes are handed out by the Swedish Nobel
committee. However, in his last will, Alfred Nobel wrote down the rules that the Nobel committees
should follow when handing out these prizes. And in the will he also wrote that Norway should hand
out the Peace Prize. There are lots of speculations to why he did this. At the time Norway and
Sweden was in a union, and he might have wanted to give Norway the chance to gain some pride. Or
he might have chosen Norway to hand out the Peace Price because at that time we did not have our
own foreign policy, since that was controlled by Sweden. Having no foreign policy of our own might
mean we were more neutral in choosing the recipient. But no one knows why Nobel made this

Besides nature, what do tourists want to see in Norway?

The Viking ship museum is a popular tourist attraction, the Kon-Tiki museum and the new opera in
Oslo also attract tourist, as well as the stave churches and the old stone churches all over the
country. The main cities get a lot of tourists. The North Cape is popular, and the museums.
Other tourists want to visit the rural areas to get to know the people and the culture.

What activities do tourists like to do when they visit Norway?

Well, Norway offers something for almost everyone, whether they like peaceful activities or extreme
sports. Norway attracts BASE-jumpers, climbers and skiers. Others like to go hiking in the mountains,
bicycling or canoeing. Some tourists want to go fishing; some go on whale-safari, elk-safari or eagle-
safari. There are lots of birds in Norway and it’s a great place for all bird-watchers. You can also play
golf or stay on a farm if you want. There are also pastures in the mountains where you can rent
rooms and see what life was like in the old days.
Norwegians like to go from cabin to cabin, whether on ski in the winter or on foot in the summer.

What does the name Scandinavia mean?

The name has German roots and comes from the word Scania which means “danger” and the word
awjo, which means island. Scandinavia would translate to “dangerous island”. In the very old days,
people further south in Europe believed that the Scandinavian Peninsula was an island. The danger
referred to in the name is probably the treacherous sandbanks around the southern tip of the

What are the similarities between the Scandinavian countries?

There are several similarities both in the culture and the language. The languages of Norway, Sweden
and Denmark are mutually intelligible. We share a lot of common history, and all the three countries
have been in union with each other in the past. We also have a lot of the same culture and traditions.
The temper and attitude towards life is also similar in all three countries.

What is the difference between Svalbard and Spitsbergen?

These two names are sometimes used to describe the same island group. But the difference is this:
Svalbard is the name of the entire island group. Spitsbergen is the name of one of the islands in this
The Svalbard treaty of 1920 gives Norway sovereignty over the island group.

What does the name Svalbard mean?

The name Svalbard means “The land with the cold coast”, which is a very suitable name for an arctic
island group. 60 % of Svalbard is covered by glaciers, and the permafrost is from 100 to 500 meters

Are there people living on Svalbard?

Yes. About 2000 people live on Svalbard. Most of them are Norwegians and Russians, but there are
also researchers from all over the world living there.
In Longyearbyen is the biggest settlement on Svalbard. The small city has schools, shops and a
hospital. Longyearbyen was founded in 1906 by the Arctic Coal Co. the city is named after the
company’s founder J.M. Longyear.

Can tourists go to Svalbard?

Yes. A lot of tourists come to Svalbard every year. However there are some restrictions to tourism
there, in order to protect the vulnerable nature. There are several protected areas on Svalbard, and if
you are planning to visit any of the national parks there, you must report your plans to the
Sysselmann’s office. You might even be asked to sign a special insurance policy if your trip is
considered dangerous.

How many airports are there in Norway?

Norway has 98 airports. However not all of them are used for commercial flights. Others are only
used for small planes and domestic flights.

Does Norway have electric trains?

The trains south of Trondheim are electric. But north of Trondheim there are diesel fueled trains. So,
if you travel by train, you will have to switch train in Trondheim.

What are the main risks of going to Norway?

The main risks would be accidents, weather conditions and natural disasters, even though big natural
disasters are rare.) Several tourists get injured every year from walking in the rough terrain, and
some tourists get lost. Bring along a map or a GPS and of course a mobile phone. But don’t rely too
much on the mobile phone. There are lots of places in Norway where the mobile phone won’t work.
In the summer, there is always the risk of local flooding. Especially the small mountain rivers can
grow surprisingly fast. Don’t walk in a deep riverbed. The water can rise fast, and you might not find
a way out. When you are in the mountains, there is also a risk of falling rocks. Don’t walk too close to
tall cliffs. Remember that if there are lots of rocks beneath a cliff it means that those stones actually
fell down from that cliff!
Don’t go too close to a glacier. Keep in mind that the ice is always moving, and chunks of ice can fall
down at any time. Never go underneath a glacier unless you have a guide with you. Ice caves can
Heavy rainfall can occur all year round in Norway, and on rare occasions they can lead to landslides.
Even in the summer the nights can get cold, especially in the mountain regions, so you need to bring
along warm clothes.
Another risk is fishing at sea. There have been several accidents in the last years, where tourists have
died. If you are at sea, you should keep in mind that the weather can change really fast. The wind can
increase in strength, and the waves might suddenly get tall and dangerous. Always listen to locals
and follow the advice you are given.
In the winter the main dangers come from cold weather, blizzards and avalanches. If you travel in the
Norwegian mountains in the winter, make sure to bring along extra clothes, food and a spade for
digging a snow-cave. The weather can change really fast, and you might get lost. Even if you are
crossing a mountain-pass in a car, you need to bring extra clothes and food. Cars can get stuck in the
If you go to Svalbard, there is always a risk of meeting polar bears. Unlike most wild animals, the
polar bears are not afraid of humans. In fact, they regard humans as food. So you need to be careful
in these areas.
Chapter 2: History

When did the first inhabitants come to Norway?

The first people settled in Norway about 10 000 years ago. The first settlers were hunters, and they
probably followed the flocks of wild animals north as the ice withdrew.

Is there any evidence of the first settlers in Norway?

Yes. There are lots of rock carvings in Norway. You can also find old tools made of flint-stone.

Who founded the country?

The Vikings founded the country. In the beginning the country was ruled by local chiefs. It was first
united as one country in the year 872.

When was the Viking age?

The Viking age lasted from about 800 AD to 1050 AD. “Officially” the Viking age started in 793 AD,
when Nordic sailors attacked the Lindisfarns monastery on the east-coast of England.

Were all Vikings warriors?

No. a lot of the Vikings actually did peaceful trade, and they founded lots of cities, including Dublin.

How was Norway affected by the black plague?

In 1349 the black plague killed between 50 % and 60 % of the population in Norway. This lead to a
time of decline, but for the survivors it actually led to a better time. A lot of farms were deserted, and
those who had previously been living on small farms with unproductive soil could move to those
abandoned farms and make a better life for themselves. A lot of Norwegian farms still have names
referring to that time. Such as the name Ødegård (“deserted farm”). This farm- and family-name is
used in several places of the country.

What was the Kalmar Union?

In 1319 Sweden and Norway were united. Later Sweden, Norway and Denmark were united under
the Danish queen Margrethe. This is known as the Kalmar union.

How long did the Kalmar Union last?

Sweden broke out of the union in 1521, but Norway remained under Danish control until 1814. This
period is sometimes referred to as “the 400-year night”, since Norway had no power to decide.

What happened in 1814?

Denmark-Norway took the side of Napoleon in the war, and found itself on the losing side. According
to the peace accord the losing countries had to give parts of their land to the winning side. As a result
of this, Norway was ceded to Sweden in 1814. Norwegians did not like the idea of being under
continued foreign rule, and they decided to make their own constitution and declare independence.
This constitution was signed on May 17th 1814. However Sweden did not accept Norway’s claim for
independence, and Norway was not strong enough to win a war with Sweden. So Norway finally
agreed to be in union with Sweden. Norway had some institutions of its own, but all foreign politics
was controlled by Sweden.

When did Norway become an independent country again?

Norway decided to go out of the union in 1905. At first Sweden was very opposed to this, and
threatened to invade Norway. But the union was finally dissolved peacefully, and the two countries
have been living as friends ever since.
In a referendum, the Norwegians decided they wanted a monarchy. Prince Carl of Denmark was
chosen as the new king. He took the name Haakon VII, because that is an old royal name in Norway.
He, his wife Maud and their young son came to Norway. Their son was given the name Olav, which is
another old royal name in Norway.

How many Norwegians emigrated and went to the United States?

About 800 000 Norwegians emigrated, of a population of about 2.4 million. Today there is more
Americans of Norwegian descent than there are Norwegians in Norway!

Who are some famous Norwegian explorers?

There are several famous explorers from Norway. Some of the most known are Leiv Eriksson. (Who
discovered America in 1001 AD), Fridtjof Nansen, Roald Amundsen, and more recently Thor

What is the oldest city in Norway?

The oldest existing city in Norway is Tønsberg. It was founded in the year 871. The city of Kaupang
was the first city ever in Norway. It was founded around the year 800, but it only existed for 150

When did Oslo become Norway’s capital?

Oslo became the country’s capital in the late 1200’s, under the rule of king Haakon the 5th. The
process happened gradually, and there is no specific date when Oslo was named capital. But the city
plans to celebrate its 700 years as a capital in 2014.

When was Norway invaded by Nazi-Germany?

During WWI Norway was a neutral country, although Norway was forced to hand over most of its
merchant fleet to Great Britain. When WWII started, Norway again claimed neutrality. But the
country was still invaded April 9th 1940.

When was Norway liberated?

Well, Norway was never liberated by allied forces. The country got its independence back when Nazi-
Germany surrendered May 8th 1945. When Nazi-Germany surrendered, there were over 400 000
German troops in Norway. (And Norway had 4 million citizens at that time!
Chapter 3: Culture and religion

Can you name some famous Norwegian painters?

Edvard Munch is probably the Norwegian painter that is most known abroad. Other painters include
Adolph Tiedemann and Hans Gude.

Can you name some famous Norwegian writers?

Henrik Ibsen, Henrik Wergeland, Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson, Alexander Kielland, Knut Hamsun and Sigrid
Undset are some well-known Norwegian writers, along with poet Andrè Bjerke.

Can you name some famous Norwegian composers?

The most famous one is probably Edvard Grieg.

Are there any other famous Norwegians?

Two other famous Norwegians are mathematician Niels Henrik Abel and Kristian Birkeland (he did
research on the northern light and founded Norsk Hydro).
The first Secretary General of the UN, Trygve Lie, was also Norwegian.

What is the main religion in Norway?

About 90 % of the population is Christians, and about 83 % are members of the state church. Most
Norwegians are Protestants, but 4.5 % of the population is members of other Christian communities,
6 % refer to themselves as atheists, 2 % are Muslims and about 1 % of Norwegians have other
religions. All major world religions are represented in Norway, as well as some smaller religions.

When did Norway become a Christian country?

Christianity came to Norway in the 10th and 11th century. The process of introducing Christianity took
a long time. The king Olav Haraldsson is credited with making Norway a Christian country. The king
was killed in battle with local chiefs at Stiklestad in 1030 AD, and was later made a saint. When the
king became a saint, the Christian church won its final battle over the Old Norse religion.

Who was the first Christian king in Norway?

Olav Tryggvason. He was baptized in 994 AD, and he started to bring Christianity to Norway. But the
christening of the country would take a very long time.

When did Norway become a protestant country?

In the beginning Norway was catholic. It became a protestant country in 1536.

Is there religious freedom in Norway?

Yes. Norway has complete religious freedom.

Do Norwegians go to church on a regular basis?

Norway is a secular country, and a lot of Norwegians rarely go to church. But this doesn’t necessarily
mean that they are non-religious. Most Norwegians are members of the state church. Most baptize
their children in church; have a Christian communion and a church wedding. And even though the
number of Norwegians who call themselves “Christian” has dropped, the number of people that say
they are “spiritual” has grown.

Are there cathedrals in Norway?

Yes. There are cathedrals in Norway. The biggest one is Nidarosdomen in Trondheim.

Are there mosques or synagogues in Norway?

Yes. Norway has several mosques and synagogues. Most of them are in the major cities.

Is it true that Norway used to be a pilgrim destination?

Yes. Nidaros was a major pilgrim site in the middle ages. In fact, it was the third most important
Christian pilgrim site in the world. (After Jerusalem and Santiago di Compostella)

Who was St Olav?

St Olav was the king who is credited with making Norway a Christian country. His real name was Olav
Haraldsson. He was killed in the battle of Stiklestad July 29th 1030. He is said to have performed
several miracles both before and after his death, and he was later made a saint.

Can you name some famous Norwegian musicians of today?

In classic music, there is Arne Nordheim. Jan Garbarek is a famous jazz-musician. But Norway is also
known for black metal. Several Norwegian black metal bands are famous all over the world. (Such as
Gorgoroth and Satyricon)

What are the main tourist attractions in Norway?

The main attraction is the nature. The fjords in western Norway are particularly famous. Norway is
also known for mountains and glaciers. Other tourist attractions include the Viking ship museum, the
Kon-Tiki museum, the stave churches, the North Cape.

What are some traditional crafts in Norway?

Some of the most known traditional crafts are rose painting, Hardanger embroidery and wood

Does Norway have any UNESCO World Heritage Sites?

Yes. Norway has eight World Heritage Sites;

The old mining town of Røros

The Vega islands
The Geirangerfjord
The Nærøyfjord
Urnes Stave church
Bryggen, the hanseatic wharf, in Bergen.
The rock carvings in Alta
and the Struve Arc (which is a chain of survey triangulations stretching from Hammerfest in Northern
Norway to the Black Sea)

What are the most popular tourist sites in Norway?

The most visited places in 2008 were;

1. Galdhøpiggen (Norway’s tallest mountain)
2. The Nigard glacier
3. The Geiranger fjord
4. Vøringsfossen waterfall.

Does Norway have a lot of museums and theaters?

All the major cities have at least one museum and one theatre, some have more. And a lot of the
smaller towns also have local museums and even local theaters.
In the summers there are also several places where you can see outdoor theatrical performances.
Most of these performances are historical reenactments. You can even experience outdoor opera-

Does Norway have festivals featuring modern music?

Yes. There are several such festivals, all over the country. You can check out the homepage of visit
Norway for more details about such events.

What do I have to remember as a tourist in Norway?

You can read a lot of information on the homepage above.

But a few tips are:

- If you come in the winter, remember that some roads might be closed.

- There are 45 toll road projects in Norway. Either you need to buy an auto-pass, or you need to have
coins in your car for paying on-site.

- It is illegal to smoke in public places in Norway. This includes all places that are open to the public.

-The weather in Norway changes fast and often, so pack for all occasions. Remember rain-clothes,
boots and warm jackets even in the summer.

-If you plan to cross a mountain road, especially in the winter, make sure to bring some warm clothes
or blankets, and food and water.

- If you travel by train, remember that on long journeys you need a seat-reservation in addition to
your ticket!
Chapter 4: People and lifestyle

What is the main source of energy in Norway?

About 70 % of the energy in Norway comes from hydroelectric power.

What is the literacy rate in Norway?

It’s almost 100 %.

Where do the majority of the people live?

Most people live in cities. The majority of the population lives in south-east of Norway and along the
coastline in southern Norway.

What are Norwegians really like?

Norwegians are mostly open-minded and friendly. Some say we are a bit shy, but once you get to
know Norwegians they will treat you like a friend. Don’t be surprised if Norwegians invite you to
their home. Norwegians appreciate honesty. They are down to earth and proud of their heritage, but
they still like to explore new ideas and new trends.
In Norway we rarely use titles when we talk to people. Most people only use first names, and this
might be unusual to those who are used to “Mr”, “Mrs.” and “Miss”. But Norwegians don’t do this to
be rude; they are just used to there being little class difference in the society. We don’t have much of
an “upper” or “lower” class in the society.
People in Norway never brag about wealth or positions. They don’t like to show off, and they don’t
like it if others show off. The Norwegian culture is based on respect for the individual. People are
interested in you as a person; they don’t care about your money or your occupation.
Any form of “elitism” is looked down on in Norway. People don’t brag about money or social

How many Norwegians are Sami?

At least 60 000, but there might be more. It is hard to know the exact number.

When do Norwegian children start school?

Norwegian kids start school at age 6.

How long do Norwegian kids go to school?

Compulsory school is from age 6 to 16. Most kids start higher education after that.

Do Norwegian kids go to kindergarten?

Most Norwegian children today are in kindergarten. There are both public and private kindergartens,
and large parts of the country have 100 % coverage, so that almost everyone who applies can get
their children in to a kindergarten.
Does Norway have universal health care?

Yes. You don’t pay any hospital bills. If you go to the doctor you will pay a users fee, but only up to a
certain amount.

Is higher education free in Norway?

Yes. Kids might have to pay for books and computers, but the school itself is free.

What hobbies do Norwegians have?

Norwegians like to be active, and sports are a popular hobby. Traditional crafts are also popular, and
Norwegians read more books per person than any other country in the world!

What sports-activities are popular in Norway?

Some of the most popular sports are cross-country skiing, downhill skiing, soccer, and golf, skating,
hiking and bicycling. But you will find a lot of different activities in Norway.

How long is the maternity leave in Norway?

Total parental leave in Norway is 44 weeks with 100 % pay, or 54 weeks with 80 % pay.
Fathers have to take at least 4 weeks of the total leave, or else the parents will lose those weeks.
Mothers have to take at least three weeks. The first 6 weeks are reserved for the mother, but the
rest of the period can be divided between the parents. A lot of Norwegian fathers chose to take at
least 3 months of the total leave.

When do most Norwegians take their summer holiday?

The majority of the people take their summer holiday in July.

How long is the summer holiday for school children?

About 8 weeks. The vacation is a little shorter for universities.

What do Norwegian children do for fun?

Norwegian kids are like kids all over the world. Sports like soccer and skiing are popular, but also
computer games and Playstation. Kids also like Lego and board-games.

Are Norwegian women respected in the workplace?

Yes. Norway has gender equality even in the workplace, and most Norwegian women get respected
on equal terms as their male colleagues.

What is a typical Norwegian home like?

A typical Norwegian home is personal. Everyone has their own style, of course. Traditionally a
Norwegian home has practical, long-lasting furniture, often made of pine or birch. Most Norwegians
prefer simple design that doesn’t go out of style. Lately the trends are towards more “continental”
designs, but shopping at stores like IKEA is still popular because those stores are inexpensive and
because most Norwegians prefer practical homes.
What are Norwegian families like?

Very varied! Most live in traditional nuclear families, but people don’t necessarily get married before
they start a family. There are also a lot of single parents, some people live in gay or lesbian
relationships and other people live alone. On Norwegian farms it is still common for the grand-
parents to live there after they have passed on the farm to the next generation, but in cities most
grand-parents don’t live with the family.

How should you greet people in Norway?

You should be polite the first time you meet a person, of course. But most Norwegians will quickly
include you in their circle of friends.
Norwegians greet each other by a simple hand-shake. Look the person in the eyes when you greet
them, and say your name. Don’t be surprised if Norwegians only introduce themselves with their last
name, OR if they only say their first name. You can certainly use Mr, Mrs. or Miss the first time you
meet people, but the Norwegians will probably ask you to just use their first names.
Norwegian women expect to be treated with respect both in business-life and privately.
Keep in mind that just because two people are living together they might not be married. So when
you greet a woman, don’t expect her to be “Mrs. Jensen” even if she is living with Mr Jensen!

How should you behave when you are invited to a Norwegian home?

Don’t be surprised if you are invited to family dinner or to coffee. Norwegians are mostly friendly and
open, and they like to make new friends. A lot of invitations are given orally. Written invitations are
only used for special occasions.
In Norway people expect you to arrive on time, whether it is a formal meeting or a private dinner.
It is considered rude to be late, so try to be there in time.
Bring a gift for the hostess or host. This can be flowers or a decoration for the home, and a nice plant
will also be appreciated. You can also bring some food or drink. Don’t bring white flowers, because
they are mostly used for funerals, and don’t ever bring a wreath, even for Christmas. Don’t bring an
even number of roses. If you are a foreigner, then a souvenir from your own country will also be
popular. Gifts are to be opened when they are received.
Being invited to coffee is less formal, but a small gift is always appreciated.
At dinner you should hold the fork with your left hand and the knife with your right hand while you
eat. Don’t start eating until everyone has arrived, and wait for the host to say “vær så god”.
If it’s a formal dinner there might be speeches and toasts, while a private dinner is less formal.
Even if you are invited for a less formal meal or just coffee, it is considered polite to return the
invitation. If it’s a formal dinner you might want to ask what clothes are appropriate.
Offer to help out either to prepare the food, or to help clean up after the dinner.
Norwegians don’t mix business and pleasure, so if you are invited to a dinner or coffee, this will not
be the right time to talk about business.
Once you are done eating, you should say “takk for maten”.
Chapter 5: Food

What types of food are popular in Norway?

Bread, fish, meat, pasta, pizza… The Norwegian diet is very varied.
Norwegians also eat a lot of cheese, yoghurt and other milk products.

Is Norway known for any special type of food?

Norway is known for fish, smoked salmon, cured salmon and trout. The country is known for food
with pure tastes. Traditional Norwegian food doesn’t “cover up” the taste by using a lot of spices.
The natural tastes are preferred.
Cured ham is also used a lot in Norway. And geitost is popular. It is a brown cheese made of goat-
milk that is famous among tourists.

What do Norwegians eat for dinner?

Norwegians eat all sorts of food. Meat-cakes, fish and other traditional dishes are still popular, but so
is pasta, taco and several international dishes.

What do Norwegians eat for dessert?

Ice-cream is a popular dessert. So is jelly, chocolate pudding, fresh or frozen berries, fruit soups and
fruit porridges.

What do Norwegians eat for breakfast and supper?

They mostly eat bread, crisp bread or cereals. The bread is served with jam, cheese or meat. Dark
bread is popular in Norway.

Can you name some typical Norwegian baked goods?

Krumkaker, lefse, goro and smultringer are very popular. Tårnkake (which is a cone-shaped pile of
almond cake rings) is served for special occasions.

Do Norwegians eat a lot of fish?

Yes, but there are lots of different ways to serve fish. It can be fried, boiled in a fish soup or served on
bread. Other popular dishes are fish-cakes, fiskeboller (fish balls), fiskegrateng, or fiskepudding (fish

Is all lefse made with potatoes?

No! In fact most lefse is not baked with potatoes. There are hundreds of types of lefse, and they vary
a lot, but only a few of the recipes include potatoes.

What do Norwegians serve for special occasions?

That depends on where in the county you are. There are lots of local specialties, and the variation is
big. In the coastal areas it is popular to serve fish, while in the inland you might be served meat or
venison (elk or roe-deer). It is traditional to serve the best local food for special occasions. You could
also be served fårikål (mutton and cabbage stew), lapskaus (stew) or a cold buffet.
In Western Norway you might get smalahove (sheep’s head) or pinnekjøtt (mutton ribs), in Northern
Norway you might get lutefisk, fish soup, halibut, crab or reindeer meat, and in the south you might
get shrimps or crawfish. In central Norway it is common to serve sodd (a local meat soup) for special
occasions. All over the country most dinners are served with flatbread on special occasions.
For dessert you might get cloudberries, or cloudberry cream. Others like to serve creamed rice
pudding, chocolate pudding or caramel pudding.
All Norwegian families have their own traditions, and they like to stick with them.

What is served when you have guests?

It depends on where you are in the country and on how formal the gathering is. If it’s dinner you can
expect some local specialty, or a koldtbord.
If the invitation is for coffee, you will be served cream cakes and baked goods (often prepared by the
host or hostess). It can be cookies, chocolate cake, Swiss roll or some Norwegian specialties.
Inviting people for coffee is very common in Norway.
It is also popular to invite people over for a barbeque or garden party in the summer. Then you can
expect sausages, grilled ribs and various types of meat. People usually also serve coffee and dessert
after the barbeque.

What is a Koldtbord?

It’s a cold buffet. For a koldtbord there will be lots of dishes to choose from. There will be several
types of sliced meat, slices of turkey or chicken, cured meat, cured ham, smokes salmon, various
types of fish, vegetables, potato salads, scrambled eggs and often some cheese. Even though the
name says “cold”, there are usually some warm dishes served. Warm karbonader (meat rissole) are
popular for cold buffets.

What is flatbread?

To put it simple; it’s a flat bread! It’s baked with no yeast or other raising agents. It’s wafer-thin and
crispy. There are lots of recipes for baking flatbread. Some types are even made with potatoes.
Flatbread is served with soups and dinner. Norwegians like to dip the flatbread in a soup or sauce.
Then the bread gets soft and absorbs the taste of the soup or sauce. It can also be eaten with cured
meat and with butter, or it can be crushed and served with milk and jam for dessert.

Do Norwegians eat a lot of dried food?

Dried fish and dried meat is popular in Norway and is served at lots of occasions. Cured ham is used a
lot in cold buffets and is a popular food in the summer. Cured meat in the form of sausages is eaten
on bread or with flatbread.
Chapter 6: Holidays and celebrations

In this chapter I have included the most important holidays in Norway, and some details about
how they are celebrated. Not all of these holidays are public holidays. (A public holiday in Norway
is a day when banks and stores are closed.)

New Year’s Day

New Year’s Day is a public holiday. All stores are closed on this day. For most people this is a quiet
day that they prefer to spend with their close family. According to old traditions there should be food
on the table all day on New Year’s Day.

Mother’s day

In Norway, mother’s day is the second Sunday in February. On this day kids will usually get up early
and decorate a cream-cake for their mother. They also make coffee. (Young kids will get help from
their father for this). The coffee and cake is served to the mother on her bedside. Norwegians also
give their mothers and grandmothers nice gifts or flowers on this day (even adults do that).


Before the Christian fast-period begins there is a real celebration. Fastelavn is carnival and lard-baked
buns filled with jam. Nowadays the carnival is mostly celebrated by kids. Fastelavnsris (fastelavn-rod)
is sold before this Sunday. It is only used for decoration, and consists of birch-branches decorated
with colorful feathers. Fastelavn is on a Sunday, so it is not an extra holiday.


Easter is the longest holiday in the year for most Norwegians. Schools end on Friday before Palm
Sunday, and only start Tuesday after the second Easter Day.
Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Sunday and Easter Monday are all public holidays.
It is traditional to give Easter eggs to family and friends. The eggs are usually filled with candies. The
Easter egg should not be opened until Easter Day. Common decorations are chicken made of plush,
feathers or ceramics, plush hares and decorated eggs.
In the past, if a boy was in love with a girl, he would leave a decorated egg on her doorstep on Easter
morning. He could also leave in church. In the old days everyone had their regular seat in church, so
boys would leave the eggs there without being seen. Then it was up to the girl to guess who the egg
was from.

What is the color of Easter?

The color of Easter is yellow. But green and violet are also used.

What do Norwegians do in the Easter?

Because Easter is such a long holiday, a lot of people go to their cabin. Skiing is popular in the Easter,
and a lot of people have their cabin in the mountains. Since Easter follows the moon, it is not at the
same time every year, so the weather can vary a lot. If the Easter is late, it will often be the last
chance to go skiing that season.
Others go to the coast, to their boat or coastal cabin. Some like to travel abroad, and others use
Easter to relax at home. Easter often means the start of spring, so some people spend this week in
their garden, preparing for the summer.
Norwegians also read a lot in the Easter, especially crime novels. And they like to watch crime series
on TV. This is said to have started out several decades ago, with a mysterious headline in a
newspaper. The headline said; “The train to Bergen was robbed last night”. The headline was actually
a clever marketing strategy for a new book, but this event is said to have started the connection
between Easter and crime stories.
Because people have a lot of spare time in the Easter, they like to read, and crime novels are a
popular choice even today.

May 1st

International Labor Day is a public holiday when all stores and schools are closed. Lots of people still
go in parades to demand better local and international labor rights. There are speeches for the day,
often made by a politician or a local labor leader.

May 8th

May 8th marks the end of WWII. Although it is not a public holiday, it is still celebrated with flags,
bands playing, speeches and wreaths being placed on the memorial sites of those who died in the
war. Most places in Norway have a memorial site for their local heroes, and those people are
honored on this day. Veterans who survived are also honored.

May 17th

May 17th is our National Day. It is a big event, and Norwegians love this day.

Why is May 17th celebrated?

On May 17th 1814 our constitution was formally signed. That’s why we celebrate this day. It is the
“birthday” of our country.

How is May 17th celebrated?

Norwegians celebrate the national day with children’s parades. There are speeches for the day, and
wreaths are placed on various memorial sites. Most communities have someone they honor on this
day. It could be a memorial site for WWII or a memorial site for some local disasters, or a site that
commemorates a local hero.
Kids in schools and kindergartens prepare for May 17th by making their own flags and they practice
walking in a straight line before the big day. School bands plan for this day months ahead.
Every community has its own children’s parades, not just the big cities. Even tiny communities make
a parade. School bands play and the kids walk behind the bands, waving flags and cheering.
After the parades there are games, films, fun and lotteries. This is a day that all kids love. And they
can usually eat all the ice-cream they want. May 17th is the children’s day. 

Does only Oslo have a parade?

No. Every community has its own parade.

Who started the May 17th celebrations?

Officially the celebration was started by a man named Peder Qvam. He started the first children’s
parades in 1870. Mr Qvam was a friend of the famous writer Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson.
(But other areas of the country claim that they were the first to start this tradition.)
In the beginning the parades were only for boys. The first girls were allowed to join in 1889.

What clothes are worn on May 17th?

Those who have bunads will use them on this day. But everyone dress in their finest clothes.
Depending on the weather it might be necessary to use warm jackets or rain-clothes, but even if the
weather is cold or wet this is still always a nice day!

What food is eaten on May 17th?

Traditionally Norwegians eat a lot of hot dogs and ice-cream on May 17th. Cured ham is also popular.
It’s also common to serve cream-cakes and jelly in the evening.

How does the royal family celebrate May 17th?

Since 1906 the royal family has been standing on the balcony of the castle, greeting the children’s
parade. This tradition is very popular among the people. The only times the royal family has not
greeted the parade was in 1910, when the father of Queen Maud was buried, and during WWII (1940
to 1945), when the royal family had to leave Norway.

What is a Russ?

A Russ is a high-school graduate. The russe-celebration started in 1905. The Russ will wear red, blue
or black hoods and special clothes. They celebrate that they have come to the end of 13 school-
years. They usually walk either in the children’s parades or in the citizens’ parades in the afternoon.
May 17th marks the end of their celebration. After May 17th, it’s back to the serious exams for the

Ascension Day

This day comes on a different date every year, and it is a public holiday. Schools and stores are closed
for this day. There are no special traditions for celebrating this day, but people enjoy the arrival of
spring and make something nice to eat.


This Sunday and the Monday after Whitsuntide are public holidays. There is no special way to
celebrate this holiday, but a lot of people have a barbeque or family gathering with coffee and cakes.
Those who have a boat or a coastal cabin will usually go there for Whitsuntide.

7th of June – Independence Day

This day is not a public holiday, but flags are flown. On this day in 1905 Norway declared its
independence from Sweden.
Isn’t May 17th the Independence day?

No. May 17th is the Constitution Day.

Summer solstice

This is not a public holiday, but it was always an important day. Because the Norwegians live so far
north, the variation in the length of the day are very big. On this day the sun has reached its
northernmost point in the sky. Traditionally all “kringgjerning” is forbidden on this day.
“Kringgjerning” is doing something that makes a circular motion. Like spinning a wheel or even
drawing a circle.

St Hans – midsummer (also known as Jonsok)

Midsummer Eve is on the 23rd of June. This is an old celebration to mark the summer solstice. The
name St.Hans is a Christian name, referring to John the Baptist (Johannes in Norwegian). But this day
has been celebrated long before Norway became a Christian country. The evening is celebrated with
barbeques, huge bonfires and music. Midsummer Day is on the 24th. These days are not public
holidays, but they are still celebrated. There is a lot of superstition surrounding this celebration.
Often young girls will pick flowers in the midsummer night. According to the tradition, if they pick
seven types of wild flowers between sunset and sunrise and place them under their pillow, they will
dream of their future husband.


This is the name of July 8th. It is not a public holiday, but this day has its name from an island called
Selje. The day is in memory of an Irish princess named Sunniva. She later became a Saint (St Sunniva).
Sunniva was a Christian girl. She did not want to marry a heathen man, so she and her friends fled.
Their boats had neither oars nor sails, they let themselves drift with the currents and they ended up
on Selje outside Norway’s coast. They lived there for a while, but when they were discovered by
hostile people, they hid in a cave and prayed that God should make the cliffs fall down over them.
Several years later the body of Sunniva was found on this island and she was made a saint.


This day is not a public holiday either, since Norway is a protestant country and saints are not
worshipped by Protestants. But this day is to commemorate the only Norwegian saint; Olav
Haraldsson. He is credited with making Norway a Christian country. He died in the battle at Stiklestad
July 29th 1030.


The name means “All-saints-day”. On this day Norwegians commemorate their dead. It is a church
holiday, and it’s celebrated on the first Sunday of November every year. It is a tradition to go to the
cemetery to light candles and place wreaths on the graves of loved ones.

Father’s Day
Father’s Day is on the second Sunday of November every year. This day is celebrated much like
Mother’s Day. Kids will serve coffee and cake on the bedside, and give their fathers and grandfathers
nice gifts.


The last four weeks before Christmas are called advent. The first Sunday of advent is the beginning of
the church year.


Lucia Day on December 13th is a celebration of light. You can read more about it in the next chapter.
Although this day is not a public holiday, it is still a nice and popular tradition.

Winter solstice

This day is the darkest night of the year. Like for summer solstice, you are not supposed to do any
“kringgjerning”. Making circular motions on this could disturb the sun’s path across the sky,
according to old superstition. Although this is not a public holiday it marks a turning point for most
people. After winter solstice the day will gradually get longer, and the spring will get closer for each
passing day.


Christmas is a public holiday. The holiday starts at 5 pm on Christmas Eve and both Christmas Day
and Boxing Day are public holidays.

New Years Eve

This day is not a public holiday, but it is a big celebration. Most celebrate it with their families, others
go to a party. But it’s common to serve a good meal, cakes and coffee or a cold buffet. At midnight
people go outside for the fireworks. The major cities have public fireworks, but most people have
their own fireworks.
Chapter 7: Christmas

Christmas in Norway is a mix of heathen and Christian traditions. The heathen midwinter celebration
called Jul is very old. It marked the winter solstice.

What is Advent?

The four last weeks before Christmas are called advent. This is a time when you should prepare for
Christmas. The first Sunday of advent marks the beginning of the church year. In the past there were
lots of rules on what should be done on certain days in the advent. The baking had to be ready by a
certain day, the meat had to be ready by another day, and the washing of the house had to be done
at the right time.

What is an advent calendar?

It is either a cardboard calendar with 24 doors to open, or it can be 24 small packages. From
December 1st until December 24th the kids will open one door (or one gift) every day. The calendars
can contain candy or a small toy. Some parents like to make their own advent calendars so that they
can decide what’s in the gifts.

How is Advent celebrated?

Except for the advent calendars we also celebrate each of the four advent Sundays. It’s common to
have a wreath with 4 candles. On the first Sunday one candle is lit. On the next Sunday you light two
candles, and so on. On the last Sunday all candles are lit. Advent is a time for preparation. You
prepare for the holiday. In the past there were often certain things that had to be done on certain
days of the advent. The baking should be done by a specific date; the meat should be prepared
before another date and the washing of the house by a third date.

What is the color of Advent?

Lilac is the color of advent.

What is Lucia?

Lucia Day, December 13th is a celebration of light. But the night before Lucia is a scary night. In this
night all demons and monsters are outside. Most known of these demons is Åsgårdsreia, which flies
across the sky from Lucia until Christmas. Åsgårdsreia is the scariest flock of animals you can imagine.
They ride across the sky on dead horses, and gather dead souls. But they can also hurt the living if
you are outside. Åsgårdsreia is lead by a girl named Guri. If you see Guri from the front, she is a
beautiful girl, but if you see her from behind you will discover that she is just a hollow shell.
But the Lucia Day celebration is more known. For this day Norwegians traditionally bake Lussekatter.
They are a special type of buns with saffron. In the morning of December 13th it is tradition to have a
Lucia parade. Especially kindergartens and schools have these parades. The children dress in white
with red ribbons around their waist. Girls have a wreath on their head, while the boys use a hat. The
boys are called stjernegutter (= “star-boys”). In front of the procession is a young girl who is chosen
to be Lucia. She has a wreath with candles on her head. The other kids also carry candles and they
sing. They also hand out Lussekatter. In earlier days such parades would go from door to door in the
neighborhood. Lucia was a young girl who died as a martyr in Italy in the fourth century AD.
Lucia is celebrated in the darkest time of the year. The candles symbolize that the light will win over
the darkness, and that the sun will return again.

Does Norway have a lot of snow in the Christmas?

That actually depends on where you are. In the inland there is usually snow for Christmas, but along
the coast it can vary a lot. You might be surprised at how mild the coastal areas can be.

What is a Nisse?

The Norwegian nisse is a small gnome. He has grey beard and a red hood. He mostly wears knickers
and vest or a knitted sweater. The nisse is hardly ever seen, but you know that he is there. Every
home has its own family of nisser who protect the home and those who live there. But it’s important
to be friends with the nisse. Unlike Santa Claus the nisse is not always kind. In fact he can be quite
cruel. The nisse can talk to the animals. Every Christmas eve he will ask the animals how you have
treated them if the animals say that you have been nice to them , the nisse will be happy and all will
go well for you in the coming year. But if the animals say that you have been cruel to them, the nisse
will get very angry and that’s not good! It’s even said that if the nisse is angry then all newborns in
the home next year, humans or animals, will die.
It is still common to put out a bowl of porridge for the nisse every Christmas eve.

What is the color of Christmas?

The color of Christmas is red.

Why do you put out a sheaf?

When the crops are being harvested, the last corner of the field is traditionally used for making
sheaf. From ancient times people believed that the “spirit” of the crops retreated to the last corner.
This life-spirit is saved and then returned to nature as a sacrificial gift. The sheaf is put out for the
birds to eat. This will release the spirit of the crops and ensure a good harvest neat year.
In addition the sheaf is also a sacrificial gift to the birds. If a lot of birds eat from the sheaf on
Christmas Eve, the next summer will be good.

When is the Christmas tree decorated?

Traditionally it should not be decorated until Christmas Eve. The tradition of bringing in branches to
decorate the house for winter solstice was started long before Christianity came to Norway.

What are common decorations for the Christmas tree?

Candles (electric ones nowadays) and Norwegians flags, of course, and often a star at the top to
symbolize the star of Bethlehem. The candles on the tree can be white or colored.
Homemade paper baskets are popular. Families often make them together, and they are filled with
candies when they are put on the tree. The baskets symbolize the gift God gave to the world. (Jesus)
Children often make paper chains for the tree. The chains symbolize solidarity and unity among
humans. The balls on the Christmas tree symbolize the Earth.
Norwegians also often decorate with snowflakes, tiny stars and birds. The birds symbolize the Holy
The tree can also be decorated with ginger-bread figures.

Who brings the gifts?

It depends. It could be Santa Claus, but it can also be the local nisse.

When do the children open the gifts?

The gifts are opened on Christmas Eve, after the big family dinner.

What are some Christmas traditions in Norway?

At 5 pm on Christmas Eve all the church-bells chime. This is the official start of the holidays. A lot of
Norwegians go to church on Christmas Eve. In the evening of the 24th there is a family dinner. After
dinner a lot of families go around the tree, holding hands and singing Christmas carols.
After that the gifts are handed out and opened.
Christmas Day is usually a quiet day. Some people have family or friends for dinner, but this is not
usually a day for big parties. It’s said that if the weather is good on this day, then the summer will be
good. Norwegians talk a lot about the weather, and we have a lot of days that are used to predict the
Boxing Day is also a public holiday, but there are no special traditions attached to this day.
The 28th of December is called the children’s day. On this day kids usually go to visit each other. This
is also usually the first day for juletrefester.

What is a juletrefest?

It’s a Christmas celebration for kids and families. A juletrefest is usually held at a school or a
community centre. There is a big Christmas tree, and often there are gifts under it. The people join
hands and go around the tree while they sing carols. On such big events they form several circles
around the tree. Every second circle walk in one direction and the others walk the other way. Then
you switch direction for the next song.
Lots of carols are sung on these events. There is also coffee and cakes, baked treats, games for the
children and often a lottery. Santa Claus will come to hand out gifts for the kids. Often they get a bag
of candies and fruit, or a small package.
Some workplaces arrange their own juletrefest for the employees and their families.
Families with small children usually go to several juletrefester in the holiday-season.

What is a julebord?

A julebord is basically the same as a koldtbord. It is a cold buffet, with some warm food served as
well. Usually the julebord has much more to choose from than a regular cold buffet, and it serves
traditional Christmas food in addition to the regular things you would find on a koldtbord.
A lot of Norwegian companies arrange julebord for their employees.

What is Julebukk?
It is still common to dress out and “go Julebukk”. In this tradition people go to the neighbors and
knock on their doors. Nowadays it’s mostly kids who go Julebukk, but in the past it was something
everyone did. The Julebukk used to be a scary creature, but today the kids who go Julebukk will sing
songs, and for this they get some candies or other treats from the people they visit.

What food is eaten for Christmas?

That depends on where in Norway you are. Different parts of the country have different traditions.
Often there will be porridge served in the daytime on Christmas Eve. In one of the bowls there is an
almond hidden, and the person who finds it will get a gift (mostly a marzipan pig).
For dinner on Christmas Eve everyone have their own traditions. Some families serve steak, while
others serve pork ribs. Some eat salted and dried mutton ribs that are soaked and steamed. Others
eat fish or meat-cakes. It varies a lot, and everyone has their favorite meal to serve on Christmas Eve.
For dessert there can be ice-cream or cloudberries.

In Norway you should traditionally have at least seven types of baked goods for Christmas, and this
tradition is still followed by a lot of people.

When does Christmas “officially” end in Norway?

Some say on the 13th day of Christmas. But according to old traditions, the holidays end on the 20th
day of Christmas (January 13th), when “20th-day Knut” comes to throw out the Christmas. On that day
all Christmas decorations must be gone.
Chapter 8: Myths

What is a troll?

Trolls are mythical creatures said to be living in Norway. There are several different types of trolls.
Some trolls live in the mountains, others live in the forest. Some even live in the sea. Some trolls are
big and scary, while others are small and harmless. Trolls often have big treasures, and they usually
live underground in a cave. Most trolls have big ears and big noses. Some trolls have several heads.
They can have 2, 3, 6 or even 9 heads. Then they tend to argue with themselves.
Trolls are not known to be very smart, but female trolls are an exception. They can be quite cunning.
Trolls can’t go out into the sun. Sunlight turns them into stone. Some of the strange rock-formations
you can see in nature could be a troll that went out into the sun and was turned to stone. (So they
say). The big trolls are often stupid and easy to fool, but they can be quite scary.
If a troll is old and huge, bushes and trees can grow on it. Then, if the troll sits still, you could believe
it’s a small mountain. Then the mountain suddenly moves, the landscape changes, and you get lost!
The big trolls are not very social, and they prefer to live alone. They can get very old.
Small trolls are less scary. They usually live together in small family groups, just like humans.
Trolls only have four fingers, and they often have a bushy tale and messy hair. They are usually strong
and have long arms.
It is hard to know if you see a troll, because they are shape-shifters. They might take the shape of a
fallen tree or a rock. They can even turn into an animal.
Trolls are known for their wealth, and they like to have big celebrations. They are always heathens.
A lot of places in Norway have the name “troll” in them, like Trollfjorden (“the troll fjord”),
Trollveggen (“the troll wall” = a mountain wall), Trollheimen (“the troll-home” = mountain-range),
Trollhetta (“the troll hood” = a mountain), Trollstigen (“the troll ladder” = a famous road) or
Trolltindan (“the troll mountains”).
There are lots of stories and fairytales about trolls. They are the most known of the mythical
creatures in Norway. Troll-items are also popular souvenirs.

Where can I see a troll?

You would be surprised how often this question is asked. Well, you can’t see a lot of trolls. They are
mythical creatures, like unicorns and griffins.

What are some other mythical beings in Norway?

There are too many to include everyone in this book, but I have made a list of the most important


Nøkken lives in waters and lakes or in rivers. The main purpose of this creature is to scare kids away
from the water. Nøkken is a shape-shifter, and can take many forms. Mostly he is seen as a bundle of
grass of branches drifting in the water. He can also take the shape of a trunk. The water-lily is called
nøkkrose in Norwegian. It’s said that Nøkken uses this flower to trick people close to the water.
When someone bends down to pick a water-lily, Nøkken might grab the person and pull them into
the water. Nøkken wants to drag people into the water.
He can also leave the water. Then he will often take the shape of a white horse. This horse will try to
trick both kids and adults. He will appear to be kind, but if someone gets on his back, the horse will
jump into the lake with them, and kill them.
Nøkken can also take the shape of a man, and try to seduce young girls.
Nøkken can be heard playing a fiddle or a harp, especially close to a waterfall. He uses his music to
seduce people and get them close to the water, where he can attack them. You can also hear him
sight sometimes. Some even say that you can hear him scream, almost like a bird. Such screams are
said to be omens, forecasting a death very soon.
Nøkken is particularly active just after sunset. If you are attacked by Nøkken, and he tries to pull you
into the water, you should say his name. This will break the spell he has over you. You can also throw
steel in the water to escape his grip.


Fossegrimen also lives in waterfalls and rivers, but he is a bit less scary than Nøkken. Fossegrimen
plays his fiddle, and everyone is captivated by his music. Young fiddlers were encouraged to go and
listen to him play. They say that if you pay him, then Fossegrimen can even teach you to play. But if
you don’t pay him what he asks, you might be in trouble.
Like Nøkken, he can change his form.


Draugen is a sea-monster, a bit like Nøkken. Draugen is human-like, but covered by seaweed and
shells. He sails around in half a boat and collects dead souls. It is also said that if you see Draugen you
will soon die. Like Nøkken he is used to scare kids away from the water.
Even now in modern days, kids can be told to watch out for “the toilet-draug” (he lives in the


Huldrefolket have many names. They are also known as “the blue people”, Haugfolket (“the hill-
people”), subterranean or the underground people. There are lots of stories about them. They live
underground, but people claim to have seen them, or seen their cattle. Sometimes people can smell
food in the middle of the forest, and this is contributed to the underground people. The hulder-
people are known as good craftsmen, and they often have beautiful items made of silver. If you
“throw steel” on such an item, you can break the curse on it and take it with you home. You can also
do the same to the cattle of the hulder-people.
The “blue men” can sometimes abduct human girls. And the female, the hulder, can seduce young
men. She is usually seen as a beautiful girl who dances in the wood or in the mountains. She has long,
shining hair, and she has a tail like a cow. But if a man can tear off her tail, she will become a human.
In the past people didn’t travel a lot, and everyone knew each other in the local communities. If a
farmer-boy married an unknown girl, people might suspect her of being a hulder, especially if the
animals of the farm were unusually healthy and fat. The hulder-people are known for their fat,
shining animals with big utters. Their cattle never get sick or injured.
When the animals were in their mountain pasture, some dairy-maids often claimed to have seen the
hulder or the cattle of the underground people. This was seen as a reminder to the maid that if she
stayed friendly with the hulder, she would be successful and the cows would remain healthy and give
a lot of milk.
When people went missing, people would often suspect that they had been taken by the
undergrounds. Sometimes people could be gone for a long time, and return with no memory of what
had happened to them. The Norwegian word “bergtatt” means “taken by the mountain”.
Both boys and girls could be “bergtatt”. Huldrefolket was both feared and respected even just a few
decades ago.
(The word “bergtatt” is still in use, since it has two meanings. It can also mean being completely
captivated by something.)
The name hulder comes from the Old Norse word “hylja” (= hide). According to old legends Adam
and Eve had a lot of kids. One morning when God came to look in on them, Eve had not yet washed
all the kids. So she hid away those who were still dirty. When God came, he asked her if there were
any other children besides those she showed him, and she said no. Then God said; “let what’s hidden
remain hidden”. And, according to the legend, those kids were the ancestors of the hulder-people.


There are two types of elves in Norwegian mythology. The light-elves are kind, shining creatures that
do good things. The black elves, on the other hand, are bad and do cruel things.
The name alv/elf comes from the word “white”.
The light-elves live forever unless they are murdered, but they don’t have an immortal soul. They are
usually described as having a young and beautiful appearance, but with ancient wisdom in their eyes.
They are surrounded by a mystic glow, and they are usually melancholic. They envy the humans
because humans have a place in heaven.
Even though the elves live long lives they have very few children, so they take good care of those
they get.
The light-elves are helpful, but they usually prefer to avoid humans.

What is typical for the Norwegian fairytales?

The Norwegian fairytales have not been written by any single individual. They are wandering stories
who were told and re-told through centuries. People added or removed things, and the stories
continued to change. Some of the most famous fairytales were collected by Asbjørnsen and Moe, but
they did not write the stories. They just collected them.
There are a lot of mythical creatures in these fairytales.
The number three is very common in Norwegian fairytales. There are often three brothers, three
princesses, three trolls, three tasks that have to be completed or events that occur three times in a

Are there any modern myths in Norway?

Sure. The most known modern myths are those that include sea monsters or UFO’s.

Sea monsters

Several Norwegian lakes are said to have monsters in them. The most known of these lakes is
Seljordsvatnet. In this lake they are doing scientific studies to find out if there is some unknown
creature living there. And they have even had sonar-contact with big, fast-swimming creatures. No
one knows yet what these beings are.
Other lakes are also said to have mysterious creatures in them, for instance Snåsavatnet in Central-
Norway. In both these two lakes the monsters living there have the official status of protected
animals. It is illegal to harm them if you meet them.
Mjøsa, our biggest lake, is also said to have a monster living in it.
In our neighbor country of Sweden they have the famous Storsjöuhyret. All these creatures are
described much in the same way, with the same behavior and similar physical appearance.


In some places of Norway there have been a lot of reports about UFO’s. Most known are the stories
from Hessdalen. In this area there were a lot of mysterious lights reported some years ago. No one
knows what these lights were.


Ice-circles are quite similar to crop-circles, except they are made in the ice. This mysterious
phenomenon has occurred all over the Nordic countries, but no one can say how these circles are


Norway also has crop-circles, even though they are not as famous as those observed in other

I have also included some questions about Norse mythology:

People who have read books by Tolkien, for instance, will probably recognize a lot of these things.
Tolkien was inspired a lot by the Norse mythology.

How did the world begin, according to Norse mythology?

According to the Norse myths, the world began with fire and ice.
Niflheim consisted of darkness, frost and fog, and Muspellheim was an ocean of fire. Between those
two worlds there was nothing, just a gaping canyon called Ginnungagap. It lay between darkness and
light, between fire and ice.
The fire and the ice mixed and formed a giant called Ymer. He was shaped by the ice but the fire
woke him up.
Where the ice melted, the drops formed a big cow called Audhumla. The cow licked on the stones,
and out of the stones came the first god, named Bure. All other gods were descendants of him.
One of Ymer’s sons became the forefather of all jotner (giants). In the beginning the jotner and the
æser (the Norse gods) lived in peace, and they even had children with each other. But the jotner
grew in number and became too powerful.
Odin (the chief of the Norse gods) and his brothers Vilje and Ve rebelled against the jotner and killed
Ymer. They threw his body out in the Ginnungagap and made the world out of his corpse.

How does the Norse mythology explain night and day?

In the beginning there was no time. Then the Norse gods gave the jotne-female Natt (night) and her
son Dag (day) a wagon each, and placed them up in the sky. The night drives first. Her horse is called
Rimfakse. He has frost in his mane, and the foam from his mouth causes dew on Earth.
The day has a shining horse named Skinfakse.
The sun and the moon also got a wagon each, and there is a child in each wagon that takes care of
them. But those wagons are followed by hungry wolves that try to eat the sun and the moon.

How were the humans created according to Norse mythology?

One day Odin and his brothers found two trees floating in the water. It was an ash and an elm. Out of
these two trees they shaped two humans.
Odin gave them life, Vilje gave them reason and Ve gave them their senses.
Those two humans were called Ask (ash) and Embla (elm).

What was Yggdrasil?

Yggdrasil was a giant ash. It was the “world-tree” that connected everything. It grew in the centre of
the world. As long as Yggdrasil was green and had fresh sprouts the world would continue to exist.
Yggdrasil grew through all the levels of the world.

What was Middle Earth?

According to Norse mythology, the world consists of three layers on top of each other.
On the top level lay Åsgard (home of the gods), Vanaheim (home of the vaner) and Alvheim (home of
the light-elves).
The on the middle level was Midgard (Middle Earth, home of the humans), Jotunheimen (home of
the giants), Svartalvheim (home of the black elves) and Nidavellir (home of the dwarfs).
At the lowest level were the frozen Niflheim and the underground world of Hel (home of the
Midgard lay at the middle level, so it is often referred to as Middle Earth.
Between Midgard and Åsgard is the rainbow-bridge, called Bifrost. It is guarded by the god

What was a jotne?

The jotner were giants. They threatened to destroy the order of the world. The jotner represented
the forces of chaos, and they were constantly in battle with the gods. The gods had to fight the jotner
to keep the order of the universe.

Can you name some important gods in Norse mythology?

There were two groups of gods in Norse mythology; æser and vaner.

The most famous æser are:


Odin was the chief of the gods. He was a wise god, with knowledge of magic. Odin had a lot of sons.
He was the god of war, death, royals, poetry and magic. He could see the future. Odin was not always
to be trusted, but he was more concerned with magic than with human life.
Odin could transform himself to anything he wanted.


Odin’s wife, Frigg, could also see the future. She was a powerful goddess.


Tor was the god of thunder. He is described as a giant with red hair and red beard and wild eyes. He
protected the world. His primary job was to fight the jotner. They were always a threat to the gods
and the humans. Tor had the famous hammer to help him. When one of the gods was threatened by
a jotne, they would call on Tor to come and save them. Tor also protected humans, and he was a god
that could always be trusted.
Tor’s wagon was pulled by two male goats. When the wagon rode across the sky, the wheels would


Tor’s wife was Siv. Among the goddesses, only Frøya was more beautiful than Siv.


Tyr was known for his courage. He was also a god for war. In the beginning the gods kept the Fenris
wolf in Åsgard so they could keep an eye on him, but only Tyr was brave enough to feed the creature.


Balder was son of Odin and Frigg. He was friendly and gentle, the most beautiful and most beloved of
all gods.
Balder dreamed that he would die. This worried his mother Frigg, so she asked everything and
everyone not to harm him. And every creature promise that they would never hurt Balder. But Frigg
forgot to ask the mistletoe, because she thought it was too young and small to hurt Balder.
The gods had fun throwing things at Balder, since they knew he could not get hurt. But Loke found
out that the mistletoe could hurt Balder, so he tricked another god to shoot at Balder with an arrow
made of mistletoe.
After Balder died, the gods asked to get him back. Hel, the queen of the underworld, said that if
everything and everyone cried for Balder, then she would return him. But an old jotun-woman
refused to cry for him, so Balder remained in the underworld.


She is the guardian of the golden apples of the gods. These apples gave the gods eternal life.


The guardian of the gods was born by nine jotun-women in the beginning of time. He needed less
sleep than a bird; he could see in the darkness and hear the grass grow.
Heimdall guarded Bifrost, the rainbow bridge that connected Midgard and Åsgard. Heimdall also
owned the famous Gjallarhorn. This horn will call the gods to battle on the final day.

Brage was the god for poets. Poetry was highly regarded by the Vikings.


Ull was the god for hunters and archers.


The vaner were gods of fertility. They lived among the æser. In the beginning the æser and the vaner
fought a lot, but they later developed friendships.

The most famous of the vaner were:


Frøya was the goddess of love and fertility. She was powerful and an expert on sorcery. Everyone
could ask her for help, but Frøya could not help herself. She was herself abandoned by her lover.
Frøya could transform herself to a falcon.
She owned the jewelry called Brisingamen. It was made by dwarfs, and was the most beautiful
necklace that ever existed.


Frøy was the brother of Frøya. He was the god of the crops. He decided over the sun and the rain. He
was also the god for human reproduction. People prayed to him for luck and prosperity. He was also
a great peace-maker.
He owned Skibladner, the ship that always had fair wind when it sailed.
Frøy was married to the jotun-woman Gjerd.


The god of the ocean was the one people turned to if they wanted fortune at sea. Njord was married
to the jotun-woman Skade. Their marriage was not a happy one. Skade was the daughter of a
mountain-jotne, and she longed for the mountains, while Njord was only happy close to the sea. In
an attempt to make the marriage work, they agrees to alternately spend nine nights in Trymheim
(Skade’s mountain castle) and nine nights in Noatun (Njord’s castle). But this did not last long, since
they were both miserable when they went to live in the home of the other, they finally agreed to live


Æge symbolized the ocean, and he ruled over it. He was married to Ran, and they lived in a castle at
the bottom of the sea. It was common for those who were on sea to bring some gold with them so
they would not come to the castle of Æge empty-handed.


Loke was a jotne, not a god. But he lived among the æser. Loke was a big intrigue-maker. He was a
friend of Odin, but he betrayed the gods. In the final battle, Ragnarokk, he would fight against the
gods. Loke was beautiful and eloquent, but also cunning and cruel. He was also clever. He could
change his appearance and become an animal or a bird when he wanted to bother someone.
Loke was regarded as the origin of all lies and falseness.
As a punishment for causing Balder’s death, Loke was tied up. The æser places a snake over him, and
poison dripped onto his face. His wife, Sigyn, stood next to him and collect the poison in a bowl. But
sometimes the bowl was full, and she had to empty it. Then the poison dripped on Loke. The pain
caused him to twist and turn so badly that the whole earth shook. This is how the Old Norse people
explained earthquakes.
Loke had three children with the jotun-woman Angerboda. All the children were monsters.

What other creatures existed in Norse mythology?

The Fenris wolf

The Fenris wolf was a child of Loke. The wolf grew up in Åsgard, but he soon grew too big. In the end
only the brave god Tyr dared to feed the wolf.
To keep him under control, the dwarfs made an unbreakable chain called Gleipne. But the Fenris wolf
didn’t want to be tied down. In fact he was famous for being able to tear all chains. So the gods had
to trick him. First they chained him up with a chain, and asked the wolf to try it on, just for fun. The
wolf was not worried, and let them tie him up. Then he broke free of the chain with no effort at all.
The gods made a new chain, twice as strong. They asked the wolf to try that one as well, and they
said if he could break it, he would be famous. The wolf wanted to be famous so he let them tie him
up again. This time he had to struggle a bit more, but soon he was free again.
The gods started to worry that they might not be able to control the wolf, so they asked the dwarfs
to make a special chain. It was a thin and light chain, and it didn’t look strong at all.
When the gods shoved the chain (gleipne) to the wolf, he was not impressed. He didn’t think he
would win any fame by tearing lose form such a thin chain. But he worried that the gods might be
trying to trick him, so he hesitated to try on the chain.
The gods said that since he had already broken free of thicker chain, he should not worry about such
a thin one. And they promised the wolf that if he could break free from Gleipne, they would never tie
him up again.
The wolf still was not sure. But he agreed to try the chain on if one of the gods would stick their hand
into his mouth. Tyr agreed to do that. The wolf was tied up, and no matter how much he struggled,
he could not break free. This is why Tyr only has one hand. The wolf took the other one.
Then they put a sword in his mouth, so he was unable to bite.

Jørmundgandr/the Midgard serpent

The Midgard serpent was also a child of Loke. It was thrown into the sea when it was tiny, but there
it grew huge. In the end it was long enough to wind around the entire world, biting itself in the tail.
The Midgard serpent will be washed ashore at the end of the world.


Hel was the daughter of Loke. She was half-dead, half alive and looked like a corpse. She was
banished by the gods, and had to live far north. She made herself an underground world, a cold, grey
and wet place. There she receives those who die of disease and old age.

According to Norse mythology, all creatures have a pre-determined destiny. The norner decided the
destiny of all humans. They came to the birth of every child and handed out luck and misfortune.
There were good and evil norner, and some people had their destiny decided by the evil ones.
People were expected to accept their destiny, and not complain about it.


A volve is a human female that could see the future.


The valkyres brought the chosen ones to Åsgard. These female spirits flew over the battlefield to
collect the dead souls for Odin’s hall.


In Norse mythology there are two types of elves; the light-elves who are kind, and shining, and the
black elves; that are evil.
The light-elves live in the sun.
The black elves live underground. They can cause do great harm and even cause disease.


The dwarfs were not very small, but they were usually regarded as ugly. They were good craftsmen
and blacksmith, and often made items with unusual qualities. They created a lot of treasures for the
gods. Among the things they made was the hammer of Tor, Odin’s ring Draupne, Brisingamen (the
jewelry of Frøya) and Gleipne, the only chain that could hold the Fenris wolf. The dwarfs could also
cast a curse on items, especially if they were forced to give those items away, so it was best to
remain on good foot with the dwarfs.

What were some possessions of the gods?

Hugin and Munin (Thought and Memory)

The two ravens of Odin. Every day they flew across the world and noticed everything that was going
on. And every night they landed on Odin’s shoulders and reported what they had seen.


The horse of Odin had eight legs. It could run on land, on sea and even in the air. It mostly used only
four feet at once, while the other four rested. When the first feet were tired, he would use the other
four. This way the horse could run forever without any need to stop and rest.


Gungne was the spear of Odin. It would hit everything.

Draupne was the golden ring of Odin.
Every ninth night eight drops of gold would drip from Draupne, and create eight new rings.


Tor’s hammer, Mjølnir, was the most powerful weapon on Earth in heaven. Mjølnir would always hit
everything Tor threw it at, and then the hammer would return to his hand. Mjølnir could change its


This mythical ship always sailed in fair wind. It could grow in size. The more people that were on
board, the bigger the ship would get. But when it was not in use, it was so small that you could put it
in your pocket.


Gleipne was the unbreakable chain that was made by the dwarfs to control the Fenris wolf. The chain
was made from the sound of cat-steps, the beard of women, the roots of the mountains, the tendons
of bears, the breath of the fish and the saliva of the birds. (According to Norse mythology, this is why
cat-steps have no sound; women have no beard and so on…)

What was Valhalla?

Valhall (Valhalla) was the hall of Odin. The Valkyrier chose who would go to Valhall. Only those who
died in battle had the chance to get to this place, so for a Viking it was important to die fighting.
Coming to Valhall was the ultimate goal of every warrior. In Valhall they could fight every day. It
didn’t matter if they got injured or died in Valhalla, because when the evening came, they would all
come back to life again. They would eat and drink and be happy.
Valhalla was described as a huge hall with many doors. Every day a pig called Særimne would be
slaughtered. Whoever many people there was at the table, there would always be enough meat. And
even though the pig was eaten, it would come to life again in the evening.

Where else could people end up after they died?

Frøya also received fallen warriors. She drove around in a wagon pulled by cats and collected the
souls of half of the fallen warriors. The other half went to Odin’s hall Valhalla.
The warriors Frøya collected came to her hall, called Sessrumne. Dead women could also come to
The goddess Gjevjon received all girls and unmarried women after they died.
Those who died of disease or old age came to the underworld Hel.
Those who died at sea came to the underwater castle of Æge and Ran.


Those who broke oaths or committed crimes would end up in Niflheim, where they would face
eternal torture and pain.

Is there any magic number in Norse mythology?

The number nine is very important in Norse mythology, but no one is sure why.
Odin hung for nine nights to learn nine magic formulas. Heimdall had nine mothers; Æge had nine
daughters and the god Hermod had to travel for nine nights to get to the underworld when he
wanted to retrieve the dead Balder.
Frøy had to wait nine nights for his bride Gjerd. Njord and Skade lived nine nights in each other’s
homes. Every nine night the golden ring of Odin creates new rings.
At Ragnarokk, Tor will walk nine steps away from the Midgard serpent before he dies.
And in Uppsala, in Sweden, the Vikings had a great celebration every ninth year. During these nine
days, nine representatives of all living things (including humans) were sacrificed to the gods.

How will the world end, according to Norse mythology?

In the end there will be bad years and wars raging. This is the start of Ragnarokk. Ragnarokk is the
end time, when all forces will be dissolved. Brothers will fight each other and sons will kill their
fathers. First there will be three years of winter, with no summer between them. This is called the
Fimbul-winter. The sun and the moon will be eaten by the wolves that are chasing them, the
mountains will crumble and all chains will be broken. When all chains break, the Fenris wolf will also
get lose. Loke will be free again and the Midgard serpent will be washed ashore.
From Muspellheim an army of shining riders will come. With their flaming swords they will destroy
the world. The rainbow bridge will collapse under their weight. Odin will be eaten by the Fenris wolf.
Tor and the Midgard serpent will kill each other, Heimdall and Loke will kill each other, Yggdrasil will
be destroyed by the flames from Muspellheim and what’s left over of the world will sink into the sea
and disappear.

Is there nothing after Ragnarokk?

Yes, there is still a future. The sun has given birth to a daughter!
A new world will rise from the sea, with fields that sow themselves. There will be an abundance of
fish and wild animals. Everyone will have enough to eat and no one will ever freeze again.
Two humans have survived the flames, and from them a new population will grow.
Some of the children of the gods have also survived.

Are there still people who believe in the Old Norse mythology?

Yes. There are some people who still follow this old belief.
Chapter 9: Government and laws

Does Norway have a king?

Yes. Norway is a monarchy. The king we have now is called Harald V (Harald the 5th). He became our
king in 1991.

What are the names of the rest of the royals?

The queen’s name is Sonja.

The king and the queen have two children;
Princess Märtha Louise and crown-prince Haakon Magnus.
Princess Märtha Louise is married to a Norwegian writer, and they have three daughters. Her
children have no royal titles.
The crown-prince is married to crown-princess Mette-Marit.
They have two kids; Princess Ingrid Alexandra and prince Sverre Magnus.
In addition the crown-princess had a child before she married the crown-prince. His name is Marius.
He has the title prince, but he is not an heir to the throne.

Who is the prime minister of Norway?

When this book is written Jens Stoltenberg is the prime minister. He is from the Labor Party, but he
leads a coalition government.

How many political parties are there in Norway?

There are lots of political parties in Norway. The biggest ones are:
The Labor Party (AP)
The Conservative Party (H)
The Progress Party (FRP)
The Socialist Left Party (SV)
The Christian People’s Party (KRF)
The Centre Party (SP)
The Red Electoral Alliance (RV)
The Liberal Party (V)
The Coastal Party
The Green Party

In addition there are lots of small, local lists for elections. Everyone in Norway can start a list of list,
and run for election. All you have to do is get 5000 signatures. Then you can start your own political

How often are parliamentary elections held?

Every four years.

Do you also have local elections?

Yes. We have elections for the county council and the municipal council.

At what age can people vote in Norway?

Now they can vote at age 18. But there is talk about letting 16-year olds vote in the local elections.

At what age is it legal to get married in Norway?

You can legally get married at age 18.

Can gay and lesbian people get married in Norway?


Is birth control legal in Norway?


Is it legal to have abortions in Norway?

Yes, up to week 12. Abortions later than that are only granted under special circumstances.

Can you legally bring animals to Norway?

You can bring pets from all EU-countries, except Sweden, if the animals have an identification chip or
tattoo and a pet-passport. In addition the animal must have had all necessary vaccinations and be
presented to customs on entry to Norway.
Caged birds, small rodents and rabbits need valid import permission issued by Norwegian Animal
Health Authorities.

Are you allowed to have reptiles for pets in Norway?

No. Snakes and other reptiles and exotic animals are illegal in Norway. Only zoos can keep such

Can I use the nature in Norway for recreation?

Most of the nature can be used for recreation. Norway has a law called Allemannsretten (public right
of access). It allows everyone to use the nature, but all visitors are expected to be considerate
towards the farmers, the land-owners and other users. You are also expected to protect the
environment and don’t destroy the nature around you. You are also expected to follow the laws. In
some periods you can’t make bonfires, and in some periods there are leash laws for dogs.

Can I fish or hunt in Norway?

In the sea you can do sports-fishing from boats and from the shore. Remember that all fishing and
hunting is regulated by seasons.
In rivers and inland lakes fishing is only allowed if you have permission from the land-owner.
All hunting-rights also belong to the land-owner.
You can buy a fishing license for salmon fishing. For hunting you will need to either pass a test or you
must have proof that you have passed a test in your own country.
Do you have freedom of speech in Norway?

Of course!
Chapter 10: Nature and animals

How long is Norway’s coastline?

Without counting the fjords, it’s 2532 km. but if you include the fjords, the coastline is 25 148

How many lakes are there in Norway?

There are 150 000 lakes. (If you count all the small ones as well, then there are over 455 000 lakes in
Norway). About 400 of these cover an area of 5 sq kilometers or more. The lakes cover a total of
17 000 sq kilometers of the country.

How many islands are there in Norway?

Norway has more than 45 000 islands.

Is Norway a mountainous country?

Yes. In fact, about 2/3 of the country consists of mountains and plateaus.

What is the tallest mountain in Norway?

Galdhøpiggen is the tallest mountain in Norway. It is 2469 meters (8100 feet)

What is the biggest lake in Norway?

Our biggest lake is Mjøsa. This lake is 362 sq kilometers.

What is the deepest lake in Norway?

Hornindalsvatnet; It is the deepest lake in Europe (514 meters deep). The surface of this lake is 53
meters above sea-level, and the bottom is 461 meters below the sea.

What is the longest river in Norway?

Glomma is the longest river. It is 598 kilometers long.

Does Norway have a lot of fjords?

Yes. Western Norway has the highest density of fjords in the world.

What is the longest fjord in Norway?

Sognefjorden is the longest fjord in the world, with its 204 kilometers .it is also the deepest fjord in
the world (1300 meters deep).
The second longest fjord is Hardangerfjorden and the third longest is Trondheimsfjorden.

Are all fjords alike?

No, they are not. Some are deep with tall mountains around them others are more open with lower
mountains. Some fjords are wide and others are narrow, some are short and others are long.
Nærøyfjorden is the narrowest fjord in the world. It is only 250 meters across at one point. The
mountains in this fjord rise up to 1800 meters above the water. Nærøyfjorden is an arm of
Another famous fjord is Aurlandsfjorden. There is a farm high above this fjord that is popular with
tourists. The farm is called Stigen. To get there, people had to use a ladder. It’s said that when people
came to collect the taxes, the farmer would pull up the ladder. On this farm they also kept their
young children tied up in ropes, so the kids should not fall off the cliffs.
Geirangerfjorden is also a popular tourist attraction, and Lysefjorden is famous among BASE-jumpers.
All these fjords are in the southwest.
The fjords in central Norway are known for their fishing.
And in Northern Norway, the fjords and the mountains meet.

All Norwegian fjords are geologically young. They have been made by 40 ice-ages through 2.5 million
years. In the fjords the climate is usually sheltered from the worst storms, and the soil is fertile along
the water.

What is the biggest island in Norway?

Spitsbergen. The biggest island off the mainland coast is Hinnøya.

Does Norway have a lot of glaciers?

Mainland Norway has a total of 1634 glaciers, but some of these are quite small. They glaciers on the
mainland cover a total area of 2595 sq kilometers. 60 % of the glacier-area is in Southern Norway.
The biggest glaciers are the plateau-glaciers.

What is the biggest glacier in Norway?

Jostedalsbreen is the biggest glacier on the mainland. It covers an area of 487 sq kilometers.
If you also include Svalbard, then the biggest glacier is Austfonna. It is the second biggest glacier in
Europe, after the Greenland ice.

Does Norway have a lot of woods?

Yes. About 37 % of the country is covered by woods. Some areas have only needle-trees. Many of
the mountain areas have birch-forests. But the majority of the forests are a mix of needle-trees and

Does Norway have a very cold climate?

No. in fact most of Norway has a coastal climate. This gives fairly mild and wet winters, and cooler,
wet summers. Only the southeast and the inland plateaus have inland climate. That gives them
warmer summers than along the coast, but they also have much colder winters.
Norway has a much milder weather than you would expect at this latitude. Norway is the
northernmost country that has open seawater in the winter.
The average temperature for Norway is actually – 2 degrees in the winter (27 degrees F).
The average summer temperature is between 13 and 18 degrees (57 to 65 degrees F), depending on
where in the country you are. Days with temperatures over 20 degrees C are common all over the
country and Norway often has summer days with 25 degrees and more in the inland. But the
temperatures can vary a lot from year to year.
Northern Norway has a subarctic coastal climate, but the summers can still get very warm even
The island group of Svalbard has an arctic climate, of course.

Does it rain a lot in Norway?

Again, it depends on where you are and on what time of the year it is, and where in the country you
go. Along the coast there is a lot more rain than in the inland. Some areas of the country get in
average less than 1000 mm of rain within a year, while other places get more than 3000 mm a year.
The fall and winter can be especially wet along the western coastline.
Southern Norway is divided by mountain ranges, and in the rain-shadow east of the mountains, some
places have as little as 300 mm of precipitation during the year.
The inland has in average 100 days of rain/snow in the year, while the coastal areas have 150 to 200
days of rain or snow.

Do you have a lot of wind?

Along the coast there is a lot of wind all year. The direction and strength of the wind change a lot. In
the inland there is less wind, especially southeastern Norway is shielded against the western winds.

What is the tallest waterfall in Norway?

That depends on how you define it. The Vinnu waterfall is 860 meters, but only has a free fall of 420
meters. The tallest free-fall is the Monge waterfall (773 meters).

What is the most famous waterfall in Norway?

Well, the Seven Sister’s waterfall in the Geirangerfjord is famous. Vøringsfossen is another very
popular tourist attraction.

What are some common animals in Norway?

Elk, roe-deer, hare, fox, lemming, hedgehog, squirrel, ermine, mice, rats, deer, lynx, badger, beaver,
bat, otter and wolverine are some creatures you might meet in Norway.
Bears and wolves are rarer, but you might meet those as well. In the mountain there are a few
mountain foxes left, and some musk live on Dovre.
On Svalbard there are polar bear, arctic hares, arctic fox and Svalbard reindeer.

What is the biggest animal in Norway?

The biggest animal in Norway is the polar bear. It is the largest land-based predator in the world.
The biggest mainland animal in Norway is the elk. It is often called “the king of the forest”.

Are there polar bears in Norway?

Yes. But not on the mainland. You will not meet polar bears in the streets of Norwegian cities.
The polar bears live on the arctic islands north of the mainland.
What are some common trees in Norway?

Spruce is the most common needle-tree, followed by pine and juniper. Some common leaf-trees are
birch, ash, bird cherry, rowan, sallow and aspen are quite common. Beech, elm and oak can also be
found. It depends a bit on where in the country you are.

What is the national flower of Norway?

Pyramidal saxifrage. The Norwegian name is bergfrue (= mountain lady). This plant clings to steep
mountains and rocks, often close to running water. The pyramidal saxifrage has the majority of its
spreading in Norway. It can be found in most of mainland Norway, and it is the only flower in the
world that has Norway as its main area of growth.
The plant usually has between 100 and 200 flowers on one stem, but the records is from 1951, when
one pyramidal saxifrage had a stem of 75 cm and 1525 flowers on the stem.
The pyramidal saxifrage was chosen as Norway’s national flower at a botanical congress in
Amsterdam in 1935.

What is the national bird of Norway?

White-throated Dipper. In Norwegian it is called fossekall (= “waterfall-man”). This name was given
to the bird because it lives in running water, but also because this bird was believed to be
Fossegrimen in disguise. The white-throated Dipper is a tough bird. It likes to swim in ice-cold water
even in the middle of the winter.

What is the national rock of Norway?

The national rock is called Thullitt. It is a pink stone with streaks of black and white in it. The rock is
often used for jewelry, and it is a popular souvenir for tourists.

What species of rock are common in Norway?

Granite, gneiss, slate, sandstone and limestone are quite common.

Does Norway have any unique domestic animals?

Yes. Norway has several local species of cattle and sheep, as well as several breeds of horses and
dogs. The most known ones are the Telemark cattle, the Norwegian Fjord horse and the elk-hound.
(But they are only the most famous ones; there are a lot of other breeds that are less known abroad.)

Are there any volcanoes in Norway?

There are no active volcanoes on the mainland. But on Jan Mayen, north of the mainland, there is
one. It’s called Beerenberg.

Are there any sharks in Norway?

Yes, we have several types of sharks. Most of them are quite small. Others, like the illusive ghost
shark, are very rare.

Do you have coral reefs in Norway?

Yes. Norway has several reefs with deep sea corals.

Are there any snakes in Norway?

Yes. Norway has three types of snakes; common European viper, grass snake (or water snake) and
smooth snake. Only the European viper is poisonous, but the poison is not very strong. Although the
bite hurts, it is rarely dangerous. However, if you are allergic to bee stings, you will need treatment if
you are bitten by a viper.

Are there any reptiles or amphibians in Norway?

Yes. Norway has two species of reptiles and six species of amphibians.
The reptiles are the common lizard and the slow snake.
The amphibians are three types of frogs, smooth newt, great crest newt and toad.

Where there dinosaurs in Norway?

Yes. Especially on Svalbard there are a lot of fossils of dinosaurs and other ancient species. Even
today they discover new species there.
In 2008, they found pieces of a gigantic sea creature which is believed to have been the largest
predator ever! It is a newly discovered species and belongs to the Pliosaurus family.

Does Norway have any tidal currents?

Yes. Norway has several tidal currents, including Saltstraumen, the strongest tidal current in the
world. (It has a speed of 22 knots) Another famous tidal current is Moskenstraumen. And the
Trondheim fjord in Central Norway has two strong tidal currents. (Straumen and Skarnsundet)

Can I see whales in Norway?

Yes. Both whales and dolphins can often be seen along the coast of Norway. And there are several
people who arrange whale safaris.

Are there any National Parks in Norway?

Yes. Norway has 25 national parks. 6 are on the island group of Svalbard, and a total of 60 % of these
arctic islands are national parks.

What is the biggest National Park in Norway?

The biggest one on the mainland is Hardangervidda National Park.

If you include Svalbard, then the biggest one is South-Spitsbergen National Park.

How many national parks are there on Svalbard?

Svalbard has three national parks, two nature reserves, three protected areas for unique plants and
15 bird-reserves along the western coastline.

What animals live on Svalbard?

There are only four land-based mammals living on Svalbard; polar bears, arctic foxes, Svalbard
reindeer and a special type of field-mouse (østmarkmus).
In the sea there are whales, seals and a lot of fish. Many species of migrant birds raise their babies on
Chapter 11: Agriculture and fishing

How much of Norway’s area is cultivated?

Only about 3 % of the area is cultivated.

Does Norway import a lot of food?

Norway imports about 50 % of the food that is consumed.

How many people work in agriculture and fishery?

Farmers and fishermen make up about 2.9 % of the workforce.

Where are the main agricultural areas in Norway?

Most of the wheat and barley is grown in the southeast and the central parts of the country. Most of
the fruit is grown in the southwest. Dairy-products, vegetables and meat are produced all over the

What types of plants are grown in Norway?

Barley and wheat are grown, potatoes and other vegetables, fruits and strawberries.

What other agricultural products are produced in Norway?

Norwegian farms produce pork, poultry, beef and milk.

Can you grow wheat in Norway?

Yes. Norway is actually almost self-supplied with wheat.

Can you grow fruit in Norway?

Yes. The climate in Norway is ideal for growing fruits. Most of the fruit grown in Norway is apples and
cherries. Especially in the fjords in west there are a lot of fruit farms.

Does Norway have fish farms?

Yes. A lot of the fish we eat and export comes from fish farms along the coast.

Is there a lot of fish in Norway?

Yes. But even here the wild fish is threatened by over-fishing.

How much of the fish is exported?

About 90 % of the fish is sold abroad.

Chapter 12: Various themes

What are some traditional Norwegian names, and what do they mean?

I can’t include all Norwegian names, but here are a few:

Male names:

Alf (“elf” or “underground being”)

Are (“eagle”)
Asgeir (“spear of the Gods”)
Bjørn (“bear”)
Dag (“day”)
Erlend (“stranger”)
Geir (“spear”)
Gunnar (comes from the word “gunnr” = battle)
Harald (“ruler of army”)
Jarle (comes from the old title “jarl” = Viking chief)
Kjell (“helmet”)
Roar (“famous warrior”)
Rune (“secret”)
Sigbjørn (“victorious bear”)
Stein (“rock”)
Stian (“walking with long steps”)
Ståle (“weapon” or “steel”)
Tor (comes from the name of the god of thunder)
Ulf (“wolf”)
Øystein (“lucky stone”)
Åsmund (“protected by the gods”)

Female names:

Aslaug (“promised to the gods”)

Astrid (comes from the words “as” = god and “fridr” = beautiful)
Aud (“wealth”)
Bjørg (“help)
Bodil (“help in battle”)
Frøydis ( comes from the words “freydr” = master and “dis” = goddess)
Gerd (“fence”)
Gudny (“new god”)
Gunn (“battle”)
Gry (“dawn”)
Ingeborg (“protected by the god Yngve”)
Magnhild (“strength in battle”)
Signe (“new victory”)
Sigrun (“secret victory”)
Siv (“relative”)
Solrun (“secret hall” or “secret home”)
Tordis (comes from the god Tor and the word “dis” = goddess)
Åse (comes from the word “as” =god)

What is Norway’s national costume called?

It is called a bunad. There are several types of bunads. Every part of the country has its own
variation. You can tell where a person has their roots by looking at their bunad. Most people chose
the bunad of the area they originate from.

What types of clothes do Norwegians wear?

The same as most other people, probably. But there are some traditional clothes. Norwegians like to
knit, so knitted sweaters, hoods, mittens and rag-socks are very popular in the winter.

What is the official language of Norway?

The official languages are the two written forms of Norwegian (bokmål and nynorsk), as well as
several Sami languages.

Why does Norwegian have two written forms?

This is a result of the union with Denmark. During those centuries, Norway had no official written
language of its own. Norwegians had to write in Danish. When Norway got its own written language
again, it was based on the Danish language. This language is called bokmål. But some people wanted
a written language that was based on the dialects of Norway, so they created another language. This
is called nynorsk. The languages have some words in common, other words are very different. And
even the words that are written the same way can be pronounced differently.
Most kids in Norway learn both the written forms of Norwegian in school, and the radio and TV is
required to use at least 20 % nynorsk.
Public offices are also required to answer letter and e-mails in the same language as the letter was
written in. For that reason, all public employees need to know both written forms of Norwegian.

These two forms of the language are the written forms. However, most people speak local dialects.
The dialects in Norway very a lot, and someone who has only learned bokmål or nynorsk might not
understand much of the spoken language.

What is special about the Norwegian language?

One of the special things about Norwegian is that it is a tonal language. That means that some words
can be pronounced in two different ways. The meaning of these words will change with the

What is Norway called in Norwegian?

It is called Norge in bokmål, Noreg in nynorsk.

What are the people of Norway called in Norwegian?

They are called nordmenn.

Do Norwegians speak English?

Most Norwegians know English, yes. All children learn English at school. Some Norwegians also speak
other languages like French, German, Spanish or Russian.

What is the national anthem of Norway?

The national anthem is called “Ja vi elsker dette landet”.

Why does Norway have midnight sun?

The midnight sun is a result of the tilt in Earth’s axis. This is also what causes the seasons all over
Earth. The length of the day varies slightly all over the world, depending on the seasons. But the
closer you are to the poles, the more extreme these variations get. If you are on the North Pole or on
the South Pole, you will only experience one sunrise and one sunset each year. You would have a 6
month long day, followed by 6 months of night.
The Arctic Circle marks the southernmost point for the midnight sun. Since parts of Norway is north
of the Arctic Circle, that part of the country experiences midnight sun in the summer. The further
north you go, the more days of midnight sun you will get.

When can I see the midnight sun?

It depends on how far north you go. At 66 degrees N, you can see it in June, and at 71 degrees N you
can see it from the middle of May to the end of July. On Svalbard the midnight sun lasts from the
middle of April to the middle of August.

How long are the Norwegian summer days south of the Arctic Circle?

Very long, there is up to 20 ½ hour of sunlight even south of the Arctic Circle. And much of the
country has no real night in the summer.

When can I see the northern light?

Actually all year round, but you can’t see it when the sun is up. Otherwise the fall and the winter is
usually the ideal time. The northern light can be a bit illusive, though.
There is more northern light in periods when the sun is more active.

How many dialects does Norway have?

The simple answer is that no one has counted them! Every local community has its own dialect. The
dialect can vary a lot within a county and even within a municipal area.

Do you have hurricanes in Norway?

Actually yes! Some people are surprised by this. The hurricanes that hit Norway are not tropical
hurricanes, though. They are arctic hurricanes, and they only occur in the winter.
Do you have earthquakes in Norway?

This might also surprise you, but yes! The Norwegian mainland is still rising up from the sea, and this
is the main cause of earthquakes. They are mostly quite harmless, but they can occasionally get to 4
or even 5 on the Richter scale.

Are there any amusement parks in Norway?

Yes, we have both amusements parks and zoos. Most of them are located in the southern part of the

Where can I find information for travelling around in Norway?

You can find most of the travel information you need at the official travel guide- website for Norway.
Chapter 13: Some common misunderstandings about Norway

There are polar bears in the streets of Norway.

Only if you go to Longyearbyen on Spitsbergen! They have polar bears around them.
But there are NO polar bears on the mainland.

There are penguins in the Oslo-fjord.

No there are NO penguins in Norway! Some tourists still believe they can experience penguins in
Norway, but they can’t. (Except if they go to a zoo.)

Norway is very cold and wet.

Norway is milder and sunnier than most people believe. Yes the western part of the country get a lot
of rain, but the temperatures along the coast are quite mild all year. The winters don’t get very cold,
and much of the coastal areas have little snow.
The inland areas have cold winters and a lot of snow, but they usually have very warm summers with
up to 30 degrees C.
The summers along the coast are not quite that warm, but the amount of warm days might surprise

Norway has no real summer.

Yes, we have really warm summer-days in Norway.

All Norwegians are blonde.

No, they are not. There percentage of blonde people is slightly higher in Scandinavia compared to the
rest of Europe, but Norwegians come in all hair-colors.

Norway is expensive.

Not as expensive as some people think. In Norway there is a 25 % sales-tax included in the price
(14 % on food). When you include the sales-tax, the prices in Norway are only slightly higher than in
the US or England.

Norwegians are a depressed people.

No, they are not. Some think that the lack of sunlight in the winter cause depressions, but research
has shown that people in Norway are not more depressed than people in the rest of the world. In
fact, a lot of Norwegians seem to be immune to the seasonal changes, and they don’t get affected by
the lack of sun in the winter.

Norwegians only eat fish and mousse.

Well, we eat fish and mousse, but the Norwegian food is very varied.

Norwegians mostly stay indoors in the winter.

No. The winter is a very nice time for being outdoors, and most Norwegians like to do some sort of
winter activity.

Schools close when there is a blizzard.

No, they don’t! Schools stay open even in blizzards. They only close if there is a real danger that the
school might collapse.
Chapter 14: Do’s and don’ts

- Don’t steal a road-sign just because there is an elk on it!

This can’t be said often enough; a road-sign is public property. It is NOT a souvenir, and you should
NOT take it with you! The Norwegian government has to put up lots of new elk-signs every year,
because tourists steal them. DON’T do this!

- Don’t ask a Sami how many reindeer he or she owns.

This would be very insulting to a Sami. They count their wealth from how many reindeer they have,
and they like to keep this a secret. If you ask how big their flock is, it would be like asking someone
how much money they have in the bank. It is simply not polite!

- Don’t call a Sami a “Lapp”.

It would be like calling a person from the US a Canadian, or like calling a German person Austrian!
The Sami will get insulted by this, because they and the Lapp are not of the same group of people!

- Don’t bring in animals illegally!

Norway is one of the few countries in Europe where there is no rabies. We would like to keep it this
way, so please don’t bring illegal animals into the country.

- Don’t walk into a Norwegian barn without permission.

There are very strict rules in place to protect Norwegian animals from diseases. Please respect these
rules. Don’t enter a barn in the first three days you are in Norway, and NEVER feed an animal with
food you have brought with you from your own country! Humans can carry animal diseases with
them even if they are not aware of it.

- Don’t bring unclean fishing equipment to Norway.

Some Norwegian rivers already have diseases that kill salmon. We don’t want more problems like
this, so please make sure your fishing equipment is clean!

- Don’t speed!

Norwegian fines are very big! And if you speed in traffic you can also hurt others. Some Norwegian
roads have a lot of turns, and they can be quite narrow in some locations, so be careful.

- Don’t come by car in the winter unless you have proper winter tires and snow chains.

Foreign cars (and especially foreign trucks) that lack snow tires and snow chains cause problems in
the winter traffic every year. Keep in mind that the conditions in Norway are much different to those
in southern and central Europe. Make sure you have good winter tires and chains. If you come to
Norway in the winter with a car that is not equipped for snow and ice, you might even be stopped by
the police and be banned from driving.

- Don’t visit only the typical tourist sites.

First of all these places are crowded and they are expensive. It’s like that in every country; the more
popular a site is the more it costs! Some of the best places to visit are the less known sites. There you
will enjoy lower prices and there will be fewer people around.

- Don’t be in too much of a hurry.

Most people are in too much of a hurry even in the vacation. But if you rush to get somewhere, you
might be missing a lot of exciting sites on the way. Don’t just focus on getting to the target as fast as
you can. Take some time to enjoy the road as well.

- Do take a trip outside the main “tourist-traps”.

It will pay off in every way. Some of the nicest places in Norway are outside the main highways, and
those places are also a lot cheaper than the “tourist-traps”. And you will have the added benefit of
getting closer to the locals.

- Do taste local food.

Local food traditions are different depending on where you go. It doesn’t have to be expensive to try
Norwegian food. If you go to smaller cafés it is not as expensive as a restaurant. Some farms even sell
local food or they have farm-cafés where you can get a good meal prepared in the traditional way.

- Do talk to the locals.

Most Norwegians like to talk to people. We might seem a little shy at first, but once you get to know
Norwegians you will find that we are a friendly people. Locals can tell you more about the history and
the sights of the place you are visiting, they will mostly be more than willing to help you, and they
cost a lot less than a guide. They can also give you an insight in the culture and the everyday life in

- Do try to catch some local cultural events.

Almost all local communities have some sort of cultural events, especially in the summer. It can be a
local festival or theatrical performances. These shows might not be as “professional” as in a theatre,
but they can be a lot of fun. Outdoor markets are also popular, especially in the summer months.
There you can see a lot of local food and crafts. And you can talk to people.

- Do visit Norway outside the main tourist season.

First of all because Norway has something to offer all year, and coming outside the main season also
means that you can save money. Most hotel-rooms and cabins can be rented for a lower price
outside the season, and the tourist sites are less crowded.
- Do bring warm clothes if you go for a mountain hike.

Even in the summer, the weather can get cold and wet.

- Do close the gates behind you if there are animals outside.

If a gate is closed when you come to it, this means that the gate is supposed to be closed!

I hope this book has answered some of your questions about my country. If you want to visit
Norway as a tourist, you will be very welcome! 