Norway is one of Europe's most sparsely populated countries. With a population of only 5 million people and a land area of 385,802 km2, the population density is only 16 inhabitants per km2. Most of the population are Norwegians. The indigenous Sami people traditionally inhabit the northern part of Norway, that along with parts of Sweden, Finland and Russia outlines an area known as Sapmi (or Sameland). Other recognized minorities are the Kven people, Jews, Forest Finns, and Norwegian Romani Travellers. In recent years, immigration, in particular from the European Union, has increased greatly.
Norway is formally a Christian country with a dominant Lutheran majority of near 85 %. Despite almost 85% of Norwegians being part of the national church, most Norwegians are either atheist, agnostic or Christian, and the regular church attendance is as low as 5%.
Norway has become rather liberal in moral issues and thus more similar to southern neighbors like Denmark and the Netherlands. Homosexuality is accepted by most people and recently (2008) same-sex marriage was given the same legal status as traditional marriage. For instance, a previous male minister of finance and prominent figure in the conservative party is in partnership with a prominent male business manager. With that said, some parts along the southern and southwestern coast are fairly conservative, especially in the more rural areas.
Norwegians are generally open-minded and tolerant and there are few, if any, dos and don'ts that foreign visitors need to keep in mind.
Many Norwegian people can however be mistaken as somewhat rude and unwelcoming, due to the fact that they can be very direct and that small talk generally doesn't come easy. This is just a matter of culture; making contact with strangers, such as talking with fellow passengers on the bus, is uncommon. Furthermore, Norwegian as a language is very straightforward. If asked for a favor, you are likely not to hear a "please". On the other hand, Norwegians say "takk" ("thank you") for almost anything, including for example receiving change back from cashier or bus driver. It is customary to thank the cook for the food ("takk for maten") in a private home. The reply will be "velbekomme" or "værsågod". The once common use of the polite pronoun is nowadays extremely rare, and so is polite phrases and words in everyday situations, so don't be offended if a Norwegian speaking a foreign language uses a very familiar language. The Norwegian culture is in some aspects very informal, and Norwegians usually address each others by first name only, except perhaps in official meetings. The informal culture is, however, not equivalent of that in southern parts of Europe; showing up late for meetings is considered rude, so is talking loud, being too personal with strangers and losing your temper. Although you may get away with arriving "fashionably late" at dinners in someone else's home, this is certainly not expected and should be limited to no more than fifteen minutes. It is customary to take off your shoes when entering a Norwegian home - particularly in the winter.
Norwegians can also be perceived as somewhat nationalistic. It is common to use the flag in private celebrations (such as anniversaries and weddings), and many will also fly the flag on public holidays, and violating the flag rules is frowned upon. Most Norwegians will speak warmly of their country, in particular about subjects such as nature, sports and the country's economic success. 17 May, the constitution day, can perhaps be a bit overwhelming for foreigners, as the country is covered in flags, citizens dress up in their finest clothes and celebrate all day long. Norwegian patriotism is however generally just an expression of appreciation of living in a successful community, not chauvinistic or aggressive in any way. Even so, you should refrain from making jokes about the Norwegian patriotism unless you are sure they will be well received. On constitution day, dress up and try to say gratulerer med dagen (literally "congratulations with the day") to anyone you meet, and you will probably get the same in response and see a lot of smiles, even if you're not Norwegian at all. Norwegians take pride in the fact that the parades on constitution day are made up of school children and families instead of military troops.
Numbers, time and dates - Note that Norwegians use comma as the decimal sign, for instance 12,000 means 12 (specified with three decimal places) not 12 thousand, whereas 12 000 or 12.000 means 12 thousand. Norwegians use both 24 and 12 hour system, spoken often 12 hour system and 24 hour system in writing. Norwegians don't use PM/AM to indicate morning or afternoon. In Norwegian "half ten" ("halv ti") means half past nine, when speaking to a person not fluent in English better not use this form to avoid misunderstanding. Dates can be seen abbreviated in a number of ways, but the order is always DATE-MONTH-YEAR, for instance 12.7.08 (or 120708, 12/7-08 or 12.07.08; the first and latter being the only correct forms) is July 12, 2008. Monday is considered the first day of the week, while Sunday is the last. In timetables, week days are thus often indiciated by numbers 1 (Mon) through 7 (Sun). Norwegian calendars will also indicate the number of the week 1 through 53. Timetables for public transport often use the abbreviation Dx67, meaning "all days except Saturday and Sunday".
Norway uses the metric system only. A Norwegian mile, 'mil', is equal to 10 km. There is overall limited knowledge of Imperial or US measures, although most younger Norwegians will be somewhat familiar with US weight and distance measures. Few Norwegians will be able to convert from Centigrade (Celsius) to Fahrenheit, and weather forecasts use metric units. However, many modern cell-phones have conversion programmes which can be used to understand the metric system.
In Norwegian there is usually no concept of ground floor as in the UK (or "Erdgeschoss" in German), instead the entrance level of a building is called the first floor ("første etasje") like in the US. Levels are then counted 1, 2, 3 etc.
First time visitors not familiar with the country tend plan a trip in Norway from city to city. Although Norway has many nice cities the country's main attraction is the land itself, the nature, the landscapes, the wilderness, as well as a number of man-made sights in rural districts, notably road constructions and cultural treasures such as the stave churches. Unlike many other countries in Europe, a trip to Norway should ideally be planned according to types of landscapes to visit as well as a selection of cities. Norway is wide country with long distances and complex topography, and travelers should not underestimate distances.
If purchasing a house and business in Norway do check all legal documents (kjøpekontrakt/takst)and maps (grensekart) are correct. Ask for information in the native language you are used to. Make sure the Estate Agent is registered with NEF.
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