100 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Norway

Recently I decided that would tweet an interesting fact or observation about life in Norway every day for 100 days, because after twelve years as a Brit living among Norwegians, my head is full of them. This is what I came up with:

#1: Norwegians eat their sandwiches like this, with no bread on top They have special paper to stop toppings falling off when carried around.

#2: Norway is a relatively young country, only achieving true independence in 1905. This is why Norwegians tend to be deeply patriotic.

#3: Norway had just one TV channel until around 1988. They still have state-funded channels, and a license fee for NRK (which is very good).

#4: It’s very common to find shared acquaintances when you first get to know someone. ‘Everyone knows everyone’ still sort of holds true.

#5: Every person has the ‘right to roam’ over any part of the Norwegian landscape as long as it is uncultivated land.

#6: Each Norwegian is in effect a millionaire, in Kroner. The sovereign wealth (or oil) fund is valued at $950bn and is the world’s largest.

#7: There is no equivalent for the word for ‘accountability’ in use in the Nordic languages. It’s sorely needed, if you ask me.

#8: The people of Norway fly a lot. A typical Norwegian takes approximately 10 times as many domestic flights as a typical European does.

#9: Alcohol stronger than 4.7% can only be bought at a government-run store. These have limited opening times and there aren’t many of them.

#10: Research shows that Norwegian society has unusually high levels of trust. This is often identified at their greatest resource (not oil).

#11: The groundbreaking drama #SKAM (‘Shame’) was aimed at a very small core audience of Norwegian teens, yet became a worldwide phenomenon.

#12: The Norwegian word for boyfriend/girlfriend is gender neutral; ‘kjæreste’ (‘dearest’) doesn’t specify male, female, other. 👭💑 👬

#13: The ‘big four’ predators native to Norway (wolf, lynx, bear, wolverine) are hunted so ruthlessly that populations are critically low.

#14: Norway is considered to be a world leader when it comes to gender equality, with many measures taken to redress imbalances.

#15: Norway has elections every second year. Through #ProportionalRepresentation there are 8 different parties with seats in the Parliament.

#16: There are two written forms of the Norwegian language, and very distinct dialects found among people from the West, South and North.

#17: Karl Ove Knausgård’s six autobiographical novels are controversial here because he chose to reveal personal details about his family.

#18: Homophobia is uncommon. One of my happiest memories is the first time I felt safe enough to hold hands with my boyfriend in public.

#19: Some contemporary Norwegians you might recognise: Kristofer Hivju, Susanne Sundfør, Magnus Carlsen, Kygo, Ingrid Bolsø Berdal.

#20: The Norwegian approach to work/life balance emphasises the value of free time rather than giving high status to those working long hours.

#21: There are around half a million pet dogs in Norway. By law, these have to be kept on a lead in public in the spring and summer.

#22: Norway is a small country and is easily overlooked, which is likely why Norwegians get a thrill whenever the world takes notice of them.

#23: Tax benefits for property owners with mortgages are generous, and so around 85% of Norwegians own their own home (with the bank).

#24: You can get a night train from Oslo to Bergen or Stavanger on the West coast, or Bodø in the north (13 hours) to reach #Lofoten by boat.

#25: There are ‘reverse vending machines’ in every supermarket where you can return bottles and cans for recycling and earn back the deposit.

#26: Former Environment minister Thorbjørn Berntsen famously referred to his British counterpart as a ‘drittsekk’ (bag of shit) in 1993.

#27: Norwegians do very well in the winter Olympics. Not so well in the main Olympics. So they dismissively refer to it as ‘Summer Olympics’.

#28: The distance between Oslo and #Nordkapp in the far North is the same as the distance between Oslo and Rome, Italy (approx. 2000km)

#29: Norwegians have imported #coffee for hundreds of years, and are among the world’s biggest consumers of coffee at 10kg per person yearly.

#30: The birth rate is one of the highest in Europe, partly due to generous paternity leave, subsidised child care and cultural expectations.

#31: You can experience the midnight sun if you are north of the Arctic Circle in Norway in early summer.

#32: Norway decided against formal EU membership, and instead is part of the #EEA, allowing free movement of people and single market access.

#33: The works of iconic Norwegian painter Edvard #Munch are on display across Oslo, the city where he lived and worked.

#34: Traditional Norwegian dishes include #lutefisk (jellied fish), #fårikål (mutton), elk and reindeer meat. Basically, dead animals.

#35: Norway’s electoral system is significantly weighted in favour of those living in rural areas, reducing the influence of urban voters.

#36: Oslo’s signature building is the National Opera and Ballet, designed by Norwegian architecture firm Snøhetta. You can walk on the roof.

#37: This is the view from Scandinavia’s highest mountain, Galdhøpiggen, in the Jotunheimen area (2,469 metres). It’s quite accessible.

#38: Norwegians tend to value safety and security above all else, likely a result of developing as an agrarian society in tough conditions.

#39: Recipient(s) of the Nobel Peace Prize are chosen by the Norwegian Nobel Committee each year. The ceremony is held at Oslo City Hall.

#40: There is an quirky tradition that Norwegians will read crime books, such as those by Jo Nesbø, specifically at Easter.

#41: The #Sami are an indigenous ethnic minority with their own distinct culture, language and parliament, mainly living in the North.

#42: Berries and mushrooms can be easily found in forests. There’s a free 24-hour hotline so you can check what you’ve picked isn’t toxic.

#43: Norwegians are notoriously bad at queueing. Standing in line or waiting your turn aren’t hard-and-fast rules, but optional behaviours.

#44: The mighty Vikings were successful farmers as well as raiders. The helmets they wore didn’t have horns though, that’s a myth.

#45: #Hytter (cabins) are found all over Norway. Some can be stayed in, most are owned by Norway’s middle class to use in their free time

#46: #Bergen is Norway’s second city and easily outcompetes Oslo in terms of beauty and history. Just don’t mention their minority complex.

#47: “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing” and “There’s no shame in turning back” are Norwegian outdoors-related sayings.

#48: Visitors often comment on the price of beer. It’s several times what you’ll pay in most other countries because of tax & other costs.

#49: New parents enjoy generous parental leave from work, around one year fully paid. The father must take at least 3 months by law.

#50: Over 70% of people are members of the Church of Norway which happens automatically(!) at birth if one of their parents is a member.

#51: Norway has allowed same-sex registered partnerships since 1993. Actual same-sex marriage became legal in 2009.

#52: Norwegian isn’t a very complex language grammatically. There are three extra vowels: Æ, Ø and Å. They don’t use C, Q, X and Z much.

#53: It is believed over 800.000 Norwegians emigrated to USA between 1825 and 1925. Only Ireland lost a bigger proportion of its population.

#54: Norway is more diverse than many expect, with over half a million immigrants from Europe and beyond, making up 1/3 of Oslo’s population.

#55: Scandinavian caramelised brown cheese is very popular. It tastes smoky and sweet. They have a special cheese slicing tool too.

#56: The Royal Palace in Oslo is famously unimpressive and fancy from the outside. Norwegian buildings of the period were not very ornate.

#57: When Norwegians eat out it’ll probably be sushi, or pizza, or a kebab. Not that there aren’t proper restaurants too.

#58: A few thousand people live on the island of Svalbard in the North. It’s said that it is illegal to die there (which is a myth)

#59: Henrik Ibsen (A Doll’s House, Peer Gynt, Brand, Hedda Gabler) is the most frequently performed dramatist in the world after Shakespeare.

#60: Labour unions are strong in Norway. Around one in four are a member of a union. Parties on the left receive heavy financing from unions.

#61: Norway sees itself as a humanitarian state. ~1% of GDP is spent on aid. They were peacemakers in Israel/Palestine through Oslo accords.

#62: Climatically, the West coast is wettest, while the South-East is dryer and warmer. Climate change is leading to more rain and less snow.

#63: Two Norwegian TV personalities, got the attention of 700m people worldwide by making a song about animal noises:

#64: The ‘Jante Law’ is a sociological term to describe a condescending attitude towards individuality & success supposedly found in Norway

#65: The largest companies in Norway are focused on primary resource extraction such as petroleum, metals, chemicals, fishing and forestry.

#66: Norwegians tend to be unapologetic about their role in the decimation of global #whale populations. Some species may never recover.

#67: There are still quite a few wooden stave churches standing, some of which are over 800 years old, such as Heddal Church, Telemark:

#68: The Dragonhead Sap Beetle is found only in Norway. Various other plant and animal species are unique to Norway: http://lntreasures.com/norway.html

#69: ‘Dugnad’ is the concept of voluntary communal work, where a small group of people come together to get a job done. I love a Dugnad.

#70: Kids get to play outside much of the day in a typical Norwegian kindergarten. All year round.

#71: Skiing as a sport originated in Norway. It’s rare to find a Norwegian who can’t ski; it’s said they are ‘born with skis on their feet’.

#72: Norwegians like their personal space. Here’s a bunch of them waiting for the bus:

(photo by @BeateSorum)

#73: Norwegians like to identify with the humble ‘underdog’ as personified by Askeladden (the “Ash Lad”) from a well-known folk tale.

#74: Prisoners aren’t punished beyond their loss of freedom. Norwegian prisons are comfortable & inmates active. Re-offending rates are low.

#75: Chocolate snacks you need to taste when you visit Norway are Kvikk Lunsj (like KitKat but better), Smash (salty/sweet corn) & Non-Stop.

#76: Norway claims the world’s first Ministry of Environment which was founded in 1972, following the first ever UN environmental summit.

#77: It’s possible to visit all of the parks in Oslo, on foot, in a single day. I know, because I’ve done it!.

#78: News media runs 24/7 even if not much happens. Summer #agurktid (silly season) is when you can read exciting stories about vegetables. 🥒

#79: Germany occupied Norway during WWII, aided by a fascist named Quisling. The word ‘quisling’ now means ‘traitor’ in several languages.

#80: Caution is valued over risk-taking, as exemplified by the saying ‘You know what you’ve got, but you don’t know what you’ll get’.

#81: The planet Hoth from the best #StarWars movie was filmed on the Hardangerjøkulen glacier, Norway in 1979, in sub-zero temperatures.

#82: Research suggests that Scandinavian males are generously proportioned compared to men from other countries.

#83: Norway’s electricity production is almost fully #renewable, with 98–99% of power coming from 1,166 #hydroelectric generating stations.

#84: 95% of transactions are cashless, but banknotes are still used. An oil platform is featured on the new 500 kroner note, but pixelated.

#85: The Norwegian, Swedish and Danish languages are similar enough that if you know one, you can understand the others, more or less.

#86: The Norwegian-led Kon-Tiki expedition of 1947 demonstrated that crossing the Pacific by raft was possible without modern materials.

#87: #Kolonihager are communal city allotments where people can stay in tiny cabins. I spent my first summer in Norway in one of these.

#88: Norway has finished last in #Eurovision 11 times, more than any country, but won 3 times, most recently with Alexander Rybak’s ‘Fairytale’.

#89: Cloudberries are a delicacy found primarily in the mountains and moorlands of the subarctic regions in the north. They are delicious.

#90: Various ‘lost wallet’ experiments have resulted in most found wallets being returned to owners, making Oslo the world’s ‘most honest’ city.

#91: The #Hurtigruten ships, which continually travel up and down Norway’s 63,000 miles of coastline, are a great place to try to see the Northern Lights.

#92: Students mark the end of compulsory education with the traditional #russefeiring- alcohol, partying in buses, stunts, & dressing in coloured overalls,

#93: Fridtjof Nansen and Roald Amundsen were two of the great polar explorers. Norwegians beat the Brits to the South Pole in 1911.

#94: One in four Norwegian households own a boat.

#95: Norway is among the countries with the lowest level of income inequality in the world, despite also being one of the richest overall.

#96: Rural living is idealised to such an extent that Norwegians living in Oslo often exaggerate their ‘roots’ and affinity with the districts.

#97: It’s estimated that 2% of all English words are of Norse origin. Examples: club, dirt, husband, skirt, sky, slaughter, Thursday.

#98: Beloved children’s author Roald Dahl was born to Norwegian parents and wrote about his childhood experiences of Norway in the book ‘Boy’.

#99: A defining moment for me in understanding Norwegian society was being part of the response to the 22nd July terror attacks in 2011, when 200,000 people formed a “rose march” to commemorate the 77 people who were killed.

#100: Norway is consistently ranked as the happiest country in the world, such as in the United Nations World Happiness Reports 2014–2017. Having spent twelve very happy years there, I can only agree.

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