PEOPLE & LIFESTYLE
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More than 5 million people live in Norway and 83% live in urban areas, mostly along the coast. Norwegian is a Nordic language and closely related to Swedish and Danish. Two main dialects are prevalent in Norway - “Bokmål”, which is based on Danish and is spoken by 85 - 90% of Norwegians and “Nynorsk”, which is based on rural dialects and can be translated to “new Norwegian”. It is mainly common in the West and Southwest of Norway. Sami is still spoken by indigenous sami people in Northern Norway.
Norwegian lifestyle is strongly connected to nature and many Norwegians have a cabin somewhere in the Norwegian countryside. Much of the summer and weekends are spent in nature with family, friends and pets.
Being hospitable, friendly and personal is important and naturally is a big part of the Norwegian way of life as everybody is addressed by his or her first name, even the king and prime minister.
Working and having a job is widely seen as a means to pay for the high cost of living on the one hand and for leisure and weekend activities on the other. Norwegians are not so much interested about your job, but will ask you what you did last weekend.
Companies tend to have flat hierarchies, which is pretty much in line with the common code of conduct of how Norwegians interact with each other. “Janteloven” - everybody is equal and it is not well received if people think that they are smarter or better than others.
There is a right to move freely when outside in nature, so it is allowed to cross fields, use private lanes or to camp anywhere as long as you keep your distance to the nearby houses and don’t stay for too long. Private beaches or lakes do not exist in Norway.
All in all, Norwegians enjoy one of the highest life quality in the world, have access to a generous and well developed social support system and,mixed with a strong sense of pride and national identity, they are considered to be among the happiest people in the world, topping the “UN International Happiness report” in 2017 and only losing out to Finland in 2018.
ARTS & CULTURE
Architecture, design, music, literature and film are some of the most important exports from modern Norwegian society. The art and culture scene is very varied and often deeply rooted in history. Many of the Norwegian artists are looking for inspiration from abroad. There has been increased investment in the arts and culture scene over the last couple of years, which sees new galleries being opened, old museum buildings being renovated and financial support to develop local arts scenes.
Some of the first pieces of art in Norway were cave paintings,
dating back to the Stone and Bronze age. Often those paintings were closely related to customs and traditions and were aiming to grow fertility or to protect fishermen.
For a very long time, Norway did not have any notable artists and up until the end of the 19th century, the paintings and pieces of art found in churches came from abroad. Norway did not have an arts academy or a domestic arts market, so the Norwegian painters went abroad to learn. Johan Christian Clausen Dahl (1788 - 1857), often considered to be the father of Norwegian painting, spent most of his time in Dresden, Germany. During the Romantic period in the 19th century, more and more Norwegian painters were recognized nationally and internationally. The most famous Norwegian painter from this period was Edvard Munch (1863 - 1944), who gained worldwide fame with his painting “The Scream”, which he accomplished in 1893. Another famous painter from this period was Gustav Vigeland (1869 - 1943).
The golden age of Norwegian literature started in the 19th century. The national movement inspired arts and literature. Henrik Wergeland was a spokesperson for those seeking a complete break from Denmark and much of the first half of the 19th century was dominated by his work. The later 19th century was characterized by Norwegian "problem" literature, which reflected on societal and social issues. The era saw the rise of the "big four" - Henrik Ibsen, Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson, Alexander Kielland and Jonas Lie - the most important representatives of this significant generation of writers.
Three Norwegian writers were awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in the first half of the 20th century - Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson in 1903, Knut Hamsun in 1920 and Sigrid Undset in 1928. While the turn of the century saw a strong influence of political movement, social and societal issues, the second half of the 20th century saw a move to more modern elements while always reflecting on contemporary political and social issues. Towards the later 20th century, Norwegian literature saw a turn to telling stories from everyday life. The commercial success of modern Norwegian literature is also characterized by the rise of the Nordic crime novel.
Before 1840, there were limited sources of music in Norway. Music was connected to religion and there were also some signs of mythical and fairy-tale influences. Overall the purpose of music was for entertainment and and dancing. Traditional folk and social dances were often centered around important rural events like harvesting, weddings or holidays. There are both North Germanic and Sami roots in traditional Norwegian music and dance.
The evolution of Norwegian music goes hand in hand with the the rise of literature and arts towards the later 19th century. Edvard Grieg (1843–1907) and Johan Svendsen (1840–1911) both achieved international recognition as composers. The classical music festival in Bergen has been welcoming international visitors for more than 50 years.
In general, the modern Norwegian music scene is diverse and influenced by many different genres, ranging from classic music and folklorist singing to jazz and heavy metal.
As Norwegians enjoy the distinct advantage of abundant space and fantastic scenery, outdoor activities are immensely popular and Norwegians traditionally enjoy a lifestyle which is very closely connected to nature. Especially winter sports are hugely popular and Norway has gained much international recognition for their achievements in cross country skiing, ice skating, ski jumping and downhill skiing. Norway hosted the winter Olympics twice and the country has won more medals at the winter games than any other country. Ski competitions were introduced as early as the 18th century and the annual Holmenkollen ski festival has been running since 1892.