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NORWAY – GENERAL INFORMATION

   
                  Fig.1 – Norway Flag

GEOGRAPHY

Norway comprises the western part of Scandinavia in Northern Europe. The rugged coastline, broken by huge fjords and thousands of islands, stretches 25,000 kilometres (16,000 mi) and 83,000 kilometres (52,000 mi) and include fjords and islands. Norway shares a 1,619-kilometre (1,006 mi) land border with Sweden, 727 kilometres (452 mi) with Finland, and 196 kilometres (122 mi) with Russia to the east. To the north, west and south, Norway is bordered by the Barents Sea, the Norwegian Sea, the North Sea, and Skagerrak.

At 385,252 square kilometres (148,747 sq mi) (including Svalbard and Jan Mayen), much of the country is dominated by mountainous or high terrain, with a great variety of natural features caused by prehistoric glaciers and varied topography. The most noticeable of these are the fjords: deep grooves cut into the land flooded by the sea following the end of the Ice Age. The longest is Sognefjorden at 204 kilometres (127 mi). Sognefjorden is the world’s second deepest fjord, and the world’s longest. Hornindalsvatnet is the deepest lake in all Europe. Frozen ground can be found all year in the higher mountain areas and in the interior of Finnmark County. Numerous glaciers are found in Norway.

Norway lies between latitudes 57° and 81° N, and longitudes 4° and 32° E.

The land is mostly made of hard granite and gneiss rock, but slate, sandstone, and limestone are also common, and the lowest elevations contain marine deposits. Because of the Gulf Stream and prevailing westerlies, Norway experiences higher temperatures and more precipitation than expected at such northern latitudes, especially along the coast. The mainland experiences four distinct seasons, with colder winters and less precipitation inland. The northernmost part has a mostly maritime Subarctic climate, while Svalbard has an Arctic tundra climate.

Because of the large latitudinal range of the country and the varied topography and climate, Norway has a larger number of different habitats than almost any other European country.

HISTORY

Credit: Central Intelligence Agency

Two centuries of Viking raids into Europe tapered off following the adoption of Christianity by King Olav TRYGGVASON in 994. Conversion of the Norwegian kingdom occurred over the next several decades. In 1397, Norway was absorbed into a union with Denmark that lasted more than four centuries. In 1814, Norwegians resisted the cession of their country to Sweden and adopted a new constitution. Sweden then invaded Norway but agreed to let Norway keep its constitution in return for accepting the union under a Swedish king. Rising nationalism throughout the 19th century led to a 1905 referendum granting Norway independence. Although Norway remained neutral in World War I, it suffered heavy losses to its shipping. Norway proclaimed its neutrality at the outset of World War II, but was nonetheless occupied for five years by Nazi Germany (1940-45). In 1949, Norway abandoned neutrality and became a member of NATO. Discovery of oil and gas in adjacent waters in the late 1960s boosted Norway’s economic fortunes. In referenda held in 1972 and 1994, Norway rejected joining the EU. Key domestic issues include immigration and integration of ethnic minorities, maintaining the country’s extensive social safety net with an aging population, and preserving economic competitiveness.

THE PEOPLE

Norway’s population was 5,096,300 people in October 2013. Norwegians are an ethnic North Germanic people. Since the late 20th century, Norway has attracted numerous immigrants from southern and central Europe, the Mideast, Africa and Asia. All of these groups speak many different languages and come from different cultures and religions.

In 2012, an official study showed that 86% of the total population have at least one parent who was born in Norway. More than 710,000 individuals are immigrants and their descendants; there are 117,000 children of immigrants, born in Norway.

Of these 710,000 immigrants and their descendants:

323,000 (39%) have a Western background (Australia, North America, elsewhere in Europe) 505,000 (61%) have a non-Western background (Morocco, Iraq, Somalia, Pakistan, Iran).

In 2013, the Norwegian government said that 14% of the Norwegian population was immigrants or children of two immigrant parents. About 6% of the immigrant population comes from EU, North America and Australia, and about 8.1% come from Asia, Africa and Latin America.

In 2012, of the total 660,000 with immigrant background, 407,262 had Norwegian citizenship (62.2%).

Immigrants have settled in all Norwegian municipalities. The cities or municipalities with the highest share of immigrants in 2012 were Oslo (32%) and Drammen (27%). The share in Stavanger was 16%. According to Reuters, Oslo is the “fastest growing city in Europe because of increased immigration”. In recent years, immigration has accounted for most of Norway’s population growth. In 2011 16% of newborn children were of immigrant background.

The Sami people are indigenous to the Far North and have traditionally inhabited central and northern parts of Norway and Sweden, as well as areas in northern Finland and in Russia on the Kola Peninsula. Another national minority are the Kven people, descendants of Finnish-speaking people who migrated to northern Norway from the 18th up to the 20th century. From the 19th century up to the 1970s, the Norwegian government tried to assimilate both the Sami and the Kven, encouraging them to adopt the majority language, culture and religion. Because of this “Norwegianization process”, many families of Sami or Kven ancestry now identify as ethnic Norwegian.

Religion:

Most Norwegians are registered at baptism as members of the Church of Norway which until the constitutional amendment of 21 May 2012 was the official state church. The constitution still requires that the reigning monarch must be Lutheran and that the country’s values are based on its Christian and humanist heritage. Many remain in the church to participate in the community and practices such as baptism, confirmation, marriage and burial rites which have strong cultural standing in Norway. About 74.3% of Norwegians were members of the Church of Norway on 1 January 2015. In 2014, about 59.3% of all newborns were baptized and about 62.9% of all 15-year-old persons were confirmed in the church. But, only 20% of Norwegians say that religion occupies an important place in their life (according to a Gallup poll in 2009), the fourth-lowest such percentage in the world (only those of Estonia, Sweden and Denmark are lower).

In the early 1990s, studies estimated that between 4.7% and 5.3% of Norwegians attended church on a weekly basis. This figure has dropped to about 2%—the lowest such percentage in Europe—according to data from 2009 and 2010.

In 2010, 10% of the population was religiously unaffiliated, while another 9% (431,000 people), and were members of religious communities outside the Church of Norway. Other Christian denominations total about 4.9% of the population, the largest of which is the Catholic Church, with 83,000 members, according to 2009 government statistics.

Others include Pentecostals (39,600), the Evangelical Lutheran Free Church of Norway (19,600), Methodists (11,000), Baptists (9,900), Orthodox (9,900), Brunstad Christian Church (6,800), Adventists (5,100), Assyrians and Chaldeans, and others. The Swedish, Finnish and Icelandic Lutheran congregations in Norway have about 27,500 members in total. Other Christian-related denominations comprise less than 1% each, including 4,000 members in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and 12,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Among non-Christian religions, Islam is the largest, with 132,135 registered members (2014), and probably fewer than 200.000 in total. It is practiced mainly by Somali, Arab, Bosniak, Albanian and Turkish immigrants, as well as Norwegians of Pakistani descent. Dominated by Sunni Islam, other significant minorities include Shia and Ahmadiyya.

SOCIAL CONVENTIONS

The Norwegian farm culture continues to play a role in contemporary Norwegian culture. In the 19th century, it inspired a strong romantic nationalistic movement, which is still visible in the Norwegian language and media. Norwegian culture blossomed with nationalist efforts to achieve an independent identity in the areas of literature, art and music. This continues today in the performing arts and as a result of government support for exhibitions, cultural projects and artwork.

Norway has been a progressive country, which has adopted legislation and policies to support women’s rights and minority rights. As early as 1884, 171 of the leading figures, among them five Prime Ministers for the Liberal Party and the Conservative Party, co-founded the Norwegian Association for Women’s Rights. They successfully campaigned for women’s right to education, women’s suffrage, the right to work and other gender equality policies. From the 1970s, gender equality also came high on the state agenda with the establishment of a public body to promote gender equality, which evolved into the Gender Equality and Anti-Discrimination Ombud. Civil society organisations also continue to play an important role, and the women’s rights organisations are today organised in the Norwegian Women’s Lobby umbrella organisation.

Norway was the first country in the world to enact an anti-discrimination law protecting the rights of gays and lesbians. In 1993 Norway became the second country to legalise civil union partnerships for same-sex couples, and on 1 January 2009 Norway became the sixth country to grant full marriage equality to same-sex couples. As a promoter of human rights, Norway has held the annual Oslo Freedom Forum conference, a gathering described by The Economist as “on its way to becoming a human-rights equivalent of the Davos economic forum.”

Separation of church and state happened significantly later in Norway than in most of Europe and is not yet complete. In 2012, the Norwegian parliament voted to grant the Church of Norway greater autonomy,[183] a decision which was confirmed in a constitutional amendment on 21 May 2012. Until 2012 parliamentary officials were required to be members of the Lutheran Church and at least half of all ministers had to be a member of the Christian State Church. As the Church of Norway is the state church, its clergy are state employees, and the central and regional church administrations are part of the state administration. The members of the Royal family are required to be members of the Lutheran church.

LANGUAGES

The North Germanic Norwegian language has two official written forms, Bokmål and Nynorsk. Both of them are recognized as official languages, and both are used in public administration, schools, churches, and media. Bokmål is the written language used by a large majority of about 80–85%. An alternative to Bokmål, Riksmål, is slightly more similar to Danish. Around 95% of the population speaks Norwegian as their first or native language, although many speak dialects that may differ significantly from the written languages. All Norwegian dialects are mutually intelligible, although listeners with limited exposure to dialects other than their own may struggle to understand certain phrases and pronunciations in some other dialects.

Several Uralic Sami languages are spoken and written throughout the country, especially in the north, by some members of the Sami people. (Estimates suggest that about one third of the Norwegian Sami speak a Sami language. Speakers have a right to be educated and to receive communication from the government in their own language in a special forvaltningsområde (administrative area) for Sami languages. The Kven minority historically spoke the Uralic Kven language (considered a separate language in Norway, but generally perceived as a Finnish dialect in Finland). Today the majority of ethnic Kven have little or no knowledge of the language. According to the Kainun institutti, “The typical modern Kven is a Norwegian-speaking Norwegian who knows his genealogy.” As Norway has ratified the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages (ECRML) the Kven language together with Romani and Scandoromani language has become officially recognized minority languages

GOVERNMENT

The Kingdom of Norway is a sovereign and unitary monarchy whose territory comprises the western portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula plus Jan Mayen and the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard. The Antarctic Peter I Island and the sub-Antarctic Bouvet Island are dependent territories and thus not considered part of the Kingdom. Norway also lays claim to a section of Antarctica known as Queen Maud Land. Until 1814, the Kingdom included the Faroe Islands (since 1035), Greenland (1261), and Iceland (1262).

King Harald V of the House of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg is the current monarch of Norway. A constitutional monarchy since 1814, state power is divided between the Parliament, the King and his Council, and the Supreme Court. Between 1661 and 1814, Norway was an absolute monarchy, and before 1661, the King shared power with the Norwegian nobility. Traditionally established in 872 and originating in one of the petty kingdoms, Norway is one of the oldest still existing kingdoms in the world. The Kingdom has existed continuously for over 1,100 years, and the list of Norwegian monarchs includes over sixty kings and earls.

Norway has both administrative and political subdivisions on two levels, known as counties (fylke) and municipalities (kommune). The Sámi people have a certain amount of self-determination and influence over traditional territories through the Sámi Parliament and the Finnmark Act. Norway maintains close ties with the European Union and its member countries (despite rejecting full EU membership in two referenda), as well as with the United States. Norway is a founding member of the United Nations, NATO, the Council of Europe, the Antarctic Treaty and the Nordic Council; a member of the European Economic Area, the WTO and the OECD; and is also a part of the Schengen Area.

The country maintains a combination of market economy and a Nordic welfare model with universal health care and a comprehensive social security system. Norway has extensive reserves of petroleum, natural gas, minerals, lumber, seafood, fresh water, and hydropower. The petroleum industry accounts for around a quarter of the country’s gross domestic product. The country has the fourth-highest per capita income in the world on the World Bank and IMF lists, as well as ninth-highest on a more comprehensive CIA list. On a per-capita basis, it is the world’s largest producer of oil and natural gas outside the Middle East. From 2001 to 2006, and then again from 2009 to 2014, Norway had the highest Human Development Index ranking in the world. Norway has also topped the Legatum Prosperity Index for the last five years.

Norway is considered to be one of the most developed democracies and states of justice in the world.

TIME ZONE

Local time is GMT/ITC +1 hour
ELECTRICITY

Norway uses the Europlug (Type C & F), which has two round prongs. The country runs on 220 Volt.

CLIMATE

The southern and western parts of Norway, fully exposed to Atlantic storm fronts, experience more precipitation and have milder winters than the eastern and far northern parts. Areas to the east of the coastal mountains are in a rain shadow, and have lower rain and snow totals than the west. The lowlands around Oslo have the warmest and sunniest summers but also cold weather and snow in wintertime.

Because of Norway’s high latitude, there are large seasonal variations in daylight. From late May to late July, the sun never completely descends beneath the horizon in areas north of the Arctic Circle (hence Norway’s description as the “Land of the Midnight sun”), and the rest of the country experiences up to 20 hours of daylight per day. Conversely, from late November to late January, the sun never rises above the horizon in the north, and daylight hours are very short in the rest of the country.

Clothes to Wear:

Lightweight clothes during summer months. Sweaters and/or light coats are needed on some days and for evenings. Waterproofs are advised year-round. Winter months are cold and often wet and it can snow, so normal winter wear will be required.

LOGISTICAL

Entry & Exit Requirements:

Norway is a party to the Schengen Agreement. As such, U.S. citizens may enter Denmark for up to 90 days for tourist or business purposes without a visa. The passport should be valid for at least three months beyond the period of stay. For further details about travel into and within Schengen countries, please see our Schengen Fact sheet.

For all other purposes, you need a visa, which you must get from the Norwegian Embassy before entering Norway. For further information concerning visas and entry requirements for Norway, you may contact the Embassy of Norway at 2720 34th St NW, Washington, DC 20008

(202) 333-6000.

Embassy Locations:

U.S. Embassy

Henrik Ibsens gate 48

0244

Oslo Norway

In Norway:  23 96 05 55 (8am-8pm, five days a week)

Embassy for Canada

Wergelandsveien 7 (4th floor)

Oslo, Norway

Tel.: +47 22 99 53 00

 Health:

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) hotline for international travelers at 1-800-CDC-INFO (1-800-232-4636) or via the CDC website at http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the infectious diseases section of the World Health Organization (WHO) website at http://www.who.int/topics/infectious_ diseases/en/. The WHO website also contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed country-specific health information.

 Banks & Currency:

The Norwegian unit of currency is the Norwegian krone (NOK or kr), made up of 100 ore.

Notes are issued in denominations of 1000kr, 500kr, 200kr, 100kr and 50kr, and coins in denominations of 20kr, 10kr, 5kr, 1kr, and 50 ore

Communication:

Telecommunications in Norway are relatively advanced. There are about as many cellular phone subscriptions as there are inhabitants in the country, while the number of fixed line telephone subscriptions is declining towards 2 million. As of 2006, 79% of the population had access to internet at home, rising to 95% by 2012. Country code is 47.

Internet code NO.

Norway was the first non-English speaking country on the net. In 1971 NORSAR (Norwegian Seismic Array) at Kjeller just outside of Oslo was connected by satellite to the SDAC (Seismic Data Analysis Center) in Virginia, US as part of ARPANET in order to monitor nuclear test-ban treaties with the Soviet Union.

 Cell Phone Usage:

Please contact your cell phone provider to determine whether your contract includes coverage in the country you are visiting. Depending on your contract you may have to add international services and/or country specific services.

ENTERTAINMENT

Food & Drink:

Norwegian cuisine in its traditional form is based largely on the raw materials readily available in Norway and its mountains, wilderness and coast. It differs in many respects from its continental counterparts with a stronger focus on game and fish. Many of the traditional dishes are results of using conserved materials, as respect to the long winters.

Modern Norwegian cuisine, although still strongly influenced by its traditional background, now bears Americanization: pastas, pizzas and the like are as common as meatballs and cod as staple foods, and urban restaurants sport the same selection one would expect to find in any western European city.

Very few Norwegian cuisine restaurants have vegetarian meals on the menu, but will make something if asked, with varying success. Some of the few chains of stores/restaurants where you will always have a vegetarian option is Peppes Pizza, Dolly Dimple’s, Egon, SubWay and Esso/On the run (spinach panini).

Nightlife:

Oslo’s nightlife has something for everyone. From Irish style beers on tap to intoxicating cocktail connotations, each bar or pub has its own local, traditional feel. Apart from drinks and pub grub, there are places where live music is played till the wee hours of the morning. However you decide to plan your pub crawl, the atmosphere is welcoming and enticing anywhere you go.

Here just one of many possibilities to experience a unique environment:

ICEBAR run by Ice Hotel serves drinks all year round in an artificial environment made entirely from frozen ice. The temperature inside is constantly -5°C at all times and the ice used is sourced from the Torne River in Northern Sweden. This one of a kind bar gives visitors an insight into the arctic winter albeit in a contemporary setting. The entrance fee includes an ice drink served in an ice glass and a trendy thermal cape with a hood to stay warm. Each visitor is allowed only 45 minutes inside the bar.

Shopping:

An expensive country many visitors to Norway arrive for reasons other than shopping. However, please see the following link with information that may assist you: http://www.visitnorway.com/en/what-to-do/shopping-in-norway/

Opening hours in Norway are better than they used to be, though many smaller stores still close early on Saturday (13:00 or 15:00 is typical) and nearly everything is closed on Sundays. Grocery stores (particularly in the cities) have long opening hours frequently until 22:00 or 23:00 on weekdays. You’ll often see opening hours written as “9-21 (9-18)” on doors, meaning 09:00 to 21:00 weekdays, 09:00 to 18:00 Saturday. The grocery market is dominated by a handful of chains covering most of Norway: Rimi, Rema 1000, Kiwi, Prix and Bunnpris are low price shops with a narrow selection of items; Meny, ICA Supermarked and Spar have wider selection and better quality at a slightly higher price; Coop Mega and Ultra have fewer shops and higher prices.

BAGGAGE

Baggage rules for international and domestic air travel have changed much in recent years, differ from carrier to carrier and these days even may cover your on-board bags. Checking luggage may cost a separate fee or may be free depending on your personal status with the carrier. We therefore encourage you to read your ticket’s small print and/or contact your carrier for exact rules.

TIPPING

As in most of Europe tipping isn’t expected in Denmark. However, if you receive exceptional service, which meets or exceeds your standards, tipping would be appropriate. People in the service industry may refuse your tip at first, but they are just being polite. If you want to leave a tip, insist.

LAUNDRY

Laundry service is available at most hotels in the main centers. Generally you should allow about 24-hours before the item is returned to you, however, some have an emergency service available at an extra charge.

PHOTOS & VIDEOS

In some countries you must refrain from photographing sites such as Military bases and industrial installations. Also be aware of cultural sensitivities when taking pictures of or near churches and other religious sites. It is always courteous to ask for permission before taking photographs of people.

USE OF DRONES 

The use of drones is being legislated by many countries. In some cases drones are already forbidden and their unauthorized use may carry severe penalties. If you plan to travel with a drone please contact the embassy or consulate of the country you wish to visit.

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