Once a land of farmsteaders, Norway and its people maintain an enduring connection to the land and a love for the splendor of the outdoors that is an undeniable part of the national character. This translates not only into a fondness for outdoor past-times, but also a concern for the environment and a fierce passion to protect it.
Norwegians are open-minded, democratic and tolerant folk who hold strong to their egalitarian ideals including gender equality. They're humble people with simple tastes who don't like to hear people flaunting their achievements or criticizing others. In general they're direct, honest and sincere, with little need for small talk. They dwell in one of the richest countries in the world and enjoy the benefits of a strong currency, solid public education system and high-quality public health care.
Norwegian is the most widely spoken language in Norway, used by the vast majority of people as their first language. There are also several written languages and a variety of dialects. Most Norwegians can speak fluent English as well. Other languages are spoken in Norway include Sami and Kven, used by groups of people by the same name, plus Romani, German and French.
The majority of people in Norway are Christians, with Lutheran being the most popular affiliation. Overall, however, church attendance in Norway is strikingly low. Other worldwide religions are also represented in smaller numbers.
Many couples live together and/or have children together in Norway without formally legalizing the arrangement with marriage. Try not to make presumptions about anyone's marital status here. The Norwegian flag, the national anthem and traditional folk costumes remain a proud part of celebrations in Norway. If invited to a Norwegian home, be punctual and arrive with a gift of flowers, chocolates, pastries, wine or imported spirits. In the straightforward nature of the Norwegian language, "please" is not a common word, but Norwegians tend to say say "takk" ("thank you") for almost everything.
The Norwegian farm culture that has shaped the country for centuries has naturally crept into Norway's kitchens and restaurants, region by region. From city to village across the country, you'll enjoy feasting on the menus specific to each locale of your trip. Some foundations for regional Norwegian cuisine are bread, porridges, soups, potato dishes, root vegetables that grow well in cold weather, salted and smoked meat, and fresh, salted or smoked fish. Look for dried cod (tørrfisk) and salted cod (klippfisk) in the northern coastal communities, as well as a mild smoked cheese called geitost and an array of traditional pastries. At fancier meals, you might find freshly hunted game meats in the form of steak, medallions or meatballs made from deer, reindeer or elk. Another Norwegian delicacy is fresh, smoked and fermented salmon. Be sure to sample Norway's stewed casserole of lamb and cabbage called fårikål, as it's considered the national dish.