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Norwegian culture

Are you presenting a nation and the people living there, you have to study their culture. A nation’s culture defines who they are. In Norway, we have a long cultural tradition for performing- and fine arts such as classical music, literature, architecture and art. Still, culture is more than that, isn’t it?

Take Norway for example. Our culture is closely linked to our history and geography as well. You can tell because we have an ancient farming culture, even though we have scarce resources and a very harsh climate. In the 1800’s a very strong, national patriotic movement started as we finally got our own constitution. We had been stuck in a union with Denmark for five hundred years. Onwards the Norwegian culture blossomed, and great poets, painters and composers made their entry. This nationalism is still highly visible in our language and media today. The day before Christmas, 1969, oil workers found oil on the Norwegian continental shelf. That day changed the life of the people in Norway forever – all because of luck. The wealth we got after finding oil influenced us as a people very much. It helped us to get on the map internationally.

Religion is another thing that can affect a nation’s culture. Norway became protestant in 1536, due to great influence from Germany and England. According to our latest census, over 70% of the Norwegian people are now atheists…


You can tell from our culinary traditions that seafaring and farming have had their influence. Fish has been of vital importance for Norway both in the Middle-Ages and today. Salmon is a Norwegian delicacy, together with herring, trout and other types of seafood such as shrimps and lobster. Dairy products (milk, butter, sour cream, many variants of cheese and yoghurt) are everyday cost for a Norwegian, combined with huge amounts of bread, potatoes and coffee. Actually, Norway is the second most coffee-drinking country in the world after the Netherlands. Today, due to high immigration, Norway has a lot of culinary influence from other parts of the world. Sushi is very fashionable at the moment, as well as Indian and Mexican cuisine.                         


Internationally, Norwegian film has not received very much attention until recent years. Still, the only Oscar we have came in 1950 for Thor Heyerdahl’s documentary “Kon Tiki”. The film in black and white that covers Mr. Heyerdahl’s voyage on a balsa fleet from Lima, Peru to a small island in Polynesia has been acknowledged throughout the world and is now considered a national treasure by many Norwegians. Furthermore we have the Academy Award Nominated Pathfinder (telling the story of the Sami).


Edvard Grieg             Harding fiddle         Stargate


Our national composer, the splendid Edvard Grieg was born in 1843. The music we hear in our video is his Morning mood from Peer Gynt Suite No. 1. Who has not heard this? He was part of the Norwegian nationalistic movement in the 1800’s and turned his back to the German Romanticists. Norwegians instantly envisages skiers, trolls and mountains when we indulge ourselves in his music – this is Norway! In his life years, Grieg became a renowned composer of classical music, which he continues to be. The Piano Concerto in A-minor is one of the most played concertos to date. Norway’s classical performers include pianist Leif Ove Andsnes, cellist Truls Mørk and violinist Vilde Frang.

Harding fiddle is a Norwegian instrument from the western parts of Norway. In modern designs, the instrument look a lot like the common violin but have eight strings instead of four. It is used for dancing, and it was normal for a fiddler to lead the bridal procession to church back in the old days. Harding fiddle is often highly decorated.

Stargate is an internationally acclaimed production team, consisting of Tor Erik Hermansen and Mikkel Storleer Eriksen. Stargate have had artists like Rihanna, Beyoncé and Ne-Yo at the top of the American Bilboard List. The team was established in Trondheim, but have their base in New York.


Many Norwegian authors have been awarded with the Nobel Prize in Literature, namely Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson in 1903, Knut Hamsun in 1920 and Sigrid Undset in 1928 for her trilogy Kristin Lavransdatter. Henrik Ibsen was maybe the most notable figure in Norwegian cultural life during the 1800’s, but was never awarded with a Nobel Prize. Among his theatrical plays, Peer Gynt, A Doll’s House and The Lady from the Sea are the most renowned.

In recent years, Norwegian literature has got international acclaim with authors such as Jo Nesbø (the books featuring Harry Hole), Karl Ove Knausgård (My Struggle) and Per Petterson (Out Stealing Horses, I curse the river of time and his last book, I Refuse, was sold to USA in December).


The Norwegian art was substantially influenced during the Danish rule, as well as by Germany and the Netherlands. The national romantic paintings came during the era after Norway had detached itself from Denmark. Painters were so eager to find the Norwegian identity. Portraits were popular at first, followed by immense quantities of impressive landscapes.

The most perceptible Norwegian painter is the expressionist Edvard Munch. He became world famous for his painting The Scream, which is supposed to represent the anxiety of the modern man. Munch made four copies of the painting. Three of them are in Oslo at the present, but the fourth version was sold at Sotheby’s for $199,922,600 – the highest nominal price paid for a painting at auction ever. This version is at display at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Madonna is another famous painting by Edvard Munch. On Sunday 22th of August 2004, Madonna and a version of the Scream were stolen from the Munch Museum in Oslo. They were recovered two years later – both intact.

Theodor Kittelsen was a Norwegian artist and draftsman. He is one of the most beloved artists in Norway, known for his nature paintings and for his illustrations of fairy-tales and legends – especially of trolls and of the Nix.


The Scream             Madonna             The Polar Bear King


It has always been a tradition in Norway to use wood and timber to construct buildings. The majority of all homes and residences are made out of wood as well as bigger houses and mansions. Along the quayside in Bergen, Trondheim and many other Norwegian cities there are wharfs made of wood. The stave churches were constructed across the country during the early Middle-Ages. Most of them remain to this day, one of Norway’s most important contributions to the history of architecture. The stave church in Urnes has been listed on UNESCO’s world heritage list.

Snøhetta is a Norwegian architecture company from Oslo. The company have over 120 designers working on projects in Europe, Asia and America.

Most notable works:

  • Library in Alexandria, Egypt            
  • 9/11 Memorial Museum, New York
  • Opera House, Oslo
  • Norwegian Embassy, Berlin


Norwegian Opera House                    Stave Church in Urnes



Norway is a small country with a population a little over five million, nearly half of whom is member of the Norwegian Sport Federation. Three out of four Norwegian children participate in some kind of physical activity once a week.

Norway is a very sporty country and competitive sports attract a lot of attention. Athletes of Norway have won international championship medals in a wide range of sports, for example cross-country skiing, boxing, speed-skating, curling, cycling, dancing, athletics, handball, karate, orienteering, canoeing, rowing, sailing, swimming and women’s football.

We are most definitely best in winter sports. The best cross-country skiers, ski jumpers and alpine skiers, both male and female, are Norwegian.

Norway have not made a similar name internationally when it comes to summer sports, although we have medals in minor sports such as women’s handball, sailing and rowing. In major sports we have the great marathon runner Grete Waitz, but also the women’s football team who won the Olympics in 2000, the World Cup in 1995 and the European Championship in 1987 and 1993.

Over 500,000 children and young adults under the age of 17 participate in organized sports. This is an important part of the environment Norwegian children grow up in. The most popular activities are football, handball, jazz-ballet, swimming and skiing.

As said earlier, the fact that we are best in winter sports has something to do with our geography. We have a lot of snow during the winter, which is a prerequisite to be good in winter activities.

Before Christmas, a debate started about the terms which I have presented in this text. Politician Christian Tybring-Gjedde asked our Minister of Culture, Hadia Tajik, to define Norwegian culture. He said that the minister has the overall responsibility for culture, so he wanted her to say to which extent she thinks it is important to protect Norway’s culture and traditions. Hadia Tajik replied:

Firstly, the Minister of Culture has not the overall responsibility for the nation’s culture, but for the cultural policy. No one has the responsibility for the culture itself. The reason for this is because no one can really define what culture is. It is around us every day, but at the same time it is always changing. Furthermore, a nation’s culture has most certainly been influenced by other nations – nothing is entirely Norwegian. Still, something has become typical for us, such as Harding fiddle and Stave churches, but also democratic attitudes and gender equality. Not long ago, Norway was impoverished where a girl was either her father’s daughter or her husband’s wife. Our task becomes then to protect Norway’s cultural heritage and to make sure that people can take part in cultural activities.

Onwards, politicians accuse the government for their immigration policy, saying that too much immigration can damage the Norwegian culture. This proves only how difficult this debate about culture is. There is no definitive answer here, no underscores about what culture is.


Edvard Grieg:,r:6,s:0,i:165

Harding fiddle:,r:4,s:0,i:90


The Scream:!The_Scream.jpg&w=813&h=1052&ei=1xHzUOnKG6SH4ASPjoDABg&zoom=1&iact=hc&vpx=86&vpy=97&dur=1073&hovh=255&hovw=197&tx=151&ty=108&sig=100513176037061832547&page=1&tbnh=141&tbnw=111&start=0&ndsp=31&ved=1t:429,r:1,s:0,i:81


The Polar Bear King :,r:0,s:0,i:105

Norwegian Opera House:,r:3,s:0,i:87

Stave Church in Urnes:,r:6,s:0,i:123

The link to the video:



  1. Pingback: Norwegian Writer | candimandi - 11/03/2013

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