It's always fun to learn something new about different cultures and traditions—be it an exotic island with just a few inhabitants, or a wealthy European country with over 5 million citizens. Every part of the world has something new to bring to the table and Norway is no exception. For instance, did you know that if it weren't for Norwegians, we wouldn't have salmon sushi? Or that a penguin named Nils Olav was presented the title of Colonel-in-Chief of the Norwegian King's Guard by the king? Turns out, not only do the happiest (and some of the richest) people live in Norway, but they have incredibly fascinating things about their everyday life that are worth sharing with you all!
For this reason, we made this short list of slightly unusual but nonetheless very interesting facts about this Nordic country. Also, if you are (or were) lucky enough to reside in Norway, don't hesitate to share facts and bits about the country that you found interesting!
When someone publishes a new book in Norway and it passes quality control, Arts Council Norway buys 1000 copies of it to distribute to libraries, or 1550 copies if it’s a children’s book. The idea is that it keeps many publishers alive and supports writers while they're still working on building their careers. In addition to this, books are also exempted from Norway’s value-added tax.
Norway's oil fund is worth somewhere over 1 trillion dollars. However, the country only spends 3% of the fund a year, because they are saving it for the next generation.
Svalbard is the only visa-free zone in the world. That means that anybody can live and work there indefinitely no matter the country of citizenship.
Back in 2013, former Prime Minister of Norway Jens Stoltenberg went incognito as a taxi driver in Oslo. According to him, he did so to "hear from real Norwegian voters and taxis were one of the few places where people shared their true views."
In Halden prison, its guards are encouraged to interact with inmates by playing sports, eating, and doing other types of activities together. It is believed to prevent aggression from both sides and to create a sense of family. While the prison is of maximum security, all of its 10-square-meter cells have a flat-screen TV, a toilet and a shower, and fluffy towels.
In Norway, people use the term "Texas" as slang for "crazy." According to Daniel Gusfre Ims, the head of the advisory service at the Language Council of Norway, it became part of the language when people started watching cowboy films and reading such literature. "The genre was extremely popular in Norway, and a lot of it featured Texas, so the word became a symbol of something lawless and without control," he told BBC.
The income and wealth of all Norway's residents are on the public record. The idea behind the concept is that tax evasion becomes much more difficult to achieve this way—someone who records a low income but drives an expensive car becomes suspicious to authorities.
Norwegians are crazy about tacos! Even though only introduced to the country in the '90s, the dish quickly became extremely popular and appreciated by Norwegians. In fact, it became so popular that even Taco Fridays (tacofredag) became something to celebrate each week!
Norway has one of the world’s strictest advertising guidelines as of 2007. In the same year, Norway's consumer ombudsman targeted automakers who made claims that their cars were "green," "clean," or "environmentally friendly." “Cars cannot do anything good for the environment except less damage than others,” Bente Oeverli, a senior official at the office of the state-run Consumer Ombudsman, told the media. The guidelines distributed to carmakers said: "We ask that ... phrases such as 'environmentally friendly,' 'green,' 'clean,’ ‘environmental car,’ ‘natural,’ or similar descriptions not be used in marketing cars."
Slow TV—or a long coverage of seemingly mundane and ordinary events—is quite popular in Norway. The national broadcaster NRK has regularly shown programmes or documentaries such as a 376-hour boat voyage, 60 hours of choirs singing, and 12 hours of knitting. The first slow TV show was the program Bergensbanen minute by minute—train journey across Southern Norway, which showed a 7-hour train journey from Bergen to Oslo. It was aired back in 2009.
For tax purposes, stripping counts as an art form.
"A Norwegian appeals court has ruled that striptease is an art form and should therefore be exempt from value-added tax," BBC shared back in 2006.
Due to the polar bear threat in Svalbard, an island 2030 km north of Oslo, anyone traveling outside the settlements "must be equipped with appropriate means of frightening and chasing off polar bears." The governor of the island recommends people carry firearms with them.
Norwegians used to have a car brand named Troll. Only 5 cars were ever made by Troll, though, which are all in car museums. The Troll was in production between 1956 and 1958 and was made in a factory in Lunde, Telemark.
In Norway, Easter is sometimes referred to as "Påskekrim" (Easter Crime). During the holiday, almost everyone reads crime novels, watches true crime shows, and reads special crime-related literary supplements in the Norwegian newspapers.
The tradition began when two young Norwegian authors—Nordahl Grieg and Nils Lie—came up with an idea to write a crime bestseller. Together with their publisher, on the Sunday before Easter, they launched an advertising campaign in which the book’s title "Bergen train looted in the night" got the top spot on the front page. The realistic ad, which many confused with a real robbery, received an overwhelming amount of attention and the novel became a huge success. “Many consider this novel to be the first Easter crime and the very origin of the tradition,” Bjarne Buset, information manager at the Norwegian publishing house Gyldendal, told the media.