Culture and Sports

Norway is growing steadily as a cultural nation. People are interested in culture, and they are willing to spend time and money on it. Culture is not, however, only consumed. In Norway there is also a widespread culture for participating in and contributing to culture and cultural growth.

Literature, Music, Art
The famous national romantic painting “Brudeferd i Hardanger” by Adolph Tidemand og Hans Gude.

For such a small population, Norway has an incredibly rich, accomplished and varied arts scene: from Ibsen to Knausgård, from Grieg to Kygo, from Munch to Pushwagner. This is supported through government funding of artists and institutions through Arts Council Norway, which finances art and artists of all kinds across Norway.

Cultural heavyweights such as Edvard Munch and Henrik Ibsen are still widely regarded as influential figures in the history of art and literature. Today, Norway is still a major exporter of culture – and the world’s biggest exporter of black metal music. Another global hit in recent years has been the so-called Nordic noir literary genre, led by the authors Jo Nesbø and Karin Fossum, among others.

Norway is not, however, only a major exporter of culture – it is also a good place to be for cultural enthusiasts. Oslo Opera House and the Astrup Fearnley Museum in the capital, for instance, are well worth a visit – just as much to take in the architecture as the level of their performances and exhibitions. And in Bergen, Norway’s second largest city, Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra, one of the oldest and foremost Norwegian orchestras, plays weekly concerts.

Bjørn Eidsvåg performing at Træna music festival. Photo: Kristian Sivertsen

Festivals are a natural part of the Norwegian culture calendar. The festival season starts, for many people, with a visit to Bergen International Festival in spring and ends with the Øya festival in Oslo in August. Both are international music festivals that attract renowned performers from all over the world. In between the two, a number of small and large festivals take place in rural Norway. Among them are Vinjerock at the foot of the mountains in Rondane, The Peer Gynt Festival by Gålåvatnet in upper Gudbrandsdalen, and the Bukta festival in arctic Tromsø. Another exotic event worth experiencing is the Træna festival – spectacularly situated by the sea on the coast of Helgeland.

It is also easy to participate in cultural life in Norway. All municipalities have a municipal cultural school programme for children and youth, and there are also a high number of brass bands and choirs to participate in for amateurs.

Sports and Activities
Child and father skiing. Photo: Marius Dalseg/DNT

A Norwegian proverb claims that ’Norwegians are born with skis on their feet’. And Norway is undoubtedly a winter sports nation, with skiing in general and cross-country in particular as the most beloved sport.

Every winter hundreds of thousands of Norwegian are stuck in front of the telly, watching the Norwegian cross-country team make a clean sweep in the World Cup – if they are not out skiing themselves. Just how crazy Norwegians are about cross-country skiing is most clearly seen just outside of Oslo, when the race known as 5-mila is arranged every winter. The place swarms with Norwegians with and without skis that have come to cheer national and international cross-country stars through the 50-kilometre race.

The women's 30 km in the World Championship in Oslo 2011. Photo: Maria Torvund.

Despite the fact that winter sports are the field in which Norway excels, football (soccer) is the most popular sport. The national team for men is admittedly not ranked very high by FIFA, but participation in the sport by children and youth is impressive. You simply will not meet many Norwegians – male or female – that have not played (or still play) football.

To really make the most of your stay in Norway, it is nevertheless extreme sports (or ’adventurous sports’) that really stand out. Freeskiing, kiteboarding, downhill and mountain bike racing, rock climbing, rafting, parachuting and BASE jumping. The list is almost endless, but one thing is certain: Extreme sports are becoming increasingly popular, and are also accessible for the average citizen.

In recent years a different type of extreme sport has risen in popularity – the so-called extreme triathlon, with Norseman as the most famous race. This competition begins with a 3.8 km swim in Hardangerfjorden, followed by a 160 km bike ride over Hardangervidda, and then a full marathon (42 km) from Geilo to Rjukan. The race ends here with a hill race up Gaustadtoppen, 1883 metres above sea level.

basehopp_Christophe Michot
BASE JUMPING. Photo: Christophe Michot       
Volunteering – Dugnad in Sports and Culture

Volunteering is widespread in Norway: in everything from sports and culture to neighbourhood and initiatives in society in general. One word that many are proud and happy to call ’typically Norwegian’ is dugnad. And this is correct, in many ways voluntary work is an old Norwegian tradition.

The word dugnad is derived from Old Norse dugnaðr. Dugnad work is characterised by a joint voluntary effort, without payment, to help out with work that is hard to carry out alone. Voluntary workers are often rewarded with food and drink.  Volunteer work also creates a sense of community – and  is often social and fun.

Voluntary work in Norway, however, transcends efforts made through dugnad. The operation of many culture and sports associations depend on parents, grandparents and other enthusiasts to do voluntary work.

However, even if sports and culture largely depend on voluntary work, cultural events in Norway are not free. Prices may even be perceived as high. As an international student in Norway it can therefore be a good idea to check if it is possible to volunteer at events such as festivals. Most larger festivals, such as the Øya festival in Oslo, Bergen International Film Festival (BIFF) and Vinjerock in the mountain area Rondane reward volunteer work with for example free access to the festival.