Norwegian Society

Norwegian values are rooted in egalitarian ideals and Norway is a progressive welfare state. Openness, equality and equal rights are important values that you will experience when you Study in Norway.

The Parliament building in Oslo Stortinget. Photo: Daderot.
Democracy, Justice and The Welfare State

Norway is considered to be one of the most developed democracies and constitutional states in the world. The country is a parliamentary democracy. The main political parties are grouped into three blocs: a left-of-centre bloc consisting of the Norwegian Labour Party, the Socialist Left Party and the Party Red; a centre bloc consisting of the Centre Party, the Christian People’s Party, the Liberal Party and the Green Party; and a centre-right bloc consisting of the Conservative Party and the Progress Party. The Norwegian parliament is called Stortinget, for which members are elected every four years.

The Norwegian head of state since 1991 has been King Harald V. He has no political power, but performs ceremonial duties and is generally a beloved, down-to-earth representative of the Norwegian people.

The King of Norway and painter Anne Vistven. Photo: Stortinget
The King of Norway and painter Anne Vistven. Photo: Stortinget.

Norwegian values are rooted in egalitarian ideals. Most Norwegians believe in equal distribution of wealth and that everyone should have equal opportunities. We generally have a high degree of trust in the government and believe in the welfare state. Norway is called a welfare state because the government, both federal and local, has primary responsibility for the welfare of its citizens.
The Norwegian welfare state is mainly financed by taxes and duties paid by its inhabitants.

Norway is definitely a part of Europe, but is not a member of the EU. However, the country is fully integrated in the European community in everything from trade and economy, through the European Economic Area (EEA) agreement, to education and research – for instance through the Erasmus+ programme. Norway also participates in the Schengen agreement, making travelling to and from other Schengen countries easy.

Equality and Informality

Openness, equality and equal rights in general– such as economic, social and gender equality – are important values to most Norwegians. It is also an established fact that people with physical and mental challenges should have equal rights and be treated with as much respect as other people. Naturally, international students also benefit from these values and rights. This is just one of the many reasons for you to Study in Norway.

Homosexual relations, for instance, have been legal since 1972, and same sex couples have been able to adopt children and get married since 2009.  

Dad hugging his baby. Photo: Josh Willink

The egalitarian values at the root of the welfare state manifest themselves throughout Norwegian society in many ways. Systematic efforts are made to ensure that women and men are equal when it comes to education and wages. This has certainly changed the Norwegian male’s role as a father.

Norway has a paternity leave quota, so that fathers have to take a certain number of weeks of parental leave, but can also take more time off to be with their children. This has helped make it much easier to combine careers and family. Nevertheless, the goal of total equality remains.

Informality is widespread in Norwegian society. Formal titles and social position normally do not mean that a person should be addressed any differently than the man in the street. In other words, you are perfectly within ‘normal’ standards of behaviour if you call your professor by the first name. As a student you will likely have a friendly relationship with your professor, and this carries over into the workplace, where it is not uncommon to have lunch with your boss.