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Living in EuropeAccess to the culture of the host country/language coursesNorway

Norwegian culture & language


Norwegian culture

Is the Norwegian culture really different from what you're used too? You might wonder what's specific to Norwegian culture, but Norwegians are not that different from other Europeans. Usually a couple of aspects are mentioned when Norwegians thinks about themselves as a cultural distinct group:

Norwegians view themselves as being very democratic. They are respectful towards others and usually like people for who they are and not for what they do for a living, how much they earn or how wealthy they are. At the same time, there is still an undercurrent of the Law of Jante  (janteloven) in Norway. This mentality more or less de-emphasises the individual and his or her efforts or success and places all emphasis on the collective, although there are signs that this is changing.
Norwegian greeting traditions are quite casual and informal. If you greet someone with a firm handshake, direct eye contact and a smile, you will be fine. Although Norwegians often introduce themselves by their first name only, particularly in informal situations, it is fine for you introduce yourself with your first and last name. If you are invited to someone’s home, bring a hostess gift such as flowers, chocolate or a bottle of wine. Do not expect strangers to start a conversation with you on the metro, on the bus or even in a bar. Norwegians are not particularly easy-going and are reserved among strangers, but after a while you will become used to this and you will find that they are warm and friendly once a relationship has been established.
Foreigners in Norway may find it unusual that, for instance, professors are not commonly addressed by their title or even by their last name. Informality is widespread in Norwegian society. Although a person may have a formal title and important social position, this does not mean that he or she is to be addressed differently than your regular John Doe. So it is perfectly acceptable to call your professor by his or her first name.
Gender equality is one of the most prominent features of Norwegian culture and society. Although Norway is considered to be one of the most egalitarian countries in the world, there are still challenges to achieving full gender equality. For more information see the website Gender in Norway as well as Kilden  , which has national responsibility for promoting and providing information about Norwegian gender research nationally and internationally. The centre works to document resources and activities in gender research and publishes information and news about gender research in Norway. Also of interest in this context is the Committee for Gender Balance and Diversity in Research (KIF)  , which has a broad mandate. The KIF committee works to promote gender balance and diversity in science.

Language skills opens doors

It is often possible to work in Norway without acquiring knowledge of Norwegian, as English is the working language at many research institutions.

You may also be able to get along in everyday life using only English, as most Norwegians are reasonably fluent. However, you will in general find that learning Norwegian will help you integrate more easily.

For permanent positions, you are usually required to be able to teach in Norwegian or another Scandinavian language within a few years of being hired. For other positions, this requirement will depend on whether or not you will be giving lectures to Bachelor’s students. Bachelor’s courses are mostly taught in Norwegian (Danish and Swedish are optional).

For temporary positions, for example for Ph.D. students, post-doctoral fellows and researchers, knowledge of Norwegian is generally not required.

Your host institution may organise language courses that are specially developed for researchers and their families. Express your interest in learning Norwegian early on so that you can receive information and start a course as soon as possible after your arrival in Norway. In addition to learning the language, the courses will give you an opportunity to discuss living and working in Norway with your international colleagues.

The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) has developed a web-based language course, Norwegian on the Web (NoW)  with interactive exercises and additional information on grammar, phonetics and vocabulary.

Some of the universities offer Norwegian as a second language as a full-time course for which you will earn ECTS credits. One semester normally consists of 30 ECTS credits.

Skills Norway (Kompetanse Norge), the Norwegian Agency for Lifelong Learning, provides an overview of language schools (Norwegian)   that offer Norwegian-language courses that will qualify you to obtain a permanent residence permit.

You may want to take an official language test to document your knowledge of Norwegian. There are several tests and exams available. Two of them demonstrate a high level of language skills and are typically required for students who are applying to university or for employees who need a certificate to document an advanced level of proficiency in Norwegian.

  • The Bergen Test

    The Bergen Test assesses proficiency in receptive and productive language skills, as well as knowledge of grammar and vocabulary. It represents a standard by which the level of proficiency in Norwegian as a second language can be assessed.

  • Trinn 3

    The University of Oslo, University of Bergen and NTNU offer a final exam, Trinn 3, in Norwegian as a second language. You normally attend classes for three semesters before taking the exam. Trinn 3 is equivalent to the Bergen Test.

Norway has two official languages  Norwegian  and Sami  . Norwegian has two written language variants Bokmål  and Nynorsk  . In addition there are a wide range of spoken dialects. Norwegian is not considered harder to learn than any other European language and according to research  English and Norwegian are more alike than many might think. Remember that by gaining a good command of Norwegian, you will easily gain access to two other Scandinavian languages: Swedish and Danish. Read more about this on The Study in Norway portal .


Language tuition is mandatory for obtaining a permanent residence permit. If you are a citizen of a country outside the EU/EEA and you wish to apply for a permanent residence permit after living in Norway for a period of five years, please note that you will have to complete 300 hours of language training.