Norway is situated in northern Europe, sharing land borders with Finland, Sweden and Russia, and the waters of the Skagerrak strait with Denmark. People have lived in Norway since the end of the last ice age, some 10,000 years ago. Norway also has an ancient native people living in the northern part of the country. They are called the Sami, and were originally nomadic reindeer herders. They have their own language which is not related to Norwegian.

The people of Norway have a good relationship with their northern European neighbours, such as the Danes, Swedes, English, Scots, Germans and Dutch. The Norwegian language is closely related to these languages, particularly the other Scandinavian languages (Danish and Swedish).  95% of the population speak Norwegian as their first language, and the majority speak English as their first foreign language.


The Sami People

The Sami people have lived in Norway for a long time. They arrived in Norway from the east via Finland over 10,000 years ago, and are recognised as Norway’s own indigenous population.

The Sami (Sámi or Saami) of Scandinavia used to be called ‘Lapp’ but they don’t like that name, and prefer Sami. They were originally a nomadic people who didn’t have a fixed home but moved around the land. This was because the Sami were mainly reindeer herders who followed the movements of their flocks of reindeer. In the winter, the Sami lived in tents called lavvo in the vast snow-covered expanses of the uplands, where the reindeer fed on mosses and lichen which they dug up from under the snow. In summer, they moved down towards the seashore, living in lavvos or turf huts called gamme.


The Sami still have their own culture and language. Around 5-7000 Sami live in Norway and there are more living across Sweden, Finland and parts of Russia. They have colourful traditional costumes and try to use the products of reindeer for all their needs, including food and clothing. The majority of Sami people have integrated into Norwegian society, living in houses and dressing like any other Norwegian.


Over the last couple of generations the Sami have gained greater status and better conditions for themselves.  They now have their own parliament and their own university. They also have their own flag.


Ethnic Minorities

In recent times, immigration has accounted for most of Norway’s population growth. Immigrants  come to Norway from countries across the globe, including  Eastern Europe, Asia and Africa. Over the last few years, the greatest numbers of European immigrants have come from Poland, Germany and Sweden. Pakistani Norwegians are currently the largest non-European minority group in Norway and have mostly settled in and around the capital city, Oslo. Iraqis and Somalis have also settled in Norway, making it an excitingly multi-cultural nation. 


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Did You Know?

The name Norway means "The Way to the North".

Norway has a population of around 4.9 million people, which makes it the second least densely populated country in Europe.