Cultural Differences Between Norway and the USA

A view of Alesund city in Norway.
... Laila RAberg/iStock/Getty Images

About 4.3 million people live in Norway, often called "Land of the Midnight Sun" compared to the more than 316 million residing in the United States. Norway is much smaller in area, as well, and the climate is quite cold for much of the year, which differs from the warmer climates of most areas in the United States. Norway maintains a variety of customs and traditions that are different than what citizens are used to in the United States.

1 Diet and Foods

Norway has resisted the addition of fast food restaurants, which is a huge difference from the fast food culture of the United States. That's not to say there aren't any fast food establishments, but the Norwegian diet is more likely to include fish, seafood, wild game and berries, according to Margaret Hayford O'Leary, author of "Culture and Customs of Norway." Norwegians also eat lutefisk, which is fish smoked in lye. Other foods are common in the United States, too, and include barley, rye, other grains, potatoes and cheese. Norwegians also drink a lot of milk, but unlike the cow's milk consumed in the United States, a good portion of the milk consumed in Norway is goat's milk.

2 Holidays and Important Customs

Like Americans, Norwegians celebrate Christmas, though their holiday traditions are a bit different. Norwegian children leave porridge for the Christmas elf, for example, while American children leave cookies for Santa Claus. Norway also holds many festivals, some similar to the United States, such as music, art and film festivals, but others center on activities such as sled racing and reindeer racing. Norway also holds a special day dedicated to children called Syttende mai, and includes a parade and other activities meant to honor the young people, according to O'Leary. Constitution Day, celebrated on May 17, is the biggest holiday in Norway.

3 Health, Human Services and Education

Norway is considered one of the best places in the world to live, compared to the United States which was 96th in 2007, according to O'Leary. This is based on issues such as life expectancy, which is similar to the United States, per capita income, which is a bit higher than the United States, and education. Education, including higher education, is free in Norway, and is required between the ages of 6 and 16. Wealth is fairly equally distributed in Norway and the country boasts a health care system paid for with taxes, according to the InterNations website. All legal residents of Norway are able to access this health care system. Norway also offers a generous, paid maternity and paternity system, which is quite different than the unpaid maternity leaves in the United States.

4 Additional Differences

About 93 percent of the population in Norway are evangelical Lutherans, according to the Aspect Foundation, which is quite different than the melting pot of religious beliefs in the United States. Like the U.S., freedom of religion is a right afforded to the citizens, but, unlike the U.S., most people only attend formal religious services on special occasions and holidays. Norway is a democracy like the United States, but is run by a prime minister rather than a president. The royal family is more of a symbol of the country, and doesn't really hold any power over the citizens of the country, the Aspect Foundation notes. Bokmal and Nynorsk are two forms of the official Norwegian language.

Sara Ipatenco has taught writing, health and nutrition. She started writing in 2007 and has been published in Teaching Tolerance magazine. Ipatenco holds a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in education, both from the University of Denver.