Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Kingdom of Norway

In a couple of weeks I'm headed off to Oslo for a weekend.  Norway will be the 49th country I've visited since moving to Europe.  So here's a bit about Norway.

The Kingdom of Norway is in Scandinavia and borders Sweden, Finland, and RussiaNorge is a bit larger than New Mexico and has a population of about 5.15 million people.  It has one of the longest coastlines in the world with about 50,000 islands.  It also claims a portion of Antarctica.  Oslo is the capital.

video
©Stratfor.com

Norway was in a union with Denmark for over 400 years and then in a union with Sweden for more than 90 years.  In 1905 Norway became an independent country.  Today it is a constitutional monarchy.

In the late 1960s, oil and gas were discovered.  It is the world's largest producer of oil and natural gas outside of the Middle East and this accounts for about 30% of government revenues.  Norway is smart because it knows that one day the oil will run out so the money goes in to the world's largest sovereign wealth fund which is valued at more than $830 billion.  The return on the fund goes to support the country's generous social welfare programs.

Norway is the second wealthiest country per GDP in the world.  There are high salaries and high taxes so everything is quite expensive.  For example, a Big Mac costs about $10 and a beer will run $8-$11.

Norwegian alphabet

Norwegian is the official language but it has two official written forms - Bokmål and Nynorsk.  In nine municipalities Sami is also an official language. 

Norway is a founding member of NATO.  There is mandatory military service for males from 19-35.  People serve one year and then there are 4-5 refresher periods, up to age 60, which totals 18 months.  In 2013, Norway became the first country in Europe to draft women as well as men.

The country is pretty progressive.  Norway was the world's first country to have an anti-discrimination law that protects gays and lesbians.  It recognized civil partnerships in 1993 and in 2009 it became the 6th country in the world to recognize same-sex marriage.

It is part of the Schengen zone and contributes to the EU budget as part of the European Economic Area (EEA) but Norway is not part of the European Union.  The country rejected EU membership in 1972 and again in 1994.

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