Host a foreign exchange student from Norway

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For nature lovers, Norway is an unspoiled paradise. Think mind-blowing fjords and mirrored glass lakes, combined with world famous skiing, snowboarding and hiking. The landscapes often steal all the thunder when describing this Nordic nation.

By understanding more about our Norwegian exchange students’ lives back home, it will help you gain insight into their culture and background and prepare you for a successful hosting experience. Let’s start by learning about what’s typical in Norwegian communication, home life, education and food, as described by our program participants.

Educational system

The Norwegian government encourages its youth to travel and learn about other cultures. Many students can earn a partial governmental sponsorship to go on an exchange program. Many Norwegians speak English as a second language and begin learning the language around age seven. Most Norwegians study French, German or Spanish in addition to English. Norwegian students have a very informal relationship with their teachers, calling them by their first name.

Tip From EF: Because of the governmental sponsorship, Norwegian students will come with a list of classes they need to take during their year. Norwegian students may not be aware of options that are available to them in American schools such as electives, classes of varying difficulty and extracurricular activities. Encourage your student to sit down with a counselor or registrar prior to the start of school to help them understand options and expectations in class.


Norwegian teens are encouraged to speak their mind and may come across as outspoken. Norwegian teenagers use the word “depressed” to explain that they have a bad day or a rough week. They do not mean to say they have as a serious problem or a diagnosis. It’s just an expression and a way to put words to their feelings. In Norway, the word “please” is assumed, but often not said. Making small talk with acquaintances is somewhat uncommon in Norway.

Tip From EF: Give your student space to speak directly, knowing that likely their intention is not to be harsh or offensive. Be open about your family’s norms and talk about how communication styles can be misinterpreted. Ask your student about their culture and family traditions to open them up to small talk. It can be helpful to explain to your student the American norms for expressing appreciation and gratitude.



Hvordan har du det?

How are you?

Food habits

Breakfast and lunch usually consist of open-faced cheese or ham sandwiches and milk or coffee. The main meal in Norway is dinner. Meat or fish, potatoes, vegetables and a soup with dessert are common. Another common meal is meatballs with potatoes and brown gravy, served with vegetables. Norwegians normally prepare and eat all their meals at home and only go out for dinner on special occasions.

Tip From EF: Eating dinner together as a family is common in Norway and an important part of a daily family routine. Scheduling a few meals together as a family each week can make the student feel welcomed and at home. Encouraging them to help with grocery shopping and meal preparation will also help them adjust.

Home life

Protecting the environment is very important to Norwegians and being outdoors is a huge part of the Norwegian lifestyle. Hiking, cross-country skiing, snowboarding, ice-skating and alpine skiing are very popular. A common saying is “Norwegians are born with skis on their feet.” Parents in Norway generally have about 25 paid vacation days a year. Families spend this time vacationing. The end of July to beginning of August is a time when most of the Norwegian companies shut down for the summer holiday. Norwegians are not overly religious - most attend church only on special occasions or holidays. Less than half the population practices regularly.

Tip From EF: Students may be used to vacationing and spending a great deal of time outdoors with their family. Plan some fun activities to do with your student throughout the year. These do not have to be grand activities and can be as simple as going for a hike, cooking a meal together or exploring local communities.

Jeg gleder meg til å møte min Norsk utvekslingsstudent!

I am so excited to meet my Norwegian exchange student!

La oss gå på en båt rundt fjordene!

Let’s go for a boat ride along the Fjords!

Hosting advice from our Norwegian exchange students

“I wish my host family knew that a lot of Norwegians are used to being very independent from their parents, so we will need to know about rules and chores right away.”

Tip From EF: At the beginning of the exchange, write down house rules and expectations, as well as consequences for not following them. Be sure to include limits on electronics, transportation arrangements and chores. This will help your student understand your expectations early on. Also, have your student write down their hopes for their exchange so your family can discuss them together.

“I wish my host family knew that people from Norway are more reserved and not as comfortable right away as people in the US.”

Tip From EF: Norwegian students may take some time to open up and share more about themselves. Don’t assume that a quiet student is a sad student. Also, small talk may be new to your student, so share about American pleasantries, the importance of introductions and how they can be helpful to make connections and build relationships.

“I wish my host family knew that in Norway, we are very careful to not be bothersome. Therefore, we can get indecisive when asked for our opinion on plans for the day, etc. If we say, 'anything is fine,' it’s not that we don’t care, we just don’t want to step on anyone’s toes or be a burden!”

Tip From EF: Ask for feedback from your student when desired, but understand they may want to be polite in their opinions. If you would like your student to open up and communicate with you more directly, try talking with them first and then seek the support from your IEC.

Find your student

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Talk to us directly: +1 800 447 4273

Send an email: [email protected]

© EF Education First 2011-2021. EF High School Exchange Year is operated by EF Educational Foundation for Foreign Study, a non-profit corporation designated by the U.S. Department of State to operate a J-1 student exchange program. Note: Featured photo/videos do not include prospective students, and are representative of program participants.