NORWAY NORWAY HEALH SYSTEM

Compulsory membership in a national health-insurance system guarantees all Norwegians free medical care in hospitals, compensation for doctors' fees, and free medicine, as well as an allowance to compensate for lost wages. Membership fees securing cash benefits during illness or pregnancy, covered by another insurance fund, are compulsory for salaried employees and optional for the self-employed. Most Norwegian doctors work in hospitals, the majority of which are owned by the state, counties, and municipalities. Extensive programs of preventive medicine have conquered Norway's ancient nemesis, tuberculosis. There is also a well-developed system of maternal and child health care, as well as compulsory school health services and free family counseling by professionals. A public dental service provides care for about nine-tenths of children between 7 and 15 years of age. In some municipalities dental care has been extended downward to 3 years of age and upward to 20 years. A “people's pension” was established in Norway in 1967 to ensure all citizens a standard of living reasonably close to the level that an individual had achieved during his or her working life. The pension covers old age and cases of disability or loss of support. The premiums are paid by the individual members, employers, municipalities, and the state. The basic pension is adjusted every year, regardless of the plan's income. Supplementary pensions vary according to income and pension-

earning time. The state pays a family allowance for all children up to 16 years of age Education School attendance is mandatory for 10 years, from age 6 to 16, with an optional 11th year. Mandatory subjects include Norwegian, religion, mathematics, music, physical education, science, and English. Optional courses in the arts and in other foreign languages, as well as vocational training in such areas as office skills, agriculture, and seamanship, are available in the upper grades. With three years of additional high school, students may take the examinations leading to university study. A small percentage of college and university students study abroad. Institutions of higher education in Norway have been expanded to accommodate the doubling of the student population that occurred between the early 1980s and the mid 1990s. The country's four universities are located in Oslo (established 1811), Bergen (1946), Trondheim (1968), and Tromsø (1968). As many students attend vocational schools as attend colleges and universities, and a few thousand students attend folk high schools—boarding schools offering a one-year course designed for 17-year-old students from rural areas. Only a few of Norway's schools charge tuition, and all students are eligible for government loans

Daily life and social customs Although Norway is in most ways very modern, it has maintained many of its traditions. Storytelling and folklore, in which trolls play a prominent role, are still common. On festive occasions folk costumes are worn and folk singing is performed —especially on Grunnlovsdagen (Constitution Day), commonly called Syttende Mai (May 17), the date of its celebration. Other popular festivals include Sankhansaften (Midsummer's Eve), Olsok (St. Olaf's Day), and Jul (Christmas), the last of which is marked by family feasts whose fare varies from region to region

but that are traditionally marked by the presence of seven kinds of cake. The national costume, the bunad, is characterized by doubleshuttle woven wool skirts or dresses for women, accompanied by jackets with scarves. Colourful accessories (e.g., purses and shoes) complete the outfit. The bunad for men generally consists of a three-piece suit that also is very colourful and heavily embroidered. Traditionally Norwegians had two bunader, one for special occasions and one for everyday wear. The country's natural landscape—its Arctic environment and vast coasts—has shaped Norway's customs and history, as outdoor activities are central to the life of most Norwegians. In particular, the country's cuisine reflects its environment. Fish dishes such as laks (salmon) and torsk (cod) are popular. Lutefisk, cod soaked in lye, is common during the Christmas holidays. Sour-cream porridge, pinnekjøtt (dried mutton ribs), reker (boiled shrimp), meatcakes, lefse (griddlecakes), geitost (a sweet semihard cheese made from cow's or goat's milk), and reindeer, moose, elk, and other wildlife also are popular traditional delicacies. The strong liquor called aquavit (also spelled akevitt), made of fermented grain or potatoes, is also widely used. In northern Norway the Sami maintain a distinct culture. Long known as reindeer herders, they maintain their own national dress. While many Sami have modernized and few continue to practice traditional nomadic life, a variation of that lifestyle continues. Where once the whole family followed the herd, now only the men do, with women and children remaining behind in towns and villages. Sami Easter festivals include reindeer races and chanting (joik).