Culture and Society
The Faroe Islands are a modern society with a high standard of living and the Faroese have a strong sense of local identity and social cohesion.
The culture of the Faroe Islands has its roots in the Nordic culture. The islands were long isolated from the main cultural movements in Europe and have maintained a large part of their traditional culture. At the same time the Faroese live a modern European life with cultural events, new technology and a well developed infrastructure.
The Faroese are well-educated. Many Faroese study and work abroad in a wide range of fields. The mobility and flexibility of the Faroese people maintains a broad international perspective.
The Faroe Islands are an archipelago of 18 mountainous islands located half way between Scotland and Iceland in the Northeast Atlantic.
The Faroe Islands are a self-governing nation under the external sovereignty of the Kingdom of Denmark. The country is not a member of the European Union but has agreements on fisheries, trade in goods, and research cooperation with the EU.
The language of the Faroe Islands is Faroese which is a Nordic language deriving from the Norsemen who settled the islands 1200 years ago.
Out of a total population of a little more than 50,000, around 20,000 live in the capital, Tórshavn.
There are in all about 100 towns and villages scattered over 17 of the islands. The largest town is Tórshavn. The second largest is Klaksvík with around 5,000 inhabitants.
Fishing and fish farming are the most important industries in the Faroe Islands. In recent years tourism has also become increasingly important.
The Faroese weather is moist, changeable and at times windy. Due to the influence of the Gulf Stream encircling the islands, there is little variation between winter and summer temperatures. The average temperature ranges from 3°C in winter to 12°C in the summer.
The Faroe Islands are a self-governing nation within the Kingdom of Denmark with extensive autonomous powers and responsibilites.
The Faroe Islands have exclusive competence to legislate and govern independently in a wide range of areas, including taxation and customs, management of fisheries and other utilisation of natural resources, social security, education and research.
The Faroe Islands are not part of the European Union, despite Denmark’s membership of the EU.
The Faroese political system is a parliamentary democracy, with a democratically elected legislative assembly, Løgtingið, and an executive government, Landsstýrið, headed by the Prime Minister, løgmaður.
The Faroe Islands are believed to have been discovered and inhabited in the 8th century or earlier by Irish settlers. The Norwegian colonization began about a hundred years later and developed throughout the Viking Age.
Norway and Denmark joined in a double monarchy in the late 14th century. When Norway was seperated from Denmark in 1814, the Faroe Islands remained under the sovereignty of Denmark.
Due to the large geographical distance to Norway and Denmark the Faroe Islands have always maintained a special jurisdiction.
The status of the Faroe Islands within the Kingdom of Denmark was defined in the Home Rule Act of 1948. Amendments were made in 2005.
The Home Rule Act defines the political competence and responsibility transfered from Danish political authorities to Faroese political authorities. The Faroese authorities enact legislation and have the economic responsibility for the areas taken over from Danish authorities.
The Faroe Islands have taken over the exclusive competence to legislate and govern independently in a wide range of areas. These include the management of living marine resources and underground resources within the 200-mile economic zone, fiscal and taxation politcy, social security, education and research.
Matters regarding Danish citizenship, defence and foreign policy as well as monetary policy cannot be transfered to Faroese jurisdiction according to current legislation.
Faroese autonomy in foreign relations is provided by a treaty between the Faroe Islands and Denmark. This treaty allows the Faroe Islands to represent themselves and negotiate treaties under international law with other states and international organisations concerning all matters administered by the Faroese authorities.
Although Denmark is a member state of the European Union, the Faroe Islands have chosen to remain outside the Union. Trade with the European Union is governed by a special trade agreement between the Faroe Islands and the EU.
The Faroese Parliament (Løgtingið) is the legislative assembly for Faroese affairs.
The Løgting is believed to be one of the oldest parliaments in Europe. Its origin can be traced as far back as shortly after the first Norse settlement of the Faroe Islands in the early 9th century. The settlers established their own parliament in Tórshavn where all major decisions affecting the whole country were taken.
In 1816 the Faroe Islands became a Danish administrative district and the Løgting was abolished. In 1852 the Løgting was reestablished as a consultative body for Danish authorities concerning the governing of the Faroe Islands.
In 1948 the Home Rule Act vested all legislative power within branches taken over from the Danish Parliament in the Løgting.
The Løgting has 33 members who are elected for a period of four years. Election of the Løgting can take place before the end of an election period if the Løgting agrees on dissolving itself or the Prime Minister decides to call an election. All Danish nationals over 18 years registered in the Faroe Islands have the right to vote and to stand for election for the Løgting.
At present seven political parties are represented in the Løgting.
The session of the Løgting begins on 29 July (Saint Olaf´s day) with a procession from the parliament building to the Cathedral where a service is held. After the service the procession returns to the parliament, and the Prime Minister delivers his Saint Olaf’s address, in which he gives a general description of the state of the nation.
The sittings of the Løgting are public. The Løgting debates between 150 and 200 various items in one session.
The Social Democratic Party - Javnaðarflokkurin (in Faroese)
The Republican Party - Tjóðveldi (in Faroese)
The People´s Party - Fólkaflokkurin (in Faroese)
The Unionist Party - Sambandsflokkurin (in Faroese)
The Independence Party - Nýtt Sjálvstýri (in Faroese)
The Centre Party - Miðflokkurin (in Faroese)
The Liberal Nationalistic Party - Framsókn (in Faroese)
The Faroese Government – Landsstýrið - has the executive power in all areas for which the Faroe Islands have assumed responsibility.
Landsstýrið consists of the Prime Minister (løgmaður) and a number of ministers (landsstýrismenn). The Løgting appoints the Prime Minister, and the Prime Minister appoints the ministers.
Ministry of Finance (in Faroese)
Ministry of Education, Research and Culture (in Faroese)
Ministry of Fisheries (in Faroese)
Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (in Faroese)
Ministry of Transfer, Infrastruction and Labour (in Faroese)
Ministry of Social Affairs (in Faroese)
Ministry of Health and the Interior (in Faroese)
The Faroe Islands are administratively divided in 29 municipalities (kommunur), with about 100 cities and villages. The municipalities vary in size from almost 21,000 inhabitants in Tórshavn Municipality to around 40 inhabitants in Fugloy Municipality.
The municipal councils are elected for a period of four years. All Danish nationals over 18 years registered in the Faroe Islands and citizens of other countries who have had permanent residency in the Faroe Islands for three years prior to an election have the right to vote and stand for election in municipal elections.
Two members of the Danish Parliament (Folketinget) are elected in the Faroe Islands. All Danish nationals over 18 years registered in the Faroe Islands have the right to vote and stand for elections for the Danish Parliament.
The Faroe Islands have a modern infrastructure with roads, tunnels, bridges and subsea tunnels connecting most of the islands.
Regular flights and car and cargo ferries are available all year round for transport of people and goods to and from the Faroe Islands.
The Faroe Islands have a well established public transport system with an extensive network of buses and ferries covering the islands.
The public transport company, Strandfaraskip Landsins, operates the bus and ferry service.
Regular helicopter service to the outer islands is operated by the Faroese airline company, Atlantic Airways.
There are several daily flights to the Faroe Islands from Copenhagen (Denmark), and several weekly flights from Billund (Denmark), Reykjavík (Iceland) and Bergen (Norway) all year round.
During the summer and at seasonal holidays there are direct connections to further destinations in Denmark, Scotland, and Southern Europe.
There is a direct ferry link to Hirtshals (Denmark) throughout the year and to Seyðisfjørður (Iceland) from April to October operated by Smyril Line.
The Faroe Islands have a highly developed communication network – from telecommunication and mobile phones to the internet and media.
The Faroese media consists of a national radio and TV station, several private radio stations, internet portals, and a number of newspapers and magazines.
The National Faroese Broadcasting – Kringvarp Føroya – transmits Faroese radio and TV programmes as well as foreign TV programmes.
International television channels are transmitted by a Digital Terrestrial Television service - Televarpið . Subscription satellite television is also available.
The telecommunications networks are of a high standard with excellent coverage throughout the country and at competitive prices.
Mobile telephones using the GSM standard are operational in the Faroe Islands. Pay-As-You-Go telephone cards as well as subscriptions for mobile telephones and fixed line telephones and broadband internet subscriptions are available from Faroese telephone companies.
There are two telecommunication companies in the Faroe Islands:
Føroya Tele (in Faroese)
Hey (in Faroese)
Religion plays an important role in Faroese culture. According to the constitution, everyone is entitled to associate in communities to worship according to his or her convictions.
The majority of the Faroese population, about 85 percent, belong to the Evangelical Lutheran Church which is the official church of the Faroe Islands.
There are several organisations and associations attached to the Faroese Lutheran Evangelical Church, among them KFUK and KFUM which correspond to YWCA and YMCA, Inner Mission and Evangelical Mission.
The Faroese Evangelical Lutheran Church (in Faroese)
The Plymouth Brethren are the second largest religious community in the Faroe Islands. About 13 percent of the population belong to this community. The community has houses of worship in towns and villages around the islands.
Other religious communities in the Faroe Islands include Pentecostals, Catholics, Salvation Army, Seventh Day Adventists and Jehova Witnesses.
The Faroe Islands have a rich and thriving contemporary culture. Traditional culture lives along with modern cultural events, and all kinds of sports and music activities are very popular.
The pleasure derived from music is immense in the Faroe Islands. Almost every occasion is an opportunity to sing and play.
The Faroese chain dance with epic ballads about heroes and legends was popular in many European countries in the Middle Ages but has survived only in the Faroe Islands. Here it is still a prominent part of the Faroese cultural and musical life and is refered to as Faroese dance.
Music schools are very popular, and many children are learning to play a variety of musical instruments.
Also singing in choir is very popular. There are several excellent choirs around the islands for male, female and mixed voices.
In recent years several Faroese musicians have had great international success.
St Olaf´s Wake – Ólavsøka – is the national holiday of the Faroe Islands, held in Tórshavn on July 28th og 29th. People from all over the islands gather in the capital to celebrate the national holiday which is also a cultural and sports festival with boat races, football matches, art exhibitions, folk music, and Faroese chain dancing.
Local festivals with sports, concerts and various other activities for all ages are held around the country during the summer. Festivals are held in Klaksvík, Runavík, Sundalagið and Suðuroy in June and in Fuglafjørður, Vágar, Skálafjørður and Vestmanna in July.
Several music festivals and concerts are held in the summer with a variety of local music in all genres and top foreign groups and musicians.
Summartónar is a classical and modern festival held in churches, museums and other public venues around the islands in June and July.
Sørvág´s Country and Blues Festival is held in Sørvágur in early June.
Voxpop is a one-day festival held in Tórshavn in late June.
G! Festival is a large festival with leading international and local musicians held in Gøta in mid July.
The Summer Festival is a large festival with local musicians and big international bands held in Klaksvík in early August.
Football is the most popular sport in the Faroe Islands. 60 percent of those who are engaged in sports play football.
The Faroese national team takes part in European Championship and World Cup qualification games. The national team has recorded several impressive results against higher-ranked teams.
The Faroese Football League is made up of four male divisions, two female divisions and two veterans divisions as well as youth and junior divisions.
Rowing is the national sport of the Faroe Islands. Rowing competitions - kappróður - are held in different towns and villages at festivals in June and July, and the final competition is held in Tórshavn on St Olaf´s Wake.
Faroese Rowing Association (in Faroese)
Swimming is a popular sport in the Faroe Islands, and several Faroese swimmers have achieved excellent international results.
Faroe Islands Swimming Association (in Faroese)
Hiking has become increasingly popular in recent years. Shorter and longer hiking tours are arranged all over the country.
Other sports organisations:
Tórshavn Gymnastics Association (in Faroese)
Ljósið Gymnastics Association (in Faroese)
Parasports - sports association for the disabled (in Faroese)
Tórshavn Badminton Association (in Faroese)
Faroese Horse Riding Association (in Faroese)
Faroese Judo Assocation (in Faroese)
Fleyr Volleyball Association (in Faroese)
Faroese Table Tennis Association (in Faroese)
Bragdið - Athletics Association (in Faroese)
Fishing wild salmon and trout in the Faroe Islands is a quite special experience. Several species of fish can be fished in the Faroese lakes and streams, and sea trout and salmon can also be caught around the coast.
Fishing in lakes and streams is permitted from May 1st until August 31st. Fishing permits are required and can be purchased in most tourist information offices.
Coastal fishing is generally permitted, but there might be local exceptions.
The Nordic House - Norðurlandahúsið - offers a wide range of events all year round, including concerts, exhibitions, and theatre performances
The National Art Gallery - Listasavnið - features a permanent exhibition of older and modern Faroese artists as well as traveling exhibitions of foreign artists and special showcase exhibitions of Faroese artists
The National Theatre - (in Faroese) - Tjóðpallur Føroya - performs Faroese plays and classic and modern plays from abroad
The National Museum (in Faroese) - Tjóðsavnið - offers displays on geology, archeology, folk-life and history and has an open air museum
Evening schools under the administration of the municipalities around the country offer a wide variety of courses, such as cookery, photography, sewing, arts and crafts, creative writing, acting and genealogy studies. Some schools also offer courses designed especially for people with various disabilities.
The restaurant and nightlife scenes in the Faroe Islands have experienced great development in the last few years. Several new restaurants and cafés have opened, particularly in the capital area.
Restaurants reflect different styles and offer a variety of local food as well as cuisine from around the world.
In Tórshavn there are several discothèques and nightclubs for all ages.
Important elements of the Faroese cuisine are lamb, fish, whale meat and seabirds.
The taste of the traditional food is primarily determined by the preservation methods used, which especially include the maturing and drying of meat and fish. The most popular treat is skerpikjøt, which is well-aged, wind-dried mutton. Other traditional foods are ræst kjøt which is semi-dried mutton, and ræstur fiskur which is matured fish.
Dried lamb and fish and other traditional products are still very popular in the Faroe Islands. At the same time popular taste has developed to become closer to the European norm.