The Faroe (or Faeroe) Islands are a North Atlantic archipelago located 320 kilometres north-northwest of Scotland, and about halfway between Norway and Iceland. It is an autonomous territory within the Kingdom of Denmark. Temperatures average above freezing throughout the year because of the Gulf Stream. As a result of the moderation and the northerly latitude, summers normally hover around 12°C, while average temperatures are 5 °C in winter. The northerly latitude location also results in perpetual civil twilight during summer nights and very short winter days.
In 1814, the Treaty of Kiel transferred Norway to the King of Sweden, on the winning side of the Napoleonic Wars, whereas Denmark retained the Faroe Islands, along with Greenland and Iceland. The Faroe Islands have been a self-governing part of the Kingdom of Denmark since 1948, controlling most areas apart from military defence, policing, justice, currency, and foreign affairs. Because the Faroe Islands are not part of the same customs area as Denmark, the country has an independent trade policy, and can establish trade agreements with other states.
Faroese is a syntactically conservative west Scandinavian language most closely related to Icelandic and the western dialects of Norwegian, from which it apparently began to diverge significantly after the Reformation while resisting assimilation to Danish. Faroese are fluent in Danish and increasingly in English. The primary symbols of national identity are the language, the local past, and the natural environment as these are articulated in oral and written literature, folk and scholarly historiography, and appreciations of the natural setting of social life. Other symbols include the flag, the ancient tradition of ballad-dancing, the grindadráp, the old-fashioned garb sometimes worn on holidays, and the national bird, the oystercatcher.