Norwegian Language Blog

Not so homogeneous a population after all Posted by on Dec 2, 2008 in Culture, Holidays, Language, Traditions

As I mentioned in several earlier blogs, the Norwegian population isn’t as homogeneous as it used to be nor as most people believe it is.  Not everyone in Norway has blond hair and blue eyes.  A good portion of the northernmost part of the country is inhabited by a minority, indigenous population, the Sami people.  Samis inhabit the northern regions of Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Russia.  It wasn’t until 1990 that the Norwegian government recognized the Sami as a people with their own language, culture, and government.  Even though the Sami are a native minority (some of whom look quite different in physical appearance than a non-Sami Norwegian), Norwegians still seem to encounter issues with immigrants.

According to the Statistisk Sentralbyrå website (, there are 460,000 innvandrere (immigrants) in Norway.  Of these, 79,000 are Norwegian-born persons with immigrant parents.  Innvandrere in Norway represent 213 countries of origin.  Half of all innvandrere come from Asia, Africa, or Latin-America.  There are, however, many immigrants from northern European countries such as Sweden, Denmark, and Germany.  There is a strong presence of immigrants from the middle-east as well.  Surprisingly, every municipality in Norway is home to innvandrere.

Much like most of Europe, Norway is a very socially liberal country.  Norway is a constitutional monarchy which is governed by the Storting (the parliament).  Moreover, Norway is a welfare state that takes very good care of it’s people.  Relative to it’s population, Norway is one of the top givers of foreign aid in the world.  The development of the Norwegian welfare system was possible for many reasons, not least of which was because of the enormous amount of oil that was found in the north sea in the 1960s.

It might seem like Norwegians have no reason to be intolerant of innvandrere given their socially liberal tendencies.  What I have recently come to understand is that it is precisely these views that cause Norwegians to be intolerant of certain groups of outsiders who inhabit their country.

Many of the innvandrere, as I mentioned earlier, are from Asia, Africa, and Latin America.  As such, these countries’ traditions do not support the equal treatment of men and women.  Equality between the sexes is most definitely a Norwegian ideal.  Norwegians do not approve of how men from male-domintated cultures treat women (i.e. men deciding over women and fathers over children) and therefore these innvandrere endure discrimination.

There are of course other issues that Norwegians have with immigrants, such as minimal financial contributions to the government and significant extraction of government services.  Lots of take, little give.  However, the inequality between men and women is one of the main reasons that discrimination and racism towards immigrants exists in Norway.

Keep learning Norwegian with us!

Build vocabulary, practice pronunciation, and more with Transparent Language Online. Available anytime, anywhere, on any device.

Try it Free Find it at your Library
Share this:
Pin it

About the Author: kari

I attended St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN, where I majored in Norwegian and History. During college, I spent almost a year living in Oslo, Norway, where I attended the University of Oslo and completed an internship at the United States Embassy. I have worked for Concordia Language Villages as a pre-K Norwegian teacher and have taught an adult Norwegian language class. Right now, I keep up by writing this Norwegian blog for Transparent Language. Please read and share your thoughts! I will be continuing this blog from my future residence in the Norwegian arctic!


  1. rebekka:

    The main point, summarised in the last paragraph, is a complete red herring.
    In my experience, Norwegians are every bit as racist and xenophobic as any
    other nation – more so, in some respects. And for the usual irrational reasons.
    They like to think they are terribly liberal minded and fair but are in fact quite intolerant of even small differences in other people. “Sanctimonious” is a word I have often heard applied to Norwegians in their dealings with other nations.