This is part of a series of blog posts written by the 2012 Peace Scholars as they complete their summer program in Oslo, Norway. This post was written by Luke Hanson from Luther College.
Before arriving in Oslo for the International Summer School, I had never given much thought to the ethnic demographic of Norway. I must have assumed (as I imagine many Americans do) that such a small nation tucked away north of mainland Europe would be relatively homogenous. A walk in Oslo taught me that I was pleasantly mistaken!
Most people would be surprised to know that Norway is actually becoming quite an ethnically-diverse nation. In fact, it has been experiencing a steady influx of ethnic diversity since the late 1960s, with people coming from eastern Europe, Morocco, Turkey, Pakistan, and many other parts of the world. Norway’s strong economy has made it an attractive place to look for work (especially in the current economic crisis in Europe), and as a result it currently has the fastest-growing immigrant population of any nation in Europe. Today, 12-13% of Norway’s population is made up of non-ethnic Norwegians, and between one and two hundred thousand Norwegians are the children of two immigrant parents. So, if you come to Norway (and you should!) you won’t see only blond hair and blue eyes, as you may have expected. Oslo has the most diversity, with an impressive 150 nationalities represented in its population. But there is diversity even in the most remote areas of Norway: there are non-ethnic Norwegians living in every single municipality in the country.
Even in Norway, a country with a reputation as ‘a peace nation,’ the emergence of multiculturalism has not been perfectly smooth. The Norwegian Parliament has tried to make policy that enables immigrants to integrate into Norwegian society without forcing them to give up their cultures. These attempts force Norway to make judgments about its values as a society. For example, if Norway denies minority groups to practice female circumcisions and forced marriages, it forces them to give up longstanding cultural traditions, which may not be seen as oppressive even by women in their society. On the other hand, if these practices are allowed to continue, they perhaps violate Norway’s high standards of gender equality. In short, the arrival of multiculturalism in Norway has forced Norwegians to reevaluate its national identity.
Since Norway is such a recently multicultural nation, it has been an awesome place to study peace and international relations this summer. My fellow Peace Scholars and I have met the world around every corner– not just in our classes, but in walks through the neighborhoods of Oslo, and in conversations at mealtimes with fellow Summer School student, who come from 95 different countries.