Multicultural Norway

Hi Everyone

It is said that one of the main achievements by living abroad is that you get to know yourself much better. And you also probably end up being more aware about your surroundings. If that is actually the case for me, I don’t know. Others have to judge that. But it is for sure that I do try to be more aware about the people around me. Who are them? Where are they from? Things like that. One thing that strikes me is that it seems to be a lot of foreigners in Norway! And let me quickly stress that this is not meant to be a racist comment. It is a comparison between what I see at the streets of Oslo and what I observed in Mumbai. In Mumbai, it seems like most people are, well, Indians. Yes, I know that I can’t really see the difference between an Indian, a Bangladesh and maybe even a Pakistani, but I guess you understand what I mean. But in Oslo I can very easily see the difference between a Norwegian, a Filipino and Japanese. And I can also very easily hear the difference between Norwegian, Polish and Spanish. Even Norwegian and Swedish is clearly different. Off course I know it is the holiday season right now, so all the Japanese I see here probably don’t live in Norway, but it is quite interesting to see all different nationalities here.

In order to find out more about this, I decided to try to find some more statistics about it. According to SSB 12, 2 % of people in Norway are from people from another country. Oslo has the highest population of foreigners, with 27 % (or as many as 170.000, a bit less than one area in Andheri…)

It is interesting, and absolutely not chocking to see that most of the immigrants are from European countries. Honestly I thought that the Swedes were the most, but it seems like the Polish have now completely outnumbered them. That was honestly a bit chocking for me to see. But at the other hand, I know that there have been a lot of them coming here after Poland became a member of the European Union. Another interesting fact is that if you look at the number of Norwegian-born to immigrant parents, the Pakistanis are a huge majority. This is not at all strange. The main reason for this I think is that the Pakistanis are among the people who first immigrated to Norway. Now it is the second or third generation growing up here.

When I tried to find the same numbers for India or Mumbai I only ended up with this paper about taxation from PwC. Surely something that should interest me, but not really what I was looking for.

One funny anecdote to wrap up this post; When I left India, I got an Indian national cricket team T-shirt from some friends (actually, I got two). When I went to the local grocery shop a few days ago I for some reason was wearing this shirt. Two of the people working in the shop (of the total three I think) were actually from India. They both came over to me and asked where I had got this shirt from. I guess it was the first time they had ever seen a Norwegian in an Indian cricket shirt. On the way home I was stopped by an elder man. “This was a nice sight” he said (in Norwegian). It turned out that he was from Mumbai and had been living in Norway from more than 20 years! He was quite surprised to learn that I actually currently live in Mumbai.

 Talk to you soon!



5 thoughts on “Multicultural Norway

  1. Hi Karsten,

    I follow your blog, and like reading up from the perspective of a Norwegian – someone from a country that follows a very different economic model from mine, has widely different demographic, and also climate! 🙂 I wish to offer some insight on this post.

    It would be a helpful metaphor to see India as a continent, and not a country. Before India was partitioned into secular India, Islamic West Pakistan (now Pakistan) and East Pakistan (now Bangladesh), the country was bigger than the European continent. But it is a continent in more than just in terms of area. Indians speak more languages than Europeans do. The EU uses 24 languages for official work, India uses 18 – which is way higher than you expect a single country to be using. Cultural diversity in India is so immense that while the majority of cultures are patriarchal, there are even significant matriarchal cultures. For an Indian, it’s easy to guess what part of the country another Indian is from – what culture they come from, what language they speak, and even ethnic differences are obvious sometimes. Just as it will be easy for you to differentiate between a Swede and a Pole and a German – although it will be hard for an Indian to guess that with any certainty.

    A sizable chunk of Mumbai’s population are immigrants. Those who live in slums are almost all immigrants (which is why they live in shanties). True, they are Indian citizens, but try thinking for a moment that they are immigrants from a north Indian nation to a west Indian nation. It’s not my intention to justify any discrimination or anything like that, but living in India is, in many ways (culturally), like living in the European Union. Some Indian states are wealthy, and some are poor, just as, say, Germany is wealthy but he Czech republic is not. So people from poor Indian states migrate to wealthy Indian states, just as East Europeans migrate to west European and Nordic countries.

    • Thanks a lot for your feedback Anupam!

      I totally agree with your comment that India is more like a continent than a country. And with many more people than in the whole Europe! It is just striking for me, as a Norwegian, that it seems like the diversity, in terms of people from different nations, is bigger in Oslo than in Mumbai. When it comes to diversity in terms of cultures and maybe even languages, I surely understand that Mumbai is bigger than Oslo.


      • Hi Karsten,

        For some reason, I never received a notification that you had replied; perhaps logging in with my Facebook account would be a better idea. I’m sure that part of the reason why Oslo has a greater diversity of people than Mumbai is that Norway is a developed country, and I’m sure you’d agree that people from across the world flock to major cities in developed countries in search of what they think would be a better life.

        However, try and imagine India as a union of different countries, rather than one country with a number of states. It is a fair comparison, considering that each state speaks a different language, dresses differently (in non-urban areas) and often follows a different religious sect. In terms of area, some states are bigger than many countries. Maharashtra is only slightly smaller than Norway is. Irrespective of what Indians assert in their best patriotic rhetoric, India is not ‘one country’, it is a conglomeration of ‘different countries’ with often-clashing interests. Anyone who genuinely believes this has not traveled enough. Even the laws and regulations differ, not only from state to state, but even across religions. I do not see that as something bad or foreboding.

        So what I was trying to point out was that major Indian cities are very diverse in terms of ethnicity and culture. It’s probably not apparent to someone who hasn’t lived here for a while, since they all look South Asian. Irrespective of major cultural differences, Indians face no trouble living in another part of the country in terms of passports or visas (except for Jammu and Kashmir, where ‘other’ Indians cannot buy property or start businesses). Try and look at it this way: if someone like me moved to Los Angeles, I won’t really be able to tell the difference between a Polish and a German resident. They would all look like ‘Americans’ to me. But all major American cities are incredibly diverse. In that respect, a city like Mumbai probably has as much diversity as any other in the world.

      • Thanks for your new comment Anupam!

        I surely agree with a lot of what you say regarding India being a number of different countries within, just that I as a foreinger are not really able to see it. The current riots in Assam, in which I plan to make a post about soon, probably highlights this.


  2. Hei Karsten

    Det du gjør er ærverdig, men det er fortsatt folk her i landet som har tro på slik og er mot multikulturalisme.
    Finnes slike websider og holdninger mot de vestlige i India?



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