Cultural Variations: An Interview With A Norwegian American


The population inhabiting the United States is unique as it includes people of various cultures, ethnicities, and experiences. This essay involves the information gathered from an interview with a person living in the US but ethnically from a different culture. It seemed extremely fascinating to get to know a Norwegian American better. This ethnic group is not so frequently met among other culturally diverse groups. Monica Peterson is originally from Norway, its northern part. Her grandmother moved to the US at the beginning of the 20th century to find better employment and simply for a new life. Monica said that many Norwegians were moving to the US back then, as Norway was remaining a developing country with agriculture as a major type of occupation. I interviewed Monica about major aspects of her culture and was surprised to know some facts.


Norway, like any other country, has various ethnicities: ethnic Norwegians, Sami, Swedish, Finnish, and foreign people that have recently moved to the country. The latter include Somalis, Turks, Iraqis, Russians, Vietnamese, Bosnians, and many others. Despite the variety, Monica said that Norway is not so welcoming to many foreigners, and it is extremely hard to get into the country for work and a permanent living. Monica is ethnic Norwegian, but she does not exclude the mixtures of other nationalities in her genes: Finnish, Swedish, and even Sami. The latter is the indigenous group inhabiting Scandinavian territories with diverse languages, customs, and appearances (Hämäläinen et al., 2018). Norway tries to consider the rights of Sami but, as it always occurs with minorities, there are ways to improve their rights and privileges. Norwegian culture reflects the style the Vikings lived as they were fighters, travelers, and inhabited barren land.


Monica said that, in Norway, people speak a very different language even though it is considered one. Various locations have diverse dialects, and it might even happen that people of one county cannot understand each other. This is because the Norwegian language has a long history of transformation. The country was a part of Denmark from 1397 until 1814, and during that time, the Norwegian language was replaced. After that, from 1814 to 1905, Norway was in union with Sweden. During these harsh times, the population has almost lost its native language whilst being a part of the other states.

However, there is always hope, and, at the end of the 19th century, nationalistic movements started developing new written Norwegian from zero. Ivar Aasen and Knud Knudsen started developing Norwegian in different ways called Nynorsk (translated as new Norwegian) and Bokmål (book language) respectively. Until modern days, people speak either Nynorsk or Bokmål, and every Norwegian learns both languages at school. Monica said she did not know the language, but her grandmother spoke it. She plans to learn it to become closer to her ancestors.


Foods in Norway originally were cheap and simple as it was a part of the Viking culture and their way of lifestyle. Vikings were travelers and fighters and were good at fishing and hunting. Traditional dishes include cabbage, lamb, sheep, various type of fish (mostly cod), and pork ribs. One of the bright examples that show the old times’ preferences well is the ship head that is grilled outside. Up-to-date Norwegians, according to Monica’s experience, find the dish not attractive at all. Monica also stated that, currently, Norwegians prefer foreign meals as they are richer in ingredients and taste. In families, it is usual to have the same food on special days of the week such as taco Fredag (taco Friday). Though, on Christmas Eve, Norwegians have traditional meals, such as ribbed (translated as pork ribs). People inhabiting southern parts of Norway have ribbed every Christmas, whilst northern parts give their preferences to fish dishes.


Clothing in Norway does not differ much from European and American styles. Men and women wear official clothes at work, and casual on other occasions. However, on the 17th of May, Independence Day, people put on traditional rural clothes called bunad. Women have long dresses made of wool with metal buttons and jewelry. Monica said that every woman in Norway desires to have a bunad, and men are not so keen on wearing traditional clothes. As bunad is fully made by hand, the prices for traditional dresses raise every year. Depending on the origin of a person, bunad can be of various colors: green for the north, and red and blue for the south. There is also a committee that approves the bunads to be true. If I got it right, people that are not wealthy enough to buy a real bunad have to improvise and buy bunad-like dresses. They also look gorgeous but are not the same as traditional dresses and are not approved by the committee.


Marriages in Norway are mostly similar to the other parts of developed countries. People tend to marry late now, as is in the whole of Europe and the United States. Celebrations of weddings are very classic as all the men have to wear white shirts and full suits. Women wear long dresses; people do not drink or dance much. Semi-casual style is inappropriate at Norwegian weddings and is a feature of a rude tone. It is usual to bring gifts to the celebrations, for instance, some equipment for the kitchen or the home of a just married. Same-sex marriages are permitted in the country, and in recent times, the procedures are allowed in churches.


The holidays Norwegians celebrate are Christmas, New Year, Easter, and Independence Day. On Independence Day, apart from wearing bunad, children walk on the streets in every city, town, and village and sing songs. People stand from the sides and sing with them, supported by the words “Hip-hip hoorah.” After the children walk, citizens gather in the main square, eat hot dogs, waffles, and ice cream, talk, and go home. Another essential tradition Monica mentioned is a so-called confirmation which is a religious ritual brought with Christian culture close to baptism. However, if a person is an atheist, he can have the procedure held outside of the church. Confirmation usually happens at teenage age, around fourteen years old. During confirmation, the young Norwegian takes classes in ethics, religion, and social sciences.

Additional Research

Speaking more of traditional food, Monica mentioned brunost which is a special type of cheese produced in Scandinavian countries. Brunost is translated as brown cheese and is made of milk, cream, and milk whey that is cooked for a long time which makes it look brown and have a caramel taste. Brunost has various types that vary with a texture of a product and ingredients: cow milk and goat milk. Monica said the taste of this cheese is her favorite and is connected with the memories of her trip to the land of her ancestors. The picture of the brunost can be found in the appendix after the reference.


Thus, the interview with Monica disclosed Norway to me from a new perspective. I hope I could involve the reader of this essay in our fascinating talk as well. A modest Scandinavian country with picturesque views turned out to be full of mysteries, historical tackles, and fighting for saving their language. I hope to visit Norway one day, try brown cheese and ship heads, and talk to these people more about their culture.


Hämäläinen, S., Musial, F., Salamonsen, A., Graff, O., & Olsen, T. A. (2018). Sami yoik, Sami history, Sami health: A narrative review. International Journal of Circumpolar Health, 77(1), 1454784. Web.

Appendix A

Cultural Variations