Carmel Stelzner: ‘Trump’s assertion that Norwegians would be desirable immigrants didn’t land as a huge complement here’
Reports of Donald Trump's damning comments last week, when he referred to Haiti, El Salvador and nations in Africa as "sh**hole countries", was met with the same disgust and disbelief here in Norway as elsewhere.
Having lived in Oslo for the last five years, I have seen first-hand how Norwegians have a pragmatic and just view of the world. Racism is not in their fabric, hence the disgust. The disbelief was because this was the president of the United States reportedly talking in such rancid, profane terms (which he has since denied).
When he added that he would like to see more migration to the US from countries like Norway, there was ample mirth piled on top of the disbelief.
The previous day, Trump had a successful meeting with Norwegian prime minister, Erna Solberg. Given his bizarre, call-to-action for Norwegian migrants, Solberg had clearly made a good impression. She even commented afterwards that Trump seemed like "an ordinary man with a sense of humour". Apparently, he was really on the charm offensive.
Many here have commented that Trump’s positive endorsement of Norwegians, and his invite of sorts to move there, may stem from the fact that Solberg represented a mainly white, wealthy, western nation that buys US military equipment, runs a healthy trade deficit with the US, and invests a large chunk of its trillion-dollar sovereign wealth fund in the US economy. Trump is a business man and let’s face it, business is good.
Any suggestion that immigrants from some countries have more value than others does not sit well with Norwegian values. Immigration into Norway has sharply reduced since a spike in 2015, a drop largely driven by the populist Progress Party currently in coalition with Solberg’s Conservatives. Norwegians are most worried about numbers of migrants, not where they come from. The biggest concern here is that migration is at a level where immigrants can be properly integrated, embrace Norwegian values and, of course, contribute to the economy.
Trump’s assertion that Norwegians would be desirable immigrants didn’t land as a huge complement here either. While many Norwegians spend a year or two studying in the US as part of their higher education, there is no great desire to relocate there permanently. Why would they, when they have one of the wealthiest nations in the world per capita, the world’s happiest people according to the UN’s World Happiness Report last year, not to mention affordable education, a great welfare system, and huts in the mountains?
While there may be a certain smugness that their little country is suddenly a world headline, you won’t hear any Norwegians bragging about it, as this would go against their social codes of humility, respect, and generally never, ever positioning themselves as better than anyone else.
Having lived in both Norway and the US, I think many Norwegians would struggle with some aspects of American life if they were to take the plunge and relocate. I lived in San Francisco and later Boston when working for Irish and British tech companies many years ago. I loved it there; as a talkative Irish person I really connected with the openness and friendliness, as well as the sense of possibility and optimism that came with hard work and a can-do attitude. But the US has a much wider gap between rich and poor than Norway, not to mention just two weeks annual leave versus five here, and as I remember it, a norm of working late with no paid overtime.
Trump may want immigrants from Norway, but they may not stick around for very long even if they did take the leap.
William Maher Lafferty: ‘The US is a nice place to visit, but not somewhere they would want to live’
The visit of a Norwegian prime minister to the White House is always a major event in Norway. Erna Solberg's visit last week was by far the most sensational of all post-war getogethers. Donald Trump's spontaneous embrace of Norway as both a great customer for military hardware, and a most favored nation for immigration and citizenship, has been largely rejected by Norwegians.
The general response seems to reflect the well-known adage of Groucho Marx: “I wouldn’t want to be a member of any club that wants me as a member”. In other words, “Thanks, but no thanks, Mr President”. From a Norwegian perspective, the US is a nice place to visit, but not somewhere they would want to live.
Norway does, however, love America as an ally, and is willing to use enormous amounts of the national fossil-fuel-based fortune to purchase American military equipment. But on the homefront, Norway is decidedly a "peace-and-reconciliation" land - a leading supporter of all things international and cooperative. It is also the home of the Nobel Peace Prize, with awards to the likes of Desmond Tutu, Martin Luther King, three women leaders from Liberia and Yemen, and of course Donald Trump's nemesis, Barack Obama.
In short, President Trump should not be misled by the buying power and diplomatic panache of Norway’s current prime minister. In-migrants from Norway to US would be Donald Trump’s worst nightmare - particularly the kids. They are schooled from Kindegarten up in the values of racial, gender and religious equality. They and their teachers would be appalled by Trump’s blatantly racist appeal on behalf of their country.
Norway was, of course, courted (and occupied) by the most blatant and ugly set of racists the world has ever seen - Nazi Germany. Trump's embrace of Norway as a people - for ostensibly the same reasons as Hitler - puts the lie to his denial of being a racist.
Racism is most clearly manifest when expressed spontaneously and trivially. An influx of Norwegian parents and children to the communities of Trump’s “base” would put quit to his racist shenanigans.
William Maher Lafferty is an Irish-American who has lived in Norway since 1968, holding both Irish and Norwegian passports. He is a retired university professor of political science and sociology.