The Great Norwegian Adventure

Ever since ¼ of the Norwegian population immigrated to the US, in search of the American Dream, there`s been traces of Norwegian culture in the US. The Norwegian-Americans created these “Norwegian”-towns, with Norwegian food, traditions, and churches and even newspapers.

Today, there aren’t much left of this old Norwegian-American culture, but there are still old communities that have kept their traditions alive from their ancestors. There`s a town called Poulsbo, Washington, which is filled with Viking helmets, flags, Nisser and paintings of fjords. In Brooklyn, NY, you can find a shop filled with Norwegian food items, which also serves Norwegian meals, and when you open the door a smell of Norwegian waffles lingers in the air.


Understandably, many descendants from Norway are interested in knowing about their roots, but what you might not know is that we here in Norway are just as interested in this culture as well. Considering the amount of people who left this country of ours, and how there´s not more than about 5 million people in Norway, and there is an equal amount of N-A descendants, I guess you can understand that the saying “everyone has a relative in America” is not an understatement!

A couple of years ago, this new reality show was broadcasted on Norwegian television; called the Great Norwegian Adventure. Or “Alt for Norge” as well call it. (Literally means, everything for Norway).  It’s a competition where Norwegian-Americans compete about Norwegian culture, both traditional and modern, in order to win $50K and meet their Norwegian relatives. The show is quite hilarious, especially when you consider that most of the Norwegian traditions these people know about are up to 150-200 old, and well, let`s just say that Norway has changed since the 1850s!

So I really wanted to show you guys some highlights of the show (and relax, it`s all in English, except for a short intro in Norwegian). This clip shows a contestant who learns where her family was from, and then it turns out that her ancestor was the inspiration for one of Norway`s traditional dresses, a Bunad! (This is a MAJOR thing in Norway)

In Today`s world, we emigrate and immigrate, move here and move there, cross continents and what not`s. So if you come from a diverse background, I`d love to hear about it!  Do you know where your  ancestors were from? Have you kept any special traditions?


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31 thoughts on “The Great Norwegian Adventure

  1. I’m Israeli, and our ancestry is always terribly complex – My grandparents on one side are from England, but if you go further back, my grandma’s family was French and my grandpa’s was half German – half Polish. My grandparents from the other side are from Romania and Russia.
    Israeli people are all such a mix. You also get interesting combinations, such as – half Danish and half Morrocan, or half Polish and half Iraqi.

    • Israeli? How great! I`ve always been very interested in Israel, as I find it such an interesting and complex country! My cousin actually lives in Haifa and is married with an Israeli woman, and they`ve got two kids, so they`re an interesting mix of Norwegian-Israeli. I can understand the complicated ancestry, weren`t there millions of jews from all over the world making aliyah after Israel as a state was established?
      I really hope that I get the chance to visit Israel someday, it`s something I`ve always dreamt of!!

  2. This show sounds really cool! I love the idea behind it! I love how emotional the girl gets when she learns about her family. I was the same way when I learned more about my ancestory. It’s so cool to learn where we come from. My husband’s father is Italian and his mother is German (though her family had been in the United States for a couple of generations). We celebrate the Italian traditions more than anything else. My family is from the British Isles. Mostly Wales, Ireland, Scotland and Britain. We aren’t great about celebrating my heritage and traditions, but we are trying to be better about it. 🙂 We are good about celebrating Chinese traditions since that’s where I spent my teen years and considered “home”. 🙂

    • It is, can be both emotional and hilarious! I guess there are certain countries traditions that survives more, especially when it differs from the general American one. I think it`s great that you`re trying out British traditions! I`m such a closet-british, I absolutely adore victorian literature, English/Irish breakfast tea, scones, Fish&Chips and so on. How cool that you`ve kept the chinese traditions alive since you got back to the states!

  3. I wonder how many times that girl had to practice saying those names for the real take on camera. lol! I lived in an area of Seattle called Ballard which was had a strong Scandinavian presence. I’m half Hungarian and knew more about my relatives from that side of my family than the other side, which had a mixture of European-ness. I do want to go to Hungary someday to see what it’s like there. There is a show here called Who Do You Think You Are which follows celebrities as they search for their ancestors. It’s really interesting!

    • hahaha, yea I think that must have quite difficult to pronounce! How exciting, Hungary huh? You should definitely go visit one day. I`ve heard Budapest is supposed to be a very interesting old city! We actually have that same tv show over here, but with Norwegian celebrities.

  4. Looks like a fun show! This is the same with Canadian French, they haven’t evolved the same way French did so they speak differently, have different traditions… even though we all started from the same root.

    • It is! I can see that! I`ve heard about Norwegians visiting Norwegian-American communities, and then N-A`s were talking what they thought was Norwegian, but the modern Norwegian speaker couldn`t understand half of it! So big were the language differences after 150 years, being under different influences.

  5. The state of Minnesota, in the US, has a NFL team named Vikings! I’m an Indian (from the country) living in Minnesota for the past 6 years. There is a lot of Scandinavian influence on the culture in Minnesota. Have you had lutefisk? I haven’t (yet, though plan on some day!) but a friend of mine (another Indian) had it and liked it. Lutefisk’s reputation (generally negative) precedes itself.

  6. I’d like to comment a little more about the neighborhood you mentioned in your post in Brooklyn.

    The area of Brooklyn you are talking about is Bay Ridge. There used to be a large Norwegian population there. Most of the population moved—many to Minnesota, I believe—but there are a few remnants here. We still have a yearly Norwegian Day Parade, a Miss Norway (she only has to be 1/4th Norwegian, since there really aren’t too many Norwegians around here anymore), the Nordic Deli (as you mentioned) and a Viking Fest in a local park.

    I’m only 1/4th Norwegian but I don’t run into too many people of Norwegian descent here—before I was married, I had a very Scandinavian name. That being said, my “cultural roots” have been pretty watered down. No traditions. Nothing.

    • ah, yes, I watched this documentary about the Brooklyn area, that`s were I learned about the Deli. I think it´s so fun that you celebrate 17th of May! How sad that you don`t have any traditions, especially when your last name was such a Scandinavian name! But, it`s never to late to learn some new one! 🙂

  7. How interesting! Through hosting couchsurfers we’ve learned really interesting things, like about the high proportion of Japanese and even Europeans in Brazil, for example.

    My family are first generation immigrants to NZ, and my partner’s family has been here for a few generations (Irish).

    • It`s interesting how the most random places in the world can have high proportions of certain Europeans, and vice versa. I guess we can`t complain to much about immigration today, as many of our ancestors did the same thing hundreds of years ago too!
      I guess NZ must be a very diverse country, with so many different backgrounds from all over the world!

  8. This was such a fun read! I don’t know many people that have families overseas, but I am always interested in people who have immigrated to the U.S. and what they think of it here!

  9. Pingback: Preparing for St.Patrick & Saturday Link | Memoirs of The Norwegian Girl

  10. My background is Irish, Scotch and English. Mostly Irish though – there are still a lot gingers in the family! My family were some of the first settlers in our little corner of the world and quite often I think that they must have been made of tough stuff to carve out a farm and raise a family in a place very different from their previous homes in Tipperary.

  11. I’m one of those Norwegian-Americans that is only a half-bred… from a family that stems from over a hundred years ago now after migration. My father’s side of the family is all of Norwegian descent (though our last name was changed by a great grandfather) and since I grew up on the Minnesota/Wisconsin border, there were always staples during the holidays. Many items are probably unknown to present-day Norwegians or were modifications due to what was available here: Lefse (#1 by far), krumkake, rosettes, sanbakkels, potato klub (not so much for holidays), and a few other things… Every year there seems to be less on the table of those foods and goodies. I’m in my 30s, so I will keep those traditions alive, but language-wise, it is gone and that makes me sad since I actually am a Spanish teacher and know French (Quebec) and Spanish, but not the language of my ancestors… Maybe someday. I recently had friends from Russian and Spain visit a family gathering and they felt as though it was a USA that they had never seen before (after being here for 10 years plus). I was happy for them to see a glimpse of a big & traditional family. I’m anxious to go to Norway one day– once I save enough money as I have heard it is EXPENSIVE (but worth it!).

    • are you kidding?:-) those are definitely NOT unknown staples! Lefser is a very common thing to eat in Norway, served both during the holidays and in a everyday setting. Krumkaker is served during Christmas, it`s my favourite!! sandbakkels are also very common during christmas! Potato klub is very common in the western parts of Norway!
      I`m glad you`re interested in keeping the traditions alive! You should definitely come visit Norway one day:-) It`s quite expensive, but there are always ways of cutting down the cost! I`d say it`s definitely worth it! Especially when you`re a Norwegian-American! 🙂

  12. Well, you know where many of my relatives are from, NG. 🙂 Through you, and through my grandmother before she passed at 92, we got to hear all kinds of stories of lefse and smur and bur (sp?). So glad to have this site to learn more about where we’re from!

  13. Heisann! I am 100% Norwegian and speak the language, but I’ll keep it in English so everybody can understand:). I was born in Narvik, in the north of Norway, and moved to Minnesota when I was 21 to work as an au pair. Then I met my husband and the rest is history! We have 2 boys now ( 7 and 10), and I take them to Norway every summer to visit our family there. I also speak Norwegian to them all the time to make sure they at least can understand it, though they tend to answer me in English, I’m still working on that 🙂 I hope they will pass it on to their kids someday. I have not had a chance to watch this show yet, do they show it on any American tv-channels? I would think they would. There is a girl competing this year (Liv Bly) who’s ancestors came from Narvik where I am from, my mom even told me they had the same last name as some of my grandparents! Maybe we are related? I am working on getting my husband on board with the idea of spending a few years in Norway, I think he is starting to come around – wish me luck! Glad I found your site:)

    • heisann! Så hyggelig å få kommentar fra en nordlending;-) Jeg er opprinnelig fra Harstad selv!! Jeg har forresten flyttet bloggen min til, hvor jeg har blogget noen måneder nå, så det er bare å sjekke ut bloggen der, hvor jeg skriver aktivt!
      Første episode av årets sesong av Alt for Norge har allerede blitt sendt på tv.. men vet ikke om det sendes på Amerikansk tv:-/
      Håper å se deg i kommentarfeltet på den nye bloggen min!:-) Hadde vært supert!

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