Polish immigrants speak on life in Norway: Language, integration, and culture biggest challenges

Poland NorwayPhoto: Oleksandr Filon / Canva (one-design use license)
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The community of Polish immigrants living in Norway is sharing insights into their lives as part of Norway Today’s two-part series on the topic. Find part one here.

Intro: Statistics regarding immigrants in Norway

In 2020, 18.2% of Norway’s population is made up of immigrants and those born in Norway to immigrant parents. The largest immigrant community in the country are the Poles.

Around 790,500 immigrants live in this country, with just over 101,200 people from Poland. The next-largest immigrant groups are as follows: Lithuanians (40,600) Swedes (35,700), Syrians (32,000), and Somalians (28,500).

The main two reasons for immigration are labor and then family (beating out refuge and education by triple or more). 9.5% of immigrants in the labor force were registered as unemployed as of November 2020, while 5.3% of the total labor force in Norway was registered as unemployed in October 2020.

These are the most common jobs immigrants have in Norway: 25.1% are service and sales workers, 18% are professionals, 14.1% hold elementary occupations, and 12.6% are craft and trade-related workers. For comparison, these are the most common jobs of non-immigrants in Norway: 28.5% are professionals, 20.1% are service and sales workers, 17.2% are technicians and associate professionals, armed forces, and 10% are managers.

Finally, let’s summarize SSB’s findings on non-immigrant attitudes towards immigrants and immigration (between four options: “strongly agree”, “agree on the whole”, “disagree on the whole”, and “strongly disagree”). These are the highest percentage categories. 47% of Norwegians agree on the whole, and 31% strongly agree, that most immigrants make an important contribution to Norwegian working life. 38% agree on the whole, and 34% strongly agree, that most immigrants enrich the cultural life in Norway. 33% disagree on the whole, and 25% agree on the whole, that most immigrants are a cause of insecurity in society.

On the other hand, 46% voted “more difficult”, and 42% said “as today”, and 6% said “easier”  when asked “Attitudes towards refugees’ and asylum seekers’ access to residence permits in Norway. Compared to today, should it be easier, more difficult or remain the same as today?”.

Norway’s Polish community speaks on their struggles

We spoke to Anna Najderek, leader of the non-profit Polish-Norwegian Association, to hear about the challenges Polish immigrants face in Norway. We also spoke to Anna about their successes, which you can read about here.

Anna was kind enough to include more members of the Polish community in sharing information, asking for inputs from the Facebook group for Polish people living in Norway.

Here’s what the community had to say about facing challenges in Norway.

What are the three biggest challenges Poles in Norway face?

“The Norwegian language, integration, and understanding of the Norwegian culture. Norsk språk, integrering og forståelse av norskultur.”

Have you faced discrimination from the Norwegian government?

“As an Association, we have never been in contact with the Norwegian government, as we have not had a feeling of being discriminated.”

Have you faced discrimination from the Norwegian public?

“Discrimination is a difficult topic for any foreigner.

“If I were to say that neither I nor my Polish friends faced any discrimination in Norway – I would not be completely honest.

“I believe Norway is the same country as many others in a world where we have cases of discrimination.

“Of course, we cannot allow discrimination by society to hurt us and take away our desire to stay in a given country.”

What challenges do Poles in Norway face during COVID-19?

“First and foremost, it has been difficult to travel to our home country to visit family in Poland.

“That is a great loss.

“Unfortunately, many Poles also have fewer opportunities to work which, for some, has serious economic implications.

“There is still a considerable number of Polish breadwinners responsible for two families. One for themselves and one for their family in Poland.

“However, I believe that the greatest COVID-19 challenge is isolation from dear family members.”

Any tips for those coming to Norway?

“Oh, here there is much to say.

“My experience is that everybody that comes to Norway ought to know the law, read their employment contract carefully, and find an apartment before getting a job.

“Norway is not an ideal country. One can meet honest as well as dishonest people here.

“Norwegian society is friendly, kind and polite, but more distanced than the Polish.

“The life in Norway is mostly calm and without stress. The authorities take time, but some issues are not easily solved.

“I have learned in Norway TTT – it means that “things take time”.

“It is not useful to stress, but rather go with a smile to a meeting and repeat the question to the authorities; What is the status of my case?

“In Norway, one may earn much money, but one also pays high taxes.

“Renting an apartment and food are also rather expensive here.

“It means that before you arrive in Norway, do not think only about the level of your salary, but also the level of your costs of living.”

What do people in the Polish community miss most about living in Poland?

“After a number of talks with friends together with the responses from Poles in the Facebook group, Poles miss their family, friends, food, hospitality, openness and not the least making a visit to the neighbor next to you for a cup of coffee without any invitation.”

What are your least favorite things about living in Norway?

“Hahaha too many rainy days, too high taxes and bompenger [tolls]!

“Everything else is just perfect! ;-)”

Source: Norway Today

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