Perhaps you already had a sniff of what is about to come; but ‘Shirin’ is not a typical Norwegian name, nor does my traits fit the stereotypical description of a Norwegian. Nonetheless, I am in fact Norwegian!
Picture: Norwegian Bunad - Traditional National Clothing. Norway' 16
Half-blooded, if you must get into details. My father is Kurdish,. Now, before you ask, no - I do not speak the language; no - I do not share the culture or its traditions; yes - I have met my Kurdish family; yes - I am aware of their long history and battle for independence and for a country to call their own. Like I said, my father is Kurdish; I am Norwegian, and that is the ethnicity and nationality that I identify with.
My look is ambiguous. Wherever I am in the world, people will believe I am one of them; if I’m in India - I’m Indian, when in Argentina - I was Argentine, and in France I’m French. When in Nepal, I even managed to sneak into temples reserved for locals only, so yes, it can definitely work in my favor.
Picture: Indian Saree - Traditional Indian Clothing. India'17
Anyhow, when people ask me where I’m from, I’ll answer Norway and they’ll say; oh, nice to meet ya! A small portion of people might also say “I thought Norwegians was all blonde and blue-eyed”. Clearly not I’ll answer, and they’ll give me the nod of approval. However in Norway, even though I speak the language, - dialect, accent, both of our officially recognized languages - they are still in complete disbelief! Strangers will come up to me and ask, where are you from? Norway, I’ll respond. “No, I mean, where are you really-reeaally from?” and then they start scrutinizing. From that point onwards, the conversations tends to move in the direction of my family tree. In the scenarios where I do say my FATHER is Kurdish, they’ll put up a smug face and state victoriously “I knew it!”. Perhaps even add a side-comment saying “I used to work with this guy, who had an aunt that was neighbor to a Kurdish couple named Firat and Fatma - do you know them? … “Oh, and are you muslim?” And just like that, I have become Kurdish, I am no longer Norwegian, and I’m essentially robbed of the only ethnicity I have.
Dramatic you might say? But nuh-uh. I can’t change my heritage! I can only relate to my environment and experiences. Growing up, there was very little focus on this as my father has lived his entire adult life in Norway. Also he considered himself Norwegian, or a hybrid at best. The dual-identity argument that exist with many 2nd generation immigrants, they get from their culture at home, and the culture that exist outside their front door. My culture however, was the same both inside and outside.
You must understand, the interaction I summarized earlier is almost a daily occurence. I have come to realize that it is indeed geographic default, had I lived in Oslo, things would have been different. But I still don’t understand why my traits are in focus. Lately, I have started to question people who question me; what was it that made them ask about my origin. I am clearly speaking the language, I know the culture just as well as you, - and perhaps even better as I’m being contested on it all the time. What is it about my look that triggers you to question my ethnicity three times in a row when I stubbornly and certainly uncomfortably keep stating that I am in fact Norwegian, in Norwegian tongue! Somebody answered that they were just trying to relate - use my look as an icebreaker. To which I responded: is it not more relatable that we are both Norwegian? I had another conversation as well, with a person that eventually ended up being my friend. I was drunk and he was drunk too, and he chose the wrong time and day to pop (what I will classify as) a loaded question. I spoke my mind, and very passionately too, as you do after a few drinks. At first he felt ashamed, thereafter he thanked me, in his words “for identifying a socially accepted and everyday prejudice he never even knew he had”. Just listen, “I’m Norwegian-on-repeat”, what does any of us gain from pulling that into question?
I have another drunk-anecdote that needs a mention; somebody asked me where I was from and was clearly unhappy with my answer, the person got persistent, and it got uncomfortable. Then my friend got involved and said: Hey you! Why’s nobody asking ME where I AM from? ‘Cause, I’m Russian!
My point being, by giving me a label I’m not simply introduced to a new category of people, I’ve simultaneously been exited out from the group where I feel like I belong. Excluded. I don’t mind people asking, but why be so persistent about it. It's uncomfortable! It makes me feel small, uncertain and on a bad day I start questioning it too. That’s painful. Now, what’s about the notion of there only being “one type” of Norwegian. Come on. Include me! Its a humble request - All I’m looking for are my peers’ accept!
Picture: Overlooking Lysefjorden, Norway'17
Note...This rant was never about me resisting my cultural heritage, I’m more than happy to share what I know. This is about being judged by my external factors only, thus, addressing the semi-racism that exist in our everyday lives. Even more so, had I been Black or Asian then I probably would have been judged without any questions asked, which I’m sure is far worse. Also, its not an issue in the sense that I get treated any different to other people, its really just a matter of being addressed differently, which I suppose relates to the blurry, subtle forms of discrimination. I certainly can’t speak for everyone, but these remarks make me feel like I’ve been born with an ethnicity that I’m not fully entitled to own. Yet, my cultural identity will remain unchanged regardless of these comments. I will continue to like skiing; fjords; brown cheese; aquavit, and I absolutely love my Bunad. After all, I am Norwegian.
Picture: 8th of March, Argentina'18