5 Misconceptions About Norway


For more than a year ago I wrote a MyTake called "Norwegian Stereotypes" where I'm discussing misconception about Norway in a humorous way. I decided to make a part two with more serious topics and writing style. The reason I'm writing many MyTakes about Norway is because of curious people, in addition to show that media sometimes shows a false picture of how things really are. #Norway

5 Misconceptions About Norway

1. The child protection service kidnaps

Demonstration against
Demonstration against "Barnevernet"

One of Norway's biggest and most dangerous misconception is that the child protection service kidnaps children without any reasons. There's some stories about both immigrants and Norwegian citizens fearing the child protection service "Barnevernet" because of they're taking away their children, but it's not happening without a reason.

In Norway it's illegal to use physical punishments on children like beating and hitting because of several studies have shown the negative psychological impact it has on children and the Norwegian society doesn't want to allow parents to teach their children violence is okay. The law is trying to protect vulnerable children from abuse and reducing the amount of people turning to violent crimes. In addition parents who are either drug addicts, sexually abuse, are bullying their children or telling them they hate them frequently also gets their children taken away. Often the parents gets warning multiple times they've to change themselves before the child service takes away their children, so it's not something that's suddenly happening. Exceptions are rare and is usually happening in violent cases.

Hitting children is illegal in Norway
Hitting children is illegal in Norway

A case can last months or even years before anything is happening. They're also discussed in the court. The cases were everything is fine doesn't get any media attention because of the readers aren't interested in that, therefor the news that tries to sell is writing about the few catastrophes. When rare cases gets a lot of attention, it seems like they're representing the majority. "Barnevernet" does mistakes, but not as often as people likes to believe.

When the child service first does mistakes, it may be not noticing children who lives in an abusive home and therefor not helping them, which happen more often than them wrongly taking away children. People working in school knows that and they've talked to me about it too. It didn't go wrong for Anders B. Breivik because of "Barnevernet" "kidnapped" any children, but because of nothing happen.

2. Always luxurious prisons

Halden prison cell
Halden prison cell

Often when foreign TV-channels shows Norwegian prisons they're showing the modern Bastøy and Halden prison. They're showing that inmates are allowed to go freely around big parts of the day, are allowed making their own food, watch TV, get a free education, work, have an own bathroom, nice interior and so on. Even Anders Behring Breivik, the man who killed 77 people are allowed three prison cells and won at one of several points in court when claiming the government violated the human rights. It's because of the Norwegian society believes in rehabilitation and human rights.

Ravneberg prison cell
Ravneberg prison cell

What the medias are showing is mostly true, but not always the case. The sides foreign media are rarely talking about is that not all prisoners have their own cells, an own bathroom, free access to entertainment and gets the same treatment.

In Norway there have been spent much less money on female inmates than male ones until recently. Ravneberg prison was an example on that. While the majority of men were allowed their own prison cells the last decade, four women had to share one cell which caused a lot of conflicts between the inmates and lack of privacy. After the politicians received a lot of complaints they finally built a new prison for women in Evjemoen that looks similar to the male prison Halden. In the documentary "Helene sjekker inn" a journalist visited Ravneberg and was one of the few documentaries showing female prisons in Norway. Norway has also had a long history of having too few female prisons meaning 4 out of 10 had to stay in male prisons in 2016 and some experienced sexual harassment.

Some inmates use a bucket because of there's no toilets
Some inmates use a bucket because of there's no toilets

Several prisons in East-Norway doesn't have toilets or sinks on the cells which mean the inmates have to ask the guards the permission to use the toilet according to the national broadcast NRK. The inmates may be locked in more than 10 hours per day, so some are using buckets and others have thrown their poop out of the window. In 2017 there were ca. 100 inmates without free access to toilet. Many had to wait several hours or a whole night before the guards could allow them going to the toilet and it's mandatory for the guards to hold the prisoners under supervision when outside of the cell. The European human rights have criticized Norway for that.

Solidarity confinement cell in Norway
Solidarity confinement cell in Norway

In addition UN has criticized Norway for using a lot of isolation. Mentally ill prisoners can stay in a small cell 23/7 and the isolation cells may look similar to these ones used in the US. Often they're not allowed visits, TV, writing letters, read books or draw. They're not allowed a job or education either. Suspected can stay in isolation for ca. 50 hours according to VG news before going to court and being sentenced. Electroshock weapons may also be used in Norway like in any other countries. So Norwegian prisons are for the most time more "luxurious" and better than foreign prisoners, but not always.

3. Mentally ill are always treated well

One of the worst case scenario in Norway is being mentally ill and suicidal regardless of you're an inmate or a law-abiding citizen. If you've one of the most severe mental illnesses and are suicidal, you can be forced into an asylum and in theory being locked in for life and stay on isolation against your will. It's not happening often since most illnesses are treatable, but it has happen sometimes. So even in one of the world's richest countries with an universal healthcare being cured isn't an guarantee.

The European human rights has criticized Gaustad hospital
The European human rights has criticized Gaustad hospital

The more suicidal a patient is, the stricter conditions they've to live under and the less freedom they gets. A woman in her 30s diagnosed with ASD and anorexia spent more than a decade in and out of institutions without signs of betterment and didn't want treatment. She eventually became so suicidal that in 2014 she had to be monitored 24/7 by the staff and were rarely allowed going outside of the building according to VG News. They had to force feed her, help her going to the bathroom etc., in addition to she had to be restrained to a bed or chair several hours per days because of frequent self-harm. They had to save her multiple times to avoid death. She lost in court when suing the state and weren't allowed more freedom. There's laws saying that saving lives in institutions are important, so the law gets interpreted as saving lives at all costs. The European human rights criticized Norway for this and said cases like this in Europe is extremely rare after WWII. There hasn't been any updates lately, but most likely she's still locked in the hospital.

5 Misconceptions About Norway

Ca. 500 - 600 people commits suicide per year in Norway and two of three are men, according to FHI (Norwegian institute of public health). The number is similar to rest of Europe, North-America and Australia.

4. Always clean water

Always having clean water is another common misconception about Norway. In 2019 people had to boil their water in small periods in 62 municipalities to avoid getting sick. In 2004 Bergen had Giardia in the water that made 4000 - 6000 people sick. 43 % had irritated bowl syndrome 10 years after the incident, while 26 % had fatigue syndrome after 10 years. In June 2019 Askøy had campylobacter and e-coli in their drinking water. 10 000 - 15 000 residents were affected and 2000 were sick. Two people; a woman in her 70s and an one year old child most likely died because of the water, but had other illnesses before the incident too.

From a Norwegian pumping station
From a Norwegian pumping station

Now the water has been cleaned with chlorine, but residents are still unhappy about the quality. The municipality is poor, so economy gets discussed a lot. The government isn't supposed to give more economical support because of the municipality are supposed to take care of themselves many politicians thinks. (Sources: NRK, BA, BT, TV2, Aftenposten, Forskning and UNI)

5. Freedom speech like in the US

Norway has freedom speech, but not like in the US and has a stricter hate speech law. It may share some similarities to that one in the UK. In Norway spreading and encouraging hate, insulting people based on the groups they belongs to and talking negatively about groups are punishable if it's based on race, ethnicity, nationality, sexuality, religion and disability according to law § 185. Hate speech based on gender, age, profession, political views and social status may also be punishable under the law § 266, according to politiet.no - the police's homepage. Hate speech that's not violent or are encouraging violence is also punishable.

The Vigrid-leader who was sentenced to 45 days probation
The Vigrid-leader who was sentenced to 45 days probation

A man was sentenced to pay ca. 1 666 $ and 18 days probation for mocking the Sami-people, an indigenous group in Norway, on Facebook. He said they belonged in the nature, wore clown suits and smelled like charcoal lighter fluid according to Dagbladet. The Sami people had experienced forced assimilation, their children being taken away and forced into school camps in the 1800s, therefor they gets much protection today.

Translation of his comment
Translation of his comment

Vigrid-leader Tore Tvedt had been sentenced to 45 days probation in 2008 for sharing his Nazi-opinions to the public where he had talked negatively about minorities. In 2019 some people advocated for sentencing him to 60 days probation, paying a 1 111 $ fine and that his PC gets confiscated according to ABC nyheter. He had called a minority for "parasites" and "reptiles". In addition he sent emails to headmasters saying they should teach the pupils his ideology. In 2003 he called the minority for "evil murderers" and "parasites that had to be cleansed".

5 Misconceptions About Norway
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  • A-man-22
    Norway is hit and miss for me.

    On one side you have that they actively try to rehabilitate some prisoners, rather than locking them up to rot and the culture is really nice.

    But on the other it lacks what I would call , freedom of speech. I agree hateful acts are bad but having a negative opinion isn't worthy of a fine. If you don't agree with what to government says you get punished. Not all governments are like that.

    I want to ask you something about Norway. I saw you said it was one of the most equal countries in the world.

    Has it phased out most old traditions that would be considered sexist in modern times?

    Like men having to pay on dates or women always being seen as the better parent?

    Is this still revelant?
    • It's most common for both men and women to split the bill on a date. Norway is more gender equal than many other countries, but it's not 100% equal. There's more women in some professions and men in others although both are allowed the same jobs.

    • A-man-22

      I'm glad you said that.
      People often focus on the bad.
      It's these small positives that I don't see enough of in Britain.

  • AkshiJanjua
    At least 5 cases has occurred in past 5 years where Indian parents had there child taken away in Norway and they asked for help by Indian government

    One was so absurd that they accused parents of making the child sleep in their bed who was like 1 year old but it's quite common in India for children to sleep with their parents when they are small

    One couple was even jailed, and mother accused Norwegian authorities of feeding their child bread and porridge when he was fond of Indian food
    We don't have foster homes in India so parents were heartbroken because their child was made to live with foster parents
    Like 1 Person
    Is this still revelant?
    • I've never heard about these cases before. The only thing I know is that in the majority of the cases the children are taken away because of spanking. Spanking is seen as the same category as hitting, kicking and beating. Drug cases are also often involved.

    • search indian kids in Norway on Google i am astonished you don't know about it i think they don't talk about that in Norway

Most Helpful Girl

  • vvaleria
    What the media tell about Barnevernet may not be true. However, what I do not like is for it to push its ideas and perception of a "good" system on other countries (such as mine). What is in Norway, needs to stay there. Also, I have never believed that slapping negatively affects the psychology of the child. Constant abuse - yes, but not slapping. My parents have slapped from time to time and I am grateful for that. I also have a friend who used to be hit with a belt (slightly not harshly). But she is not mentally hurt and there is nothing wrong with her.
    Is this still revelant?
    • I don't support hitting children, but it's true there's no guarantee the child would be harmed in the same way there's no guarantee to get cancer when smoking or die when driving too fast. I think instead of other countries forcing things on a country, I think the people within the countries voting for an idea is more effective. People within the country has to do something in a democratic way.

    • The key word is "believe". There's been studies that clearly show that it's affecting children negatively...

    • @GreenPenguin And the fact that situations affect people differently anyway, what can negatively affect one may not negatively affect another... but it's better to have the law implemented to protect those who would be negatively affected.

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What Girls & Guys Said

  • shimmeryns
    Interesting read!
  • purplepoppy
    The Scandinavian countries always seem more advanced yet some how forgotten about.
    LikeDisagree 13 People
    • That's true. There's always several sides and nuances from the same case.

    • This comment is really underrated! I would say that the Scandinavian countries are some of the best in the world

    • Pulimuli

      @jonatan2000 as a scandinavian i have to agree

  • humanearth
    Thats not freedom of speech. That sounds like a communist county.

    You can't spank your own kids. Spanking is not abuse. Whipping with cords and beating is though.

    Norway sounds like a communist or at the very least a socialist country. Don't sound very free to me.
    Like 1 Person
    • It's a social-democracy meaning they've mixed-economy (combination between regulated and free marked), not everyone have exact equal amount of wealth and they've a welfare system with universal healthcare and education funded by the taxpayers. In addition they've taxes on cheese and other foreign products.

      The benefits living in Norway is that you get access to healthcare and education although you're poor. The disadvantage is restriction in freedom speech and that none-criminals can be forced into asylums for life if mentally ill.

    • humanearth

      Yeah that dont sound like a place for me.

  • Sophie_2301
    Wow, this was really interesting. Never really knew much about Norway and I’ve never actually heard of any of these stereotypes. The only stereotypes I’ve heard about Norway (not sure whether they’re true or not) is that it’s freezing cold, that it’s quite a progressive country, and that most people are tall with blonde hair and blue eyes lol.
  • normalice
    The only impression I get from Norwegians is that they know nothing about how parasitic conservativism is in the U. S. but seem to equate it to conservativism on their side of the pond and defend it, for some reason.
    Disagree 3 People
  • CocoBat
    Oooh prisons... now... you know where there are some WAAAAY TOO luxury prisons? The Netherlands, I mean, guys had a damn playstation, wouldn't say that's very luxury since playstation sucks... but they also had computers
    • zagor

      I wonder if they are given a choice of their gaming platform...

  • PrettyRegular
    It probably has the same problems as Finland. Disgusting amount of socialism, extreme taxes (part of the extreme socialism), too cold climate and not too rich culture either. I don't like Nordic countries that much. I'm probably gonna move away later.
  • esotericstory
    Scandinavia is not a place where I would want to live. Its nature is nice but not the societies.
    Disagree 2 People
    • What do you dislike mostly about Scandinavia and it's society/culture/politics?

    • Really, the society is bad? What parts of it?

    • @GreenPenguin It seems so hard for me. The people show little affection.

    • Show All
  • ArrowheadSW
    How does all of this compare to Sweden? Just curious.
  • Bismarck_96
    Well free speech ain’t that free in the us cops will still beat the shot out of you and yell “quit resisting” while asking them “why am I being detained “

  • Waffles731
    Most Scandinavians I've met IRL were massive Racists
    Like 2 People
  • AircraftCarrier
    Doesn't Norway also has a cruel tax system that hinders new businesses being made?
    • The regular tax system isn't cruel and is beneficial so the general population gets a good access to education and healthcare. The taxes on foreign products like cheese, sugar etc. are expensive making the price on the products very high, but it's necessary to avoid Norwegian farmers to go bankrupt. If everyone import and buy food from other countries, there won't be much food production inside the country.

  • megaman242
    I would prefer to live in a country that have the systems like Norway then any other countries out there.
    • Jersey2

      Move to Sweden then as an undocumented immigrant. Buh-Bye.

    • megaman242

      Sweden have lot of the same as Norway. But Sweden have done several mistakes. One is how they have treated the immigration situation. Norway have done it the right way and have no problems and they are happy.

  • zagor
    Yeah, wouldn't want to be accused of saying someone wore clown suits...
    • As long it's not based on ethnicity, race, religion, gender, nationality, sexuality or disability, or based on political views, social status, profession, age, living place and doesn't consist of violence, threats or anything like that it's not punishable.

  • vasilias
    Trust me on this. As beautiful as Norway is... It sucks.
    LikeDisagree 2 People
  • Clarke498
    Always love fellow Norwegians talking about Norway <3 great post.
  • Cuppo_Mode
    Wheres Souway?
  • SwordShield
    Like 1 Person
  • namelessyoungold
    The first thing is great!
  • Aiko_E_Lara
    Fus ro dah
  • Show More (6)