Norwegian | South African
I identify as a mixed-race Norwegian and South African.
My Mum is from Oslo, Norway and my Dad is from Durban, South Africa. My Dad is fifth-generation Indian-South African, so genetically I’m half Norwegian, half Indian-South African. They met in Johannesburg, South Africa.
I grew up in Oslo, but my dad and that side of the family have been in Johannesburg throughout my upbringing, so I always travelled back and forth during holidays. I am very fortunate to have travelled back and forth between the Norway and South Africa as much as I have. I also went to pre-school there and lived there for a short period during High School. When I was 19 I moved to Manchester for my bachelor’s degree, and now I currently live in London studying for my master’s degree.
I can’t remember a specific moment of when I first recognised I was mixed-race. I knew I looked different from my Norwegian family, but it was a part of my reality so for me it was completely normal and not something I reflected upon much. However, during primary school, some school kids teased me about being and looking different, which I guess is when I first recognised myself as being mixed-race. I also remember reflecting quite a lot about it during high school, because I was afraid people would perceive me as being different. I think that’s quite normal, because all you want to do in high school is fit in, and I automatically stood out, as there as there wasn’t much diversity at my school.
I think it’s easy to feel different and perhaps excluded because people might perceive you in a different way. Growing up, it can be quite difficult to figure out how to identify yourself, when your identity is different to those around you and when you’re constantly questioned on where you are from. Overall, I think I have had a very positive experience being mixed-race, which I know isn’t the case for everyone. My impression is that most people are genuinely curious to hear about where I am from. When I was younger, I used to find it annoying because I didn’t understand why people couldn’t just accept me as being Norwegian, always asking ‘no, where are you really from?’ and ‘where are you parents from?’. I think people have gotten increasingly better in knowing how to raise these questions and how to frame these types of conversations.
I think being mixed-race has made me extremely open-minded and accepting of other cultures and opinions, and I seek friends to have those same qualities as well. I love meeting new people with different stories and backgrounds. In the more recent years, I have increasingly appreciated having a diverse group of friends, with different ethnic backgrounds, from which I can learn and share experiences with.
I think the bias attitudes or stereotypes towards mixed-race people might be due to a lack of understanding. I find that people sometimes object to the concept of being from two or several cultures. I remember in primary school in Oslo a teacher told me that I had to choose between Norway and South Africa, because it was impossible for me to be from both. Implying that somehow someone can only identify as being a part of one culture, or that by being a part of two or several cultures somehow made me an ‘incomplete’ Norwegian.
I speak both English and Norwegian fluently, but none of the other South African languages. I don’t have much of a South African accent though, which also sparks a bit of curiosity when I’m there. I think speaking Norwegian and English has helped me feel both Norwegian and South African, as well as helping other people accept me as being Norwegian and South African. Previously, when I have told people I’m from Norway it seems that many agree with it on the basis that I speak Norwegian fluently.
When people ask me where I am from, I usually say I’m from Oslo since that is where I grew up. If there are follow-up questions or if I wish to elaborate I usually also explain that I am mixed Norwegian, Indian-South African.
A positive thing about being mixed-race is that I get to experience so much by being part of two diverse cultures and countries. I think it ultimately has made me more open-minded and understanding of other cultures, as well as given me the opportunity to see more of the world. One negative experience is the perhaps the lack of a sense of belonging. Not fully knowing where I belong or if this is something to strive for. As I have gotten older, I have come to terms with the fact that identity can be more than just where you are from, and you can have a sense of belonging through other places and through people around you.
I think there as an increasing openness towards different racial backgrounds and uniqueness, which has overall affected my experience as being mixed-race. My impression is that most people find my background to be interesting and exciting, although I am fully aware that this is not the case for many other people, especially for those in previous years.
If I were to be born again, I would like to return as myself. I would not want to change anything about my racial background or my upbringing as it has ultimately shaped me to who I am today. I am so fortunate to have been able to see and experience so much of the world, and to have been exposed to so many open and generous people because of it.