Dutch people settle in rural Norway

By Marit Hosar

Whether people leave any traces behind them, both now and in history, depends largely on the sources that tell us about people or events. The past 20 years have seen an increase in migration from the Netherlands to Norway, and this raises a number of questions. Why do they come here? What is their reason for settling in rural Norway? Is this migration a new phenomenon or have Dutch people come to Norway before?

When the Maihaugen Section of the Oppland Archives (OAM) began to document recent migration to Oppland in 2007, there were two groups that stood out: Dutch people and Poles. Poles were the largest immigrant group and had clear economic reasons for migrating. Dutch people, however, did not primarily migrate because of financial problems or the need to find work. On the contrary, migration from the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany can be described as a desire to realise one’s dreams or to change one’s lifestyle. “Lifestyle immigration” and “green migration” are terms that are used.

Rural communities in Norway are experiencing a decline in population and have had a clear desire to turn this trend around. It has therefore been tempting to try to attract new immigrants, often from the EU/EEA.

Recruitment via Placement AS

A number of local and regional councils signed an agreement with the company Placement AS. Placement AS, run by Gert Rietman and Janet Roelofs, started migration projects throughout Norway in 2003. Gert Rietman has lived in Sunnmøre since 1997 and has built up unique expertise in recruitment and migration projects. Placement AS markets property and company information through newsletters and social media, and helps people to migrate from Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands to the whole of Scandinavia.

The peak year for migration from these countries was in 2007; in that year, 1000 Dutch people moved to Norway.
The Netherlands is one of the world’s most densely populated countries. Many migrants simply wanted more room and a calmer life with less stress and competition. Opportunities for outdoor life and giving the family a new experience of everyday life were mentioned as the main reasons for moving. While Poles and some other nationalities came as individual immigrants, it was mostly families who migrated from the Netherlands.

Several local councils in Gudbrandsdalen were interested in the recruitment of new residents from the Netherlands. In 2003-2005, Ringebu, Sør-Fron and Nord-Fron collaborated with Placement AS. The result was that 89 people moved to the region in this period, most of them to Ringebu. From 2006, Lom and Lesja collaborated with the recruitment firm, resulting in 29 people moving there. Some people later moved back to the Netherlands or to other places in Norway, but there are no complete statistics on this.

The local councils wanted recruitment from the Netherlands, as many of the migrants were well educated and could easily get to know the Norwegian language and culture. The councils provided information on job offers, places to live and the support available for starting a business.

In some cases, they advertised for specific job skills. For example, Ringebu advertised a vacancy for an optician when their optician was retiring. They got a new optician from the Netherlands, who is now well established in the district. In addition, they got an orthopist, an eye specialist, which Gudbrandsdalen had never had before.

As is always the case with entrepreneurs, some new companies failed, while others have established a thriving business that fills a gap in the local community.

Documentation and research project

Archival institutions have a responsibility to preserve and document the development of society. They aim to be a knowledge bank where memories and mementos of individuals and society are collected, preserved and disseminated. It is essential to have a focused collection policy. Collecting records that describe today’s migration is therefore important and complements the information in government records concerning companies, organisations and institutions.

Originally, OAM wanted to develop a partnership with one or more institutions in the Netherlands to shed light on migration. OAM was in contact with several institutions, but lack of finances and human resources prevented an extensive documentation/research project.
As part of the project “Documentation of Recent Immigration to Oppland” OAM interviewed 39 Dutch people who have settled in Oppland. In the further work, the geographical area was limited. OAM has mainly Gudbrandsdalen, especially the southern part consisting of six local authorities, as its collection area. Maihaugen has Gudbrandsdalen as its main area for cultural historical documentation work, and it was therefore natural to limit new documentation from that area. There was an interest in interviewing some of the people who had been interviewed earlier, to see how their relationship with this part of Norway had evolved over the past five years. There was also a desire to interview more people over a wider area.

The main goals of the project have been:

  • To compile research data to illustrate migration from the Netherlands to Norway
  • To collect records and oral reports that provide insight into individual motives for migration. These records will be a knowledge bank for future generations seeking information on why their ancestors moved to Gudbrandsdalen.
  • To study the interaction between Norway and the Netherlands from 1600 to the present
    4. In partnership with the Dutch in the region, to create a web exhibition and perhaps a temporary physical exhibition to illuminate the relationship between the two peoples.

The method used in this project is the collection of oral and written sources. Interviewees are photographed or filmed and the interviews are kept in digital files. For some of the owners of businesses, it was too early to submit their records to an institution, but those interviewed have become familiar with Norwegian archival institutions and realise the need to document the historical development.


Figures from Statistics Norway show that net immigration from the Netherlands to Norway increased from 2002 to 2014. In the peak year of 2007, there was the most recruitment for migration, and 1016 people moved to Norway. But the figure for net immigration was 761.

The table below shows migration from the Netherlands to Norway in 2003-2014

Year Immigration Individuals Net immigration
2002 483 145
2003 443 120
2004 601 327
2005 809 585
2006 912 602
2007 1016 761
2008 992 646
2009 737 430
2010 775 388
2011 722 381
2012 744 444
2013 639 329
2014 727 416

The table shows a decrease in immigration after the financial crisis hit Europe, but we can also see that the marketing efforts to get Dutch people to move to Norway have had an effect.

Historical connections between the Netherlands and Norway

From the late 17th century, many Norwegians settled in the Netherlands, and there was considerable contact and trade between the two countries. In recent years, immigration has mostly gone in the opposite direction.

In the Oppland Archives, we find few historical records of the activities of Dutch people in Norway, and since Oppland is an inland county, it was not greatly affected by the exodus of Norwegians in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Archives from ship’s captain Hans Kraabøl tell of his travels to different countries. He was the captain on Bernt Anker’s ships that brought timber to the Netherlands. The records describe a long stay in port, and how Hans Kraabøl spent the time learning Dutch. He copied textbooks on navigation and wrote down vocabulary. His vocabulary books show that he learned a number of languages that were necessary for communication in the various European ports.

In another article, Ivar Teigum writes about the financial interests of the Marselis trading company in Vågå and Sel. But there were other Dutchmen interested in Norwegian natural resources, in the form of falcons. From the 16th century, we find several written sources describing falcon hunting. It was primarily the Dutch who paid the Danish king for hunting rights. They constructed effective traps to capture the birds, and there are still traces of these in the mountains. The hunting season was from late July to late August. The expeditions had to make their way over rough terrain and take with them all the necessities of life. Twenty falcon trapping sites have been recorded in the mountains around Gudbrandsdalen. In Skåbu in Nord-Fron, one of these has been restored.

In his book from 1923 “Gamal bondekultur i Gudbrandsdalen – Lesja og Dovre” [Traditional rural culture in Gudbrandsdalen - Lesja and Dovre], Ivar Kleiven describes how there were Dutch falcon hunters in Dovrefjell throughout the 18th century. Between Hjerkin and Fokkstua there seem to have been six huts used by falcon catchers. Kleiven mentions how Jakob Hendrigs from The Hague testified that he had hunted falcons for several years for Johan Werbrügger. At that time, royal consent was required to hunt and take falcons out of the country. The Prince of Orange was among those who sent falcon hunters to Norway.
There is documentation of falcon hunting in the archives of the Danish Chancellery. Some of this consists of entries in the copy books about Norway called “Norske registre” and “Norske tegnelser”, and letters from Norway in the series called “Norske innlegg”. But the timescale for this project has not allowed for further study of these.

Falcon hunting was a purely commercial activity, completely controlled by the central government, which provided a welcome revenue boost for the state’s depleted coffers.

In several European countries, falconry was a livelihood for many people. The market for trained hunting falcons was almost insatiable. The falcon master was number four in rank in some royal families. And there were plenty of falcons to be had in the Norwegian mountains.

Then as now: the Dutch found their way in rural Gudbrandsdalen; then only for a month at a time, but now to find a new life in the Norwegian countryside.

Norsk tekst Nederlandstalig English text