Alexandrian seeks family in fjords on Norway - and competes in TV showMore than 100 years ago, Paul Haugen’s great-grandparents left Ringebu, Norway for Minnesota. In 2011, Haugen left Minnesota for Norway – to join the cast of the Norwegian hit reality TV series, Alt for Norge.
By: Crystal Dey, Alexandria Echo Press
More than 100 years ago, Paul Haugen’s great-grandparents left Ringebu, Norway for Minnesota. In 2011, Haugen left Minnesota for Norway – to join the cast of the Norwegian hit reality TV series, Alt for Norge.
Translated as “All for Norway,” the show is in its second season. It recruits people of Norwegian heritage from the U.S. and dares them to prove themselves as true Norwegians through a series of challenges. The winner is given a chance to meet their relatives in Norway and a cash prize of $50,000.
“I’m more Norwegian than you people,” Haugen joked with some of the people he met in Norway, “if it weren’t for the language.”
Haugen, a native Alexandrian, has yet to meet his relatives in Norway. He made it through the fourth episode. Both his mother and father’s families came from Norway.
Season two of Alt for Norge started with the contestants flown in by helicopter. They landed on the back of a ship floating down the fjords.
“The country is just so gorgeous,” Haugen said. He heard Ringebu looks much like the fjords with a river running through the town.
The first week looked optimistic for Haugen. He won the prestigious “troll” which grants immunity from being booted from the show during the next challenge.
Haugen was given the award for aiding a contestant when she twisted her ankle hiking down a mountain.
The greatest challenge for Haugen was the language. Bokmal and Nynorsk Norwegian are the official languages in Norway but Sami is official in six municipalities. Haugen said in order to immigrate to Norway you must know the language.
The second challenge was to go around a town and try to communicate with people by speaking Norwegian. Contestants were given a handbook to help them along. “They would laugh at us and not understand what we were saying,” Haugen said. He added that he learned there are different dialects so if a person learns the language in one area and goes to another region of Norway, they still might not be able to carry on a conversation.
“The language is very, very hard to learn,” Haugen admits. He said language was a key factor in a lot of competitions. Two of the contestants had studied Norwegian in college, which he felt gave them an advantage.
Contestants performed their third challenge on a farm. Haugen said the manual labor wasn’t as difficult as the language barrier. Contestants are divided into groups to compete against each other during the challenges. When your team loses, you then have to compete against each other. The loser of that competition goes home.
The fourth, and most embarrassing, challenge for Haugen sent him home. Skiing on a glacier should be no problem for this Minnesota native. However, he was racing against Minnesota-turned-California surfer girl, Britta Nordahl. “I can’t lose – I’ve been skiing my whole life,” Haugen thought.
He said the course had a sharp drop at the start and a quick turn. “My legs were so sore from the day before…my muscles were shot.”
When he went to turn at the first gate, he ran right into it, flipped over it and did a complete somersault. “I got up, I fell over, I got up, I fell over… I finished the race but needless to say, I lost,” he laughed.
Haugen said over the month he was in Norway he most enjoyed the week spent in Bergen with the college students during “russ” (pronounced roose) – a graduation celebration that lasts three weeks. Haugen said they did some “crazy stuff.” The kids fixed up old buses and put “new driver” stickers on police cars.
“They drink too; they party a lot. It’s just a way of life in Norway,” Haugen observed.
If you plan to join the Norwegians in a few brews, be sure to bring a lot of cash. “A cold beer will cost you $15,” Haugen added.
Haugen said it was a lot of hard work but he’s glad to have had the experience. “I’d really like to go back someday – on vacation,” he said.
Since coming home, Haugen has gained a fan base. He interviewed with four TV stations in Norway and gets messages on Facebook saying he is missed. One fan, a fellow truck driver in Norway, sent him a 10-inch Norwegian hunting knife. Others offered to help him get in touch with his family in Norway.
The show traced the lineage of each contestant back to his or her family in Norway to be sure whoever won had family to meet as part of their winning prize. Haugen was given a book, a photo of the family and contact information. He has called and left messages on the answering machine but the machine message is in Norwegian and they may not know English. He’s sent e-mails as well. Once he isn’t so busy he plans to try to contact them again.
HOW IT BEGAN
An article in the Echo Press about fellow Alexandrian, Pastor Grant Aaseng, got Haugen interested in auditioning for the show. Aaseng was a contestant in season one. While Haugen hadn’t met Aaseng previously, he made it a point to attend the Easter Mass at Aaseng’s church, Shalom Lutheran Church, in Alexandria. “He’s a really nice guy – he made time to talk with me about the show,” Haugen said.
He added that he tried to incorporate Aaseng in his own profile video for the show but the producers wanted the focus to be on Haugen. The video was shot at Haugen’s home in Alexandria. He lives on the same property his ancestors came to Minnesota to farm more than 100 years ago.
Aaseng was given the opportunity to meet his Norwegian relatives after season one.
Alt for Norge, Norway’s number one reality show in 2010, can be viewed online at http://www.tvnorge.no/programmer/alt-for-norge, however a subscription may need to be purchased. Episodes are aired on Sundays at 4 p.m.
The final challenge was completed on July 1.
A clip from the “russ” episode can be seen free on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1mEEzsTnf50.
Most websites are in Norwegian. Visit http://translate.google.com and enter the website for a translation of text or search on Google and open with the “Translate this page” link.
To set up an account try visiting http://www.tvnorge.no/programmer/alt-for-norge, go to: See episodes (Se episoder), Register (Registrer). You will be asked to enter a user name, password, first and last name, e-mail and need to accept terms and conditions (use Google translator website to decipher).