Are we still the land of Ole and Lena? Ya, sure ... but not so much


In the modern-day age of diversity, is Minnesota's reputation as a bastion of Scandinavian and German heritage still deserved? New Census numbers suggest the answer is no -- and yes.

The Star Tribune looked through data from the Census' American Community Survey and found that the number of Twin Cities-area residents who identify as Swedish-American, Norwegian-American, or German-American has declined by 100,000 in just five years. Even so, the newspaper reports your chances of coming across someone of Nordic descent are nine or ten times greater than in other metro areas around the country.

The mingling of ethnic groups has young people more likely to simply call themselves American. But the president of the Sons of Norway tells the Star Trib baby boomers nearing retirement seem to be getting back in touch with their heritage. “All of a sudden there’s a realization that, hey, their parents are in their 70s and 80s and will not be around forever, and it’s up to me to sort of carry the torch,” Eivind Heiberg said.

One example might be Debra Sisneros of Maple Grove. KSTP reported last winter on her experience with a Swedish reality television show, Allt For Sverige. The contestants are Americans who progressively learn more about their Swedish roots, with the winner getting a chance to fly overseas to meet their relatives. Sisneros gained a treasure box of family mementos but, alas, was voted off the show short of an airline ticket. Uff da!

The less-but-still-much Scandinavian influence is also apparent in our food. A New York Times writer noticed last year that, while the Twin Cities has been without an explicitly Scandinavian restaurant for a decade, flavors from the region still permeate local cuisine. Minneapolis' Bachelor Farmer was offered as an example of a "New Nordic" kitchen that integrates a Scandinavian influence.

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