The Norwegian flag in question hung outside the entrance of a bed and breakfast in St. Johns, Michigan. The story was first reported by local media Lansing State Journal.
The Nordic Pineapple — an American Civil war-era mansion converted into tourist accommodation — displayed the Norwegian flag alongside the Stars and Stripes at its entrance.
Owners Kjersten and Greg Offenbecker decided to fly Norway’s flag as a nod to Kjersten Offenbecker’s Nordic heritage after opening the business in 2018, the Lansing State Journal writes.
But they recently took it down after receiving “at least a dozen hateful emails,” and twice as many comments, according to the report.
The Norwegian flag – a Scandinavian cross with a blue cross enclosed in a white on a red background – uses the same colours as the controversial Confederate flag – a blue x with white stars on a red background.
As such, confusion is arguably possible from a distance or when the flag is hanging downwards in calm weather, particularly for people not used to the sight of Norway’s flag.
Kjersten Offenbecker said she and her husband were new in the town and first heard of the mix-up when a local shop owner told them a customer had mentioned their bed and breakfast to him.
“I was so happy at first,” Offenbecker said to Lansing State Journal. Then he told her the customer thought we were flying the Confederate flag.
“We were panicked initially because we were like, ‘Oh my Gosh. This town thinks that we’re hanging the Confederate flag,” she said.
“I don’t see it because I grew up with the Norwegian Flag,” Kjersten Offenbecker said “To me they are two distinct flags.”
Greg Offenbecker told the paper he couldn’t understand the confusion.
“It bugs me as far as the stupidity of people,” he said.
“Even if the flag is blowing in the wind or laying limp, there are no stars on it. They look nothing alike.”
So a Michigan bed and breakfast had to remove a Norwegian flag because people in the US mistook it for the Confederate flag and accused them of racism.. Is this funny or sad or do we just not care? I can't decide! https://t.co/7fEu0tOpIZ
— Ingri Bergo (@ingribergo) July 30, 2020
Both the Norwegian and US flags have now been removed by the guesthouse.
“Given the current cultural climate and the idea that people are judging us based on the misconception of the national Norwegian flag vs. the Confederate flag, this is what is best for our family and our Inn,” the couple wrote in a July 20th post on The Nordic Pineapple's Facebook page.
They also responded on Thursday to support they received after the story made national news in the US.
“We are overwhelmed by the positive messages and responses we have received and feel truly blessed. As we continue to pore over the comments of support and encouragement, we have been faced with a new decision about whether or not to re-hang our beloved flags,” they wrote in a new Facebook post.