This paper investigates how young refugees settled in rural Norway and Denmark experience their new places of residence. We find inspiration in the idea of ‘contradictions of space’ (Kinkaid [2020]. “Re-encountering Lefebvre: Toward a Critical Phenomenology of Social Space.” Society and Space 38 (1): 167–186.) in exploring how young refugees navigate issues in rural life from housing, education, work and social life to their material surroundings, including the weather. Which experiences result in feelings of meaning and orientation, and which spur feelings of disorientation and contradiction? The empirical material is based on fieldwork and qualitative interviews with young refugees and local volunteers in rural Norway and Denmark. Despite several differences between rural areas in the two countries, young refugees’ experiences from within show many similarities and common experiences between them. The harsh weather, empty streets, lack of familiarity with the more formal community life in rural areas, long distances from sites of education, etc. create feelings of disorientation and contradiction, while socializing with other refugees provides feelings of community and belonging. Taken together, the two aspects drive their decisions to stay in or leave the rural area. © 2024 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.

DOI: 10.1080/13676261.2024.2347980
ISSN: 13676261