This article contributes to analyses of diversity in the nation through analytical attention to negotiation dynamics in young people's exchanges about ‘who’ and ‘what’ the nation is (understood to be) using data from 33 focus groups with 289 upper secondary students in schools across Norway. The negotiation dynamics present in the discussion are explored in terms of the relative weighting of desired relational outcomes (‘who’ is seen as a national) versus desired substantive outcomes (‘what’ the nation as imagined community is assumed to be and look like). The negotiation dynamics are premised on a mutually acknowledged and shared fate – as classmates, young people, or co-nationals – despite occasional disagreement about the roles of ancestry, race or birthplace for national belonging. However, there are limits to negotiation dynamics, because the premise a of shared fate is not easily transposed to society, and certainly not to polarized media debates. Nevertheless, the negotiation dynamics at play in this study with young people in Norway, merit further exploration in other contexts, and with other age groups, as a way to research the embodied, plural, everyday nation in the process of coming to terms (or not) with its diversity.