Earlier this week, in a comment on my Halloween post, Protege asked me a question: Do I ever feel the urge to return to California for good, or do I feel Norwegian at this point? My answer was neither.
Although many people believe I am Norwegian, I’m not. Not even by blood. I am a mere transplant, who has had only one citizenship her entire life: American. My parents were both US citizens and so was my Norwegian grandpa – my mother’s step-father. He became a naturalized citizen in 1950. I remember teasing him about having been a citizen only 10 years longer than I had. So I have never had dual citizenship nor an option for it.
Culturally, I’m a mix, having split my childhood between California and Norway. I share some common cultural memories with people my age in Norway, and I share some common cultural memories with people my age in California. In my mind, Star Trek sits next to Radio Luxembourg. Both stir up emotions in me and bring back years of growing up. The original Star Trek series has never been aired in Norway, and Radio Luxembourg was never broadcast in the US. In me, they occupy the same time and space.
I am not just bi-lingual. I am also bi-cultural. When I was younger, I wished there was an international passport for those of us who feel they belong in (and to) more than one nation. There are times now when I still wish for that.
Due to an American birth and family, I have never felt Norwegian. Due to my long years in Norway and assimilation here, I am no longer in sync with Americans in the US. I used to be homesick for the US. There are still places I would love to visit again, there, but if I were there, I’d miss Norway. The thing I missed the most about the US, was the food. So many favorites there just weren’t available here. But you get used to going without, and then when they slowly appear in Norway as exotic imports (like canned pumpkin pie mix or maple syrup), they take the edge off the homesickness. In recent years, Arm & Hammer baking soda, cherry cola and root beer have appeared in my local grocery store. I bought Oreos one day. You know what? I can’t take them any more. They still taste great, but they give me indigestion. And that is part of why I am no longer homesick.
Right up until 2005, which was when I took my first trip back to California since I left in 1981, I had this dream of America, much like an emigrant may have. When I went home to Norway, I felt neutral; the feeling I was leaving home wasn’t so strong. I revisited in 2007. This time, though, I felt like a visitor the whole time, and when I got on the plane for Europe, I knew I was going home and that nothing tied me to the US any more.
The thing is, the country has changed in the over 25 years I’ve been on this side of the pond. It has become foreign to me – and I to it (which produced some awkward situations, with me asking in a perfect American accent the sort of questions foreigners ask). There are also developments in the US that I don’t like – and developments in Norway that I do. Right now, as a regular worker drone for a big company, I am far better off in Norway than I would have been in California with a similar education and job skills. Over here, knowing English has been an advantage; I can’t remember any time I needed my Norwegian in California. And over here I don’t have to worry about health insurance or vacation or sick leave. Heck, I don’t even have to worry about being fired!
Because I cannot vote in national elections in Norway, my interests tend to go back across the pond to the US. I have the right to vote in presidential elections there. Again, I’m not really 100 % one or the other. After all, I don’t live under the effects of Congress’ decisions.
Life is good for me here in Norway. And unless the Republicans get back on track, and the Democrats do too, and restore my beloved nation of birth to one that actually cares about regular people and upholding the Constitution, I’ll take my chances in this godforsaken corner of the world. Norway has its own share of crooks and idiots, but at least its gap between those that have and those that have not is not the yawning divide America now has.