Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Norwegian American

Last week I focused on Michelle Connolly and her story of being an American growing up in Norway.  But this week I will talk about her husband, Jan (pronounced yawn) Svendsen, who was born and raised with his parents and two brothers in Stavanger, Norway, a small town located along the coast.  Svendsen had never been to America until 1990 when he came to visit Connolly's father in California, and has now come back to live and has resided in Arizona for nearly three years.
Svendsen and Connolly on their wedding day, 1997, in Norway.
Pictured from left to right: Ted Connolly (Michelle's father), Michelle Connolly, 
Jan Svendsen, Marit Svendsen (Jan's mother), Charlotte, and Charlene.

Svendsen met Connolly in their small town of Stavanger, Norway when they were both in the second grade, and have been together ever since.  The two married in 1997, after the birth of both their children Charlene, 19, and Charlotte, 14.  Therefore, since Connolly was born in America, both girls were born in Norway as American citizens.  After they were born, Connolly and Svendsen applied for both girls to also gain their Norwegian citizenship.  Now, Charlene and Charlotte have dual citizenship and Connolly has an American citizenship only, while Jan remains still in the process to finally become an American citizen.  Svendsen said once he gains his American citizenship, he will also be able to keep his Norwegian citizenship. 

When I asked Svendsen what he thought of American border issues, he responded "I think the issue is out of control."  He added that in order to help control immigration, there needs to be more sophisticated technology that can be used to control the matter and more working legal citizens.  He said when he first came over to live in America, the process to live here legally was a huge ordeal and a very expensive process, and should be a difficult process for anyone who wants to gain American citizenship.    

In response to the major differences between living in Norway and America, "You mean besides the sun," he responded laughing.  Besides the drastic weather differences, Norway has fewer people and is much more quiet than America, adding that the people of Norway have more of a routine than Americans.  "Americans are also more polite than Norwegians," he said laughing.  Svendsen also said it is much easier to afford healthcare in Norway than in America. This is mainly because a majority of the health care system is publicly funded after workers pay a monthly tax from their pay.  

As far as jobs in Norway compared to America, "There is no such thing as a salary in Norway," said Svendsen.  He said when someone is hired as an employee in Norway, they are hired to work a certain amount of hours, and if they work close to those hours they also get paid overtime.  The working class in Norway has many more rights and much larger pay, however, they are taxed higher than in America. 

As for the difference in raising children in Norway, he said there really is not much of a difference besides that it is much safer in Norway than America.  "They can come home after dark in Norway, but I don't think it would be safe here," said Svendsen.  In addition, children do not rely on their parents to drive them because they are able to walk or take the bus just about everywhere.

Svendsen and his cousin, Terje, at their cabin on an island just outside Stavanger, Norway.

When I asked him what the major differences are from the way people live their life in Norway compared to America, he said the biggest difference is that "Norwegians do a lot more for themselves than Americans," adding that instead of hiring gardeners and cleaning ladies, Norwegians do those duties themselves.  In addition, "We spend less money than Americans.  Even if we have more money, we are more careful and don't spend it," said Svendsen.

Svendsen said out of all the adjustments he had to make when moving to America, the most difficult one was, "Not being able to do anything without my car and not living near the coastline."  In addition, he said he believes it is easier for Norwegians to adjust to life in America than for Americans to adjust to a Norwegian lifestyle, mainly because Norwegians are able to speak the language and a majority of Americans cannot. 

However, Svendsen said he enjoys living in America much more than in Norway for several reasons.  He said he especially likes America because he is able to live in Phoenix, which he enjoys because "It is a large city with a lot of opportunities," adding that the weather is beautiful MOST of the time.  He said ideally, in the future, he would like to live in Phoenix but visit Norway for a few months during the summer when the Phoenix weather is its hottest.           


1 comment:

  1. This stuff is very interesting. I'm from Norway (hei hei), currently studying in the United States. I have been looking into getting a dual citizenship(dobbelt statsborgerskap) recently, becoming an Norwegian-American. I know this is lawyer food either here in Michigan or Norway, but I'm sure Jan has a lot of insight about the process, seeing he now lives in Phoenix. Which is very hot in the summer I hear from reliable sources. (Californiafolk)

    I'd love to get in touch with Jan, can he be reached through email?