The American Dream of Norway
Part 1: Karina Snare Daily
Our ancestors came to America to give their families a better life. Now young Norwegian Americans dream of the old country. This series of interviews was conducted by a visiting Norwegian journalist.
Karina Snare Daily’s grandfather built the house she now lives with her husband and two children in Edmonds, north of Seattle. He came from Svelvik, the grandmother from Odda, other grandmother from Lofoten and last grandfather from a small village called Snare in Kongsvinger near the Swedish border.
“I took one of those DNA tests. It said: You are 100% Norwegian!” Karina laughs.
Karina, 36, says that when her grandmother from Odda came to America, she was not at all interested in becoming American. “She did not like the English language and did not want to assimilate into society.” Therefore, Karina experienced a lot of Norwegian in her childhood. “Grandma and Grandpa had a very Norwegian home. Food, decorations, everything was Norwegian. We went to Leif Eriksson Hall three times a week. So I grew up with a lot of Norwegian culture around me. We said ‘god jul’ and ‘julenisse.’ We sang ‘Ja vi elsker’ and Christmas songs.
“I wish I had kept in better contact with my Norwegian roots since then, and I’m still quite annoyed at my mother because she didn’t teach me to speak Norwegian.”
Today, Karina has dug out something quite special she got from her grandmother, two Hardanger bunads. One for a woman and one for a little girl. Karina’s daughter Kaia, 2, is really excited about trying on the dress. Karina does not have bunad shoes, but some strappy sandals work fine for her. Kaia first tries on some cowboy boots but ends up with a pair of small rosemaled clogs. Mother and daughter go outside in the street with their bunads to take some pictures.
Karina thinks she tends to idolize Norwegian society. She talks about how the American food industry makes people unhealthy and sick and thinks Norwegians seem to have healthier conditions both for nature and food production.
“Politically, I like to call myself neutral, but I’m worried about where our country is heading. We have a lot of insecurity about education, health care, and the social safety net. Large parts of the United States are worse than developing countries, where people live without very basic necessities like clean water.”
“What about you,” I ask. “Are you Norwegian or American?
“I’m very American. Very. I feel American, both socially and culturally. But my family is only Norwegian history and culture. For example, we have quite a strong will. We can joke that someone is very Norwegian, meaning stubborn. And I see that there are some differences on how we have, for example, tackled adversity. My father died of illness several years ago. While he was ill, it was obviously tough for the whole family, but we all reacted very differently. His new family, who was American, was looking for ways to cure him, even though the doctors said he couldn’t recover. The Norwegian part of the family accepted the illness. Perhaps I came across as a daughter who did not love my father, but this is probably just a more sober way of looking at life and death, perhaps a bit different from the American.”
Outside in the street, huge SUVs drive slowly past mother and daughter in their colorful costumes.
“I feel that I do not give my children ‘enough’ Norwegian American culture, only American. I have a little bad conscience for that. I enjoyed relating to my Norwegian culture as a child. I was fascinated about where my family came from and the story of their migration. I would like for my children to also have this connection with their heritage.”
Visit Ingerid Jordal’s website at www.ingeridjordal.no.
This article originally appeared in the June 14, 2019, issue of The Norwegian American. To subscribe, visit SUBSCRIBE or call us at (206) 784-4617.