PARADISE NORWAY: Over the table in Emily’s dining room hangs a view of Odda, painted by the artist Ragnar Grønsdal. Emily thinks that Norway stands out as a paradise on earth.

"I hate lutefisk. I'd rather have a hotdog!"

Emily Christine Skaftun (36)


Emily’s grandparents had Norwegian names: Rolf and Åsa. They left Odda in Norway’s Hardanger region for the United States in the 1950s. Rolf made his success working in the construction industry.

Emily remembers that her family was Norwegian only when it came to holidays, that is to say, they celebrated the 17th of May and Christmas Eve, but otherwise, there wasn’t much to take note of. When she was growing up, she lacked contact with the Norwegian-American culture. But when as an adult, she stumbled onto a job as editor for a Norwegian-American newspaper, her heritage was suddenly an advantage. Now she is immersed in ‘Norwegianness’ as the editor of The Norwegian American.

– I speak a little Norwegian, she says in Norwegian, somewhat uncertain. – But I read it a lot better!

Throughout the years, hundreds of Norwegian-American newspapers held the Norwegian immigrants together. Papers with names like Verdens gang, Decorah Posten, Afholds-Basunen, Vort Land, and Western Viking have slowly but surely gone out of business or been consolidated. Now it’s only The Norwegian American that is left, with a subscriber base around 2,500.

“Bunads and lutefisk” articles are still a big part of the newspaper. Even if Emily has taken it on to publish news from modern Norway, it doesn’t always fall on the favor of the readers, who would rather not be informed about wild graduation parties and drug problems.

Most of the subscribers are older and more conservative than Europeans.

– Many of them have an image of Norway that is frozen from the time that their own families emigrated. That may be why Norwegian Americans are happy to be occupied with woodcarving and eating lutefisk, something Norwegians absolutely don’t do. Emily shudders. – I hate lutefisk! I'd rather have a hotdog.

When it comes to politics, Norway seems like a paradise to her. Emily is of a liberal mindset. Socialism doesn’t sound like such a bad idea. But when she reads the news about challenges in Norway, she sometimes thinks to herself, “Oh, that’s cute.” She explains:

– There’d be an outcry in Norway if a small percentage of welfare benefits were to be cut back. But seen through American eyes, the situation is nonetheless so incredibly good that it’s almost comical.

And even if she says that she feels like an American, the thought of Norway can be very attractive.

– Some days, when the news about American politics just get too depressing, I google ‘pathways to residency in Norway’….”



NOTE: Emily left her position at The Norwegian American in September 2019 to pursue her interests as freelance science fiction writer.