Did you know that Brooklyn was Norway’s “third biggest city”? I followed the footsteps of my grandma and mom that lived there when it was. Read what I found.
Around 50 years ago, my grandma and mom immigrated to the US. They jumped on the “America-boat”, searching for a better life, adventures, and a new opportunities. Like many thousands of other Norwegians. My grandma was a single mom, and had a hard time getting by economically. She also had a sister that had immigrated with her husband and son, before them. Moving to the US was therefore a natural choice.
They first moved to Brooklyn. Many Norwegians did the same. Due to this, from the early 1900s until around 1980, a trip to Brooklyn was like “coming home” for Norwegians. With at most over 60,000 Norwegians, it was said to be the largest city after Oslo and Bergen.
So I followed their footsteps. Living in Brooklyn was my first time living and travelling alone for a longer period. During my stay, I got to know the cousin of my mom, Arnold, which still lives outside New York City. As well as his beautiful wife and daughter. He brought me to Brooklyn near Sunset Park. He showed me around and told me stories about how it was when this area was settled by Norwegians.
Moreover, he told me that every year, the 17th of May, all the Norwegians celebrated the national day. In the streets, with the Norwegian flag, using their best clothes, walking on line singing Norwegians songs. Just like in Norway.
That being said, during our trip to 8th Avenue, most had changed drastically since then. No Norwegian bars, restaurants, bakeries or churches was to observe. The streets were full of Asians. The new settlers. Most stores and restaurants had been changed out. Norwegian signs, was replaced by Chinese characters. Today the 8th Avenue goes under the nickname “Little Hong Kong”. While other areas around where the Norwegians lived, are now settled by Latin Americans, and are called “Little Puerto Rico”. Other areas, by orthodox Jews.
In other words, there is not much left of the Norwegians there anymore. However, Arnold knew about one store where they still sell Norwegian food and specialities in the area. We found it, and it was a very interesting experience. Going into the store, we were met with a Norwegian hello – “heisann”, and continued taking Norwegian with the lady behind the counter. We bought several Norwegians delicacies. While we ate and enjoyed them, we missed a little bit back home to our country: Norway.