Thursday, April 26, 2012

W is for Why ~ I Came to America

Theme ~ Swedish Rhapsody

Here I am, presenting Sweden in the best of light so of course many of you have wondered why I left. Writing about Sweden, finding all these pretty pictures, thinking about how nice it would be to have a fully, 100 percent secure old age, seeing my friends and relatives, and so on, I must confess that I have wondered some myself. There was a saying back in the day, "Life happens while you're busy making other plans," well, I didn't make a lot of plans, but my life just sort of happened.

Here are some of the reasons I left:
1.  When I returned from England, I was 22 years old. I had lived as an independent adult for two years, working, studying, and being responsible for myself. Sweden at the time, suffered from bostadsbrist - no apartments were available to rent. So I had to live at home with my parents, which was like going backwards for me. No real problems, but I felt confined. I tried living with a friend, but that didn't work out either. 
2.  Having lived abroad, Sweden seemed so small to me. I was young and though I appreciated the beauty, history, and culture that I have posted about here, the bureaucracy that ruled, made me feel boxed in. Who cares about security when you are 22? 

A picture of me at 22, taken in London. 

3. And then there was this other thing I couldn't put my finger on until I read Eat, Pray, Love by Liz Gilbert. When in Rome, Liz befriended a young Swedish woman. At one point Liz and her friends played a game where they associated a place with a word. Someone said, Stockholm, and the Swedish girl replied: "Conform." Checking the dictionary, you will find the third definition to be: To act in accordance with rules, customs, etc. In middleclass Stockholm, this concept was adhered to very strictly back then. So much so, that I came home from London and felt like an outsider. I guess there is nothing basically wrong with this conformity, but there tends to be judgement about other people involved. I know now, it was killing my free spirit. I had been free in London, totally responsible for myself, with no one looking over my shoulder.

4. All these feelings of going backwards, being made to conform, and feeling boxed in made me sick. I came down with a case of agoraphobia. Seriously! This made my mother realize I had to get away. Yes, I had a great mom. America was really the only option; I spoke the language and my cousin had recently moved here. So my mother dragged an unwilling me to the US Embassy to get my visa. 
So, I who could barely cross the street without breaking out in heart palpitations and a cold sweat, off I went on a plane to become a Swedish version of The Help to a really weird family in Tenafly, N.J. They sponsored me, so I was  stuck there for a time, kind of a modern version of an indentured servant. I was supposed to look after the kids but that's not exactly what happened. How I escaped from there, moved to Princeton, and created a new life for myself is another story that I perhaps will tell some day. However, being faced with an unpleasant reality without a safety net, no family here, no friendly welfare state to take care of me, provided an instant cure for my agoraphobia. The minute I landed in the US and in that family, my agoraphobia completely disappeared, never to surface again. 
In my mind, I never emigrated from Sweden; I never intended to live out my life in America. I'm pretty sure though that in the end America was better for me, for the kind of person I was, and the kind of person America helped me to become. 


  1. You have a very interesting story.

    Sometimes I say to myself, if I had the money I would go back to London. It's the family I miss after living twenty years here in the USA.

    But alas, I am now American.

    I came here when Europe had nothing more to offer me at the time.


    I went back to London in 1996 to bury my mother. I was amazed by the beautiful building structures and wondered why I ever left. When I was in my teens I couldn't wait to see the world.

    Europe is beautiful but expensive! Still, America is also great!

    What a pretty picture of you!

  2. Holy cow! What an interesting entrance into the US and its culture. I had no clue!
    I am so glad that your mother was supportive - I bet that was hard for her!

  3. Funny where we choose to live isn't always where we were born. I emigrated to Canada from the US, and it changed my life for the better. I think some of us must have wandering genes.

    Enjoyed your story, thanks for sharing. (BTW - great moms are priceless. I had one too.)

  4. Wow how interesting!! Thanks for sharing that part of you!!!!

  5. Inger how interesting. I love this story and understand completely how a 22 year old would see the world. You had to leave, the conforming attitude would have crushed you and was already working at that in your head. You are in a great place now being CA. I spent 60 years there and personally could not live today in the Midwest as I see that as very conforming, some might get mad at me for saying that but hey it's true.

  6. Intressant hur våra liv kan bli. Jag är alldeles för hemkär att flytta på mig. Jag bor ju där jag är född och jag älskar det.

  7. I love your picture, you beautiful thing, you!

    I hadn't thought about ths "Stockholm syndrome" for years. Wasn't that what they said happened to Patty Hearst?

    You HAD to come to CA!! Otherwise, you would never have met your wonderful husband--or me!!

  8. What an extremely interesting post this is! You should think about writing a memoir.

    What a beautiful picture, btw!

  9. thank you for this post. i had wondered...

  10. Thanks very much for adding me to your blog list and for the message.

    I'll be back to read the rest of your posts.

  11. Thank you so much for sharing this part of your story. You have left me hungry for the rest!

  12. Yes, I wondered how you left that beautiful country. Now I understand completely!

  13. Inger,
    I so enjoyed hearing how and why you ended up in America and that the USA was there with open arms. I admire the courage it took to move so far away and begin on your own. Good for you Inger! So how in the world did you get to CA?

  14. Så intressant att höra din historia :) Brukar du besöka Sverige regelbundet?

    Mvh Susanne

  15. Quite the journey, Inger. Some places are in our blood, but we need to leave to grow.

  16. Inger, being a "free spirit" myself, I understand completely the decision you made. We are what we are...:)JP

  17. Wow! What understanding you have given us. Thank you for string your story.

    Great picture of you in your 20s.

    But you missed the best part. You can have the Welfare State on the west side of the Atlantic. You were just a little too far south. Instead of New Jersey, you should have landed in Montreal. Canada. And stayed here.

    But hindsight is always 20-20.

    Blessings and Bear hugs.

  18. I find your story very interesting -- and I had wondered how you ended up in America -- and in such a different kind of world.

    My story is the opposite -- I started out in New England, lived in Washington, DC for 17 years and ended up in the UK for most of the last 32 years. Changing cultures is sometimes difficult, and often challenging. I have had many a wistful moment when I just wanted to 'be there'. In my heart I am not quite sure where 'home' is, but I believe Europe is where I belong.

  19. Astounding therapy for an agoraphobic. I was curious before why you came here, now I hope you tell us more. Facinating.

  20. Loved this post Inger -- It answered alot of questions for me about how you came to be in America. :)

  21. Hi Inger .. I hear you - and what a great picture of an early you!!

    Once we've lived abroad .. life is very different - I actually came back for family, and for the culture and traditions - I wonder what I would have done if I'd lived in America, rather than South Africa ..

    Interesting read - I'd wondered why .. so thanks for answering!

    Cheers Hilary

  22. So many of you wondered why I left Sweden and I was a bit hesitant to share my bout with agoraphobia, but why not. It is a strange affliction and not much was known about it or talked about it at that time. It took some drastic measures to cure me,that's for sure.

  23. We all live such different lives...thank you for sharing and weren't you a pretty little thing.

  24. What a great story, Inger! I love hearing about your life and I would love to hear more! What an encouragement this post can be to others... to face your fears in order to move ahead..
    What a doll you were!! And you are still a doll!!
    Thanks for sharing this story.

  25. I really enjoyed reading this Inger. Proud to have you as a fellow American!

  26. America does have its problems, and your story makes me see it in a different light. thanks so much for sharing this and please share the rest of the story on how you got out of the home you came to. glad you made it here and that you are happy here. i to have a personalty that does not want to be controlled. i got married at 19 in 1962 and even when times got so tough i nearly starved i never moved back with my parents because i wanted to be free.

  27. Very interesting story, Inger! It took a lot of guts to do what you did. I'm in awe! But, deep down, I don't think anyone ever leaves his or her home, even if it's down the road.

  28. Fascinating story, especially since I too am an immigrant.

    Maybe you can write a memoir. That would be so cool!


  29. Dear Inger, first, thank you for stopping by my blog during April and commenting. You were doing the "A to Z Challenge" and must have been so busy during that time. I so appreciate that you found time to visit my blog.

    Next, let me say that this "W" posting on why you came to America means so much to me because I came home to Missouri after being away for 55 years and discovered that I don't fit here any more. Struggling with that has been difficult but rewarding.

    And so in today's posting I reflect on why I'm returning to Minnesota. Your mind and mine seem to be in sync.

    I would so love to learn more about your early life here in the United States.

    In the coming weeks, I hope to read your A to Z postings and learn much more about Sweden. Thank you for accepting that challenge and for sharing the Swedish Rhapsody with your readers.


  30. Now I understand and totally appreciate your reasons for staying in America. What stands out for me here is how supportive your parents were! They their daughter well and knew what you needed at the time. The trust they had in you provided a foundation that has brought you to where you are today.
    It is a pleasure to have gotten to know you Inger through this medium.


Thanks for leaving a comment.. ~~ Inger


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