Monday, April 1, 2013

A is for Arriving in America, 1962

Theme ~ My 50 Years in America 

A 1960s Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) Plane

The plane landed at Idyllwild International Airport in Queens, New York, and I stepped out into a new world and a new life. It was November 1962 when I arrived in America, and my entire life lay in front of me, like so many pages. I never really dreamed of coming to America, but now that I was here, I felt a great sense of freedom, of knowing that it would be entirely up to me to fill those pages. I was 22 years old.

The easiest way for a young Swedish woman to get a permanent resident work visa, was to get a job as a mother’s helper in an American family. The family would then sponsor you for your green card and  pay your one-way airfare. Hundreds of young Swedish girls came to the United States this way. 

It didn’t take me long to realize that my American family and I would not work out. This was an ordinary middle-class family with aspirations to greatness. They lived in a split-level in Tenafly, a New Jersey suburb of Manhattan, across the Hudson River. 

Tenafly, beautifully situated on the Hudson River.

At dinner, I had to eat in the kitchen, while the family ate in the dining area. They didn’t even have a dining room, but when they wanted something from the kitchen, or seconds from dishes already on the table, Mrs. tinkled a little silver bell, indicating that I had to get up from my dinner, go in the dining area and serve them; a Downton Abbey, Upstairs - Downstairs scene played out in a split-level in Jersey! 

This did not sit well with me and I soon wanted to escape, but I was stuck. Since I had to stay for a year, or something like that, for them to sponsor me for my green card, and since they had paid for my airfare, I felt like an indentured servant. I was supposed to be a mother's helper and treated as a part of the family, and I was not; the dinner situation just one example.

Fortunately, as it turned out, I had a choice. Once the family realized I wouldn't work out, we came to an agreement: their sponsorship continued, and I borrowed money from my dad, paid for my airfare, and was free to go. 

So in late winter of 1963, I left the split-level and that pretentious family behind and moved to Princeton, where I had a friend. This was where my real life in the United States would begin.

Nassau Street, the main street in Princeton, N. J.

Source: Wikipedia photos.

NB: This will be the only post where the chronological meets the alphabetical. It won't matter much, but I will note the year the event took place in each header. 


  1. I can see that this will be an interesting month of A-Z.

  2. It'll be tough to top last year's A-Z Inger, but you certainly have the theme to do it. Great start!

  3. Very nicely done, Inger. It's funny the pretensions some people have.

    I'll be back to read more.

  4. Oh, my, what a great introduction to America... (eye roll) It sounds like your A to Z will be very interesting! Hopefully Samson won't feel too left out of the blog... :)


  5. a tough way to begin a new life.

  6. Inger
    I feel shame for people like that and I have nothing to do with them. I'm so glad you got away from that situation and soon discovered that most Americans are not made of that same cloth.
    Looking forward to our 3rd year of A-Z

  7. Wow how exciting...but I can imagine how you must of felt 'trapped' so glad it worked out for you!!

  8. I graduated from highschool in 62, and started my first job Sept of 62 a month before you started yours with that family. that would never have worked out for me either. but i am glad they got you here. I made a big mistake by getting married a year later.... cant wait to see what you did next.

  9. As a fellow immigrant I always enjoy reading come-to-America stories. Was mad at that familoy for making you eat in the kitchen while they ate in a separate room. The nerve of some people.

    Silvia @ Silvia Writes

  10. You are a wanderer too! Why am not surprised? kindred spirits :)

    and that family was what we would call "pretentious" - shame/pity on them for missing out an opportunity to get to know others in the world better and to share as if you were their own - i think too many people miss opportunities because their own selfishness gets in the way...

    and I like your a to z series much better this way - but then i love your storytelling !

  11. A very interesting start to what I'm sure will be a fascinating month!!

  12. I am so glad you're here.
    AND - What a fabulous beginning for AtoZ - I'm certainly looking forward to checking back.

    love & love,

  13. Oh my gosh I love love loved learning about you!!! sandie

  14. Hi Inger .. I can imagine that must happen to many ... I had a friend who went out to work for an English family ... only to find out they had bought our house in Surrey, when my parents sold!! Strange way life turns out ...

    Looking forward to reading your other posts .. cheers Hilary

  15. Oooh, the family had such grand plans to have a Swedish slave/servant. So glad you escaped. Looking forward to your posts about the 50 years.

  16. Oh my goodness, I can't imagine being in that situation with that family. I'm glad you were able to find a way out. It's amazing to me how people will treat others!

    Looking forward to your theme. :)

  17. Wow. Sounds like you have a fascinating story to tell. I don't think I'd be too happy with that situation either and it's good to hear you didn't have to stay the whole year.

  18. I can't even imagine treating someone that way. I used to have someone come in to clean my house every other week. I always cleaned before she arrived. She never stopped marveling over how easy it was to clean my house.


  19. Skall bli spännande att läsa. Ångrar idag att jag inte tog ett au pair år i USA. Mamma ville det men jag ville inte....kommer inte ihåg varför, var säkert någon kille jag var kär i som jag inte ville lämna, så fånigt! Kram!

  20. I am looking forward to these A to Z posts. You have such fascinating stories to tell.

  21. It must have been scary to come here at such a young age!

    Your Pals,

    Murphy & Stanley

  22. As a fellow arrivee I can relate - love the old pics and the feel of the post.

  23. What a courageous young lady you were to come to a strange country like you did. That couple sounded just awful and it really was like being an indentured servant. Thank goodness you were able to buy you freedom.
    Looking forward to the rest of the story.

  24. Great tale! I can't wait to see what you have planned for the rest of the month!


    Valerie Nunez and the Flying Platypi

  25. How horrible! Your introduction to the US was awful. I can't imagine a family treating a young girl that way.... in that time.
    But, it sounds like you were able to move on.
    I can't wait to read more!

  26. Not exactly an auspicious start in America. But you survived, and things seemed to work well in the end.

    Blessings and Bear hugs!
    Bears Noting

  27. Very interesting story to start with can't wait to hear more!

  28. That was not a very nice start for you in the US, but a nice start for the A to Z Challenge.

  29. This could well be the start of a book. Don't give us too much of this delicious information. Keep some back for your memoir!

  30. What a bad start!
    You were so brave at 22.

  31. Just popped back re your comment on my blog. There's no way you could write a book in collaboration with Samson. As you well know he'd want to write it himself!

  32. Ron was reading these posts earlier today and said: "Jim, you HAVE to read Inger's recent posts! They are fantastic!"
    Of course all of your posts are fantastic but these have a significance as we grew up up at that time in the 60's.
    at 22 years old you were a brave soul Inger to leave your country.
    Now on to the next!!

  33. Dear Inger, I'm just enthralled with the fact that I'm going to learn about your life when you came here to the United States. Here you were at 22. So brave and adventurous. And with so few words you paint us a picture of the first family with whom you live. The word "pretentious" is so descriptive. Peace.


Thanks for leaving a comment.. ~~ Inger


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