Meet Kristian Salvesen, a Norwegian expat living in the San Francisco Bay Area. Kristian shares with us his personal story, his love of San Francisco and his passion for food and for cooking. He is this week’s Tripper of the Week and Foodie Friday contributor.
Tell us a bit about where you’re from.
I’m from outside a small town in Southern Norway called Evje. The closest big city, which is about an hour away is Kristiansand. It’s a city known for its boating; they have an annual boating event and many locals own boats. The coast there is very beautiful and cabins there are very desirable. You can also take a ferry to Denmark from Kristiansand. It is very popular; Norwegians love to visit Denmark for its less expensive food (meat), beer and flat sandy beaches. I remember taking the ferry with my family often when I was a child. Also, the city is known for the Kristiansand Zoo, which I also visited often growing up. A bit more recent a claim to fame of the city is that the wife of Norway’s Crown Prince is from there.
Yes, I live in the San Francisco Bay Area. I lived about two blocks from Union Square for four-and-a-half years and not long ago moved across the bay. I can still get to the Financial District in San Francisco, where I work, in about 15 minutes, so it’s still pretty convenient. I love that the city is so diverse; people come from literally everywhere. Where I grew up, I had the same friends from grade school until university, and even then, many of my friends attended the same university (in Trondheim). I also love that there is so much you can do here – so many outdoor activities near a big city. You can go sailing in the bay. You can go skiing in Lake Tahoe. You can go biking and hiking and windsurfing. Many of my friends are avid outdoor sportsmen. Oh and the food – I love the food. San Francisco has so many different cuisines, and I feel that no matter how many times I go out, there is always a new place I hear about that I want to try.
Well, I have not lived there in a while. Prior to moving to the U.S. permanently five years ago, I had spent a year studying in Monterey, California at the Monterey Institute of International Studies. Before that, I was in the ERASMUS Programme in Valencia. Prior to that I was in an entrepreneurship program in Singapore. But I did spend 23 years in Norway, and what I miss are the typical things. The people are number one. I miss my family and friends, though I’ve been visiting Norway in recent years a couple times a year; also, my friends have visited us in San Francisco, and my family comes to visit us fairly often. We also travel together. Last March we all went to the Caribbean. A couple Christmases ago we traveled in Mexico with my wife’s family.
I also miss the food. Everyone here, upon finding out I’m from Norway asks me if I eat a lot of fish, if I miss the Norwegian fish very much. But my family actually eats traditional dishes that consist of pork and beef and sometimes elk. We eat a lot of potatoes and sauces. I miss the Norwegian sauces; my wife says we drench our food in them. Of course we do! They’re delicious. Also, there are some sweets, like marzipan and Norwegian chocolate that I miss. Norwegian brown cheese, which is a very traditional food, I can get in California, but I can’t get my favorite cheese called nokkelost. So I miss that.
I guess the last thing I would say that I miss is the Norwegian nature a lot. There is something very unique about Norway and its mountains and forests, its coastline, its sky. It’s very special. I grew up in an area surrounded by forests and lakes and spent most of my childhood playing outdoors, so the natural beauty of Norway is definitely something I miss.
Not really. The rest of my family members still live there. My great-great-grand-father had traveled to the U.S. for some years to work, as had some of his sons, but they all returned. Norway, as you know, has a lot of oil, so I do have some relatives living in places that are hubs for the oil industry like Texas; but all of my close family and friends I grew up with are still back home, and I guess it’s more or less what I expected. Moving abroad wasn’t something that I would have necessarily predicted, though I was always fascinated by the Silicon Valley. I think it’s amazing to live near a place that I used to dream about, to live amongst people in the Silicon Valley and Bay Area who are so entrepreneurial and unafraid to take risks. It’s amazing, and in retrospect it makes sense that I would have ended up here.
Were you always an avid traveler?
I traveled to music festivals and backpacked all over Europe just like most kids, I guess. Norwegians in general like to travel, and many of us study abroad during university. It’s quite common to do so. Also, we love to travel to the south, to warmer places like Spain. My siblings and parents travel often to other European countries like Germany and France. I guess we still have some of the Viking love of roaming left in us. Now that I live in the U.S. I only have 3 weeks’ vacation a year, as opposed to the Norwegian 5 weeks of vacation, but I still try to travel as much as possible. Since I’ve moved here, I ‘ve been to Hawaii, Mexico, Singapore, India, the Caribbean and of course many times to Europe. I’ve also enjoyed getting to know big cities within the United States including Chicago and New York.