Barren American Suburbs

A Norwegian perspective on the problem with American suburbia. What makes it different from a Norwegian suburb.

Erik Engheim
7 min readJan 3, 2021


American suburbs is a study in endless repetition. Houses lined up after each other in repetitive patterns.

Some time ago I answered a question online about why us Nordics where not flocking to the USA. Why did we not go to the US to escape our oppressive taxes, enjoy a larger job market and international companies? Curious minds wanted to know.

I admit my response was perhaps a bit snarky. I do believe in being nice online, but having heard rants about how America is the greatest place on the planet for too many years, there are just times when a fuse blows in my head. I could write a whole story on the stuff people have told me over the years, but that is for another time.

Anyway this question caused me to write a point about why I preferred Nordic cities:

Cities are not massive subdivisions divided by multi-lane highways, where life only exists at the strip mall or in empty suburbia. There is actually a diverse urban culture, with nice walkable downtowns. And even if you live in the suburbs, there is something there. You may find train stations, subway stops. A square with stores and restaurants. Parks, playgrounds. Hiking areas etc.

The response I got made me realize, that what me and perhaps many other Europeans think about the American suburb is simply not apparent to a lot of Americans. We simply talk straight past each other because our reference points on what a city means is a so profoundly different. Here is the response for clarification:

Oklahoma City has many excellent museums, amusement parks, an excellent riverfront and hiking area, but we are also only just an hours drive from several lakes where we enjoy boating, hiking, or just to set and look at the (small) mountains. Or if we wanted larger mountains, a few more hours and we could visit the Colorado Rocky Mountains, and hike through ancient Anasazi ruins.

What this American describes is he ability to get into a car and drive to different activities. But that has really nothing to do with my concept of what an urban life is. Nor does it capture what I find so soul crushing about the American suburb. So I decided it has to be shown with pictures. What is better than simply picking a…



Erik Engheim

Geek dad, living in Oslo, Norway with passion for UX, Julia programming, science, teaching, reading and writing.