Moving abroad can be so cool and so not cool at the same time. It’s heart wrenching and fear inducing and frustrating but it’s also a crazy fun adventure that most people in the world look at as this huge opportunity to reinvent yourself… even if it doesn’t always feel that way as you’re doing it.
Some things I’ve found to be awesome about living in Denmark can be listed and elaborated on. The things I’m not so into about living abroad are best saved for a long drawn out melancholy-sounding novel of writing and I think we’re all pretty sick of that at this point. So here are the things I love about being in the chilly north:
-Being chilly. Yeah so let me remind everyone where I came from… San Diego, California. Currently it’s a balmy 65 degrees (farenheight because, let’s face it friends, I’m pretty American when it comes to numbers and conversions… lazy to the core). It’s 9am in California and at the height of the day, it’ll be about 70……… In NOVEMBER. About a week ago they were dealing with a stifling heatwave where temperatures were in the high 90s…… IN OCTOBER. And I grew up there. 35 years of random fall heatwaves and summers where some days you just couldn’t move it was so freaking hot out. I mean, if you’re from Denmark and you’re reading this I know you’re thinking that I’m nuts, and that’s reasonable! The heat definitely got to my brain those last few years. But, honestly, this is a welcome break being in the 50s all day. I’m sure by February I’ll be SO over the freezing cold and dark, but at this moment I’m enjoying not being turned into a Baked Alaska during the middle of the day in what is suppose to be Autumn.
-Relaxing on weekends. No one bothers me because they also do not want to be bothered. California is a 24/7 state. If you’re running a business or work in an executive job you have no idea what this “weekend” concept is. Wait…. people take breaks? YES! People have regular jobs with lots of responsibility AND they take breaks on the weekends. Heck they even take this thing called “a vacation.” I haven’t tried it myself yet but I hear it’s pretty enjoyable.
-Stifling the feeling of laughter when someone talks about “crime in Denmark.” So this part requires a little bit of explanation because it sounds like I’m sitting here laughing at another person’s misery, but I promise you I’m not. It’s actually something that took me a few weeks to realize was happening and that it was a reflection of the rougher-than-I-realized conditions of the wild west I came from.
When a Dane or Danish television talks about crime or gang-related violence, I immediately listen to the issue at hand and have trouble understanding what the big deal is… How many people were shot? TWO? Why are you stressing out about that? 2500 people were shot in the US since the Las Vegas shooting, like, 3 weeks ago. Then I kind of scoff. Like, “whatever, you don’t know crime.” But why is that my response, time and time again? Why do I feel like I need to express that every time I hear about violence on the Danish news? Because I think it’s “cute” that they are concerned about something so trivial? WHY do I think something like a person being shot is trivial? Because only one person was shot and not 2500? I’m not going to lie here, the realization that the extent of gun crime in the US is not normal for a first world country is a little… scary. I would NEVER wish harm on any human and please realize that my reaction to the recent gang crimes in Denmark is NOT NORMAL, but rather a response to the desensitization of extreme violence that comes with living in a country that has so much gun freedom. Knowing that gun crime in Denmark is so low in comparison is very nice and it is definitely swaying my feelings about gun control in the US.
-Social services. Yea, ok, I get that extreme taxation and social services is very much against a lot of what Americans have stood for, for many years but… dude, it’s nice to be able to go to the doctor. It’s nice to be able to easily look up the salaries of every single member of parliament. It’s nice to take my kid to a school where every child is treated with respect and it’s understood that no child is better or worse than the other. Having choices with my child’s education that isn’t completely influenced by the neighborhood I live in. I understand that not all parents coming here with children my daughter’s age are having the same experiences but, compared to how the education system works in California… Man it is pretty awesome not having the “does she possibly need special ed” response all the time for every quirk and I freaking love it.
-Green space. So they need more affordable living in Copenhagen, this is true, but you’re going to have to commute on that awesome public transportation system friends because you cannot mess with the green space. All those parks, all those ponds and lakes, the castles and the trees… you can suck it up with finding a home because those spaces are untouchable. There’s no legislature pushing to dissolve the department in charge of keeping them parks so we can build more houses. They are parks and there’s nothing you can do about that.. well, you can enjoy Hellerup.
-When Danes complain about their commute times. “I want the job but I’d have to commute 20 minutes into the city to get to work” 20 MINUTES?! Are you kidding me? On a train… A clean and well kept train with free wifi? Really?! Hey maybe try 45 minutes in bumper to bumper traffic in a car listening to the same Nirvana song over and over. MAYBE don’t try to complain about this one to me until after you’ve lived in Southern California… In the summer… And had to commute in a two-seater Toyota truck for a full hour first. Man I love that train… LOVE THAT TRAIN!
-Happy people. Everyone is happy. Just happy. It’s inspirational, it’s a little eye opening… but mostly, it’s nice. I know the Danes generally wear the grumpy face and have this weird reputation for being hard to make friends with but, that has not been my experience so far. Typically I smile, they smile back, they say something to me in Danish, I ask them to repeat it because my Danish is still coming along, they ask me where I’m from, we crack a few jokes about Los Angeles and we go on our merry little ways. I’ve yet to have a conversation in either English or Danish with a Danish person that hasn’t been absolutely lovely…. Even when I’m in a bad mood, they cheer me up. I like the Danish sarcastic wit. I like the way they get funny-drunk on the weekends and try to talk to me in drunken English. I love the way they give me that side smile when I try to speak in Danish and they have to correct me…. I really enjoy the Danes, they’re my kind of people.
-Getting lost ALL THE TIME. So, there’s one thing I talk about a lot when I travel and when I give advice to other travelers, “don’t be afraid to get lost.” Getting lost is how you find yourself in breathtaking places when traveling abroad. This is most true in Denmark. Getting lost will take you to some of the most beautiful places and finding your way back from getting lost is much easier than you think so just go with it. Denmark is very tiny, you can and you will find your path after a little searching so why not get just a little more lost? There’s not very far to go.
-History. “When was that built? 200 years before my country was founded? Well that’s cool.” Europe, in general, is a history lovers paradise. Denmark is certainly no exception. I went to Frederiksborg Slot today with my new friend, Stefanie (thank you again by the way), and she showed me this really cool video where they showed the history of how the current castle came to be and I could have watched that video for hours! The best part was when they showed the construction during the year the US was founded, damn thing was already 200 years old! The cobblestones that millions of people have walked on for hundreds of years, the trees that have shed and grown leaves for so many generations, it’s surge into and out of Danish life… I mean, it’s good history love right there. And it’s all over! You can’t escape the beauty of this history… even in the 5-story walkup apartment buildings you have to remind yourself, “elevators in homes didn’t exist when this building was built” and that’s so cool.
I do love being in Denmark and I’m happy that we get this time to learn and live here. It’s breathtaking and a great learning experience… mostly, it’s positive and good. I know that there’s been a lot of things out of my control in this move and a lot of things I thought we had planned for but didn’t really get the scope of entirely but, since we’ve been here I’ve met some amazing people. I’ve eaten some REALLY good soup, I’ve definitely seen some really awesome things and I’ve learned a lot about myself. I know a lot of people think we’re crazy, but at least we’re crazy together. The trick to living in this place is to stay positive, think more about each other than yourself and go with the flow. It also doesn’t hurt to know a little Danish.