We have now been residents in Denmark for a full year. Unlike John, who has had two business trips back to Colorado (to the area we lived previous), I have not stepped foot back in the U.S. in all that time. It’s a strange feeling.
At this point, I feel prepared to make a couple of lists.
Ten Things I Miss About the U.S.:
- My mini-van–I resisted getting a van for years, but once I gave in, I was fully converted. At least I am now comfortable driving my manual transmission French vehicle.
- Having a garbage disposal–While seemingly minor, the lack thereof still affects everyday life. In-sink garbage disposals are not a thing in Denmark, nor are they in other European countries–or else where in the world, for that matter. They are a peculiarly American, and, might I add, superb, kitchen device. According to Wikipedia, “Garbage disposal units are used extensively in United States households, but are far less common elsewhere.” –But why?!!
- Choice in grocery stores–You can get some version of most types of food items in Danish grocery stores, but there is not nearly the selection we’re spoiled with in larger U.S. stores. For example, it’s not uncommon for a Danish grocery store to have only 2 types of apples or 2 types of salad dressing. And of course there are some things, like ranch dressing, that just are not available.
- Cheap consumer goods–most Expats I know in Denmark still buy a lot of their toiletry items/clothing/electronics in the U.S., because it’s considerably cheaper there. This is due in part to the 25% sales tax on everything you buy in DK.
- Ease of doing stuff–I know this is a vague category, but as an Expat, every little thing you try to do becomes much more complicated, from filing taxes to making a doctor’s appointment. There is still a lot I don’t know how to do in Denmark–things that I was well acquainted with in the U.S.–like signing up my kids for soccer and dance. These are things I’m committed to figuring out in the coming year!
- Feeling like things are familiar--This includes surroundings, procedures, people, businesses, etc. So much new stuff is exciting, but sometimes you start to miss having things in your life that are familiar.
- Speaking the language–This is a big one, and goes along with ease of doing stuff. It honestly makes me understand better the plight of immigrants in America. I get now why most paperwork in the U.S. is available in Spanish as well as English, and I don’t think I’ll ever complain about having to press 1 for English again 🙂 because not speaking the language can be crippling. Fortunately most Danes speak English and are willing to help. In spite of making a lot of progress over the course of the last year, I still feel woefully unproficient in Danish. (For example, I don’t know how to say “woefully unproficient” in Danish.)
- Food–Based on discussion with many Expats, when asked what one misses most about their home country, one of the first things that will come to mind is food. For me, MEXICAN food comes in first in all caps. Then there’s chocolate peanut butter ice cream, bagels, cheese sticks from Pizza Hut, salad from Cafe Rio….whoa I need to stop with this list, because who knows when I will be able to satisfy the cravings…
- American People–I miss Americans. Many of them exude a certain friendliness, exuberance, maybe even “loudness”. Americans literally smile more than people in other countries. (And there’s a “scientific” reason why: https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2017/05/why-americans-smile-so-much/524967/ ) While I’m actually kind of glad not to be around for all the devisiveness going on right now in the U.S., let me just say that people better not mess it up for me for when I get back! I expect to return to the same friendly, happy Americans I remember :).
- Family/Friends— This is the big one. Living on a new continent it is easy to feel a sense of isolation like you are a “stranger in a strange land”. And of course, it’s hard to go a year without seeing friends and family. We’ve actually lucked out and had a few visitors, which has been awesome, but we miss everyone we haven’t been able to see. Being 8+ hours difference in time zone doesn’t help communication either, and we’re all busy. It’s hard to keep in touch as well as I would like.
What don’t I miss that surprises me?
Most of our stuff. We arrived with just a few boxes and suitcases with clothes. We got rid of a bunch of stuff in Colorado, and the rest we put in storage. There are a few of Jeffrey’s old toys that I now wish that I had for Rowan (mostly his train sets and huge collection of duplos), but for the most part, the kids have enough–although not too much–and that’s kind of nice. Same goes for furniture and clothes.
Top 10 Things I’m Enjoying in Denmark:
- Playgrounds–I have a lot of kids, and playgrounds are free entertainment, thus we’ve spent a good deal of time exploring the nearby playgrounds. I’d say that Denmark is “kid-friendly” in general, and particularly into playgrounds. Fun fact: The world’s most popular playground supplier, Kompan, is Danish.
- Bike culture–Copenhagen is the bike capitol of the world, and we have enjoyed participating in the bike culture here. The kids ride their bikes to school, John rides his bike to work (in the next town), and we go on family bike rides together, exploring the countryside.
- Beaches–As a peninsular and island nation, Denmark has more than its fair share of beaches. And although the weather and strong currents don’t make them all well suited for swimming, they’re all still beautiful to look at and fun to visit.
- Mild Weather–I know lots of people complain about the weather in Denmark because it’s gray and rainy (myself included sometimes), but last winter I appreciated not having to scrape ice off my car constantly in the winter, or get stuck in the snow, and I have even found myself enjoying the refreshingly cool summers. I do have a feeling though that pretty soon I will start missing the mounds of fresh snow in Colorado, as well as the bright summer sun :).
- Adventure –At least for the first year of living abroad, there is a constant sense of adventure. We’ve been able to add to this by visiting a few other countries as well, which you can do with relative ease in Europe since they are all so close together.
- Discovering a culture--Really experiencing a new culture–and noting the differences and similarities–is fascinating.
- Food–There’s a reason that in the U.S. they call that flaky pastry a “Danish”: Denmark has awesome pastries! They also have delicious cakes that are served at every opportunity. You got an activity? There’s a cake for that. While I can’t say I’ve come around to leverpostej yet, I do love many of the rolls, breads, and cheeses here. I also enjoy some of the ethnic foods we have access to. For example, vegetarian falafel dürüm=delicious!
- The schools–I’m really enjoying learning about the schools here, and am glad that my kids can experience them. I won’t rehash the details here, but I’ve written at length elsewhere in my blog.
- Danish People–The Danes have been kind and welcoming and friendly to us. They have gone above and beyond to help us settle into our surroundings here. and have taken the time to explain some of their culture and traditions–for such a small nation, Denmark has a lot of traditions 🙂 (and a rich and lengthy history to go with them).
- Making Memories— All of the above have contributed to unique and unforgettable memories for us as a family. The past year has been difficult in many ways, but I know that we have made memories that will last a lifetime.
As I write these lists, it’s pretty obvious that so many of them are related, as in, “I miss the food in the United States, but I am enjoying the food in Denmark”. And this is how many Expats constantly feel–it’s a state of living between two countries. I have heard from those that are “live-long Expats” (or immigrants), that there is a constant feeling of never being completely “at home” in either country, there’s always something to miss.