Is it too early to write this post? Sometimes, I don’t even feel like an expat, mainly because I can’t even believe we’re here. Mostly upon waking or emerging from the fog that is watching an American television show, I realize that I have completely forgotten where I am. Then it all of a sudden hits me: Oh my God, we’re in Denmark.
So let’s call this post, Life as a New Expat. Life as One Recently Expatriated.
Life right now for this expat is very day by day. All expats learn to accept this truth, and you will read about it in any blog or book about moving countries that you can find. But as a new expat, this fact is only more true. You find yourself by turns excited, overwhelmed, curious, anxious, fascinated, frustrated, proud, self-conscious. It’s a grab bag of emotions, and you never know which one you’re going to get on any given day. (Or any given hour, on some days.)
The thing about being an expat is that the smallest things start to carry such importance. Successfully withdrawing money from the bank will have you flying high the rest of the day, feeling like you can take on any challenge your new home might throw at you. The next day, a confusing and frustrating trip to the grocery store will have you brooding for the rest of the afternoon, wondering when you’ll feel at ease in your new city. Everything that you used to take for granted about just living, all those little things you used to do on autopilot like buy laundry detergent at Target or go out to dinner after a stressful week, is now something that must be considered and planned ahead of time.
And we have it good because most Danes speak excellent English. I can’t imagine what the culture shock would be like if you moved to a country where there was no common language.
So being an expatriate is all about patience, mostly with yourself. It’s about knowing your limits, reminding yourself to breathe, and letting yourself take more breaks than you may be used to. You made it through your first social event? Have a cookie. Had a tough day at work because everyone kept dropping into Danish and for some reason it just got to you more than usual? Here’s a beer and some American TV.
Eventually we’ll watch Danish television – with subtitles – and we’ll go out to eat on the weekends. Eventually we’ll be able to buy groceries for an entire week because we can think more than one day ahead. But for right now, baby steps.
Baby steps are fine.
(And also, I find that coffee helps immensely.)