Onward and Upward

So from my last post, many of you smart and observant readers may have deduced that I’ve been feeling a bit homesick lately. It’s about the right time for it. Actually, 4-5 months is about when trailing spouses begin to feel a bit lost in their new home.ย (So what if I’m a bit ahead of schedule. My parents always told me I was advanced for my age…)

{ A small aside: aย trailing spouse is the spouse that follows their partner overseas on a work/study assignment, often leaving behind their own employment. That’s me! Interestingly, there’s quite a lot of research out there that shows that the success of the expat assignment often rests on the happiness of the trailing spouse, as she – or he! – usually absorbs much of the stress of moving abroad. }

After about 4-6 months, the honeymoon period of your move is over, things have gotten settled, all the boxes have been unpacked, and all of sudden you have a new life without a routine, without a job, and without anything that made up your life before. This is when the trailing spouse has to really put in some hard work to make a new routine and essentially build a new life from scratch.

So, I’ve been wallowing a bit on my sick couch as I considered that hard work. To be fair, I’ve been sick for 11 days now, so some wallowing was called for. But Brian and I had a talk last night, and, as usual, he’s given me back the perspective I so easily lose. He reminded me of all the things I’ve been doing well, which can be hard for me to see sometimes, in the three short months that we’ve been in Denmark. He also reminded me that all of my stuck feelings cropped up about the time that my life was totally consumed by Danish lessons.

So after some discussion and slight soul searching, I’ve decided to quit wallowing and move forward! Or at least to try my best to do so. It also helps that I’m finally starting to feel a bit better. I can actually get off of the couch and help cook dinner! And I was able to do a load of laundry! Hurray!

I am seriously considering, though, downgrading the intensity of my Danish lessons after I finish Module 1 in November. I just feel like I had all these things I planned to do now that I am without job. You know, the things you always say you’re going to do but never have time for because you work for a living. That was one of the big perks for me of coming to Denmark, that I would finally have time to do some of them while I contemplated entering the Danish job market. But with language class every day, that all kind of fell by the wayside. And yeah it’s important to learn Danish, but let’s be real, I’m never going to be very good at Danish, or at least not in 3 years. Realistically, I’d like to learn enough to help me get around and get along. And no matter how much Danish I learn I’m still most likely going to be speaking English to any Danish person I meet. That’s what every person I’ve met has told me. Literally, we met an expat married to a Danish woman with Danish children who still speaks English with everyone, including his wife! So I may switch to night classes for Module 2. I haven’t fully decided yet, but I’d like to have some time for some other things while we’re here, and since I’m pretty sure this isn’t a permanent move for us, I think that’s the best decision.

So now that I’m well again, Brian and I can finally get our butts to IKEA and get some dining room chairs so we can start having people over! Stay tuned for why I am seriously intimidated by the cooking prowess of Brian’s Danish colleagues and why I’m sort of dreading cooking for them with my very limited cooking skills. (Ummm, pasta with store bought pasta sauce, anyone?)

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22 thoughts on “Onward and Upward

  1. I think I was a bit ahead of the 4-5 month average too. I think scaling the lessons back would be a good idea (not that you asked). If you’re anything like me, you want to jump in and get moving so you can get on with things and the language piece is a big piece of that. But I’ve realized it takes time and for me, I was putting so much pressure on the language that I was making myself unhappy and taking the joy out of it. I’m very impatient. ๐Ÿ™‚ Anyway, glad you’re feeling better!

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    • I think I’m totally the same way. It’s not happening fast enough for me, and at the same time it’s just way too much. There’s other stuff I want to concentrate on! But I always appreciate everyone’s input and advice on here ๐Ÿ™‚ It’s one of the great things about blogging! So thanks.

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  2. I am definitely not the cook in our little household, but I discovered an excellent tomato sauce recipe that I’ll happily share with you, will take all the fear out of cooking for guests (as long as they aren’t allergic to tomatoes, onions, or butter). ๐Ÿ˜€

    I understand about the Danish. Been here long enough I probably should be relatively smooth at it, but I still feel like a bumbling child, and that holds me back from using it a lot. Take it at your own pace, use what you know as best you can, and when push comes to shove don’t hesitate to whip out a smile and a ‘Sorry, really bad Danish, how about English?’ Most will accept the effort (in varying degrees, of course), and then switch. A few will get all huffy about it, and the best way to deal with them is ignoring. If one stands in your way, find another. The level and ability of English use will vary, but you’ll find some good ones, and they can take the sting off the bad ones. You’ll be ok.

    Be careful out amongst the goods at IKEA. It really can suck you in. You go in for chairs, you come out with everything but the chairs, stuffed to the gills on meatballs and lingonberry sauce. (nom)

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    • We’ve been getting by on just English so far, and it’s been really easy (comparatively). I think we’ve only run in to two people who didn’t speak English. Everyone else seemed pretty happy to help us out by speaking in English. And I hear from many people that even if you know and try to speak Danish, many Danish people will just switch to English because they figure it’s easier for both of you. One reason why it can actually be harder to learn Danish.

      I know what you mean about IKEA! I couldn’t believe when I saw that they even sold meatballs, lol. But we can’t buy that much stuff because we have to take it home on the bus! So we’ll have to buy only the essentials.

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  3. I agree with Wrenni’s comment “Been here long enough I probably should be relatively smooth at it, but I still feel like a bumbling child” … holy cow, it’s difficult for native English speakers!

    I was in Berlin for two years in the early 80’s – the German I learned then has been a part of my family’s life and expressions since then. It shaped me (and probably made it easier to envision a permanent move to Norway thirty years later). The Danish you learn in the three years you are in Denmark will probably have the same impact for you and your husband.

    In 2007/2008, after reading my “adjustment to Norway” posts for a while, one of my brothers made a comment to my Mom along the lines of “is the adjustment really so easy for Cindi – she makes it all sounds so perfect” … although I wrote a lot of introspective, non-happy posts – I never published them (there’s probably an introspective post about *why* I didn’t publish them, too, but that’s another story!)

    Your written thoughts are so deeply personal; it’s healthy you can share them with your family and your followers! You let all of us non-sharing types know we’re not alone, and hopefully *you* know you’re not alone in your feelings.

    Virtual hugs!

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    • Thanks Cindi. I hope it’s healthy and not annoying!

      I actually am not that much of a sharing person as I tend towards the shy/introverted spectrum. But with my blog – and this is my first time blogging, so I’m just playing it by ear – I’ve been trying to write what I would like to read. And what I always want to read is the personal. For example, when I’m dealing with language issues or homesickness, I want to read about other bloggers and how they dealt with that. So while sometimes I kind of cringe before posting, thinking maybe that was a bit too personal, I’d rather go there than hold it back.

      Thanks for the hugs ๐Ÿ™‚

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    • Thanks Jeff! We met someone else the other day here from St. Louis! She’s been here 5 years, and came over by herself. I can’t imagine having to do all of this on your own. So we’re both very grateful that we have each other.

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  4. Glad you are moving forward!
    I’m going to be one of those ‘trailing spouses’ soon. I am excited to move but sad to be leaving my current job (with no job lined up in Denmark). So I think I’ll be in the same situation of learning as much Danish as I can and figuring out what else to do.
    I can already tell I’m going to miss Target and Trader Joes…

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    • It’s a whole new world, the life of a trailing spouse ๐Ÿ™‚ Be sure to check out Workindenmark when you come. They’re a governmental organization that has this series of seminars that helps spouses start their job search, so they’ll teach you how to do your CV for the Danish market, how to interview, etc. I found them very useful.

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  5. I have to say, I commend you for attempting Danish lessons. My husband and I moved to Aarhus from California in May this year for a 2-3 year adventure with his career. I also set aside my career to be a “stay-at-home-wife”, which is actually a lot of fun in this city. However, the one thing we both realized early on was that we would never be able to learn the language. I am just happy that I can finally pronounce my street name. Everybody we meet, for the most part, speaks English so it hasn’t been a issue.

    You mentioned going to Ikea several times for furniture. Have you ever checked out the second-hand stores? There is a great church run one on Norre Alle 25, and an even larger one north of the university on Jens Bagge Vej 84. We outfitted most of our apartment for about 2000 dkk from those two stores, with a few things bought new from Ikea and Ilva (like our bed!).

    And, I completely agree, apartment hunting was one of the most stressful endeavors I have ever gone through.

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    • Hi Suvi. I love meeting people on a similar Denmark journey as me! I’m always interested in comparing notes. How are you spending your time as a stay at home wife? If you don’t mind my asking. Are you going to look for a job? I feel like that’s the first thing everyone asks me here. There’s such pressure to work. But like you guys, we’re only supposed to be here for 3 years. So it’s a kind of limbo time. I’m not sure if it’s worth putting such effort into Danish because, as you say, it’s difficult to learn and you can get by with English. You make me feel a bit better about my (possible) decision to cut back on Danish lessons.

      We haven’t checked out any of the second-hand stores. We had actually heard from some Danish people that they tend to be quite expensive, so we didn’t even try. But maybe we should! Especially if you were able to do a whole apartment for just 2000 DKK! We’ll definitely check out the two that you recommend. We still need ceiling lights, and they’re so expensive here!

      Thanks for posting ๐Ÿ™‚ Be careful of the hurricane tonight!

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      • I am actually really enjoying my time off work. In the states, I am/was a teacher. I could probably find a position at one of the international schools in Aarhus, but in teaching there is a lot of extra work you have to put in to develop curriculum and to learn the Danish system. Then, if you do a good job, the school and other teachers learn to depend on you. I already feel slightly guilty leaving my position after 5 years to come to Denmark, I can’t imagine how I would feel if I found a position here and had to leave after a shorter time.
        Everybody asks me if I plan to find a job here too. My husband’s boss even gave me a couple of leads when we first moved here! But, we don’t need the extra income and my husband is starting to really like having a clean apartment to come home to, dinner on the stove, and a cocktail waiting for him after a stressful day.
        So far, I’ve been spending my time increasing my culinary skills, exploring the city and taking advantage of the forest, and pursuing my hobbies. I love to crochet and found cotton yarn for less than 20dkk at Sรธstrene Grene! Perfect for my amigurumi projects and so much cheaper than in California. There are actually some things that are a good deal in Denmark!

        As far as the second-hand stores go, the ones that call themselves vintage shops (like those on Borggade) are really expensive and for the “collectors”. The true thrift stores (like the Kirkens Korshรฆr ones I mentioned before, and the Salvation Army location at Norsegade and Norre Alle) are actually a good deal. We found a coffee table for 150dkk that we later saw at Ilva for 1200dkk! Our couch was 300, and our dining room table + 6 chairs came to about 600. We even got them to throw a foot stool in for free since we were buying so much stuff.

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      • That is a crazy good deal! Good find ๐Ÿ™‚ We’ll definitely have to check them out, although we’ve pretty much finished with furnishing our house by now.

        And thanks for the tip about the yarn. I’ve just started learning how to knit and crochet, so I’ll have to check out Sรธstrene Grene for well priced yarn. I love that you do amigurumi ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m no where near that level. (I’m still working on my first hat.)

        I know what you mean about not wanting to work. I’m kind of torn because I’ve always worked, but this is such a good opportunity to not work and focus on some other things, like learning to knit! I have a friend who is of the same mind as you and is just taking the time to explore.

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  6. Went through the same thing 20 years ago coming from living in Greece, ( Born and raised in UK) and moving to Texas. Husband is Greek American.
    Having kids made me adjust. It s now more of an acceptance, I am not unhappy her, but would never have chosen to live here if possible.
    You make of it what you will.
    But there is something special about your own people, and what you are used too.
    theres no window for settling, just do what makes you happy!

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    • Good perspective! The fact is that we’re here for 3 years so we have to make it the best experience possible instead of spending time on thinking about what might have been.

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    • Ooo, what a good reference! I hadn’t thought of her at all, but you’re totally right. Brian has said that I should take some Danish baking classes so that when we go back to the US I can open the best bakery in the whole country ๐Ÿ™‚ Seriously, their pastries are sooooo much better than anything I had back home.

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  7. Speaking of furniture, etc. hunting, I wanted to offer myself and our car, to help you cart at least a few things hither and yon. ๐Ÿ™‚ We have a small car, but it can hold a few things, including some flat pack stuff from IKEA. You can write me at wren (at) americhick (dot) com.

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  8. Pingback: The Return | Our House in Aarhus

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