It’s Been So Long!

What do you do when you’ve been absent from your blog for, oh, about 3 months? Make a really good excuse and move on?? Well, my excuse is that I’m pregnant and when we got home from traveling my mind went into full on prep-for-baby mode. No more room for thinking about Denmark vs the US, I have drawers to organize!

But I really don’t want to abandon this blog completely. It’s been a great outlet for us while adjusting to life here in Denmark, and I love hearing all of your feedback. So I’m going to try and post a few things before baby comes to say hi. Then I will probably disappear for a little while, but I hope it won’t be for good. I want to keep going with writing and observing as baby grows up here in Denmark, and I have a feeling I will have ample opportunity once I start looking at our world from his perspective.

So I’m sorry if you’ve missed me! I’m sorry if it’s taken me forever to respond to your lovely comments! I’m trying to stay up to date, but I may be a little out of focus for the next few months. Don’t give up on me! And stay tuned for more soon.

The One Year Anniversary Post

As of July 25th, we’ve been living in Denmark for one whole year! Yay! Of course, I missed this anniversary because morning sickness, so I never did a post for it. So I figured that would do that now.

Obligatory photos of us. I've been a really bad photographer lately and haven't taken any recent photos. I think this is of us on our way to the US in August.

Obligatory photo of us. I’ve been a really bad photographer lately and haven’t taken any recent photos. I think this is of us on our way to the US in August.

Also, I’ve been thinking that it may seem like from some of my blog posts that I’m a little down on Denmark. I have the habit of writing more when I’m upset or unhappy about something (which actually has many health benefits because science!). It’s a way of working through it for me. But when things are going well, I don’t feel as much compulsion to write. And the transition to living in a foreign country as a first time expat is rather difficult, especially for someone like me who is not always excited about big changes. So I’m worried that I’m not sharing the good, happy, and fun parts of our experience with you guys as much as I should be. Because we do have a lot of fun! And there’s a lot about this experience that I’m grateful for.

So, without further ado, reasons why I am grateful for Denmark and this experience:

  1. Brian can work and earn his PhD at the same time. This is a big one. This is the reason we came to Denmark and what makes it all worth it. In the US, this situation would pretty much be impossible. Companies and universities are not at all used to sharing information and copyright possibilities. But here in Denmark, they encourage industry and academia to work together (which really sounds like a good idea to me). So they have this thing called an Industrial PhD which allows Brian to work full time – and get paid – in a company while also earning his PhD, using the same work for both, basically. If it weren’t for this, Brian either would not be getting his PhD or we would be living on a PhD student’s and a librarian’s salaries, which I guess would have been an adventure all on its own.
  2. Denmark is a westernized country full of very proficient English speakers. You will have some expats who argue that it is a negative that so many Danes speak such good English (“you don’t learn the language as quickly”) or that Denmark is so similar to other Western European countries. These are usually the adventure hungry, wanderlust expats. Just to be clear, you will never hear that argument or complaint from me. I am so thankful, every day, that I can communicate in English. I just, I can’t imagine what it would be like to live in a country where that isn’t a possibility. Of course, we are both learning Danish, and I try to speak Danish whenever I can. But there are so many situations in which my Danish is not going to cut it. For instance, I had to call the insurance company today to figure out how travel insurance works. I just can’t have most of that conversation in Danish and know what’s going on. So, this is a big one that makes our lives here much easier. Denmark is just different enough, and I like it that way.
  3. It’s taught me to deal with being outside my comfort bubble. Ugh, it has taken me a while to see this one as any kind of positive or to be grateful for being forced soooo far outside my comfort bubble. The thing is, I don’t mind change or new experiences. I just like them a little bit at a time so I can adjust before moving on to the next thing. A lot of change all at once kind of overloads my system. This was especially hard for me with Danish, for some reason. There’s just something about learning a new language that makes you feel about 5 years old and 2 feet tall. But I have come to realize that it’s a necessary skill to have, to be out there and to be uncomfortable and to get on with what you have to do anyway. Recently, I think the baby-to-be has really pushed me through a big barrier, again with Danish. I’m always uncomfortable starting a conversation with Danes in English because I don’t want to be…I don’t know, the rude foreigner I guess. But as I said above, there are certain things that just work better for everyone if we all speak English. Doctors’ appointments, for instance. And recently there have been a few times where – due to baby-to-be – we’ve just had to get things done and I’ve just had to get over my weird hang ups and do them. And it all turned out OK. So I’m learning to not judge myself so much for feeling uncomfortable or for not being the perfect Danish speaking foreigner, for being who I am where I am on my Danish language journey.
  4. It’s taught me how to make friends. This has been a big one for me and probably is the thing that I’m most grateful for after #1 up above. I feel like after high school I kind of fell out of practice of making new friends. It comes so easily when you’re young, but it got a bit harder as an adult. You have less down time with random strangers, I guess. Everyone has their lives, and it takes more effort on both sides to build a new friendship. So when we moved here and literally knew no one, it was like back to basics in making friends. And the thing is, I actually really enjoy the process. It’s fun to meet new people who are going through the same things we’re going through. It’s fun to compare notes and share embarrassing experiences and complain about Danish. I’m hoping this all just continues when the baby comes and I start meeting fellow mothers. I’ve learned that in adult friend-making, it’s pretty important to have one big thing in common: expat, country of origin, mother, love of reading, etc.
  5. All the great new friends we’ve made! And thanks to my new found ability 😉 we have made some really great new friends. Since everyone in the expat community here is missing their support network, it seems like you bond pretty fast, especially with the people you meet when you’ve just arrived. And it is a HUGE help to have people that are going through the same thing who can share stories and resources. We are definitely grateful for our awesome friends.
  6. The ability to travel. This is also a really big one. Living in Denmark means we get to travel a lot more in Europe, which is usually pretty difficult for an American. So we get all these added bonus experiences, which so far have been totally awesome. It’s not as easy – or as cheap – as everyone tells you it will be before you move, but it’s still easier than coming all the way from the US for each trip. Plus, we get to go places we never would have visited before like Stockholm or some tiny dutch town. I think next on our list are Iceland, Finland, and Norway.
  7. Living on our own. Brian and I have always lived in the same city as our families. And we’ve loved it. There is so much to be said for living around family, and we’d like to end up back in that situation. But I do think that it’s good for us to have this time to try and figure things out on our own. It’s that last push into adulthood, if you will.
  8. The change in our perspective. Brian and I are pretty open minded anyway, but living in another country just further broadens your horizons and forever changes your perspectives on a lot of things. Suddenly you really see that there’s not only one way to do things or one way to live.

So I think those are the big ones. I am also, of course, grateful for little things about Denmark, like the awesome public transportation system, the bike paths, living by the sea, the weather (yes, apart from the darkness I do quite like Denmark’s cool, mild climate, come to St. Louis in August and then we’ll talk). It’s nice to go through this list every once in a while, especially when I’m feeling frustrated about something having to do with being an expat in Denmark, and remind myself why this experience is actually quite positive and why we decided on the move in the first place.

Well, one year down, two more to go!

We have Big News, of the pitter patter of little feet variety!

First, let me say: I’m so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so so sorry for leaving for so long without a word.

But, I have a really good excuse: I’m pregnant! See, here’s a (bad) picture of me sort of, kind of, almost visibly pregnant.

And for those of you who know St. Louis, you may recognize the famous and delicious ice cream stand behind us.

And for those of you who know St. Louis, you may recognize the famous and delicious ice cream stand behind us.

The reason that’s an excuse for not posting is that I had a really bad first trimester that included morning sickness that lasted all. day. long. I’ve never been seasick before, but I imagine it’s like taking a three month cruise which you can’t get off of and you’re horribly seasick the whole time. I literally did nothing but groaned on the couch while thinking exclusively about what I could possibly eat next that wouldn’t cause further harm. For a while it was a very small list that seemed to consist mostly of pizza and french fries with mayo. (Definitely NOT stir fry or barbecue, ick. Those things still make me nauseous.) So not a whole lot of posting on the interwebs could be done at this time during the groaning and the almost barfing.

And then we spent the entire month of August in the US visiting our family, so not much posting got done then, either. Luckily, I was starting to feel a bit better for that part or I would have been really upset because I had a list a mile long of food that I needed to eat while in St. Louis. I got to some of them (toasted ravioli!), though some others I still couldn’t really eat (cheeseburgers).

So that is my big news and my big excuse. I know I’ve committed the blogging sin, to disappear without a note, but hopefully I will be forgiven. And I plan on being back and making regular posts again, now that I’m feeling almost human.

The Danish Holidays May Throw You For a Loop

Why the flag? Because in Denmark every holiday of every kind is celebrated by decorating with and flying the Danish flag. Go Dannebrog!

Why the flag? Because in Denmark every holiday of every kind is celebrated by decorating with and flying the Danish flag. Go Dannebrog!

So, speaking of Sankhans aka midsummer aka a holiday I’ve never heard of before coming to Denmark…

OK, OK, I’ve heard of midsummer. I’m not an animal. And I do read a lot of fantasy novels. But I’d never heard of the tie in with St. John the Baptist. (Leave it to those Catholics to so blatantly hijack a pagan holiday.) Nor have I heard of the Burn all the Witches! tradition. I thought midsummer was all about picking herbs to get them at their most magically potent and dancing around poles with flowers and jumping over fires for guaranteed fertility in the coming year. Not sending witches back to Germany… (hehe, that still cracks me up, every time.)

Yeah, so speaking of crazy holidays, I wrote another post over at Panorama about adjusting to the Danish holidays. Because they can take some getting used to at first, especially if you’re from the US.

Why? I’ll give you a hint: it’s because they’re all based on religious holidays, which will really blow your mind if you’re used to separation of church and state. (Or, my mind is just easily blown – which Brian tells me is the truth – and no one else but me really cares about this.)

BUT there’s something else about their holidays that really could blow your mind: they’re all in the spring. Literally, all of them except for Christmas. There are no holidays between June and December. What’s up with that?! I miss all my fall holidays!

So go read and enjoy 🙂

More Blogging Than You Can Handle

Hi everyone. Sorry about the lack of posts and general MIA-ness recently. We just got back from a trip to Stockholm over this past long weekend, the last public holiday we’ll see in a long time, until Christmas! I’ll have a post on all our adventures as soon as I can get the pictures loaded onto my computer.

But until then I wanted to let you all know that I’ve started blogging for a magazine here in Aarhus called Aarhus Panorama. I’m kind of like the resident foreigner, writing about the outsider’s perspective on Aarhus. The audience is mostly Danes, so it will be a bit different than what I write here.

So if you just can’t get enough of me and want to read even more, head over there to check out my other posts. I’ll let you all know when a new one goes up. I’ve just started writing – and really their website has just launched – so I only have one post so far. It’s about traveling in Europe when you’re already an expat, and you can find it here.

Cheers!

A Guest Post and a Contest

The view from a bike path between Aarhus C and Brabrand, taken 10 minutes outside the city center.

The view from a bike path between Aarhus C and Brabrand, taken 10 minutes outside the city center.

Recently, I was asked to write a post about visit Aarhus on knock.com, a home swap and travel website. They have a project called 100 Cities where they are trying to gather travel tips on 100 cities written by insiders who live there.

So I wrote an article on My Top Things to Do in Aarhus, and man were there a lot of things to choose from! Aarhus really is a fantastic city. It’s the perfect size. It feels like a small town and yet it has so much: an ocean, beaches, forests, shopping, cobblestone streets, medieval architecture, world class museums, the wonderful scenery in the photo above. (Oh my god, I can’t believe it was ever that sunny here.)

Here’s the part where I ask for your help. If you visit my article and vote for it, I could win a Kindle or even plane tickets for my next trip! So go read my article, look at the picture of me eating softis, dream of coming to visit us in Aarhus, and VOTE FOR ME!

P.S. A dear blogging friend of mine from An American in Norway also wrote an article about her town, Bergen, which is so so beautiful. So go read about Norway and vote for her as well!

Oh my god we’re famous.

Ok, not really. But guys! The BBC linked to this blog in one of their travel articles. The BBC!! Here’s the original article: it’s called “Living In: The World’s Happiest Places” by Sunshine Flint.

Apparently, the World Happiness Report just came out again, and Denmark once again ranks among the top 5 “happy” countries in the world. {Just a small aside: is it weird to anyone else that “having someone to count on” is literally a variable in how they rank these countries? Could they have written a more vague and wishy-washy sounding variable?}

Blogging is such a unique experience, and it is still surprising to me how small the virtual world can be. The interwebs is this huge, vast space, but with blogging you can carve out your own little niche and find your own little community. I’m very thankful I’ve had my blog and my online friends during this experience. They’ve helped me to feel connected in moments when I could have felt very isolated. So thanks for reading, guys 😉

And thanks to my friend Yuka for bringing this BBC article to my attention! I should really be paying more attention to who links to my blog and how people find my blog…

 

Don’t Freak Out Or Anything…

…but I’m playing with the appearance of my blog. I desperately wanted a side bar for things like a tag cloud and various widgets, all these blog-speak things. I’m trying to keep the same general feeling of my previous blog – light, airy, nordic – but it will change somewhat. But change is so fun! Yay! (ahem *sarcasm* ahem)