Since I’ve moved to Denmark, I get asked the same questions pretty frequently.
1. How do you like Denmark/How are you adjusting?
2. What are you planning to do for work?
3. How long do you plan to stay in Denmark?
4. Have you started classes/How’s your Danish?
5. Do you miss your home?
Honestly, these questions are the worst. I’m currently dealing with the most dramatic change in my life, and it’s been incredibly emotional and borderline traumatic. I appreciate the fact that people are taking an interest in my situation, but answering these questions is almost a guaranteed way to make me teary-eyed. Yes, I am very lucky to have the opportunity to live abroad, but what most people don’t realize is that I’m grieving because there is one thing I’m struggling with more than anything else.
I don’t think I’m every going to live the States again.
I’m not like some other expats. I didn’t come to Denmark to work for a few years before heading back to the US. I don’t have a convenient timeframe set up. I don’t have a countdown to my return. I came here to start a life with my Danish boyfriend, and as far as I know, we are never going to have an American address together. Every time I go home, it will be for a visit. That is my reality, and it’s the reason why those 5 innocent little questions send me reeling. I gave up my job, my friends, my family, and everything that made me feel comfortable and moved across an ocean. Sometimes, I don’t like to be reminded of that.
That being said, I still think Denmark is a great place to be. I absolutely love it here. I wake up every morning happy to be in Copenhagen, and I’m really enjoying all the new things that this country has to offer. I have not regretted my decision to come here at all, but this is not my home yet. Home is 3923 miles away. I’m still in the United States emotionally, so I’m in the process of trying to merge my American self with my new Denmark life, and it’s proving difficult. I don’t want to be the person who spends her life longing to be somewhere else, but at the same time, I don’t want to put my American life in a box and forget about it. Therefore, I’ve decided there are 5 American things that I need in my life to keep me sane (one for each of those 5 pesky questions).
#1: My dog
Ok, so this isn’t really an “American thing” per se, but I definitely could not survive in Denmark without Sherlock Holmesboi. I moved in October and knew absolutely no one other than my boyfriend Mo, so the winter was very lonely. It was really nice to be able to have a puppy to snuggle with on the couch on a cold afternoon. Now that the weather is getting nicer, it’s great to have a furry friend to walk around the city with. Sherlock and I have been together for 4 years, and I’m so happy to have him with me in this chapter of my life.
#2: Dr. Pepper
This might seem a little bit odd to my friends on the East Coast, but I’m a midwest girl at heart. I am definitely a Pepper, so when I found out that I could find my favorite soda (I stopped calling it “pop” in 6th grade) in Denmark, I was beyond happy. Whenever, we see it in the store, I insist that we stock up, even though my boyfriend hates the stuff. Apparently the Danes don’t fully understand the magic that is Dr. Pepper (the Viking thinks it tastes like medicine), so they think my obsession is a little strange but still amusing. One of his friends even bought me Dr. Pepper BBQ sauce for Christmas. Best. Present. Ever.
#3: Peanut Butter
This is definitely a comfort food for me. In November, I saw a jar of Skippy sitting on a shelf and immediately threw it in our shopping basket. When we got home, the Viking grabbed it and asked, “So what do you do with this?” I had literally never heard that question, so I whipped up two PB & J sandwiches. I couldn’t believe that Mo had never enjoyed peanut butter and jelly before. Now, it’s a staple in our AmeriDane household. I haven’t found Skippy since, but there are other brands of peanut butter to keep me happy.
#4: My tortilla press
Again, this isn’t exactly American, but you can file this under Tex-Mex, I guess. One of the things I was worried about before I moved was losing touch with my hispanic upbringing. I already get teased because I’m the only one in the family who isn’t a native Spanish speaker and because my Spanish is laughably terrible. To add insult to injury, my mother is a Spanish teacher. (Seriously what is my problem?) Anyway, I discovered in July that corn tortillas basically do not exist in Denmark, and a Latina just can’t survive without them. It’s science. So, my wonderful parents bought me a tortilla press for Christmas. The Viking located the corn flower with some help from the internet, and now we can enjoy homemade tortillas. I can cook meals that make me feel closer to my Mom and Dad. Food has always been very important to us as a family, and the distance isn’t going to change that.
Even if you’ve known me just 7 minutes, you already know that I am an insane sports enthusiast. My friends and family have all experienced my animated mannerisms (to put it delicately) during games. Everyone knows that my favorite places to be are at Wells Fargo for Flyers games or Citizens Bank Park for Phillies games. My own boyfriend knew enough of my obsession to take me to (my very first) Broncos game vs the Jets at Metlife Stadium. Honestly, next to family and friends, the thing that I miss the most are my sports teams. The time difference makes it hard for me to watch the games I love the most, but I definitely make an effort to keep up with what’s happening in stadiums back home. I live for East Coast afternoon games that translate to 7pm or 10pm Denmark time, and my boyfriend has been wonderful in supporting my sports habit. He sat with me for months on Sundays to watch (American) football, and we even caught a Flyers game on Danish cable. Now that baseball season is in full swing, we watch the matinee games with dinner. I babble on about RBIs, pitching match ups, and who was optioned to the Iron Pigs while the Viking politely nods. It really means a lot that he’s willing to watch these games with me. I know that 4 quarters, 3 periods, or 9 innings can sometimes be a lot to ask, but it’s during those games that I feel the most at home.
So there you have it! These are my 5 American essentials that I brought with me to Copenhagen.
As I navigate this new territory of expat life, I’m enjoying a whole new world that I never knew existed. It’s exciting and overwhelming, so it’s nice to have a few things to carry with me from home. They may be small or unusual, but they’re what keep me comfortable. Having these things makes the strain of those 5 questions bearable. Other expats may look at my list and say, “I could live without all of that”. Not everyone’s list of essentials is going to look the same as mine, and that’s a great thing. Everyone who has lived this life has done so differently, but none of us have to live it alone. Whether you’re an expat or not, I would love to know your list of essentials from your home country. Feel free to share them below!