Descending from Vikings

WHERE ARE YOU FROM?

“Where are you from?” I’ve brought it up before. It’s an interesting question and one that I am as tempted to ask as be asked. I’m not off put or bent out of shape or annoyed in any way when I am posed this query. We’re different here. As Americans living in Denmark. It’s ok. Where we have lived shapes us. The cultures, norms and lifestyles play into who we are and how we approach things. What I have noticed is that the foreign perception of heritage may be different than that of an American’s. How many of my American friends and readers did a “roots report” of sorts in grade school? How many of us celebrate holidays like St. Patrick’s Day and the like because of ancestral ties to the “old country?” My great-grandfather did emigrate from Ireland. We know this. Beyond that, we don’t know a ton about him because after moving to Kansas and marrying my great-grandmother, he left our family including my grandpa and his 3 siblings when they were quite young. But if I were to say I was “Irish American” here in Denmark – I would be met with smirks, scoffs and genuine looks of incredulity. (I am used to that.) “You are not Irish. I know Irish.” or “Why are Americans so obsessed with who their ancestors are?” “You’re American.” Yes. I am. But my ancestors were Irish. I never said

What I noticed fairly quickly moving here is that the foreign perception of heritage may be different than that of an American’s. How many of my American friends or readers did a “roots report” of sorts in grade school? How many of us celebrate holidays like St. Patrick’s Day and the like because of ancestral ties to a specific “old country?” My great-grandfather did emigrate from Ireland. We know this. Beyond that, we don’t know a ton about him because after moving to Kansas and marrying my great-grandmother, he left our family including my grandpa and his three siblings when they were quite young. But if I were to say I was “Irish American” here in Denmark – I would be met with smirks, scoffs and genuine looks of incredulity. (I am used to that.) “You are not Irish. I know Irish.” or “Why are Americans so obsessed with who their ancestors are?” “You’re American.” Yes. I am. But my ancestors were Irish. I never said

But if I were to say I was “Irish American” here in Denmark – I would be met with smirks, scoffs and genuine looks of incredulity. (I am used to that now living abroad.) “You are not Irish. I AM Irish.” or “Why are Americans so obsessed with who their ancestors are?” “You’re American.” Yes. YES, I am. But my ancestors were Irish. I never said was Irish. And I do like corned beef and Guinness. So sue me. (Please note: I never actually have uttered the words “I am an Irish American”, but the topic has been discussed with my local international friends. And I know how very American the saying “so sue me” is as well and living here in Denmark I do appreciate their non-litigious leanings.)

On the other side of the coin – my husband’s “heritage” has Swedish roots as evidenced by our last name – Gustafson. Having the last name Gustafson in Scandinavia instantly makes you a Swede. King Gustav was big there. We saw him in Stockholm. Somehow – we are his sons. Not really. But it’s fun to say. And having a Scandinavian name in Scandinavia is not actually a boon as it bestows higher expectations on your knowledge of local language and customs. Like my son who was taller than his peers from an early age – the expectations of his early development a grave disappointment when his size didn’t match his language maturation. But he is only 14 months old! Whew, that indignation came back quickly – sorry. Back to our story. When they hear our name, people ask us if we’re Swedish. I have been asked that more than one time in Denmark and in Norway. Weirdly, no one asked us in Sweden. 😉

King Gustaf the III
King Gustaf the III

Heritage it seems – where we are from – an important question. Not only historically, but a serious question in our modern societies. The issue of immigration a hot bed topic the world around. It was intruiging to bear witness to the question during the recent Danish elections. It will clearly be a popular topic in the upcoming American Presidential election. Where are you from and how are you different from us. It is so very interesting a topic to me as the one who is currently part of “the different.”

But apparently we aren’t all that different and ancestry is messy according to an evolutionary geneticist, Mark Thomas, who wrote a piece in the Guardian a few years back in response to pay-for-ancestry genetic tests that could determine your heritage. Thomas shows that the science can’t definitively say. He states that…

you don’t have to look very far back before you have more ancestors than sections of DNA, and that means you have ancestors from whom you have inherited no DNA. Added to this, humans have an undeniable fondness for moving and mating – in spite of ethnic, religious or national boundaries – so looking back through time your many ancestors will be spread out over an increasingly wide area. This means we don’t have to look back much more than around 3,500 years before somebody lived who is the common ancestor of everybody alive today.” ¹

So what does that mean to you and me? We’re all descended from Vikings! Or Celts. Or Jews. Or Masai. Or Zulu. Or… you decide. Anyway. Around here – I’m a Viking. It’s fun to say. Vikings are fierce. Snap. And we’ve learned a lot about them lately. They are very popular. We have been to three different Viking Ship museets in Denmark and Norway. Comparing and contrasting for your reading pleasure in the next post. Stay tuned. Cheers from Viking land wherever you are from! – Erin

Vikings in Barcelona
Vikings in Barcelona

Sharing a New Home with Family

We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming. Hej! I’m back! What? Didn’t realize that we were on break? Undskyld. Sorry. (A phrase I am hearing often lately out of my teen’s mouth. I guess I should be happy he is learning Danish? I digress.) But for the past three weeks, my mom and her husband have been visiting us here in Denmark and I haven’t been writing, just enjoying the time with them, sharing our new home and accumulating lots of great new experiences. We’ve been fjording in Norway and fishing in Fyn. I’ll share it all – don’t worry. There were brilliant glimpses of Danish sommer. It was hot! No really – for a couple of days – it was actually really very hot! (For Denmark. Everything is relative.) We’ve also had thunder storms and wind warnings and driving rain. It was a veritable cornucopia of Scandinavian meteorology and tourism.

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Growing your own Happy as an Expat

For Today’s Wednesday Wanderings – or Onsdag Wanderlust as I like to call them – I’m taking you local. A simple outing to a beautiful place right here in Copenhagen. The Botanical Garden in the middle of the city. Botanisk Have in Danish. If you are interested in going further afield on this hump day – see my last post about charming Torekov, Sweden.

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The Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award

When I started this blog, oh so many months ago ;), it was really just a cathartic way for me to be able to communicate as a newly expatriated American living in Denmark. A way to absolve a wee bit of the isolation I was feeling not speaking the language, nor really getting the local customs and not knowing anyone yet. I thought it could be a place to share my new experiences with friends and family from my “from.” And it has been. What I didn’t realize was that it would open up another new community and a different sense of belonging and sharing. There is a whole community out there who are doing THE EXACT SAME THING as me. Well, ok, maybe not the EXACT same thing – we all like to think that we are unique and different and special (unless you live in Denmark, because here we’re all part of the unique and different and special WHOLE.)

But honestly, I wish I had started writing long before actually expatriating. It would have been a cathartic part of the process. I believe it would have eased some of the initial frustrations knowing that many, many, many others had gone through or were going through similar scenarios. Just trying their hardest to create a new normal, fit in, connect, learn and explore in their new news. And if you have found your way here to this post because you are the one embarking on this road of expatriation as the “trailing spouse” or “expat partner” –  I can’t recommend highly enough reading The Expat Partner’s Survival Guide by Clara Wiggins. You are NOT alone! I am helping road test the new book – a few more insider bits about Oregon Girl (see our link here!). Expat Partner's Survival Guide

But Clara is just one of the many expats I have met recently. Some near and some far, we share similar experiences that connect us – whether here in Denmark, or further afield. I have truly enjoyed participating in the newly establishing My Expat Family twitter chats (#myexpatfamily) and connecting about common experiences, even gleaning some advice to enhance life here in my evolving new. Come join us – read more about how to link up and join in the fun over at Seychelles mama.

Relatively new to the blogosphere, I am not new to exploring social media. 4 years ago, I downloaded this little app called “Instagram” (you might know it). Instagram now isn’t the same experience as when I first joined, but I really don’t mind the evolution. There is space for us all on Instagram. (Find me here on IG.) I will admit that instantly while using the app and meeting a new virtual community, I knew that I wanted a little more – I wanted to interact face to face with this new community. Lucky for me – in Portland, Oregon – one of the very first regularly meeting Instagroups had already started monthly meetups. Many around me didn’t really get why I would was interested in getting to know “strangers” I met online (or on my iPhone.) On one level, it was me pushing myself outside of my comfort zone – meeting new people I would not normally have had exposure to. On another level, it was a place to meet like-minded individuals doing the same thing – interested in exploring the visual spaces around them. (Sensing a pattern here?) Some of my very good friends that I was very sad to leave were connected through the Portland Instagram Group.https://instagram.com/oregongirl_aroundtheworld/

One of my new blogging friends – Angie Americana (check out her expat experiences over at The Stereotypical American) recently nominated me for a blogging award. What?! An award? In my head, I envision a huge box with “FRAGILE” written on it being delivered to my door (“It must be Italian!”) and I like to tell my family that I won a “…major award!” Maybe I shouldn’t liken this blog love to fish-netted plastic leg lamp, because in all sincerity, I DO appreciate the blog love. And the fact that I have garnered readers outside my wee circle back in my “from,” is something right? Worth an award, I’d say. So thank you Angie! Now I really think we must meet in person as we’re both American Expats in Denmark and I really want to learn how to make homemade tortillas. (And she’s an EAGLES fan! I’m already planning communal cheesesteaks in the dark winter months and streaming NFL! Ok – I may have gotten ahead of myself.)

So no traveling pants, but I was nominated for the Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award!

Here are the guidelines:

1)Thank the blogger(s) who nominated you and link them in your post.
2) Answer the ten questions you have been sent.
3) Come up with 10 questions of your own.
4) Spread the love and nominate up to 10 bloggers!

Ok. So here it goes! THANK YOU ANGIE!

Angie’s Questions for Me:

1) What was the best gift you have ever received?

Quick qualifier – all of the brilliant questions put out by Angie were very thought-provoking and not simple to answer, so I’m going with first responses – top of mind – what jumped in first. I have received many, many awesome and amazing gifts over my life – but first to pop in when responding to this question was my 40th birthday trip to Paris with my husband. It took some secrecy, some communal accommodation (thank you mom for agreeing to watch my three kids!) and clearly expressed wish lists! I used to say that my “dream trip” (we didn’t call it a bucket list) would be to fly on the Concord to Paris and see the Kirov Ballet perform Swan Lake at the Paris Opera House. Turns out the Concord no longer exists and Paris Ballet is equally as excellent. For my 40th birthday, I got to see Swan Lake in PARIS. Sigh. Tears. Champagne. Dream lived. Sigh. Ahhh.

2) If you could steal anybody’s closet (celebrity, tv/movie character, blogger, etc), whose would you want and why?

This one is tough for me as I am not one to covet famous peoples’ anything. I appreciate a well-heeled celeb (as long as she isn’t creating a name for herself for the wrong reasons) and look to fashion magazines more for the inspiring photography than what designer to buy next. I do appreciate Danish design and fashion, but also appreciate the high value placed on thrifted and repurposed “vintage” finds here. I don’t think I can point to a specific one closet here for this answer. I’m a dabbler, call me a chameleon, the world is a stage and I like finding the next costume to “perform” in.

3) If you were an actor, would you rather be cast as the hero or the villain and why?

I was never an “actor,” but I did grow up performing. Many many years in the ballet (does the wish list make more sense now?) and symphony, I loved being on stage – just not speaking on stage. So I would never choose to be the hero or the villain as defined by those would be “Best Actor” nominated roles. My gut response is – I wouldn’t mind receiving “a major award” for the Best Supporting Actress in a role that was surrounded in mystery, shrouded in ambiguity – is she good or is she bad? We can’t tell… YET. Snarky and surreptitious potentially, the quirky one, the colorful one. Starts off as an unknown and in her little way somehow helps the hero win the day in a subtle and did that just happen kind of way?

4) If you were a singer, what would your debut album by called?

Oregon Girl – duh.

5) What was your favorite childhood cartoon?

This is going to date me. But “Super Friends.” It was on ABC Saturday morning cartoons in the 80’s. “Super Twins to the rescue” anyone? “Form of?” “An eagle!” “A bucket of water!”  I told you it would date me.

6) What company(ies) would you love to be a brand representative for?

Anthropologie. I love that store. Or Swedish Hasbeens. I love those.

7) What is your favorite food to cook?

Anything. I love cooking. I’m an excellent baker – my specialty is German Chocolate Cake or a Double Chocolate Ganache cake made with either stout or strong coffee. Yum. But seriously I love making risotto. Something about the slow, slow process (if you have the time) is so soothing and calming and slow and lovely. I put on good music, pour a glass of wine and stir, stir, stir. (Carmelizing onions has the same effect.)

8) What is your favorite holiday and why?

Christmas. For sure. I love the decorations. I love the food. I love the community. Danes call it hygge. It’s cozy and warm and full of friends and family. I can’t wait to celebrate it here this year. Last December was a little harried and discombobulated as we’d only been in Denmark for a couple weeks and in our flat for 10 days. This year – our community extended, we will celebrate our American Christmas love Danish style.

9) What is your biggest pet peeve?

Listening to people eat. I heard though, that is a sign of being creative. Right? It is right?

10) What are your blogging goals for 2015?

More connections and more growing and more exploring and more learning. Above all – keep it fun!

SO – here are my 10 questions for bloggers that I nominate for the Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award:

I would love to hear from everyone, not just those nominated (seriously if you have it in you to respond – please do! You can just leave your 10 answers in the responses below.) But officially, I nominate the following blogs (in no particular order) – share the love and go check them out!

Seychelles Mama
Life Love and Sausages
Amanda Afield
A Dusty Olive Green
The Copenhagen Tales
Misplaced Brit
Mad About Copenhagen
Eat Sleep Love Travel
Danish Exchange
The Gracious Girl
Delige Days

1. Where are you “from” and how does it color WHERE you are living now?

2. Please share one favorite book and why?

3. Who inspires you creatively?

4. Do you have a favorite place for breakfast? (I love breakfast!)

5. If you could have a second home – where would it be and why?

6. Please describe a pair of shoes that made you feel special!

7. What is your favorite season?

8. Have you had an interaction with a stranger who left an imprint on you?

9. Who is your favorite artist?

10. What are you listening to on repeat lately? (I need new music!)

Thank you Angie for nominating me! And thank you to all the nominees for playing along – can’t wait to see your responses! Cheers from Denmark! Erin

SOMMER means summer in Danish

Sommer is coming. So they tell me. Coldest Maj in the last fifteen years. So they tell me. In Denmark, the official first day of summer is June 1st. June 2nd it rained the entire day here. Really RAINED. To be honest, for me, with no other basis for comparison, it has really just felt like the Mays and Junes that I am used to growing up in Oregon, where I’m “from.”normal May and early June in Oregon, that is. As someone who grew up in the Pacific Northwest, I lived by the mantra that summer began on July 5th (one day after our National Holiday the 4th of July, if that date didn’t ring a bell for you). I spent many an American Independence Day holiday lighting sparklers and charcoal snakes and smoke bombs in the drizzle. (Yes – fireworks in Oregon suck and the selling and use of is highly regulated. It’s just because we do like our trees there.)

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