This list is for you. This list is also for those who know someone who moved around the world. You may not know these questions, but we do. We hear them ALL THE TIME. Ok, ok. Maybe a little dramatic. But not really an exaggeration.
These are truly the most commonly asked questions that you will constantly be asked after moving abroad. For as long as you are abroad. There is no statute of limitations for the consistency of these questions. Unless you choose to stop meeting new people altogether. And what fun is that? The more the merrier I say. You never know what spark might be alit until meeting that new person. But I warn you. Before that fire can be sparked, you will have to run the gauntlet of the following questions. It’s a ritual. A never-ending expatriate* ritual.
TOP THREE QUESTIONS YOU ASK A NEW PERSON YOU MEET IN COPENHAGEN:
Hello you doe-eyed, adventurous, naive, cute little baby expat you. Hi – how are you? Here in Denmark – we say “hej!” It sounds like Hi. Don’t worry – you’ve got that one in the bag. No accent required. Have you moved yet? No? Ok. So – you are still super excited, anxious, about ready to pop, explode inside and get this ball rolling. About as ready as you were to have your first child at 39 weeks pregnant. People just need to stop telling you how much easier it is when the baby is on the inside and how much sleep you won’t be getting. All you want is to meet this little creature kicking and prodding you and keeping you awake at night. Get out already. That is what it feels like right now before the big move abroad. I get it. You want to start the starting. Move already.
Today in Copenhagen, the city was shrouded in a thick and dense fog. The white-charmed snowy blanket of last week has become threadbare and dingy. I knew this was coming. The fog weighed heavy on the landscape, compressing the already small city into tiny vignettes whose borders were obscured, edges dulled. My husband and I, unable to lure any of our littles outside to investigate, took off on our bikes to catch the 1:00 PM tour of Marmorkirken – the Marble Church – downtown. We’d made an attempt last weekend, only to miss it by minutes. The sign posted outside is completely serious about that 13:00 SHARP time. For some reason I was drawn to try again today – despite the fog. Upon arrival, we assessed – plenty of time, but do you think we’ll be able to see anything up there? Don’t know. Should we pay the 35 DKK ($5) each to go up? I don’t know. No risk, no reward – right? Could be amazing. Could be the image of the day waiting to be captured up there. Maybe it’s ABOVE the fog. Maybe. Let’s do it. (As it turns out we make a lot of decisions – good or bad – this way.)
From the minute we moved to Denmark in the depths of dark December, we were tempted with the dangling carrot of a beautiful Danish sommer. Just wait til summer, everyone said, it’s beautiful here. What no one told me and we are surely smack in the middle of discovering, is that despite the beauty beauty, everyone and their mother evacuates Denmark during summer. Or at least Copenhagen. Seriously. Where is everybody?
There are open parking spots in front of our building at all hours. Too bad I don’t have a car. Shops are closed with signs stating “Lukket uge 29, 30, 31.” Closed weeks 29 through 31. (I still have to look up dates on the Google for the numbered European week designations.) Everyone it seems, is on holiday. The Danes are on holiday, away at their summer hus near the water. It feels quiet around here. Everyone’s out, including my childrens’ new friends. Even our expat friends got the memo. Skip town during summer break.
And without friends around to engage kids on break, what it means for us is A LOT of familial togetherness. Great! How lucky for you! Um yeah. It is. Great. But as it turns out – we could each of us use a little break from all the togetherness. So while I will go ahead and post pretty pictures (because that is what fills my bucket) I wanted to share a wee bit of the reality behind them. The griping. The complaining. The picking on each other.The down right bitching. From afar it may seem grand and glorious and amazing this adventure we’re on. And it is. Or it should be. Or maybe it will be in retrospect. But right now, there are many things it is not.
It is not easy necessarily. Not easy to find things to engage disparately aged children. What your 9 year wants to do is seemingly abhorrent to a teenager. (What isn’t abhorrent to a teenager right now?) And vice versa. Without the ease of neighborhood friends at their beck and call, mom becomes the entertainer and ring leader. What interests me does not always interest them. And sometimes I feel like the whip-cracker rather than the clown. Do you know what I mean?
Sometimes it feels like a battle
Am I speaking in runes?
Maybe if I wore this helmet
Feelings of guilt creep in – is the benefit of this experience worth the feelings of isolation in your children, especially the teenager? I know that other expatriated families have gone through similar scenarios, but it doesn’t always assuage the doubts. In my gut, I would make the decision to move again. And don’t worry. We will be fine. But I just wanted to balance the expectations of what this pretty expat life looks like with the reality. It isn’t always roses. But this is my circus and these are my monkeys. I love them. And this opportunity to try this Danish life. Even with all its thorns. Enjoy the pics (I enjoy taking them!) Cheers from Denmark – Erin