A Winter’s Expatriation

Today the temperature wavered between 0 and 2°C. That’s hovering at freezing for those who don’t automatically correlate to the metric system employed here in Denmark. Employed pretty much everywhere else in the world save for the United States and four other small mostly Caribbean nations (all of which I have been too weirdly – ‘cept not Palau.) Here in Denmark, the temperature is the only thing that I have not used an app, device, Google function, etc. to convert. I regularly convert prices in shops from Danish Kroner (DKK) to U.S. Dollars ($$$) to try and keep a healthy perspective on what feels like (and usually is) ridiculously high price tags for nominal goods and services. I convert street signs, parking signs, shop signs, directions, washing machine instructions, food labels, recipes, ingredient lists, menus, bank notices, post office announcements, furniture advertisements – basically everything… from Danish to English. But I don’t convert the weather. Why?

It is what it is. I cannot control the weather anymore than I can control the unwavering and inexplicable popularity of black licorice here in Denmark. Seriously – they put it in, on and with EVERYTHING. Licorice candies come in more shapes than you can imagine. There is chocolate licorice. Licorice ice cream. Licorice gum. Alcoholic licorice. Cocktails with licorice candies in them (I did not try that, but witnessed many being ordered.) Licorice cakes. Chili-spiced sour licorice gummies. Um, eww (those were on sale by the way, maybe I wasn’t the only one who thought as such.) I digress. Out of my control.

Weather is something you have to feel. Does it feel cold? What temperature is that? 2°C? 8°C? It’s all relative right? A Southern Californian comes north and wears her sweater on a summer eve in Oregon when we might be rocking our sundresses and sandals. Michiganders don’t stop when the temps dip into negative Fahrenheit parameters. Nor Minnesotans, or Kansans, or North Dakotans or anyone else who lives in those states where Polar Vortexes exhibit icy wintery tentacles of horribly long winter-ness. Nor Danes apparently for that matter. Upon initial assessment, I will admit that they are a pretty darn hardy bunch – biking in all sorts of weather. Although I have yet to see it get REALLY upper Midwest cold here yet. But, I may have just jinxed myself.

Vinter Swans don't mind the koldt.
Vinter Swans don’t mind the koldt.

My point is – how will you get to KNOW what a Celsius temperature is, if not by feel. So converting it all the time actually defeats the learning process. This is what 2°C feels like. This is what 20°C feels like (although I don’t know that feel yet – I’ll have to get back to you.) Does that make sense? Sure. So why all this about the weather? About as interesting as my dear Grandma’s annual birthday cards dutifully describing the latest in south-eastern Kansas weather along with my anniversary wishes. I can’t control the weather.

It’s vinter. Winter in Denmark. I know I keep saying that – but it is. It’s dark. Getting lighter everyday though – we can all feel it’s incremental progression like pebbles being dropped into the bucket. It’s cold. I don’t care where you are from and what is relative to you, but 0°C is cold. I know – it can be colder, wind chill, lake effect, tree-boring insect killing vortexes and such, etc. etc. yada yada… Bottom line, 0°C is cold. And it’s precipitous. At least today it was. Rain turning into snain turning into fluffy white puffs gently falling and all is quiet for a few minutes – BEEEEEP, repeat cycle. Rain into snain into fluffy white puffs. All day. Nothing sticks, but those few minutes of fluffy puffy are lovely. But koldt.

It's koldt!
It’s koldt!

Winter is a difficult time to expatriate. There is a reason bears hibernate in the winter. It’s cold. (Please just give me the simplicity of this example for sake of theorizing here.) Back home in Oregon (plus years spent at college and beyond in Seattle) we know winter has its propensity towards impacting one with a certain Seasonal Affective Disorder. It’s truth ink. It’s called S.A.D. People have their own ways of combatting winter blues. Some use light therapy (I think that is big here too.) Some use drug therapy. Some use pre-planned vacations to warm tropical destinations as therapy. Myself – I always have allowed winter to be a down time. Keep schedules to a minimum, plans light. Consciously saying that it is ok to hibernate to an extent. It is ok to succumb to the down cycle. Knowing the up is coming, it is a veritable emotional hibernation of sorts. A recharging and recouping and renewing hibernation.

"Uuaah, the cold! Come in and get warm!"
“Uuaah, the cold! Come in and get warm!”

Why then – wouldn’t I do the same here in Denmark? Aha moment. Actual Edison light bulb went on yesterday near a lake near a palace alone with the birds. I have been feeling a self-imposed pressure to connect, to “get out there”, to recreate the social networks and circles I miss from home. I should be doing x. I should be doing more y. I should. I should. There is a lot of pressure in SHOULD. Yesterday, I gave myself an out. I will allow myself the space to internalize right now. Circle the wagons. Bring it on in to family-ville. Cozy up on the couch with Master Chef Australia and Cake Boss. Emotionally hibernate. This doesn’t mean putting all emotions on hold by any means – we are as a family definitely still all feeling BIG emotions. FULL of BIG emotions. Every day. Even on Lørdags. But what it does mean… is that it is saying it is ok to take this expatriation slowly. Adjust. Learn on our own terms. Experiences, social circles and networks will evolve. They always do.

Speaking of social, I’m no recluse, not in my nature. In fact – I had coffee with my one Danish friend today. It was needed, entertaining and delightful. While recanting my “aha” moment – she nodded and enlightened me to a lovely Danish saying. I wish you could hear her say it – because it rhymes. “Burde er lig med byrde.” It means Should = Burden. Exactly what I was feeling. What a validation and heavy sigh of relief. Now I SHOULD go to bed. 😉IMG_0018

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