Last Friday, it was one year ago that Opie and I boarded a plane out of Boston on a one-way ticket to Denmark.
Living and working in Europe is the experience of a lifetime. This past year has been exciting, amazing, scary, fun, overwhelming, frustrating, and so many other things.
On the subject of work…
Even though I worked for the same company back in the US, the corporate culture here is pretty different. The work week is 37.5 hours and I’m not expected to work more, though if I do, I’m allowed comp time later on. I get 6 weeks of vacation and I’m expected to use it. If I’m still at the office at 3 PM on Friday, people start asking why I’m still there and encourage me to start my weekend soon.
I share a work area with my boss and we bounce ideas off each other throughout the day. The organizational structure is a lot less hierarchical than I’m used to, everyone gets a say on what seems to be pretty much everything, and the environment is very casual. Quite often, issues are resolved on the fly in impromptu meetings over rugbrød, cookies, and cappuccino.
English is the “company language,” but I’m working in Denmark with mostly Danes, so unless someone is speaking to me or another foreigner, the chatter around me is all in Danish. In larger meetings they usually ask, “should we do this in Danish or English,” though sometimes it inadvertently switches back to Danish. This happened last week and when the meeting organizer apologized, I said, “that’s ok, you’re talking about whether or not to break for lunch. I’m starving, so what’s the verdict?” Everyone had a good laugh and it felt good to actually be able to catch the gist of the conversation.
On everyday life…
I assume there comes a point where a new country feels like “home” for some people. Though I think for others, that point never comes. Or maybe it comes more easily with a partner.
I love living here, but aside from times that I’m on a trip somewhere, not a day goes by without a little pang of homesickness.
Somedays, it’s just a craving for something silly like Lucky Charms or Tater Tots, things I never really ate back in the US, but that seem super delicious now that I can’t have them. Or wishing I could have a conversation with a native English speaker who grew up with the same pop culture and similar experiences to mine. Or trekking to the bus stop in wind and sideways rain, remembering my sweet little silver Roadster with its heated seats. Or wishing I could go out and understand all of what’s going on around me. Or missing the stability of a house, a husband, and an established path.
It seems impossible to buy clothes and shoes here. I’m a solid 7.5 in shoes, but most places don’t sell half sizes, so the shoes are usually too tight or falling off. The clothing styles are a lot different from what I’m used to, and they’re mostly designed with a different, much taller body type in mind.
But there are tons of things I love. Like bike lanes, the beautiful countryside, and how Coke comes in little glass bottles, and how there’s no corn syrup in anything, and the ketchup is so sweet and delicious. Warm days in the park and in my garden and how I live close enough to the beach to bike there! And how Rome is only 2 hours away by plane and how all of Europe is at my doorstep. How everything seems slower and simpler, and a little more elegant than back home.
On the future…
In another year, I’ll need to start planning. If I want to stay in Denmark, I’ll need to renew my work contract and reapply for a visa. If I decide to leave, I’ll have to put my apartment on the market and hope for a buyer with flexible timeframe. Then there’s the whole daunting task of rebuilding a life somewhere else. I’d love to spend more time in Europe, possibly the UK, but I just don’t know if I’m up for another solo international adventure of this magnitude. Maybe this is my “gap year…”