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From Mississippi to Denmark: A Belle Abroad

30 January, 2012 10:25  Erin Erin

belle abroad london Hi there! I write as Belle on my blog, A Belle Abroad. It’s nice to meet you. I’m from a small college town in Mississippi. Since moving away from that small town in 2006, I’ve lived in Mongolia, Singapore, and London. I currently live with my husband and little boy in another small town. This one is called Vejle and it’s on the eastern coast of Denmark.

1. Why did you move abroad?
In 2005, I reconnected with my high school sweetheart and we fell in love all over again. There was only one problem: he was in talks to move and join a law firm in MONGOLIA! I’d never even been outside the continental US, but he really is something special. So in the spring of 2006 I quit my much hated job in retail, crammed as much stuff as I could into two suitcases, and hopped on a flight to Beijing to be with him. That’s how our adventures began.

2. How do you make a living?
My husband is a lawyer and the breadwinner. I like to think that his job is to make the money and my job is to save it. ( You thought I was going to say spend it, didn’t you?) I do have a background in classical music (once upon a time I was an opera singer) so when we lived in Mongolia I taught music at the International School. I think it was as much of a learning experience for me as it was for the kids. Maybe more. Right now I have the most important job in the world: taking care of our two year old son and incubating a new little one, who is due to arrive in June of this year.

3. How often do you communicate with home and how?
When I first moved abroad we relied on email (when we could find Internet access) and the rare international calling card phone call. But now, thanks to the miracle that is video Skype, we get to talk to our families all the time!

4. What's your favorite thing about being an expat in Denmark?
I think the thing that I appreciate the most about the Danish people is their work/life philosophy. They work to live, not live to work. I mean, how awesome is the 37 hour work week and 6 weeks of vacation!?! That’s not to say that they don’t work hard, because they do. It’s clear the most important thing to a Dane is their family and spending as much quality time with the people they love as possible.

They also really know how to do Christmas. It’s a very big deal here, but in the nicest, most traditional way.

5. What’s the worst thing about being an expat in Denmark?
The income and VAT taxes are very high and make it very very expensive to live here.

6. What do you miss most?
That’s easy. I miss family, especially around the holidays. But after that I would have to say things like my daddy’s deer sausage and cornbread (I told you I was from Mississippi) and BBQ and tailgating at a college football game on a cool fall Saturday morning.

7. What did you do to meet people and integrate in your new home?

To be honest, I can be pretty shy so I’m not always the best at meeting new people. Since I don’t work I don’t have the opportunity to develop relationships with co workers. It’s supposed to be kind of hard to do here anyway since, as I said, the Danes are very family oriented and tend to spend as much time with them as they can. After a year of maternity leave, most women go back to work and so the mom friends I’ve made since moving here are all back at their jobs now. I’ve met a few lovely people who also blog here in Denmark and we occasionally get together for coffee or a meal.

8. What custom/ habits do you find most strange about your adopted culture?
When we first moved here in November of 2010 we noticed a lot of prams parked outside cafes and restaurants. The parents would be inside having lunch or a cup of coffee while the babies napped outside all cozily wrapped up under a pram sized down comforter. We were amazed by how trusting the Danes are. Americans would never do something like that. We’re too paranoid and not without reason.

Also I would have to say their love of liquorice, especially the salty kind, is very strange to me.

9. What is a myth about your adopted country?
Denmark consistently ranks very high on the “Happiest Countries to Live In” chart. Last year it was #1. This year it’s #2. I think we came to Denmark with a very American idea of what “happiest” means, which is generally more money and time to buy and do more stuff. If that’s your idea of “happiness” then Denmark is NOT the place for you. As I said, the taxes are high and it’s a very very frustratingly expensive place to live. However, if the quality of your life is more important to you than the quantity of stuff in it, then I would say Denmark is at least worth exploring.

10. What advice would you give other expats?
Moving to another country and culture, setting up house, and establishing yourself is very stressful. Every country just does things differently. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from a native or from someone who’s been there for a while. And don’t expect that your life in your new country will be settled in a few weeks. We’ve found that it can take as long as a year (though it’s usually around 6 months) for things to start settling down and feeling like home.

11. When and why did you start your blog?
I started my blog in the fall of 2007. We were living in Singapore and I was planning our wedding back home in Mississippi. Since my visa didn’t allow me to work, I spent a lot of time on the Internet while my husband was in class . Wedding blogs were everywhere. I thought a blog would be a great way to share the wedding planning with my mom and sister. Now it’s a great way chronicle and share our lives.

12.  How has the blog been beneficial?belle abroad paris
Blogging has helped me break out of my introvert’s shell a little. I’ve met, in person and cyber-ly, a lot of really amazing people. It’s introduced me to new ideas and inspired me to try new things. I hope that  I am able to break out of my shell even more in 2012!

Blog Link Belle's blog, A Belle Abroad

 

Guide for expatriates in Copenhagen, Denmark

 

 

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