About Danish in San Francisco

Welcome to my blog, where I share the good, the bad, and the ugly about expat life and repatriation. After 4 1/2 years in San Francisco, I'm back in Copenhagen with my Danish husband and three kids. Blog posts published before May 2016 are written in Danish.

My Favorite Things


We are back in San Francisco on vacation, and it doesn’t feel weird or sad. It feels just right. It feels, as we never left, as if the past ten months — our trying repatriation full of unexpected uphill battles — didn’t happen.

These past three days, I’ve:

  • Swapped my nearly two-year-old iPhone for a new one for free, hurray for Apple Care and friendly employees at Genius Bars
  • Been drinking buckets of cold brew (the Rolls-Royce of iced coffee) and Kambuchka
  • Consumed several bags of nachos with guacamole and savored roasted seaweed, and perfectly ripe strawberries, blueberries, and avocados
  • Been hanging out at open-air shopping malls, finding shade in stores such as Free People, Anthropology, and Barnes & Noble — three times already
  • Been opening way too many packages from Amazon
  • Passed our old home, now painted in a pretty pale blue color, and wondered how I ever managed to drive up our insanely steep and narrow street, maneuvering us into security from buses going downhill
  • Crossed Golden Gate Bridge three times in both sunshine and fog — it never gets old
  • Downloaded the Uber app
  • Gotten stuck in traffic in the middle of the 2017 Pride Parade in downtown SF surrounded by happy people, dressed in rainbow colors
  • Found home in our friends’ home and let our pseudo family handle everything from folding and opening my stroller to driving up their crazy steep, narrow driveway
  • Gotten all of our favorite yoghurts, cheeses, and snacks at Trader Joe’s

Home! San Francisco, we ❤️ you.

Soooooo Hello

What a shitty winter. We adults and the kids have been taking turns at being sick non-stop. All the Danish friends we were suppose to hang out with after years abroad, well, we haven’t because we keep picking up colds. And worse.

Do we still miss San Francisco? Er, duh, ya. Sorry… But how can we not?

What a shitty repatriation we’ve had. Again, sorry, nothing to do with our Danish friends and family. The kids still ask on a daily basis about when we’ll move back. All the “freedom” privileges about being able to walk to and from school by themselves means n.o.t.h.i.n.g to them. They miss the days, when we drove them everywhere. They miss their friends. We adults miss our friends, travels, and weekends. We are always exhausted. We never travel or “experience stuff”. “It was so much better in the U.S. mom”, they tell me. Well, I agree that repatriation overall sucks — but the part where I had to drive them from and to anywhere, well, I don’t miss that part, at all. I’m overridden by guilt by their lack of leasure activities, but at the same time it’s the o.n.e thing I love about repatriation: Me kicking ass at work, while at the same time working part time and picking up kids early.

Am I still blogging? Errr, I don’t know. Life sure doesn’t feel interesting enough to blog about. At the same time I know that we are living through all the feelings repatriates usually live through. They say it takes a year of unhappiness, until life starts making sense, starts being happy. I hope it’s true, or we’ll start making our way back to San Francisco. In a few years. Until then we’re trying, really trying, to make things work.

And why did I suddenly start posting today? Well spring happened today in Copenhagen, yes, it fi.n.a.l.l.y happened.

From Instagram, the happiest version of me in many months.

Siri, What Happened to You?

When I call my husband on my iPhone, I yell: “Call Mikkel” to Siri. It will take her a few tries to get it right, usually her first answer will be: “I don’t see McKay/McKelle in your contacts”, or “I did not quite get that Julie, or “I’m not sure what you said”. Today, walking with baby strapped on me in a baby carrier in the street, when I yelled “call Mikkel” to Siri, she replied:

“Ok Julie, from now on I will call you cunt”.

Yes. That really happened!? Happy Friday!

“Home”


My new morning routine: Putting on makeup before work. No stress 😳

Only expats will probably understand the groundbreaking turning point that happened this week: 

In a conversation with a colleague from work, I said that I moved “home” instead of “moved back”. A defining moment for me. A Freudian slip. Which I should be happy about, right?

Yes, I feel more at home after starting work. But “home” is still San Francisco. Sigh. Our apartment in Copenhagen and our new summer cottage in no way feel like home, but my old workplace does. My work place is the only place that feels like home. Weird.

In the back of my mind, I’m wondering: “Do I really want to uproot my family in a few years and get even more confused about “home”?

I must be messed up, because right now – despite understanding the implications – I want to return to the U.S. for a few years.

Shit.

Three Months in, Who Would’ve Thunk

Yes, who would’ve thought?

  • That so far, despite an overall very succesful repatriation, we would still be consumed with a longing for “home”
  • That we would spend October battling serious and non-serious diseases——which in fairness should amount to a year’s quota
  • That I would once again spend hours googling pictures of rashes (in my attempt to diagnose baby’s different illnesses)
  • That I would passionately experiment with different pho recipes, our favorite dish, because chicken soup according to science cures body and soul (and because Vietnamese restaurants here suck at Pho Ga)
  • That hubby, for the first time in our almost 20 years together, would suddenly get excited about cooking——wait for it——blended veggie soups
  • That both kids would still speak only English with their new friends
  • That our baby would become bilingual in Denmark
  • That I would be able to function on very little sleep for 15 months
  • That the first time, I would feel a sense of belonging, would be on a Saturday night while partying with a group of old female and male colleagues
  • That I would be partying with this group for 20 years (gasp) and feel younger, not older, after our expat years
  • That school would throw an epic Halloween party ——also by American standards —— which I would sadly miss out on because of our sick baby
  • That my daughter’s Halloween costume wouldn’t make it from the UK in time for her party, but that she would—— without drama—— accept to wear last year’s costume (in exchange of adding blue hairspray)
  • That her costume would arrive at 4PM on Halloween, just as I would be unfolding my crisis management skills
  • That I would be able to close my eyes and feel San Francisco’s warm October weather and picture its beautiful Halloween decorations
  • That waking up with three healthy kids tomorrow would be the first time in a month
  • That three months would go by so quickly: I start work tomorrow

Feeling Better

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Almost four months ago, we left our house in San Francisco. Two and a half months ago, we landed in Denmark. Less than two months ago, we moved back into our apartment. Three days ago, I suddenly started feeling better.

I have had this sad feeling, constantly lingering. I would get tears in my eyes, when my husband and I together would recall our beautiful California adventures. I have felt shaken, confused, and forgetful. Suddenly, I’m starting to feel more grounded and in control of life instead of trying to keep up. I think that time helped, but what helped the most are all the little decisions and steps we have taken, which have added up and made me feel more empowered. In our relocation to San Francisco, my husband and I were both struggling, but separately, not together. This time, we are a team and we hold each other up and talk out our feelings, thereby creating a “safe space”, where we can return to and recharge.

The decisions and steps that help us feel better:

  • Going back to California this summer. It turned some of my homesickness into anticipation. It was a huge relief.
  • Moving back to the Bay Area, one day. Our decision to return to the Bay Area in a few years makes me appreciate our life in Copenhagen more.
  • Making our apartment cozy. Finally, I feel at home in our apartment. After some building projects in our living room and having found “the right place” for all our belongings, our apartment feels like our home.
  • The kids’ school. The bilingual school program is awesome, kids love it and the fact that they are getting both an English and a Danish education is a gift for them for their future. We love the international environment and the fact that all communication happens in English. We love that despite a vigorous curriculum, the kids are thriving.
  • Our tween’s newfound independency. Our son loves his freedom to walk home from school and bring friends along. And so do we!
  • Our baby’s preschoolStarting our baby at preschool is hard for him! So far, he’s only had short visits there. In our expat life, we never had him babysat. But if there’s anyplace I would leave him, it’s there: I love the teachers, the cozy environment, and the atmosphere. I just hope he and we will stop catching all the viruses going around there: being and getting sick is the worst part about returning to Denmark.
  • Starting to work. I am beyond excited that they put me in charge of one of their biggest projects. It’s going to be challenging to learn a new legal field and to be in charge of making people implement whatever recommendations I’m going to end up making. I’m so grateful for the new skills, I will acquire! Workwise, doors keep opening. If I want to, I will probably have good opportunities in the U.S. to use my new legal skills. Or I’ll get back to freelancing within the communication field, time will tell :-)
  • Our everyday life routines. Routines are finally starting to get into place: my husband walks the kids to school, which is a cozy 20 min. walk; I take the baby to preschool, which is a 2 min. walk; our tween walks home by himself; we pick up our daughter from SFO (bookend); kids will do their homework before reaching for electronical devices on weekdays; we have all the shopping stores we need within a five min. radius.
  • Getting used to the weather. We have been away for only nearly five years, and fall was a shock to me! I’m adjusting. Since I started covering myself in a wool sweater under my jacket, when I go outside, I’m good. In our apartment, we put in light bulbs with “daylight lightening” to help us deal with the darker months, and it helps!

The only thing missing is that I should start studying for work. Today, baby’s preschool is trying to put him down for a nap, and if they succeed, I’ll start to get time to study — which makes me excited and happy!

Soo Danish

  • The daily struggle in San Francisco “oh no, where can I park?!” has been replaced by “oh no, where did I leave my bike?!”
  • My shopping obsession with “floral jumpsuits” (think SoCal and beach vibe) has been replaced by an obsession with “anything with wool”.
  • Danish buses have electrical heating. Really.
  • Everyday, I walk past famous actors, TV personalities, and bloggers, and I wonder: Did they always live in my hood, but did I not notice before, because I used to be so protective of my personal space (soo Danish) and not look up? Well, now I look up (soo American), they smile, and I smile back.
  • Cyclists cut in front of me, as I cross the street, even though they have a red light, and I have a baby strapped on me. So rude, so dangerous!
  • So many adults and teens smoke in the streets, it’s apparently become cool again to smoke. Yikes! In 2016, wtf?
  • Danes like to honk, it seems they even use it as a non-aggressive reaction. Uncomfortable and very annoying with a sleeping baby.
  • Danes also like to clap; I nearly got a heart attack at a parent meeting, when parents and teachers started clapping loudly after electing parent representatives. Awkward.
  • Little kids (from seven years old) are all over the streets, unaccompanied by adults, walking and talking on their iPhones. Why iPhones for little kids? And why not tucked in their backpacks?
  • Our obsession with Kale salad has been replaced by an obsession with soups and green smoothies, which I hope can get us through fall and winter.
  • When speaking English at our bilingual school, Danish parents and teachers casually slip in Danish words as the most natural thing in the world and talk about the “madpakke”, the “frikvarter”, the “penalhus” —— even in larger gatherings with non-Danish speaking parents, who get a blank stare on their face. Rude, but oh so charmingly “Danglish”.
  • Magasin — the shopping mall heaven for parents with strollers — still doesn’t have automatic swing doors, and I still struggle to get through with my stroller. Wtf?
  • The elevators at train station still break down all the time, so I had to climb these stairs with a stroller and baby, because there was no other alternative.