- 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 has been replaced by “oh no, where did I leave my bike?!”
- My shopping obsession with “floral jumpsuits” (think SoCal and beach vibe) has been replaced by an obsession with “anything with wool”.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- Our obsession with Kale salad has been replaced by an obsession with soups and green smoothies, which I hope can get us through fall and winter.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.
I’m adjusting our repatriation, every day. Yesterday included a huge modification. Things that don’t work or that we have a gut feeling won’t work, we change. It’s a risky business, because we act fast. My husband and I are a damn good team: We see it, call it, and act on it. We don’t always initially agree, but over the years it seems like we agree on most things. Even when we don’t agree, the other person’s enthusiasm will convince us. When changes entail financial consequences, we sit down and cut our budget somewhere else. Making changes is damn hard, but trusting my gut and my partner’s gut has been the key to our successful expat years. Hopefully, it’ll work for our repatriation too.
We initiated a change concerning our daughter’s school after only four weeks, and some people would probably think that we’re overreacting. School wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great either. But in our expat years I learned that listening to my gut feeling is always the right choice. Originally we thought and heard from other expat families that the key to a successful repatriation was to reintegrate your expat kids into a Danish class and environment. But it just wasn’t a fit, for both her and us.
This Friday she and I had a meeting with teachers from a bilingual class, where kids besides a Danish education, get an English one. It’s at the same school. I loved her teachers, I loved the signs and words of wisdom they had hung on the classroom walls. Hell, I wanted to be in their class — which is the exact feeling you want to go for. It was that same feeling I had when I found her a second preschool in the U.S. Sometimes in your adjustment phase, you make mistakes, you miscalculate, and although it seems impossible, you have to change those circumstances to get the “YES-feeling”.
During the weekend, she resisted visiting the class and told me that she couldn’t and wouldn’t start all over again. That fitting into a new class is too hard. Our gut feeling was telling us that she would thrive in a “Danglish” environment, but we worried we were imposing one change too many.
For two days now after six weeks of insisting she should be picked up right after school, she wanted to stay for bookend (SFO). She has in her Danish class been a little shy. Well, that phase definitely seems to be over. On her first day in the bilingual class, she was elected for student council. She stood up in front of her class and pleaded her case. And won with the most votes. Her teacher emailed me that this line was the deal breaker: “I will treat people the way I like to be treated”, which she apparently said very confidently. So many other small changes in her behavior are positive too. Overall, we feel we owe it to her as well: Moving to the U.S. five years ago was hard on her, and not helping her keep her English would be a waste, it would not be fair to her.
That time I overshopped in my favorite Østerbro bakery with my excited 11-year-old and then couldn’t pay because I forgot that I in Denmark apparently have a pin code for my Danish visa.
That moment— after embarrassing failed pin code attempts in front of a long customer line and failed phone calls to family members to come bail us out — when a kind soul paid our 110 Danish Krones ($17) with a “Welcome back to Denmark” because he must have overheard my distressed conversation with my horrified tween.
That split second — after having thanked our savior which included grabbing his coffee that I confused mistook for mine and he had to ask to give back (OMG) — then recognized him as being the famous Danish movie producer Peter Aalbæk Jensen (Ålen).
… Thank you Peter Aalbæk for bailing my son and I out of that extremely embarrassing, awkward situation; Kindest welcome ever back to Denmark!
- We adults love Disneyland as much as the kids! Our friends have been to Disney for app. 100 times and knew all the ins and out; we adults had the most fun weekend in our adult life full of park hopping, crazy rides, and fantastic food and wine! In my next life, I want to live in SoCal and have an annual pass to Disney.
- We say sure instead of OK.
- The kids and I still break down in tears laughing, because their dad five months ago called Vietnamese soup “po” instead of “pho” (with an f-sound).
- Pho is the kids’ favorite take-a-way food, really!
- I feel physically ill when I don’t tip, even where there’s no tip jar. The other day I insisted on tipping a barista in a supermarket without a tip jar. (Please remember to tip in the U.S., the minimum wage is ridiculously low!)
- First call we made when baby was born was to our insurance company, because baby was admitted to the NICU and we were told that was $5.000 per day.
- Danes keep talking about weeks instead of dates, and I have no idea what month they are even talking about, let alone date.
- For the kids, Minecraft is history, now Musical.ly (the app) is everything!
- This year I forgot about “Good Friday”, which for us was a regular day.
- On the other hand, I was psyched about egg hunt on Easter Sunday, which I had been looking forward to for weeks. Ups.
- When school invited me to a speech called “most likely to succeed”, this time instead of scoffing, I was intrigued and bummed about missing out.
- I start every phone call with “how are you”.
- I shop on Amazons’s app “Prime Now”, which delivers groceries within an hour.
- I feel fine about not lifting a finger, when employees bag my groceries at convenience stores, but I always make time for small talk.
Proving my point, here’s a pic from one of the restaurants, where we refuelled for lunch with amazing food and wine in California Adventure, even the kids loved it.