Four years ago we stole a last glance at the Tattooine landscape of Larnaca Airport and after a brief touch down at Schipol made our way home…another home, a new home, a Copenhagen home. My kids now have officially called Denmark home longer than any other place. They’ve lived in the land of Lego and Viking horns longer than the country they were both born in, the country either parent carries a passport for, or the one where the older started school and the younger learned to walk.
Four years is a long time. Four years as an expat in one place is a really long time; about a year past the normal sell-by date. Sure, one night in Bangkok and the world’s your oyster, but four years in Denmark? I’ve haven’t learned the language, but I’ve picked up a few other things.
For one, I no longer take the sun for granted. Also, you get lazy with your cleaning and dusting routines when the sun doesn’t come out often. How do I know? Because when the sun eventually does peek out from behind the clouds, it highlights the sixty-two filthy windows and a house full of dusty surfaces like a solar spotlight.
Four years in Denmark has taught me happiness is relative. Denmark is consistently voted the happiest nation on Earth and for good reason; but they might not be the reasons you think. The reasons the Danes are happy are deep-down reasons, not surface reasons. Turns out not fretting about medical bills, college, and retirement frees up a whole lotta time and money to find your own version of happiness.
And that happiness is self-defined. Happiness for me? Four years in Denmark has afforded me a room of my own and I’ve used most of the square footage to learn to write again.
So you see, I’ve learned happiness is not dependent upon just one thing.
After four years I’m still surprised by the cost of things….like, say…a parking ticket.
Four years here has taught me the wind in your hair as you zip past people on your bike is a pretty good feeling.
I’ve learned that wooly inserts in your shoes in the winter are the best thing since sliced rugbrød.
I’ve accepted there is no single right way to do things. There’s a lot that is right with Denmark, but it’s not perfect. The Danish system wouldn’t work in the US for a variety of reasons, but that doesn’t mean you can’t look more closely at the pieces of it that would….
Four years here has taught me there are things you can adapt to (bike rage instead of road rage) and there are others which are going to make you scratch your head, seethe, or stand with your jaw on the floor (adults shushing other adults, herring in curry sauce) no matter how long you’ve stuck around.
I’ve learned that Danes swear a fuck of a lot more than I do.
I’ve concluded that hygge, while a sweet concept in general, doesn’t really make a difference when it’s gray and dark and wet for long chunks of time. Nice idea, but a mantle full of scented candles doesn’t…well, hold a candle to a vacation in The Maldives during February break.
Speaking of the sun….four years here has taught me that the sun will come out…maybe not tomorrow. Or the next. But someday! And when it does your house is going to look filthy even if you just dusted.
I’ve learned Americans should stop complaining about gasoline prices.
I’ve learned they should start complaining about plenty of other things.
I’ve learned a danish is not a danish in Danish.
Every time I go food shopping I’m reminded you need to adjust in order to survive. You need to find new favorites or at least learn you can have more than one. No one ever tells you that as a kid, that you can have more than one favorite. Except for Goya black beans. I go black market for the black beans now, judge me if you must.
I’ve learned to cook more, bake more, and seek out the sales.
I’ve learned when you’re in a winter coat five to six months of the year, you can get away with doing a lot less laundry.
…and that hats cover a lot of bad hair days.
I’ve learned to let go and watch my kids experience the same kind of freedom I grew up with without the questions, the second-guessing or the fear of someone calling the cops on me for letting them walk to the park on their own.
And I’ve learned, time and time again, that home is a concept rather than a place.
There’s no place like Bangkok. I mean Cyprus. Or Denmark.
I mean home, wherever you are.