Today I thought I’d share another chapter from my book (My Guide to a Successful Relocation) about how I came to be here in Copenhagen.
Enjoy and if you fancy reading more you can get buy a copy directly from me if you live in Denmark, 100dkk including postage and packing ( saving of almost 50dkk from purchasing via Amazon), by sending me an email hello(at)dejligedayscommunications(dot)com. You can also get hold of it via Amazon if you are outside Denmark.
My relocation story – Copenhagen
Back in 2007 my husband and I got married after twelve years together (clearly we didn’t rush into it!) and it felt like a new life was starting. I had been working for a not-for-profit organisation as Head of Communications for a few years. Over that time I had started to take control of my personal life (I lost two stone in weight, learnt to swim and got married) but my professional life was stressing me out. I had lost team members who were not being replaced due to budget cuts, office politics were reaching ridiculous levels and I was often in tears in the evening and waking at 5am unable to get back to sleep as I worried about the day ahead. This was no way to live.
For a number of years my husband’s employers had been tempting him with exciting jobs abroad but I had always been reluctant – I was building my career. But suddenly that just seemed to not matter. I was working hard but getting very little back and I could see no real change on the horizon unless we made the change. So we did. It was late summer when he asked at work about possible places we could relocate to and was given the options of San Diego (too far from family), Germany (no – how ironic) and Copenhagen. So we settled on Copenhagen without me ever having visited. I bought some guide books and the process at my husband’s work started.
I joined him just before Christmas whilst he was in Copenhagen for a week sorting out his new role. It was the first time I visited the city and I fell in love immediately: big beers, delicious real Danish pastries and sparkling Christmas lights. Apart from the superficial things I also liked the kind of lifestyle I saw around me and, chatting to various people we met along the way, it seemed to make people happy.
Once it was a sure thing, I spoke to my boss and arranged to leave my job at the end of the year (as it turned out they were generous enough to let me work almost until I left the country, extending my notice period on a monthly basis).
I finished work at the end of February 2008, having negotiated a year-long freelance contract to start in the summer so I would have some money coming in when we moved.
At the start of March we headed out to Copenhagen for our home search. We were met at our hotel by our relocation consultant who had a bag packed full of information about the city and life here. We viewed seven places in one day, a luxury that is no longer possible with the tough market now, and we had to give him a top three by the end of the day. It is funny that our initial number one was soon relegated to number three. I hadn’t yet adjusted my expectations and had felt the modern apartment was the right one for us despite it being totally wrong. My husband gently talked me round to a beautiful late 19th century first floor apartment in Frederiksberg, which was of course perfect for us when we moved in.
Things moved quickly from that day – they accepted our offer and the moving date of the 31st of March was set. We then had to get rid of about a third of our belongings, which we sold at a boot sale and a garage sale, and put more things in storage. In hindsight I wish I had been more brutal about getting rid of things but at this point we were not sure if our Copenhagen adventure would work out. We then put our house up for rental and arranged for packers to come in and pack up the remains of our belongings.
I am something of a control freak so you can imagine how I felt when I was bedridden (on the futon in the chaos of packing) with very bad tonsillitis. In fact the packing was all done efficiently without my interference. I was sad to be sick as I missed seeing my oldest friend and her newborn baby before we left.
All of a sudden we were at the new terminal 5 at Heathrow, with a suitcase and carry-on ready to start our new adventure.
At the time I was sharing my new life on a personal blog and this is what I wrote about that first day:
Handover today went well, the flat is much bigger than I remembered so everything went in fine. The removal men turned up with the truck at about 11.30am and were unpacked by 2pm even with unscheduled stops whilst our elderly new neighbour travelled down the stairs. If she was a better time manager she could have done all her errands in one go but at least it keeps her fit!
I visited our local Irma (a supermarket chain similar to Waitrose) several times in the day and made friends with the young manager, Peter, who was happy to help with my queries about the many types of cream they sold. He also welcomed me to the neighbourhood.
After we unpacked random boxes and the kitchen we went for a quest to find a DIY shop which took us miles only to buy the plugs in a supermarket having given up on the directions we had. On the walk back, about 2 yards from the supermarket, we spotted the shop. Sadly my current vocab doesn’t extend to DIY!
The area seems really nice with plenty of shops, bars and restaurants on Gammel Kongevej, the only street we have explored so far. It is very quiet in our apartment even though we back onto a school, they seem to do lessons in shifts as there always seems to be a teeming playground. Bizarrely the school bell rang at quarter to ten tonight. We can’t hear neighbours so I am hoping that they can’t hear us!
Other bizarre observation of the day – they leave babies outside shops and cafes unattended as ‘the fresh air is good for them’!
From that first day onwards I felt a fizz of excitement in my tummy every morning. After a few mornings with our relocator, we were registered with resident numbers and he had taken us around our local big supermarkets, which at the time I thought was a strange excursion but it was a great thing to do to help me get acclimatised.
I decided to take a month before I started Danish lessons and took that time to explore the local area and dig into the city. We spent weekends exploring places such as Christiania (which I loved but my husband hated) and many of the touristy places. In those days there was no social media to guide us so we explored blind, and it was amazing. I felt like an explorer; every day I found new places, had new experiences and excitedly shared these with my husband every evening.
One afternoon in our local supermarket I heard a very clear English voice and I bravely walked up to a very statuesque woman and introduced myself. This was my first friend. She had also just moved to Copenhagen from the US (although she was from Ghana and had been at boarding school in the UK, hence the accent). We met for coffee later in the week and I noticed she carried a little leather bound notebook into which she wrote down recommendations and information she discovered. I liked this and her. We parted without making another date and I wasn’t sure we would meet again.
Fast forward a few weeks and guess who was in my first Danish class? We became good friends and even ended up having our sons within weeks of each other a few years later. I was glad I made the bold step of speaking to her in the supermarket.
I think I spent a lot of that first year in a constant state of excitement. I balanced my days with Danish lessons in the morning, some freelance work in the afternoons and a lot of exploring, often on a whim. I met people in class and soon realised which people I had more in common with, I got to know my neighbours and I found a feeling of peace that had been lacking for a long time in the UK. One May evening we sat eating our dinner with the windows open, birds singing outside and I turned to my husband and said how much I loved our new life, and he agreed.
I look back and wonder what made the experience so good. I think it was a combination of many things. The disillusionment with my life in the UK meant that I was open to a new experience. My parents had already moved from the UK to France so I didn’t feel I was leaving anyone behind (friends were more than happy to plan trips to visit). Our move was actually very stress-free, from the home search through to the actual move, and then the subsequent settling in period (a lot of which was helped by a brilliant relocator). I found that the Danish way of life suited me – being car-free was brilliant.
Moving in the summer so the days were long and we had great weather meant that we could explore a lot more. We did tons more things in the evenings than we ever did at home without the long car commute at the end of the day. We saw things were happening and we went along. We went to watch dragon boats racing at Island Brygge – it turned out to be a company team building event but we sat in the sunshine at 9pm and just enjoyed ourselves with no pressure. We went along to a free concert to hear Tina Dickow. We lived a lot more spontaneously than we ever did in the UK. We had more time together and life was more relaxed in general.
After our first calendar year in Copenhagen we decided to start a family and we were lucky enough that I fell pregnant quickly (I always wonder how quickly this would have been if I had still been run ragged in the UK). A whole new journey started.