Navigating the transition from local to foreigner, Keri Bloomfield shares with us the beginning of her expat journey in Denmark.
If you can remember the 1998 movie Sliding Doors then you’ll understand when I say it was a ‘Sliding Doors’ moment that brought me to Denmark. A seemingly small and insignificant decision to look right instead of left one night at a bar in New Zealand, was all that it took to begin my journey towards life in Denmark. I call it my ‘Mary’ moment.
Life before Denmark
Kiwis are typically well known for our love of travelling and exploring. It probably has something to do with the fact that as a country, we are at least 24 hours (give or take a few airport transit lounges) away from Europe. This unavoidable time investment only naturally grows our motivation to make the most of all opportunities to explore the ‘other side of the world’. So, as most New Zealanders in their twenties do, I headed to London for my OE (overseas experience) in 2001. After surviving two years living in London my parents were, I presume, relieved that I resisted any advances by British locals and had returned home single. I had avoided falling for a local and therefore relocating to the other side of the world. If you’re a parent, you’ll get this. You want your children to go forth and live their lives and be happy but in all reality, you’d really prefer it if they did that ‘just down the road’ and not on the other side of the world. It just makes everything a little bit easier. You can then probably imagine their ‘horror’ when a few years later I met a Dane in my hometown of Wellington, New Zealand. He had been cycling through New Zealand (of course he was) on a 3-month holiday and had chosen the same popular local bar and restaurant as I on that fateful night, to sample the local produce.Sitting at my table, I looked up from my menu and to the right I saw ‘the Dane’. Although, technically it was his pizza I saw first (I was hungry), but let’s not ruin a good story or the Dane’s ego, by going into too much detail. To cut a long story short, this was how I found myself in Denmark with a Dane and Dan-iwi.
The first year – survival
Fast forward a few years of life together in New Zealand to 2016 when we arrived in Denmark with our 4-month-old daughter. For me, the first year was simply a year of survival. Although most things are when it comes to babies. But there’s nothing like a 17-hour flight then a 7-hour flight with a 4-month-old to really learn the meaning of survival. Moving countries isn’t easy. Even for the most robust of souls, it comes with many challenges. Every sense in your body becomes challenged. Especially in those first few days and months when everything is just so foreign. You can easily find yourself feeling like you are existing in a dark unknown tunnel trying to make sense of everything. Your surroundings, environment and even a new language. Two plane flights was all that it took for me to go from being a ‘local’ to a ‘foreigner’ and for the Dane to now be the local and have the undisputed advantage. In less than 24 hours the tables had been turned in our relationship.
From the seemingly ‘easy’ tasks of supermarket shopping (if anyone else has tried buying milk and margarine on your first day in Denmark, you’ll know what I mean) to learning the language. Every moment became a test of not only my ability to adapt and survive but also my ability to show resilience and thrive. And continues to be. Through this journey I quickly discovered the most important thing was to simply keep putting one foot in front of the other. And when even that gets a bit tough, a fresh batch of pastries surprisingly also has many beneficial qualities for one’s sanity. But moving countries is also a fantastic opportunity. It’s an opportunity to explore and understand a new country as well as a chance to be an ambassador for your own country. Who you are and where you come from doesn’t ever just leave you because you have crossed a border. It only but adds to your story. For myself, moving to Denmark has been an opportunity for my daughter to be raised bilingually and for myself to also learn Danish. It is the first time in my life that I have learnt a language and will easily be one of my proudest life achievements when I become truly bilingual. It has also given me the great opportunity of living a European life bringing with it a range of unique experiences from developing a very fond and close relationship with my bike to relishing the normality of grocery shopping while wearing a cycle helmet. And after having lived in New Zealand with the Dane for 4 years, it also completes a little piece of the puzzle for me in beginning to understand his view of the world. As integration and immigration continue to dominate political agendas across the world, I see and hear the similar challenges and concerns both in Denmark and New Zealand. These are conversations being had in many countries at the moment. Life as an ‘International’ now has a new focus.
Meet the writer:
Keri Bloomfield – blogger – www.bilingualbackpackbaby.com; www.postalettercopenhagen.com
Keri Bloomfield is a connector, writer, event manager and blogger currently living in Copenhagen. Originally from New Zealand she was recently employed by her daughter (Bilingual Backpack Baby) as editor, writer, photographer and social media manager to document their adventures living in Denmark. Prior to this job posting, Keri navigated a corporate life in New Zealand and England working in the field of event management and people management. She is strongly passionate about healthy workplaces (and pastries). Now based in Denmark Keri is on her way to becoming bilingual (she hopes) and is the co-organiser of ‘Post A Letter Copenhagen’. A monthly event held at ENIGMA Museum of Post & Communication in Østerbro. Entry is by donation and in return attendees are able to write letters to anywhere in the world for free. She recently initiated a project for volunteer writers to write to lonely elderly people all over the world. This is part of Keri’s greater goal to encourage more thoughtful and meaningful communication in the world.