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Kelly Kristensen, Viborg

Who are you?

Kelly Kristensen, American blogger and YouTube creator of My New Danish Life, veteran teacher of 16 years, mother of two boys and married since 2010.

Where, when and why did you move abroad?

I moved to Denmark in March of 2016 because my Danish husband got a new job.We wanted to try something new and thought this would be as good a time as any to expose our Danish/American children in the ways of what it means to be a Dane.

What challenges did you face during the move?

I didn’t know the language or any people. We moved two and a half hours north of where my husband grew up, and he knew no one. Since he is very shy, it isn’t easy for him to meet new people. I was on my own to socialize.

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It was also very difficult for me to find my place because I couldn’t communicate. It was hard finding things that I would normally buy in my day-to-day life because I used to live in a very large American town, and my new, very small Danish town lacked in many of my “go to” items. Though I had my husband and two sons, it was pretty lonely and very confusing for me in the beginning.

How did you find somewhere to live?

My husband’s company got us in contact with an organization that operates the apartment buildings in our country/commune. It was really up to us to email them to find a place. Because of my visa application, I needed to find a place that was a certain size for a family of four. We didn’t see the apartment before we signed the lease (over the internet), so it was all a surprise when we arrived.

Are there many other expats in your area?

My town has lots of foreigners, but none of them are Americans. I know one Brit, a few from China and others from eastern European countries. They all have very different backgrounds, so we don’t have that much in common. It is nice not to be the only foreigner though. We also have some refugees in our town.

What is your relationship like with the locals?

I don’t know if I have much of a relationship with the locals. I try really hard to speak the language and to fit in, but the truth is that there is only so much I can do. I have tried to join clubs and talk with my neighbors, but I always have this feeling that I don’t quite belong. I only greet people in passing. I don’t have any local friends.

What do you like about life where you are?

I like that things are slower and quieter here. I do miss having lots of entertainment and shopping options, but it is nice to live on a quiet and safe street where there is very little drama.

What do you dislike about your expat life?

I dislike how hard it is to make friends in Denmark. It would be nice if the language were easier to speak and understand as well. I spend most of my time with my husband and kids without really ever talking to anyone else. It gets a bit lonely at times, and in order to find others like me, I have to drive a long way.

What is the biggest cultural difference you have experienced between your new country and life back home?

There are too many cultural differences to mention. I have made many videos and blog posts on it, so it is hard to put in a short answer form.

I would have to say the top cultural difference is the friendliness factor. Most Americans have no problem talking with people, and I have been in many situations where the “new guy” has been made to feel welcome. Those things don’t tend to happen in Denmark.

What do you think of the food and drink in your new country?

I am not a big fan of pickled fish and all the pork products that they have in Denmark. I am a vegetarian, and it has been a challenge to find decent food for my diet. Things are improving every day, so I have to look on the bright side. Denmark has come a long way with regards to vegetable-based foods, and I feel that this is a good time to live in Denmark.

Being in a small, rural town also doesn’t help. People who live in bigger towns already have access to many great vegetarian options. It will just take a bit longer for them to reach me out in the farmland! ????I have grown very fond of Fastelavn boller, which are a type of donut with a custard filling they eat during February. That has to be my favorite Danish food.

What advice would you give to anyone following in your footsteps?

I would advise anyone coming to Denmark (especially from the USA) to take things slowly. I rushed through language school and rushed to get a job and didn’t enjoy living in Denmark for the first year or so. It made life hard that I put so much pressure on myself to be at a certain “point” in my transition into Danish life. I think that it made it impossible for me to really retain the language and make many Danish acquaintances.

If I were to do it all again, I would go slowly with my language learning and try to enjoy myself. I would have looked into volunteering to build connections with people, get out of the house in my local community and practice using the language.

I think that once you lose that sense of wonder that you get when moving abroad, it is very difficult to get it back, so it is important to set logical expectations for your new life and go with the flow.

What are your plans for the future?

As of right now, I quit my teaching job in Denmark to go back to college. I am studying marketing and working with a lot of really fun places by promoting them on my blog. I am gaining a new view of life, and I’m very excited to see where life takes me after I finish my program.

I feel that I have many opportunities in Denmark, and I am trying to see the silver lining every day. It has taken me a long time to realize that I needed to slow down and “smell the roses” a bit more, and I feel that I am finally on the path to achieving that vision.

You can keep up to date with Kelly's adventures on her blog, My New Danish Life, and on YouTube.

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