Who are you?
Rebecca Thandi Norman, co-founder & Editorial Director, Scandinavia Standard. I’m originally from Boston, MA, USA.
Where, when and why did you move abroad?
I originally moved abroad to Copenhagen in 2008 to study during my undergraduate. During that time I met my current husband and, after moving to London and then Cape Town, we settled back in Copenhagen and have been here since 2012.
What challenges did you face during the move?Copenhagen is an expensive city and I was a student with a part-time job. I didn’t know anyone and I didn’t know the language.
How did you find somewhere to live?
I was lucky that when I first moved here, the international office of my university (University of Copenhagen) gave me a few contacts for finding an apartment. I found a shared apartment with a young Dane.
Are there many other expats in your area?
I’m not sure! It’s not something I’ve explored. I live an area called NordVest. I do know that there’s a sizable expat community throughout Copenhagen.
What is your relationship like with the locals?
Well, my husband is Danish, my family-in-law is Danish and most of our friends are Danish, so…good, I hope!
What do you like about life where you are?
I love my relationships here – my husband of course, my family and friends are all so wonderful. My job, which is a business I co-created and am so passionate about, is a huge part of my life. I also love what’s available in Copenhagen and the city’s accessibility. I ride my bicycle everywhere.
What do you dislike about your expat life?
I don’t really consider myself an expat, I consider myself an immigrant. Sometimes the paperwork involved in immigration is hard, as it is anywhere. I have a visa renewal coming up soon; I’m sure it won’t be too difficult but you always worry about things like that until they’re confirmed. I occasionally have problems with the language as well, which can be tricky.
What is the biggest cultural difference you have experienced between your new country and life back home?
There are pretty big differences in what’s considered “offensive” or “politically correct.” I’ve had to accept that the way I was taught isn’t the only way to communicate and to just be open when I’m feeling uncomfortable – as I hope others would do with me. It seems to work pretty well.
How does shopping (for food/clothes/household items etc.) differ compared to back home?
I’ve never been much of a shopper, so this isn’t a huge change for me, but Copenhagen is an expensive city with a lot of great design available. I tend to be very careful about my purchases and really analyze what I need versus what I want.
In terms of food, going out is a real treat as opposed to something I can do every day. I never get a to-go coffee; instead, I sit down by myself or with a friend and really enjoy sipping my drink.
One thing that’s really different is how often I go to the grocery store. In the US, we went weekly and stocked up. Here, I shop daily for the items I need. Although it’s more time-intensive, I really enjoy this kind of shopping and also eat more fresh produce as a result.
What do you think of the food in your new country? What are your particular likes or dislikes?
I LOVE Danish food culture! I’ve really taken to dark rye bread. I already loved fish, so their herring and fiskefrikadeller are big favorites of mine. The only thing I don’t really connect to is the pork, which I didn’t grow up eating and for which I never developed a taste. I’m not much a meat-eater in general, so the Danish holidays can be a heavy time for me.
What advice would you give to anyone following in your footsteps?
To anyone moving to a new country or region I would say: be prepared for the honeymoon period and be prepared for the backlash. You’ll have times that are wonderful and times where you wonder if you’re crazy for moving. It’s all normal and it’s all okay. If possible, I recommend getting involved in the things you loved about your previous city – if it’s walks in the park, a sports team, pub trivia, art exhibitions, whatever. Also, moving to a place where you don’t know anyone, or know very few people, is a wonderful lesson in how to be alone, which is a really important skill.
What are your plans for the future?
To stay in Denmark and raise a family here. I feel so lucky to live in Copenhagen. Sometimes I still get goosebumps when I’m cycling around.