As we’re approaching the end of the year, I thought it was time to update you on our recent settling in progress. Since we came back to Copenhagen in September, after a month away, it really feels like we have finally started living the Danish Gene. The past few months have flown by and we are now in a routine that is working well for all of us.
1. We have a long-term apartment!
After six moves in six months, we now have a long-term home; up to two years, if we want it, which feels so reassuring.
Since February, we have moved from England to the beautifully designed Amager house where we lived for two months; then it was off to our cosy Valby apartment for four months; (a busy and quite stressful time hence no blog post here, except when we got over the hurdles), then we had to pack for our month in England while storing the rest of our belongings in my Dad’s cousin’s garage; then we were back to Copenhagen to stay four days with one family member and a week with another in Christianshavn, and then finally, we got the keys to our long-term apartment!
And we love it. For Copenhagen, it’s big and we definitely got lucky when it came up, having looked at the rental market twice a day for three months. We love open-plan, one-floor living and Lydia has lots of space to run around, which she definitely needs. We even have a spare room and have already hosted three sets of visitors. In typical Copenhagen-style, the floors are all wooden and there aren’t any blinds/curtains in the kitchen and living room. This makes people-watching from up high on our fourth floor, quite fun. Lydia now turns around every meal time, to see if the person in the apartment across the street is at his computer. “On the computer again,” she’ll say, or “computer gone to sleep.” We don’t feel overlooked though because we are so high up. Yes, we’re on the fourth floor and don’t have a lift – which is eight flights of steps and 78 individual steps if you’re counting – which Rich did when carrying up all our luggage and furniture. And I sometimes do when carrying Lydia the whole way – she sure knows her numbers now! We were worried about this aspect of the apartment when we signed up to it, but we had to make a compromise on something because the market is so competitive. And since living here, it’s not actually been a problem at all (once we’d got everything in!). It keeps us fit and feels like authentic Copenhagen living, with its little courtyard and extra winding staircase to the back. We live in Nørrebro, which is very central, multicultural, slightly hipster, with lots going on and lots of shops and cafes to choose from – as well as a brilliant playground, which is always a must these days. It has taken a bit of time to get used to the noise that comes from living so centrally, but it is great to be experiencing Copenhagen life right in the hub of it.
The apartment came non-furnished, so it’s been nice making it our own. But there’s also quite a lot to purchase, when you’re starting from scratch and know you’ve got all these items sitting in your fully-furnished-rented-out Sheffield house. So we have been bargain hunting on DBA (gumtree equivalent) and Facebook market place and got some great things for free or hardly any money. My Danish family have also been really generous in lending us furniture. The apartment is still a little empty but we are getting closer towards hygge. It’s also quite refreshing to kit out a home this way and realise how much money you can save by buying good quality second hand items. And you don’t have to worry when Lydia goes AWOL with her coloured pencils. Her gorgeous chest of drawers was given away for free, just because it had a pen mark on the side, which we knew Lydia would only add to. We’ve also got more of our belongings here with us now. When we first moved out to Copenhagen, we brought three suitcases with us. We’ve slowly been sending out more and more packages and now have eight suitcases, and the rest… It definitely helps to make us feel at home. I’ve finally got all my clothes in one place and it’s so nice for Lydia to have all her toys again. She has been incredible at adjusting to our nomadic lifestyle and I’m so pleased she can have a room of her own at last.
2. Lydia turned 2 and I turned 33
Just days after moving into our new apartment, Lydia and I celebrated our almost joint birthdays. We were able to host a party and have my friend Ali over to stay from England. It was so lovely to see the friendships we’ve made in Copenhagen and we were touched at how many people came to celebrate with us.
3. We have bikes
I have written all about this recently so you know the adventures we’ve had on two wheels – actually four wheels on the cargo. Hopping on your bike gives you such freedom and makes you appreciate how brilliant and geared-up Copenhagen is for cycling. I’m a total cycling convert and I’m still going, in the rain, sleet and wind!
4. Rich is establishing himself in his new job and really enjoying it
So to recap, Rich started a new job on 1st September as North Europe Sales Manager for a global tile company. The company are based in Plzen (famous beer) in the Czech Republic and manufacture tiles. Rich comes from a family business of selling tiles, so this is great experience for him and he did so well to get the role. So far, he has travelled to Prague (for his training and then for the Christmas party!), Italy, Sweden, Norway and Finland. And Lydia and I have held the fort at home and it’s all gone very smoothly. When Rich isn’t travelling to meet customers, he works from home, which is such a treat and makes the times he’s away really manageable.
5. We’re actually speaking some Danish
Richie’s job has taken the pressure off my freelance work so I’ve been lucky enough to enrol on a daytime language course. I found it too difficult to attend classes two evenings a week, 5.30-9pm, while juggling Lydia and work projects so I decided to retake my first module in daytime classes. I learnt and enjoyed it so much that I’m now doing the second module three days a week, 9-1pm, giving me two days a week with Lydia and a bit of time around this for freelance work. Rich has also started his second module and is taking online classes, with a class-based lesson once a month, which suits his work and travel commitments. We have had Danish conversations with my aunt, uncle and grandparents recently and I even got through a whole nurse appointment for a flu jab in Danish. And I’m pretty sure it was the flu jab I got!
Lydia is saying more Danish phrases, which is helped along by me trying to read Danish books to her. She’s recently started going up to children in the playground and saying, “Hvad hedder du? Jeg hedder Lydia.” She also went to bed one night and said to Rich and I: “Tak for i dag!” which is “thanks for the day/the time together” – a well used phrase over here, which made our hearts melt. She amazes us with her ability to pick up both English and Danish and is not at all phased that her nursery friends and teachers only speak Danish to her. She also now understands the concept that Danish and English are different. So I can ask her what a word is in Danish and what it is in English. She’s only 2 and 2 months so is still learning how to speak full stop but it’s fascinating to see her pick things up.
6. Being a Danish/expat mummy
My regular two days a week with Lydia means I have been able to join some classes and meet some more mums. This has made a big difference to how settled and content I feel. There aren’t many classes for the over one-year-olds in Denmark because the culture is that mums take a full year off and then go back to work full-time, using the heavily subsidised daycare system. There is actually only the option to pay for a full-time nursery place here, rather than day-by-day as you do in England. It’s around £400 a month for a Monday-Friday 6am-6pm service. This has suited my freelance life perfectly because I can pick and choose which days Lydia goes from week-to-week or month-to-month. In England, this would cost us over £1000 a month.
Anyway, back to toddler groups – there aren’t many around because of this culture. So it was exciting to learn that our local church ran a music group for 2-3 year olds. Everyone is Danish, as are the songs, but I like that. The other class we’ve joined is a dance class, run by an English dancer and attended by lots of expats. Lyds loves it and it’s nice to meet more mums from other countries and discover why they’ve moved here and how they cope without immediate family. I love spending one-on-one time with Lyds; watching her delight in her music and dance groups and seeing her interact with both Danish and English speaking toddlers.
7. A Danish Christmas
We are back in England for Christmas but we have done our best to experience everything Copenhagen has to offer around this season and I can safely say, they do Christmas well. There are so many Christmas markets to choose from, the festive drink gløgg, (a better version of mulled wine), tasteful twinkly lights everywhere you go and wonderful big juletræs. And the transition from summer, to autumn, to winter, hasn’t felt at all drab. The Danes seem to embrace the colder weather and darker nights by putting up sparkly lights, lighting candles, wearing cosy jumpers and drinking gløgg and varm chokolade. I’m very much on board with this.
So in conclusion, it’s starting, for the first time to feel like we actually live here. It’s taken so much longer than I thought but I have to remind myself of what we’ve overcome to make it happen and get to this place. There are still many settling in wins to be had (Lydia’s nursery move, to be closer to our apartment – which I’m dreading) and getting better at understanding Danes speak. But this Level 4 has been so enjoyable and we’re reaping in the efforts of the last year. Bring on 2018….