It’s 7am on a Saturday morning when my flight from Düsseldorf, Germany lands in Copenhagen, Denmark and the cold hits me as I walk bleary-eyed into the airport. Don’t get me wrong, as a Scandinavian student I’m no stranger to temperatures of -17° but admittedly the not-quite-winter-not-quite-spring weather in Cologne has mellowed me. Oh man, am I glad I picked my unfashionably bright orange winter jacket over my usual uniform of a hoody under a thin black coat.
Being back in Denmark is bittersweet. It’s lovely to cycle around all those familiar places and catch up with the mates I made when I moved over from London in 2011. But I’m a little sad. I thought this would be home. I feel homesick not being in Odense even though I never really identified with Denmark and its people. Moving to Germany was only supposed to be temporary. Six months, I told my friends, I’ll be back. I am back – only it’s 18 months later, empty suitcase in hand, to move out of the country I thought I was going to live in forever.
Getting on the train to Odense, I asked the on-train catering assistant if it was alright to sit in the quiet-zone with my headphones. Our conversation soon turned to the hardships some foreigners face in Denmark. Her story was quite identical to ones I had heard before – people leaving their own country with decent careers only to end up as catering or cleaning staff in other countries. Some folks abroad tell me I should consider myself privileged, that despite sometimes sharing the same skin colour and/or academic credentials as so many others, the fact that I was born in the European Union opens so many more doors. How on earth do I respond to that? You can’t help where you’re born, not for lack of trying.
Hans Christian Andersen, author of some of the greatest fairy tales, was born in Odense
I got comfy in my seat so I could catch on the sleep I’d missed due to waking up at 3AM to get from Cologne to Düsseldorf Airport. Two stops later I found myself ousted from my seat by a passenger who’d obviously been smart to reserve it beforehand. Silly me, I hadn’t quite anticipated how busy a 90 minute train journey would be. I mean, who leaves big ol’ Copenhagen for teeny-tiny Odense on a Saturday morning? As it turns out, everyone does. The on-train catering assistant found me huddled up by the doors of the train and took me to a seating area reserved for train crew. I protested, telling her she needed the seat and I could always sit on the steps as I’d done quite often instead of paying extra to reserve a seat. ”Nonsense”, she said, handing me a bottle of water. “You need to sleep.”
H.C. Andersen‘s house, Odense.
When I got to Odense, it didn’t take long to gather my things. As I’ve moved around countless times I’ve really learned how to pack light. I was quite pragmatic about my possessions, giving away my Xbox to friends in Copenhagen and sending unwanted clothes to a Red Cross collection point in town. After saying a grateful thanks to an ex-boyfriend for letting me use his living room as my personal storage area for way longer than necessary, I zipped up my suitcases and moved out of Denmark.
Changing of the Guards at Amalienborg Palace, Copenhagen
When I think about the Molly who moved to Denmark in 2011, although I didn’t see it at the time, I realise how difficult it is to leave the comfortable and familiar surroundings that you’re used to and immerse yourself in a country that isn’t yours, to be around people who don’t speak the same language as you. Moving to Germany was somewhat easier because I knew how to deal with the simple things such as getting registered with the local council and setting up a bank account. I learned how to settle in quickly and how to keep away the loneliness and homesickness by being proactive and getting involved in activities with people my age. Oh man, the Molly who moved to Denmark was naïve but I’ve survived it, I’ve got no regrets and if I had to do it again, I wouldn’t change a thing – except a wiser choice of boyfriends, perhaps! For me, living abroad is never a problematic struggle but rather a fun challenge and there have been times, even now in Cologne where I still find myself faltering whenever I reach an unexpected hurdle. But it’s just momentary and it’ll pass and I look forward to seeing where the next move takes me. Which’ll be out of my office, where I’m currently sitting at 8PM because it’s quiet and I’m too lazy to get on my bike and go home.
Cycling around Copenhagen at sunrise
I had so much fun being in Odense again and visiting the new houses of the friends who upped sticks and moved to Copenhagen. It’s really nice to know we’re all making that transition into the next step of our lives together and even though I’ve settled in quite well with my job and my friends in Germany, I will always have Denmark in my heart. Jeg kommer tilbage. I promise.