My love affair with all things Scandinavian began years ago when I was a teenager and my family spent an idyllic three years in Copenhagen. We lived in a stately white house with picture windows in the dining room that overlooked the Øresund, the body of water between Denmark and Sweden. Each morning, I would eat dense Danish rye bread, slathered with jam and topped with Havarti cheese, and watch a schooner with crimson sails glide serenely across the sound. The house, incidentally, also came with a Danish housekeeper named Jytte, who was the size of an NFL linebacker and liked to inform us that her country was “a little butterhole”. She was right. When my family’s time in Denmark came to an end, I was left with an undying appreciation for the Scandinavians’ sense of style, design and their impeccable taste in pastries.
I also left Denmark with a different sort of undying affection, having fallen head-over-heels in love with a young American of Danish/Swedish ancestry – also living in Copenhagen – whom my family had befriended. We both eventually ended up back in the United States and, some years later, got married. We relished the fact that our story began one New Year’s Eve in wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen (as the song goes), but we never imagined that life would lead us back there anytime soon.
Fast-forward a few years to 2009 and the collapse of the financial system. My husband was a newly minted MBA and, like many others in his situation, was finding the job market in America to be less than promising. A chance encounter with a large Danish company at a career fair led to a life-changing opportunity to move back to Denmark, where we ended up staying for a number of years (with a year in Sydney, Australia in the middle, for good measure!) and having our second child. Our deep love for and connection to Scandinavia only grew, but this time I was mature enough to appreciate a whole new set of values and cultural benefits. I still admired Danish design and pastries, of course, but I was more impressed with the basic Scandinavian sensibility when it came to things like work-life balance, the importance of family time, the concept of social good, and the idea of what truly defines who we are.
When our jobs took us back to America, we were thrilled to be closer to family and to give our children a chance to become more familiar with their country. But, while the move came with countless amazing benefits, we found that we also desperately missed the lifestyle we had left behind in Denmark. Our lives in the Washington, DC area seemed so full that we felt we rarely had a moment to stop and just enjoy simple pleasures that we had taken for granted in Copenhagen. Good things were happening in our lives, but we somehow couldn’t find the time to appreciate them amid the stresses and pressures of every day life. This reality made it easier for us to seriously consider – and eventually accept – a surprise opportunity to return to Denmark once more.
This blog was started just as we prepared to move back to Scandinavia, as a way to chronicle our life in that lovely corner of the world and also share our affection for the Nordic countries with others. But it has a broader purpose, as well. My experience going from Denmark to the US, and then deciding to go back again, has helped me identify what makes a happy and fulfilling life, at least in my book. I recognize that it has far less to do with where I am than who I’m with. But it is also less about what I do and more about how balanced my life is among all the things I do – some because I want to, some because I have to. The Danes and their fellow Scandinavians have taught me a great deal about how best to pursue the kind of life I want for myself and my family. I may not live among these Vikings forever, but I hope to retain a healthy dose of their “Scandisensibility” wherever I go. And I’m glad to have you along for the journey!
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