dinsdag 8 oktober 2013

Silver thoughts

Getting married and moving to another country. Twenty-five years ago I (or rather: we) did just that – two major life events in one month. The things you do when you are in your twenties...

I thought of that when the date of our wedding anniversary whooshed by, and I thought of it again yesterday, at the presentation of this book: http://issuu.com/internationalcommunity/docs/coming_to_denmark_-_our_stories

It's a book about how expats cope in the Danish workplace. Leafing through it, I realised that most of the expats portrayed in it actually are no rookies to expat life, or life abroad in general. Nor am I, so I realised. And then there are some differences...

Back then, we were students with a cat, a kitchen machine, a car and a computer. Luxury for our kind of people, I thought. Now we are several versions of the same articles further ahead, and we are (temporarily) catless. Alas. But that can be remedied.

We wrote letters that took five days to arrive in Holland – and longer if the Italian postal services felt like it. Every now and then we phoned home. My husband's grandmother phoned every Sunday, for just a couple of minutes. Now, we e-mail to our heart's delight and if we want to Skype on a daily basis, we can.

We rented a place in a suburb of Florence and suffered an Italian winter that was cold, cold, cold in our beautifully tiled apartment. Now we live in a cold land, in a house furnished with central heating, floor heating, and two fireplaces.

We battled with the idiosyncratic Italian banking system. I never found out how to transfer money from one account to the other in the same bank, at the same branch even – every time it was a different procedure. Now we enjoy the blessings of teller machines, Dankort and MobilePay – but still grappling with a different currency. Instead of lire, it's kroner.

The institute where my husband studied, thoughtfully provided Italian language courses to all students and teachers (and their partners). Here, the state allows every legal immigrant to follow Danish courses for three years, for free.

Our social life was mostly confined to the people at the institute. Only when we moved out to the countryside, we got to know 'real Italians'. Here in Denmark it's different. We are not connected with an international institute like back then in Italy (we live in the countryside, though). We are two Dutchmen in a sea of Danes. Also, the workplace is not the place where you socialise in Denmark, so you need to find other places for that. And we found them: neighbours, choirs, clubs of all sorts - that is where the action is. And we are getting there!

What remained the same is that I am married to a Dutchman – the same one I married twenty-five years ago, the one I can come home to time and again :-)

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