So, do you just tag along? Anyone who is a trailing spouse will no doubt recognise this question. I was surprised to hear it, because it has been a few years, but it hasn’t become any easier being confronted by people who reduce you to the status of a dog.
Time to walk the walk
I could answer the question by unpacking my flashy suitcase of knowledge which includes a thesis and thorough research on intercultural adaptation and years of experience working with the expat community as a therapist. I could boast and say that I’m actually an expert in counselling people on the dynamics of moving abroad.
But it wasn’t until my partner embarked on an international career, and I went from counselling expats and their trailing spouses to becoming one myself, that I had gone full circle. Once you have been a trailing spouse, you learn to understand that there is no simple answer to the question posed.
This is a matter of not talking the talk, but walking the walk. And if you are curious to know how to do this walking, here’s my top five list of things to do for trailing spouses in Copenhagen.
People are strange, when you’re a stranger
Get to know a Dane. You could do this by joining a social group, taking a course in something that interests you or doing volunteering work. Not all Danes are as reserved and distant as you might have heard. Getting together with other expats is great, but if you can become friends with a local, you will feel more integrated and people will seem less and less strange.
Keep an open mind
Say yes to as many things you can, whether invited or found over the internet. You need to build a social network while you are in the first exciting phase of moving here. Once winter and the culture shock hits, you need to be able to meet like-minded people. As great as the internet and phones may be, they cannot replace human contact.
Step into the light
To break the isolation trap you need to step out of your partner’s shadow. Do this by thinking about your self-definition: how do you present yourself when people ask what brings you to Copenhagen. What projects are you considering or perhaps already doing? Even or especially if you are a stay-at-home partner, it is important to add something to the conversation to keep it going.
Communicate. Communicate. Communicate
Be aware that an imbalance can occur in your relationship if one of you is working and the other isn’t. Try to keep the initial team spirit going by communicating and listening to each other’s needs. Otherwise, the imbalance can eat at your relationship and end in resentment.
Rødgrød med fløde
Take a Danish class and stick to it. Explain to people that switching to English, however well intended, is in fact not helping you. And be patient with yourself as learning Danish can be tricky.
Enjoy the ride!
As you know, preparing for the theoretical part of a driver’s licence and getting behind the wheel are two very different experiences. I hope you get out there and enjoy the ride.