The Balancing Act | Living with e-hormones

I know I’ve got it. Mostly unfailing in its regularity, occasionally cunningly stealthy, it has become part and parcel of my life in Denmark. The cause of random uplifting highs and maddening lows, the ‘it’ in question is what I call e-hormones, short for expat-hormones. I’m convinced it exists; scientists just haven’t discovered it yet.

Like other chemical messengers that can alter your behaviour, the e-hormones have been meddling with my system, causing unpredictable mood swings. Having the e-hormones has meant that the same things affect me differently on different days. On one day I’m ecstatic and proud of having had a ten sentence-long conversation in Danish without the other person in the conversation saying “Hvad siger du?” (What did you say?), while on another I declare that if I hear one more sentence of Danish with its glottal stops and inversion, I’ll go into hiding.

On the good days, I’m able to appreciate all the nice aspects of living here. I love how beautiful Copenhagen is, how child-friendly it is and how there is always something interesting going on, irrespective of the weather. I’m impressed by the level of gender equality and rather taken in by how actively involved fathers are in parenting. Mostly I’m happy that my husband and I can spend quality time with our daughter thanks to the work-life balance. On days like these, I’m even willing to convince others going through an “I don’t really like being here” phase why living here isn’t so bad (while trying to ignore the “What do you know” look they’re throwing at me).

On the bad days, the e-hormones can start a wave of severe nostalgia, triggered by the most unlikely things. For me, the worst triggers are Indian festivals. Indians celebrate a large number of festive occasions, and almost everyone I know posts happy, festive pictures on Facebook. The images vary – from friends and family adorned in beautiful, traditional clothes, to delicious, drool-inducing food – but the effect is the same. I miss being in India, and it feels odd to live in a country so different from my own.

Whenever I’m on the low end of the curve, I try and replicate as many experiences as I can from back home. Some of it involves watching Bollywood and regional language movies from my native state (even some I would probably have avoided before) and listening to Indian music. Sometimes, I try my hand at certain Indian recipes: food I’m accustomed to eating but never made myself. On a couple of occasions, I’ve spent hours looking at numerous old pictures taken in India.

While I was pondering the e-hormones, I heard about the Mars One project. For those of you who missed it, Mars One is a space mission to planet Mars led by Dutch entrepreneur Bas Lansdorp. So far, over 200,000 people from 140 countries have applied for the opportunity to become prospective Martians. After being trained for eight years, in 2023, four of these people will be the first humans to live on Mars. The catch is, for these four people, Mars One is a one-way ticket to the red planet with little or no hope of returning to Earth.

So why do these people want to migrate to another planet? In her application, 54-year old Grete from Denmark, a doctor specialising in infectious diseases, writes: “I have a dream, a dream about changing the world and exploring the universe. And I believe the two are linked. I want to know what’s out there. I want humanity to move on.”

Besides their motives for going to Mars, what will it take for them to live there forever with a fair bit of satisfaction and happiness? I try to imagine the gamut of emotions these expat Earthlings would experience: the pride and joy at creating history, the excitement of discovering something new every day, the boredom of solitude, and the gigantic waves of nostalgia? While I can make a trip back to India every year or so, the people selected for this mission will have to wait for the invention of technology that makes Earth-return vehicles a reality. Theirs will be an expat life unlike any other: one with a world of difference.

  • How internationals can benefit from joining trade unions

    How internationals can benefit from joining trade unions

    Being part of a trade union is a long-established norm for Danes. But many internationals do not join unions – instead enduring workers’ rights violations. Find out how joining a union could benefit you, and how to go about it.

  • Internationals in Denmark rarely join a trade union

    Internationals in Denmark rarely join a trade union

    Internationals are overrepresented in the lowest-paid fields of agriculture, transport, cleaning, hotels and restaurants, and construction – industries that classically lack collective agreements. A new analysis from the Workers’ Union’s Business Council suggests that internationals rarely join trade unions – but if they did, it would generate better industry standards.

  • Novo Nordisk overtakes LEGO as the most desirable future workplace amongst university students

    Novo Nordisk overtakes LEGO as the most desirable future workplace amongst university students

    The numbers are especially striking amongst the 3,477 business and economics students polled, of whom 31 percent elected Novo Nordisk as their favorite, compared with 20 percent last year.