Here we go again.
At some point this year, sooner or later depending on official paperwork, I'm moving to Denmark. My Viking man got himself a PhD position at a university in Copenhagen, so that's where we headed. An Icelander and an American--quite possibly two of the most unpopular nationalities in Western Europe. Awesome!
When we moved to Iceland two years ago, he reassured me, "if it sucks, we can always move". That was only a few months before the Kreppa, so obviously things did start sucking shortly thereafter.
The first year in Iceland was a nightmare; we lived in a very drab suburb (Garðabær) where I felt very cut off from other expats and society at large. (Remember that Reykjavik has no mass transit besides a marginally-efficient bus system, so for a car-less foreigner in a suburb, that's like a prison sentence.) The second year improved exponentially: we moved downtown, I developed a network of interesting and fun friends (thereby shifting the in-law to friend time ratio back in my favor), and I dumped Icelandic studies in favor of a more useful masters degree at Háskóli Íslands. Which incidentally is also taught in Icelandic. But it's a cheap degree. And I picked up some freelance work, so I could afford a few beers now and then at some neighborhood cafés. Friends! Cool neighborhood! School! Work! Yeah!
Since I'm only halfway through my masters degree and because we FINALLY got a life in Reykjavik, I am slightly ambivalent about this move. Mostly it's because my fragile psyche cannot handle another Garðabær situation. I hate suburbs in the US, and suburbs in other countries are equally depressing. So we made a rule: we don't need to live in the coolest, most hip downtown neighborhood, but there will NO depressing, uppity suburbs. I will not be a Range Rover-driving Stepford Wife.
Also, have you heard Danish? I should be able to read some because some words are similar to Icelandic, but I can't picture myself actually saying anything without bursting out laughing at how ridiculous I sound. (Sorry, H.) Most of the expat blogs I've browsed from Denmark have listed this as a thorny issue. Note to self: must find potato to insert in throat... (Sorry again, H.)
I am also a tad bit leery of living in another Scandinavian country. Scandinavia in general is very safe, family-friendly, and all about being cosy. But Scandinavia is also--how shall we say--homogeneous. In societies that are very homogeneous, and very proud of it, integration is very difficult. This may explain why foreigners tend not to last for more than a few years in Iceland. (Even if they speak the language fluently.) It's very hard to penetrate the social circles here, and I've heard the same for Denmark. I fully expect the vast majority of our friends there to be other expats and international students. (And there's nothing wrong with that.)
But now for the good things about Denmark: biking, beer, mass transit, trains/ferries to other European countries, masters courses taught in English at universities, Legoland, and goat cheese is available in shops!
Still, I'm afraid to let myself get excited, because I fear the crushing disappointment that comes with the "grass is greener" sort of optimism of moving to a new place. When I heard that we were moving, I thought I would be much more excited because Iceland is just not a good fit for me. I don't coo over infants and my idea of a fantastic hike is San Francisco. And I'm not into cakes and ice cream. Or knitting. Why haven't I been deported already?
I think this move is going to be an exercise in setting realistic expectations and contingency planning. I'll definitely use the valuable lessons from my move to Iceland.
5 weeks ago