By AB Plum
In a little over three weeks, I'll board a plane for a twelve-hour flight to the US, headed for:
After two-plus months in Copenhagen without a dishwasher, I'm really looking forward to that luxury. (No, washing dishes by hand wasn't the hardest adjustment. But … I washed enough dishes growing up as the oldest of six kids to say: been there done, that).
On the other hand, washing dishes here three times a day reminded me of how many people in the world lack water to drink or cook or bathe or clean their teeth. Our three-room Danish apartment would make those resilient people think they'd entered Heaven. Nobody forced me to take this sabbatical so no whining allowed.
Frankly, I'll miss the incredible public transportation. It took me a day or two to remember to click on and click off trains and buses—not too different from San Francisco. And maybe the easiest adjustment. Never having to drive or find a place to park has reinforced how glad I am that I like to walk (because the train doesn't stop in front of my apartment). J
Returning home, I'll have to re-adapt to shopping for groceries once a week instead of every day. Having three niche markets fifty feet from our apartment has changed our buying habits. I wonder, though, if I've seen the future here? Consumers load their own grocery bags (plastic, paid for if they forget to bring one). Plastic surprised me since in our part of California, plastic is banned from supermarkets.
When we first arrived in Denmark, I vowed to learn to speak Danish.
Didn't happen. I've learned to read and understand quite a bit. My vocabulary has expanded and my pronunciation is somewhat understandable to a tolerant native. But speaking full sentences? Expressing more than the basics: Where is [the bathroom]? What time is it? How do you say … In most cases, Danes reply in English. But the majority of grocery store clerks still greet me in Danish and ask if I want a receipt.
The elevator continues to require an act of faith to step into, but my heart rate kicks up only about ten beats instead of twenty. Flexibility. Resilience. The little steps matter.
Going to the airport is the next big step. We've opted to go by taxi because of our luggage—too much to handle on the train. We've about accepted the fare—almost a quarter of one airline ticket. We congratulate ourselves on our adaptability. The fare still feels outrageous …
We leave on a Friday—bedlam at the airport as we know from our earlier flight to Scotland. We're flying on a budget airline. The gates are practically in Germany. We'll probably worry until we board about what we've forgotten. Maybe our new-found flexibility will extend to asking, What difference does it make what we've forgotten?
Because … the one huge change we soon embraced after our arrival?
We can live quite comfortably with far less "stuff" than we have.
If we had to walk out of this apartment with nothing but the clothes on or backs, our medications, our wallets, our passports, and nothing else—not even our laptop—we'd get along fine.
Have you spent an extended stay in a foreign country?
What was your biggest adjustment?
Did you feel a bit smug about your resilience to new customs, food, language, etc.?
AB Plum and her alter-ego, Barbara, have spent the summer in Denmark, making sojourns to Scotland and Finland. The first trip required a great deal of flexibility to resolve some immigration issues. The second trip required a whole new mindset relative to Finnish.
Despite a few turbulent days, Barbara will meet her deadline for publication of Crazy Daze and a Knight, a romantic comedy exploring a second chance at love. Available on Kindle August 27.