When we decided to move to Denmark for an expat assignment, everything happened fast. One thing we came back to often was, “what will we miss if we move abroad to Copenhagen.” Even in a short term expatriate assignment, we knew we would miss out on family birthday parties, friend’s bachelor parties, weekend trips to the beach and almost every holiday besides Christmas.
What we found out was that there are also some incredible trade-offs to missing these events. This past week, while we were missing out on Easter with our families, Mike and I spent some time talking about what we gained in exchange for missing those events. These “expat trade-offs” really mean something to us, and we focus on them when we start to get down about missing out on things back in our native country, America.
More Quality Time
|the time we get at home is compact – but much more special.
While it’s hard to go long stretches without seeing friends and especially family, the time we get while we are visiting the states proves to be high-quality. We didn’t live in the same cities as our families before we moved, so visits to family were sometimes a month or more apart. Those visits may be several months apart now (we generally manage two trips to the US per year) but the time spent together is different – it’s more quality time. Because we are staying with family for several days, we enjoy most of our meals together, we have visits from extended family and get time to just relax, be cozy and – dare I say it, hygge. It’s a trade-off and really a “trade-up” – the time we get at home is compact – but much more special.
Related Post: Why Americans Can’t Hygge
Travel With Family and Friends
|we got to enjoy Mothers Day brunch at Prague Castle – that’s something neither of us will ever forget
This week my family will be getting together for a late Easter celebration, and to celebrate the birthdays of my nephew and my mom. It’s tough to miss out on the birthdays and the Easter holiday, but we’ll FaceTime.
I’ll also get to reflect on my mom celebrating her birthday last year by traveling to Europe and getting to see our new home in Copenhagen. This was her first time in Europe and it was unforgettable. The timing worked out such that we were in Prague over Mothers Day weekend. Sure, I’ll miss being together for her birthday, last year we got to enjoy Mothers Day brunch at Prague Castle – that’s something neither of us will ever forget. This Fall, we got to visit Amsterdam with Mike’s parents and celebrate their wedding anniversary at our favorite Dutch fondue restaurant. We’ve missed two years of beach weekends with friends, but we’ve also been able to host so many friends from that group in Denmark. During our time here we have even been able to travel around Europe with a lot of them. In September we even joined some of our beach crew in Munich for Oktoberfest. While we still miss out on those beach weekends, I love that we have been fortunate enough to travel to several countries with family and our friends who are like family.
Related Post: Amsterdam – 5 Things You Can’t Miss
Seeing and Hearing From Old Friends
|being able to show off our city and catch up while friends who are traveling is a hidden benefit of living abroad
One unexpected trade-off of living abroad is that people reach out to us all the time and ask for tips on Copenhagen or other places that social media has let them know we traveled. Some are old friends that we haven’t kept up with as much, even friends from college and high school who we reconnect with over travel interests.
The best is when friends reach out because they are going to be in Copenhagen. Sometimes work brings them here, or they are looking into Baltic cruises and we are happy to share advice and even open our home to them. At the very least, we have gotten to meet up with old friends for a drink and an open-faced sandwich (Danish smørrebrød). Often we hear from friends who we didn’t see on a regular basis when we lived so close to them, but they remember we live here and shoot us a facebook message. It’s really cool to forge a better friendship or reconnect with old friends because they find their way to Denmark. Sure, we miss the meet ups at our old favorite bars or bumping into people at the gym or shopping mall, but being able to show off our city and catch up with friends who are traveling is a hidden benefit of living abroad.
Related Post: Expat Life – Leaving Loved Ones Behind
|Everyone should experience walking into a bar full of friends and having them all turn around, yell and run to hug you
During our visits home, we are blown away from the effort people make to see us and the homecoming treatment that we get. They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder, and it’s definitely true for anyone living abroad who visits their home country. Whether it’s the busy summer months or the rush of the holidays, whenever we are home our friends and family turn up to see us. Everyone should experience walking into a bar full of friends, having them all turn around, yell and run to hug you. All you have to do is move across the world.
Efficient Catching Up
|It’s virtually impossible to see everyone individually
Similar to the homecoming treatment, it’s very efficient to catch up with friends and family when you move abroad. Part of this is due to traveling to your home country for holidays or weddings where it’s easy to see a lot of people in a short period of time. If there isn’t such an event, we have been lucky to have family plan brunches or backyard barbecues to make it easy for us to see extended family.
Another convenience is that people make more of an effort to meet up when you return for a short period of time. For us, it has also led to some fun mixing of friends for group dinners or nights out for drinks. It’s virtually impossible to see everyone individually, so we usually organize group dinners or nights out for drinks by just letting everyone know where to be and when. Those have been some of our most fun nights because we get to see so many people while introducing friends from various social circles.
No matter what, living abroad is difficult. Missing friends, family and “the little things” can be tough, but the point is to make sure you focus on what I keep calling “the trade-off.” It’s essentially the bright side that comes along with living away from the people you love and how your relationships with those special people can actually be enhanced during your time apart. It doesn’t eliminate all homesickness or FOMO, but it keeps you thinking positive about the opportunity you have been lucky enough to take on.
Live abroad? What keeps you going? What do you think of my trade-offs and what would you add? Comment Below: