Expat life begins: “Can you be in Copenhagen on Monday?”

“Can you be in Copenhagen on Monday?” – that was how this whole adventure started back in November 2016. That’s when Mike was asked to go to Denmark for a business trip on almost zero notice. After being briefed on the trip, he called me that Friday afternoon to ensure we didn’t have anything else going on during the weeks he would be away. My reaction was, “who cares?! GO!!” I didn’t know it then, but our expat life was about to begin.

Mike and I share many traits, but most significant to our current situation is wanderlust. We both admire other cultures, believe in the importance of traveling and experiencing life from other perspectives. As soon as Mike left for Denmark I began looking at my own schedule to see if we could take advantage of my own time off for the Thanksgiving holiday. Why not create an impromptu European get-away?

Copenhagen Christmas Market

Mike was asked to stay for an extra week on his first day working in Copenhagen. With my plan in mind, he negotiated to have the American Thanksgiving holiday off and I booked my flight. We enjoyed the Danish Christmas markets and squeezed in a quick trip to Germany. In Berlin, we spent Thanksgiving with two plates of pasta and plenty of beer. Turkey isn’t easy to find in Europe. Before long I headed back to Philly and Mike had another 6 days left in Denmark. At the end of that short week our future really began to unfold. We didn’t know it then, but expat life was around the corner.

Our Thanksgiving beers in Berlin

Our plan was to spend the first weekend in December visiting New Orleans – my favorite American city. I was always shocked that Mike had never visited NOLA, so it was the perfect place for a birthday getaway. Denmark complicated this a little. Fortunately, Mike was able to book his return flight from Copenhagen straight to New Orleans – crisis #1 averted. I still had to pack and bring vacation clothing for Mike. At the time, Mike’s only possessions were a toothbrush and a week’s wardrobe of business casual attire (he had already been in Europe for 3 weeks at this point).

The night before we flew out, Mike went to dinner at the home of his Copenhagen boss. Maintaining professional courtesy, Mike’s first question at dinner wasn’t “hey, what’s your wifi password”. Therefore, we had several hours of radio silence for the first time since Mike left Philly. I’m not a clinger, but this made me a little anxious. We did have travel plans being coordinating from separate continents. Mike’s boss also kept the alcohol flowing well through the night and into the next morning, making things worse.

nyhavn copenhagen

With a 6 hour time difference, I began to worry around 11:30PM Philly time. That’s when I went to bed without hearing from Mike. He called me just as I was nodding off. Mike called to let me know that he was up drinking with his boss all night. He also dropped the bomb that he was offered an expat assignment through September 2017. My response was, “okay, well do you want me to pack your flip flops for New Orleans?” Obviously we would have to discuss this over Hurricanes on Bourbon Street. Like most good decisions made in New Orleans, we decided to take the risk and expat life began. Today we are officially residents of Denmark. So we aren’t Danish, but we are “Dane-ISH.”

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Derek Hartman

Derek Hartman is an American expat from Philadelphia, currently living in Copenhagen, Denmark. His blog, Robe Trotting focuses on travel, expatriation and lifestyle topics.

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