This is Emily, currently living as a New Zealander in Copenhagen, Denmark. She is popping in with us today to share a little about her journey from New Zealand to Denmark and what it has been like to move to another country as a single girl, which I think is something that so many would be intimidated by. Emily is a great friend who is a blast to hang out with because of her larger-than-life personality and contagious laugh. One minute she is at the door laughing about the fact that all the Danes were looking at her like she was crazy for wearing shorts on a freezing day (it does get hot riding a bike, even in the snow!) and the next she is this drop dead gorgeous red head who is sweet, courageous, smart, and super inspiring.
Can you tell us a little about yourself? Where are you from?
Well I’m Emily, I’m 26 years old and I’m from that little island at the bottom of the world called New Zealand. This is my third time living in Copenhagen and I guess I keep coming back because of the wonderful friends I have, the great size of the city and the opportunities it offers to travel in Europe so easily.
What inspired you to first want to leave your own country?
I first left New Zealand when was 19. I just had this insatiable desire to explore new countries and cultures and see what else this world had to offer. It was a restlessness inside of me that wouldn’t subside until I got on that first flight to leave. I think it’s a restlessness and a curiosity that most New Zealanders have as we are so isolated. I often describe it feeling like the rest of the world is having a party and you were left off the invite list.
What was your first job in Copenhagen?
My first job in Copenhagen was in a little town just outside the city called Hillerød where I worked as an au pair for three great children and a mischievous dog. I will never forget sitting down for my first meal with them and hearing Danish, Swedish and English spoken at the same time – it opened my eyes to how international this world really is.
Did you find it hard to cope with the differences between your own country and Denmark?
Initially I didn’t find it hard at all as loved how different it was and embraced it. But after a while I did find it hard to get used to the reservedness of the Danes and their private ways of life. I missed the openness and friendliness of New Zealanders and the drive they have to build a connection with people very fast. Making friends here is a slow process and privacy about you and your life is something that Danes value highly.
How did you end up back in Denmark and what are you currently up to?
There must be something in the water here because I just keep coming back. After leaving Denmark in February 2012, I went home. Sadly my city had been destroyed in an earthquake the previous year so job opportunities were not plentiful. I ended up getting a job as a journalist in Sydney, but after experiencing the big city, rat-race lifestyle there I longed for Copenhagen and my friends. So I literally just quit my job, booked a flight and applied for 52 jobs in the hopes that one worked out.
I eventually found one as a social media editor for a marketing company called Lost Boy International. Here I work with international companies, creating their social media content and basically trying to establish them as ‘social- media rockstars’.
I’m also writing a monthly column for the English speaking newspaper, The Copenhagen Post, on Danish culture.
Is it a struggle to be a single girl so far from home? Are there advantages and disadvantages?
I think it’s an advantage to have a complete sense of independence to focus on whatever you want to without having anyone else to consider. It’s meant I can make decisions about my career that have put me in a really strong position and allowed me to travel a lot and meet a lot of various people. The downside is that it can be lonely sometimes especially having your family so far away and relationships can be more difficult here as there is the extra consideration of thinking if this works out then which country will we live in.
What it is like to live abroad? Has it taught you anything?
Living abroad will change your perpective on life forever. Already I’ve started thinking how New Zealand could improve their social welfare system to be more like Denmark’s or how I could encourage more Danes to be a little more open to strangers.
I don’t think it’s for everyone though. I’m very independent, always have been, and I have trained myself to have a resilience that gets me through even the toughest times. You sometimes feel like you’re straddling two worlds as well and not commiting to either one of them. So if you can live with the tension then I think you’re be great at living abroad.
I honestly couldn’t imagine living anywhere else and I love that everyday I wake up and face something new and challenging.
Thank you so, so much, Emily for your openness and honesty! If anyone has a question for Emily, please feel free to leave a comment!
Photography: Jack Fussell for Flying House Studios