Moving Abroad:: A New Zealander in Copenhagen

by Tina on November 7, 2013

in Moving Abroad


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

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Rochelle November 7, 2013 at 3:22 pm

Great post! I share a lot of the same sentiments about living in Denmark, perhaps it is a Southern Hemisphere thing.


Amanda November 7, 2013 at 3:37 pm

Love the expat topics here, especially since we are currently debating a job relocation. Tina, as an expat mom and Emily as as ex expat au pair: What do you both find are the biggest differences in Danish parenting and your native country? We lived next door to an expat couple from Ballerup for a little while and we were amazed by the differences between them and ourselves. We joked that they must be medicated to be THAT calm. Haha!! Is that a common Danish trait within both of your experiences? I’m afraid I am going to be that crazed, frantic mother that stands out amongst a sea of tranquility.


Shelby November 8, 2013 at 3:04 pm

What a lovely profile… You and Jack are so talented and capturing the essence and personalities of your subjects…. This was beautiful!


Amanda November 12, 2013 at 12:58 pm

Never mind. Got advice on this from another expat blog.


Amanda November 12, 2013 at 3:49 pm

Hit reply to the post below accidentally. Did some research and decided against accepting the job transfer. Don’t think we would survive the darkness and cold too well. Take care!


Tina November 12, 2013 at 9:57 pm

Oh dear! And I didn’t even get a chance to respond yet! We absolutely LOVE living in Denmark. I know it isn’t for everyone and the dark winters can be tough, especially if you are dearly attached to sunny days, but there are so many wonderful things about Denmark that totally make the dark days worth it. The people are incredibly kind and funny, the cycling lifestyle invigorating, the focus on good health unbeatable, and the innocence and focus on children just incomparable. The cost of living is high and the winters dark, but on the flip side, the days are long and sunny during the summer and the landscape so soft and lovely. Some days I feel like a bull in a china shop with my parenting style, but I admire the seemingly endless patience my friends have for their children and find it a constant source of encouragement as a parent to be better, more patient, and to allow my children to live more freely. Well, as you can see, I am an advocate for Denmark, and Scandinavia in general!


Amanda November 13, 2013 at 9:37 pm

Thanks so much for the info! Wow, maybe we should take a little more time before we make our final decision. How long have you been there? We would be guaranteed at least two to three years there through work, but I don’t want our children to get all settled and happy and then not be guaranteed that we could stay if we wanted to. Frankly, I’m afraid I’ll fall in love with it there and then have to come kicking and screaming back to a world that scares me on a daily basis. Do you ever feel like that or are you all there for good?


Tina November 13, 2013 at 9:47 pm

We have lived here for three years and hope to stay for a long time. How old are your kids? If they are younger than 9 then the transition to and from the US would likely go fairly smoothly, but if they are older you might want to look into an international school where they would study in English to help the transition if you are only going to stay 2-3 years. We have friends right now who were on a 3 year stay and are nearly mourning over their upcoming departure and move back to the US. But then I know another friend who nearly danced a jig to the airport! haha! So, I think it really depends on you and your family, what you hope to do abroad, why you want to leave, etc… Just some thoughts! :-)

Kaho November 8, 2013 at 6:37 pm

Gorgeous photos! I agree that living abroad changes your perspective on life. I do think about how certain things in Japan can be changed through my experiences living outside of my home country.


Tina November 12, 2013 at 10:12 pm

Thank you! It does help us to become more global citizens, doesn’t it?


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