Photo by: VisitAarhus

Coming to Denmark: Stages of happiness, loss, grief and acceptance

Meet Jonathan. A psychotherapist from Australia who moved permanently to Denmark last June. After attending International Community's Coffee Mornings and Meet Your Club event, he allowed us to do an exclusive interview with him, about his experience coming to, living, and working in Denmark.

Experience settling in Denmark

“In the beginning it was actually very exciting and very like, happy go lucky vibe. It was also summertime, so I think that reflected the whole… It was all good basically. And it was all just new and exciting, you know, moving to a new place, this whole big thing. Which is super nice and cool.”

But he also talked about another and much darker side of moving. Especially when it came to tackling the Danish system of requiring a visa to start working, Jonathan ran into an institutional barrier where he could do little more than wait:

“The processing time kept going, I had all the information – everything was there to process the visa, but they just weren’t doing it. And I was like ‘How can I start work if I don’t have a CPR number – how can I do anything when I don’t have a bank account if I don’t have a NemID.”

This process started some of Jonathan's first challenges after exiting the honeymoon phase of coming to Denmark. Having arrived in June, it took almost six months before he received his visa and work permission in December, which meant he had to fill out the many months of uncertainty.

“It was stages of loss, like, call it grief or whatever you want,” he explains, “Maybe it’s all being fine and stuff, and then it’s like going through a load of emotions of frustration, of anger of despair, just kind of ‘How do I.. What do I do?’”

Jonathan spoke about a sense of losing himself, thinking he had to live up to a wide array of cultural expectations, from what he’d seen in Danish culture. While some things were okay to adapt to, other aspects meant that he felt like bits of pieces of himself were disappearing. On top of that, outside of his Danish wife’s family and friends, he didn’t have a support system, which is where he realized he needed to go out and find his own network. Not knowing about international communities or ex-pat activities, a quick Google search led him to our website.

“I was like, wow! There is this community of people who meet up and do these events and stuff, maybe I can meet people and connect with someone outside of my wife’s Danish circle.” He tried attending International Community’s events, and it gave him the opportunity to meet people and feel supported. He adds:

“I think I just spend so long with like; the Danish circles and I guess I just, being in that for so long, that I hadn’t done something for myself. And I felt like, going to International Community was doing something for myself, that I could just come here, and just you know? Nobody knows me, and even if people do know me, I can still express myself because we’re all internationals here. We’re all kind of coming from somewhere, and we all share that common thing. To be accepted and be supported has really helped with this whole thing of being myself.”

Jonathan also explained that despite coming to the conclusion of ‘just being himself’, it is not always easy to stand by who you are, and it certainly hasn’t been a bump-free road. Rather it is an ongoing path of redefinition and acceptance. Some days are fine, and other days are swallowed by the

uncertainty of why and how one is supposed to simply be in a society and culture you aren’t used to navigating in without compromising yourself completely.

“Something that’s really kind of helped in the last months for me is like, expressing who I am and being more open to sharing that with others. Just being myself whether that’s culturally accepted or not. Opening up to that and whatever comes with that. If people like that, cool, and if they don’t like that, then it’s more important for me who I am, and to express that. Because it’s okay and it’s important.”

Being open about his own internal struggles and victories is also the reason behind Jonathan’s choice of working as a therapist. His goal is to support other internationals who are struggling with their mental health, since he himself, knows how important it is to have someone to rely on and share the feelings that come with relocating to another country.

Finding oneself through association activities

“In Australia I was part of a club, I did aikido. So in Denmark I looked for that kind of thing since it was important for me to be a part of something, that I enjoyed doing. Also, something where I felt I could just connect to people while doing things together.

For me, it was aikido – I love movement, and the energy and the flow – so it was key to finding that here. I thought, you know, maybe it would a barrier with the Danish, but actually in the things I’ve been enjoying, whether it’s aikido or this cross-ball-thing I joined as well, the Danish is kind of fluid in a way, because you’re doing something together. Whether that’s kicking a ball or understanding a movement, you can kind of just observe what other people are doing.

I just try to pick it up where I can, but people are really friendly with changing to English sometimes, and also just supporting me doing whatever that thing was. It’s also just a sense of community, a sense of being like, part of something. And like, the social aspect – it has been a cool way of meeting local Danes and having a laugh every now and then. Just doing something for me as well.”

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