Kim (Spouse) – Niels Bohr Institute - University of Copenhagen

Interview with spouse

Kim is 46 years old and came to Copenhagen in 2012 from Boston. Kim has shared her best advise on being a spouse as well as her favorite spots in Copenhagen and Denmark.

What would be your best advice for another spouse coming to Denmark?

If you are able to, definitely take Danish classes. It will help you to meet new friends who are going through many of the same experiences, and learning the language (even if you only take the first level or two), will help you to feel more like you’re part of the community you live in. Danish is a difficult language, but it’s fun to learn; and you feel great when you can go to the store, the post office, the Laundromat, etc. and be able to speak to the people around you (plus know what all the foods are at the grocery store). For me, I felt a bit lost here in Denmark when I first arrived, especially because I had so much time on my own while my partner was working. Taking Danish classes immediately made me feel better and like I was part of the community, could communicate, and gave me purpose.

Go to the International Staff Mobility events for spouses and families. They are a fantastic way to meet people, make friends (it’s important to have your own friends, as well as “couples friends”), and learn about Denmark and your community. You won’t feel so alone if you attend these events, you’ll get great advice, and you’ll have fun!

Get a bicycle. This is a little nerve-wracking at first. The “rules of the road” are probably different than in your home country (I’m from the US, and the rules are different), but once you know them, they’re easy to follow and to remember. It’s easily the best way to get around the city.

Get a Rejsekort (travel card) for the bus, train, and metro. This is a very simple way to pay for the public transportation. Quick, efficient, bargain travel (reduced rates for using Rejsekort). The first few times I rode the buses and trains by myself I was a bit nervous, but don’t be. It’s easy to use and very efficient. You can get anywhere you want with public transportation pretty easily.

Explore your neighborhood and as much of Denmark as possible. My favorite places outside of Copenhagen: Skagen, Bornholm, Ærø, Aarhus, Køge, Roskilde, Møn, Odense.

What is the greatest challenge in Denmark?

For me, the greatest challenge has been finding work. I had a bit of a unique career in the US (educational park ranger with state parks), so finding work here is absolutely challenging. Jobs are highly sought after by Danes and internationals alike. Be diligent, patient, and don’t give up. Go to job seekers workshops, talk to the people at ISM, get connected to SpouseCare if you can. Also, if you live in Copenhagen, look up the Copenhagen Career program, and go to workshops. If you don’t live in Copenhagen, go to your city hall and be connected with a counselor who can sign you up for your town’s job assistance program.

Remember that in Denmark, setting up your own business or being a free lancer are very good possibilities and fairly easy to do. Attend a workshop on this if you want to pursue the option. This is what I did, and I have found some success as a free lancer.

How did you manage to find your "own" life?

I took Danish classes, attended ISM spouse events, and joined Meetup groups. When I met someone in a class or workshop, we would usually be experiencing some of the same things, especially feeling somewhat alone. Exchanging contact info and meeting up for a coffee can often lead to great friendships. In some ways, it helps to think of the first few months here as being similar to your first year of college. Maybe the first few people you meet won’t be here for long, and they won’t be the friends you have forever, but they will be part of your path to feeling connected, and you will make lasting friends. You never know where your next great friend will come from, so being open to the people you meet is really important. I was also very dedicated to staying in touch with my friends and family from my home country. You may not be able to talk to them as often or in person, but keeping those connections strong is very important. It will probably be easier for you to stay in touch with them than for them to stay in touch with you because if you don’t have work here yet, you might have more time to send emails and make calls, while they will be going about their regular daily lives. Sometimes it’s hard to remember that their world might be mostly the same (except for you not being there), while your life is completely different. For me, I don’t have children so I had tons of free time. It’s definitely an adjustment, but completely do-able. This was one of the hardest things for me, but I feel much better about it now, and have learned that my friends are always still there for me.   

My favorite places in Copenhagen are:

"Islands Brygge" and "De Små Haver på Frederiksberg". I also love Skagen, which we visit this spring. Skagen is Denmarks´s northermost town. Skagen is Denmark's main fishing port and has fantasic nature. it is worth a visit.