Things I learned from moving abroad for three months

30th of March 2019

1. You don't need to bring all your favorite things with you

Even though the feeling of leaving it all behind at home might be excruciating, and even though you are able to convince yourself that you will be totally lost without that dress, you won't - trust me. I packed one big and one small suitcase when leaving Denmark for three months in New York's ever-changing weather (seriously, what's up with you being able to walk around in summer clothes in January, but also having to put on three jackets just to stay relatively warm on a late March day?) and no, packing wasn't exactly easy, when it came to narrowing down and predicting what to bring. Frankly, I overpacked more than I expected, even after I eliminated half of the things I had left after two more days of packing and eliminating. I left Denmark with a feeling of not bringing anything I wouldn't need, but I was, of course, wrong. Being a child of divorce who is used to pack a bag ever to every other week, this is pretty much a routine thing for me, so I was pretty surprised. I found out I actually only needed 3/4 of what I brought (might also have a little bit to do with my shopping here).

I'm planning to do a separate post on what exactly to bring and what not.

2. You don't need all the space you have in the apartment at home

I'm currently living in a small apartment in the South Bronx, with my roomie Anna. I have the smallest room, which has just enough space for a bed, clothing rack, yoga mat, and a little closet. After adding these things to the room you do not have any floor space left whatsoever. Surprisingly - coming from a family where both of my parents live in big apartments in the wealthier area of Copenhagen - this has been more than enough space to stay in for these three months. I definitely would appreciate just 2 square meters more on the long term, as a desk would be nice to have, but the apartment, with a small shared kitchen/living room and two rooms (mine and Anna's) we've been able to live perfectly well here.

3. Having only 1/5 of the size of your actual wardrobe is more than enough

This one kind of goes hand in hand with number one. You always have some clothes in your closet which you don't really use, which you don't use. Even when packing one suitcase for three months, I still found myself not wearing everything in my closet, yet still have something decent on every day. Obviously, it's awesome to be able to hand pick your clothes for the day, but does it have to be between 15 pairs of jeans and 20 tops? No. You will be perfectly fine with less, which is also why I already have a plan for how to sell out most of my wardrobe when I get back to Denmark.

4. When you have to choose between a new t-shirt or a dish a little more inspiring than oats or pasta, the clothes often isn't really worth it

Having to live by myself and not getting paid while staying here, has made it clearer to me what would actually be the priorities when I move out for real. Good food is in no way overrated, and can really make the quality of your day rise significantly, so remember this next time you are about to buy that shirt when you already have one alike at home anyway.

(That being said I also have gone a little crazy with my shopping here - a haul will come when I return to Denmark).

5. The food culture might look the same, but it isn't

This one is something you don't necessarily notice as a tourist, as most nights will be spent at restaurants and diners, more than afternoons at Westside Market, Whole Foods or Trader Joe's. The grocery stores are never the same in two countries. Every nation (or state, region, or city) has its own norms and standards when it comes to food, and when you go from tourist to resident, you quickly notice this. Regular milk (as I would call the danish style of milk) is nearly impossible to find here, marmite is legal here (yes, it's banned in Denmark), there are so many different precooked meals and frozen meals you just need to heat up - everything something you don't see much of in my local supermarket at home. Add a cuisine that is generally different (what is up with vodka sauce in American-Italian cuisine?) and you have an experience pretty foreign for someone moving to NYC from tiny Denmark.

6. Your apartment doesn't need to be fully functioning for you to be able to live in it

Now, I live in the Bronx and have actually been quite happy with this. Of course, living downtown in Manhattan or Brooklyn would be the dream, but living somewhere you would never get to as a tourist is also a good way to get another impression of the city, than the one I got when visiting as a tourist. Put that together with an office on Times Square, a partner school downtown and you have a guaranteed full New York experience very quickly. My apartment is, as so many NYC apartments, not functioning ideally. The toilet is a little bit loose, the doorbell doesn't work, the floor is uneven, one window can't be left open, our shower can surprise you with either no hot water or A LOT of hot water and the list goes on. And yes, it is annoying, and yes I would really enjoy having this fixed, but I also noticed how quickly I just learned to work around these challenges and it soon became pretty natural to do stuff a little bit alternatively.

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