When you move to a new country, you KNOW that things will be different. You realize (or should) that mostly the little things you take for granted will be different or completely new. Often, what you are used to is vastly different or does not even exist.
I’m going to list out some of the differences that come to mind, in hopes that it will help future expats arriving here. It’s hard to know what one should or shouldn’t bring, and choices are personal. Really, just having information to make your own decisions helps. When I put feelers out on various Facebook pages before we moved, people had strong opinions of what to do/not do. Getting the basic information to make choices that suit you is the way to go. Following my list, I will add notes from a meeting I attended on adjusting to life as an expat.
Plugs/Outlets: I knew this. Prepared for this… But we did not and do not have enough adapters for our electronics. I’ve noticed that not all objects charge as quickly through the adapters too. I did find a hot pink iPhone charger at Tiger (a store of randomness and fun) Yay! I can charge my phone sans adapter now, freeing it up for my iPad, computer or whatever else needs the juice.
Toiletries: These cost way more here and your choices are far less. Sometimes soaps are tossed into baskets or bins and you can pay “normal” prices for those. Go to Costco or a big box store and stock up on your antiperspirant and shaving supplies, ladies and gents. Gals – bring your nail polish if you love to wear polish. Kiss manicures and pedicures goodbye. (Get one before you come over!) Polish is often double the price, and a basic mani/pedi in a mall is $100+. This was not even a spa… just a shop in the mall – like what you would go to in a strip mall in the US. Pack your favorite face soap and creams too. Stock up. There may now be enough of us Americans here where you can request Sephora deliveries, or join forces for shipping fees. *Note, make friends with US LEGO employees to serve as mules.* Haha! Kidding. #notreallykidding
Baking: The nice thing here is that things are made from scratch. The bad thing is that most things are made from scratch. haha! If you HAVE to have chocolate chips for baking, bring some. I plan to chop chocolate, but have yet to find the chocolate I need. There are several small grocery stores here in town but I’m still figuring out who to go to for what items. Things will just take longer to adjust to. Pecans are hard to find, and expensive when you do. Throw all the “quick & easy” American recipes with processed materials out of your recipe box. You won’t find many of those ingredients here. Though you will likely find a willing person to do a Germany run where you can find marshmallow fluff for something, should your heart desire. I’m finding that until my familiar things arrive, it’s easier to buy at the bakery in town and OH SO YUMMY! They use real and organic ingredients and you just taste the difference.
Shopping: No more one-stop shopping. Things are quite departmentalized. I mentioned before that there were a few grocers in town (5, I think).. Be prepared to shop all of them often. On a recent trip to the German border with other gals, we did go to shops more similar to the American big box stores. They are still quite different, but much better than driving from place to place. If you see something – get it! You may not see it anywhere else, or if you return it may be gone. (Costco mentality!) Here in central Denmark, people have small trailers they pull behind their little cars. These are used for carrying off yard trimmings but they’re also handy for Germany runs! Think Costco run – only it’s over an hour away! Oh! Clothes are expensive! Bring what you can – buy on trips home!
Appliances: I agonized over this before I moved, but only because I lamented leaving behind some great appliances. Some were of great quality. I barely had the chance to use the food processor my parents gave me for Christmas last year! I was unwilling to let those go, so they are staying with my parents until our return to the US some day.
I realize now, that in America, we take our appliances for granted. It’s quite easy to zip into just about ANY store and grab a hair dryer, irons (for hair or clothes), crock pot… I assumed I would just pop into a store and pick up these items, easy-peasy. Well… in Denmark, these items cost WAY more and function WAY less. Really, so now I actually have to research and think about basic appliances rather than just grab one and know it will serve its purpose. And to think, I used to read hundreds of Amazon reviews just to confirm that my choice was best for me…
Refrigerators are small… I knew that… but the place we are moving into has no freezer in the refrigerator. It’s basically a glorified dorm fridge. SO – a freezer will go on our list. Don’t expect to just grab a Kitchen Aid anything here either… that mixer you can now find for under $300 in your choice of colors is around $700 here. Yep. SEVEN HUNDRED DOLLARS US for a MIXER. I forget what I spent on my hair dryer… It was over $50. It’s so basic I’m kind of pissed that I didn’t get one that was more expensive. I’m not sure if I hope it lasts or not! ;D Washers and dryers… I’m still figuring this out. I know I MISS mine… And Danes like to partially dry their clothes, then hang them to dry the rest of the way…
Oh! An appliance you will want to have (and may want in the US too!) is an alarm clock that wakes you with light! You can have chirping birds or hooting owls too if you like, but the most important part is that the light gradually brightens to resemble daybreak. It’s a must since it’s still dark here when we get up. Phillips makes one. I picked ours up at a grocery/department store in Germany. You may find one online for less, but I was seeking immediate gratification.
Utilities: Every house I’ve looked at here seems to be rigged differently for heat… Oil, gas, hot water from the city for radiant heat, wood burning stove, pellet stove or any combination of the aforementioned. Here you at least have a choice in your electric. We have not yet been through the process, but I can eventually share that. Cable and internet have a tax for licensing, but many LEGO employees have their internet covered through work.
Remember that meeting I said I attended? It was put on by Spouse House Vejle, a group you can find on Facebook. The presentation there reminded us all to take it slow. In the beginning, we will be on a bit of an exciting high, and that there may be dips afterwards. We all get through it and there is help if you are having a hard time getting out of a slump. Take care of your immediate needs first – get into a new routine. Some things we took for granted or did nearly with eyes closed back home (dry cleaners, grocery store, library) will require a bit of research and may be much harder than we feel they should at first. It comes with time, and these simple things can be more taxing than we realize. Give yourself time to rest. Balance was the common thread during the discussion. Get rest, but don’t stop going out to meet people and explore. Don’t explore to the extent that you’re exhausted. Find a balance that is right for you.
This is getting wordy, so I’ll stop here. If you have specific questions, ask in the comments below and we can answer or look into it for you. I’m sure this post will have sequels! LOADS of little things are different and we are still learning! 😀 That’s part of an international move and the adventure of it.