Three years in the past, Irene Edwards, her husband, Jason, and their two youngsters — Poppy, 11, and Rhys, 10 — moved from San Francisco to Copenhagen. “We have been in search of a life change,” she says, “And, boy, did we get it!” Right here, she talks about open-faced sandwiches, darkish winters, and swimming in your underwear…
After years dwelling in Brooklyn and San Francisco, Irene Edwards craved a slower tempo of life for herself, her husband and their youngsters. “I used to be accomplished with magazines and a 20-year profession in media,” she says. “After I received a job provide in Copenhagen, my household was recreation for the journey.” Her husband now works as a lunchtime chef at an enormous company cafeteria, or kantine, in Copenhagen. And Irene joined the a nonprofit referred to as MAD, which helps remodel meals programs by educating individuals who work in hospitality. “It’s my first time working with a non-profit, and I’m soaking all of it up like a sponge,” she says. “One of many advantages of leaving a profession and shifting the world over is which you could reinvent your self.”
On a dynamic neighborhood: We reside in Refshaleøen, a post-industrial neighborhood stuffed with impartial companies in former shipyard buildings, plus a few of the finest eating places on the town. We’re in a bit of row of energy-efficient townhouses with a number of gardens, playgrounds, wild fields, plum bushes, the harbor throughout us. Virtually each different household right here is Danish — there are hardly another internationals that I do know of — so, for those who’re not fluent within the language, you must be okay with being out of your consolation zone socially. However I can’t think about a extra great place to reside.
On easy joys: There are lots of moments day-after-day the place I’m like, I wish to seize each minute with gratitude. It’s a daily-life form of pleasure, not like a receiving-a-big-promotion form of pleasure – it’s the sun-warmed fruit that I’m selecting from the shrub outdoors my again door, and the truth that I take a plunge within the harbor with my son, and we get out of the water and lie down on the nice and cozy pavement and not using a towel, even in our underwear, after which we bike residence, and the way can that not be deeply affecting the human psyche? You will discover this within the U.S., too, in fact; however right here it’s simply discovered so simply.
On open-faced sandwiches: Rye bread is the only finest Danish meals invention. It’s so, so good, particularly in open-faced sandwiches, aka smørrebrød. When my co-workers deliver lunch, they’ve all their containers of little issues for constructing open-faced sandwiches. However there are unstated guidelines! After I tried to make one, they have been like, ‘Wait! No! You set the shrimp beneath.’ It’s not simply their opinion, it’s categorically fallacious. [Laughs}
Honor stand promoting new potatoes alongside a biking path.
“Meat and potatoes. (Danes love to brighten meals, desserts, events, and many others. with little nationwide flags.)”
On mind-blowing potatoes: Danish new potatoes, oh my goodness, they blow my thoughts. It’s humorous as a result of in California, we had so many various fruit and veggies, however right here it’s the alternative: a really brief rising season and a really restricted vary of produce. However as a result of the delicacies shouldn’t be tremendous expansive right here, my palate has gotten actually nuanced. Like, Oh, this herb versus that herb! We gained’t get melons or peaches or no matter, however for 3 weeks in the summertime, we now have 15 totally different sorts of berries and they’re unbelievable.
On stoic road life: Copenhagen is the antithesis of a chatty tradition. On the road, folks don’t normally make eye contact or smile, even for those who see somebody who lives in your space. Danes have stated to me a number of occasions, ‘Wow, I actually admire the flexibility for Individuals to make small discuss’ — typically with true admiration and typically barely disparaging! However I miss the random chitchat in New York Metropolis – if one thing’s occurring down the block, like a firetruck blocking the way in which, EVERYONE on the road has one thing to say about it; there’s a shared humanity. I miss that for my soul as a result of that doesn’t occur right here in any respect.
“Shifting our furnishings to our new residence, by way of cargo bike!”
On bikes: Our household of 4 bikes all over the place as a result of we don’t personal a automotive. Spending a lot time outdoor, even (or particularly) within the winter, when it’s an infinite stretch of drizzly grey, by no means fails to brighten your temper. You simply pull in your rain pants and get on with it. Driving my bike is commonly one of the best a part of my day.
On flight fits: On cooler days, youngsters roll out in these quilted one-piece flight fits, or flyverdragt. Ladies put on them, too — I’ll bike in mine from November to April. And the infants!!! They’re rosy-cheeked Michelin Males. I imply, who doesn’t need a zip-up one-piece – it’s higher than layering a jacket and scarf and hat and one million issues!
“The important thing to surviving Danish winters: cooking the most important weekend breakfast possible, adopted by a brisk stroll.”
“My bike commute residence from work.”
On winter coziness: Winter in Scandinavia is not any joke. I prefer to play a recreation with my coworkers referred to as, ‘What time is it?’ You must look out of the window and guess — is it 9 a.m.? 4 p.m.? 8 p.m.? 2 a.m.? Spoiler alert: all of it seems to be the identical! The sky goes from pitch black, to slight grey from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., then again to pitch black. You must lean into the coziness, aka hygge. It’s all about gathering with mates, the place you have got your heat drink and your blanket and your candles, at all times candles, oh my goodness, the candles. Candlelight feels extra actual and human than overhead lamps. I’m not saying I stay up for winter, however I do form of?
“Nobody has curtains. You see dad and mom making dinner; you see households hanging out; you see folks bare. It’s cultural — like, we now have nothing to cover from one another.”
“Typical Scandinavian inside in my youngsters’ old-fashioned.”
On a shared aesthetic: Properties are likely to look alike, since Danes will typically purchase the Scandi design classics. Even a comparatively modest younger couple, with principally Ikea furnishings, will save as much as put money into a Hans Wegner chair. After I go to a good friend, I’m like, I’ll see the artichoke lamp someplace on this residence. Even cool people who find themselves virtually hipster-ish will gather the standard Royal Copenhagen blue and white plates. Everybody aspires to have the identical stunning items. It’s humorous as a result of at any time when a Danish household will come to our home, they’ll say, ‘Oh, so that is how Individuals adorn.’ However I’m like, ‘Nicely, we truly all adorn in another way!”
On prioritizing the group: An enormous Danish worth is Janteloven, which implies particular person excellence shouldn’t come on the expense of the group. The Danish considering is, we’re a system and we work collectively — and that permeates every thing. That’s why pedestrians will wait at a purple site visitors gentle at 2 a.m. even when there are not any vehicles round. When everybody’s biking by the town, you must stream — and that requires seeing the group as a single unit. At my youngsters’ Danish elementary faculty, an important factor is to learn to collaborate with one another, to the purpose the place you’re not essentially inspired to specific your full potential if it can come on the expense of the group dynamic. That is what Danish society has grounded itself in, and fairly frankly it has optimized it and exported it actually profitable as an id.
On youngsters’ habits: Parenting can be seen as a communal effort. For instance, in my daughter’s class, there was a toddler who had acted out loads. The kid was despatched to the principal’s workplace, and your complete class went with him. It was like, we have to cope with this difficulty as a category. I used to be like, Whoa! We have been the one non-Danes, and it was all very regular to them, in fact. Who’s to say what was higher for the kid? The idea of privateness right here is totally different, and the communication was very open — like, that is what this household goes by, that is how our group is addressing this, and every thing was recapped in an electronic mail. With the ability to discuss it collectively kind of eliminated the disgrace. In spite of everything, my youngsters wrestle in different methods! All of us do!
On lacking variety: The worth system in Denmark prizes collaboration and cohesion and becoming within the norms, and that ends in so many good issues AND there may be additionally an enormous hole for me as an immigrant and girl of colour. After I deliver up racial fairness, folks right here present up, there isn’t any resistance — however the progressive conversations within the U.S. are far, far forward of the sport. I used to be lately in L.A., and being a part of a extra various inhabitants once more was deeply affecting me to the purpose the place I used to be like, Why am I dwelling in Denmark if this a part of my id isn’t expressed and satiated? With the ability to have interaction in points with people who find themselves dwelling by them and actively working towards options felt so good – I wish to attempt to make that occur right here. And on the identical time, I missed my bike, and I didn’t wish to be caught in site visitors or driving the subway, and I see all of the methods our high quality of life is best right here. I measure every thing like, are my youngsters thriving and protected right here? Sure. Does that trump every thing else? Most likely sure.
Thanks a lot, Irene!
P.S. Our Parenting Across the World Collection, together with Italy and South Korea.
(Second picture by Sky-Blue Artistic/Stocksy.)