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  • Writer's picturePete Johnson

New York to Denmark

I was so excited to start my job at LEGO here in Denmark.

I had arrived on 4 January, my dog Rey would be here on 8 January, and my wife and two teenaged boys would land on 18 January.

The first day of my commute, 7 January, was cold, dark and rainy; but I was in good spirits: my adventure was beginning! New job, new country, new possibilities. Even a new car!

Then the flash went off.

Four weeks later, I received my first Danish speeding ticket.

Welcome to Denmark!

My journey to Denmark started in March 2019, when I had my first interview with LEGO HR. My family and I were living in Brooklyn, NY at the time, and the position at LEGO was in Enfield, Connecticut. I felt that the interview went very well and when I spoke to my wife Heather about it, she said, “Keep interviewing, but I am telling you now, there is no way we are moving to rural Connecticut. No way.”

A few weeks went by and I was pretty down. No word from LEGO. Then I got an email from my LEGO HR contact. She apologized for wasting my time. They had determined that I was completely wrong for the Enfield position, but they thought I would be a good candidate for another position…in Denmark. I read the email to Heather. She laughed and said, “Keep talking to them, you know, for practice, but we are not moving to Denmark.”

I accepted the job in June and soon began the months-long work of leaving my home country and getting established in Denmark. LEGO connected me and my family to an international mobility company that would guide us through the complicated process. This company laid out everything we needed to do: moving, house rental, residency paperwork, etc. And as all that was set in motion, behind the scenes my family was struggling with the reality of the move.

I take full responsibility for botching those months before the move. I was completely in my own head, projecting my excitement onto my wife and kids. I considered this an adventure, a new start. But for my family, this was the biggest disruption of their lives.

It goes without saying that 2020 has been a terrible year.

My family has been challenged these last 10 months. Heather and our son Oscar (17) have moved back to New York. Oscar had an especially difficult time in Denmark and after much reflection, we decided that it would be best for him to finish school in the US. Heather and Oscar will return to Denmark next summer. My younger son Yobi (15) has had ups and downs here as well, but he has been thriving the last few months. He’s doing well in school and he has made some new friends. Heather and I work hard every day to stay connected, but it is still very tough to be separated.

I share this story to illuminate the difficulties that some ex-pats may face. I wish I had pushed harder last year for cultural training for me and the family; I wish that I had thought of family therapy to prepare all of us for the reality of such a monumental life change. We are working on all of that now.

Through this all I have learned in a very positive way, the importance of connection and the importance of the support of family and friends. Support that can be in short supply for Ex-Pats. The International Society is here to help its members navigate their new lives here in Denmark and in the short time that I have been a part of the International Society, I have enjoyed meeting new people from all over the world who all find themselves here, in the 11th Largest City in Denmark, beautiful Herning!

My speeding ticket was 1.100 dkk and on advice of counsel (my co-workers at LEGO, I mean) I now drive the speed limit and I have invested in the Saphe app.

I would love to hear your stories of Ex-Pat life.

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