10 life lessons I learned in Denmark

Pamela Leiva Jacquelín joined the Youth Goodwill Ambassador Programme a year ago and has since been very active not only as a master’s student at the Danish School of Media and Journalism. She recently shared some of the most valuable takeaways from her stay in Denmark.

Another expat confession

Not many have the opportunity of sneaking in and out their own culture and explore that so-popular uncomfortable zone of, let me say it, no return. Just this month, 2 years ago I was about to start the journey that placed me in the spot I always wanted to be. As a kind of anniversary celebration, I share with you some valuable takeaways from my beloved Mother Denmark.

‘Fitting in’ was never really my best place nor my best skill. I was born in a small city north of the capital of Argentina, where everyone knew each other but the sense of community was somehow fluffy for me. I had a happy childhood, don’t get me wrong, I had lovely summers, a warm family and made friends for life. Yet, I never felt part of the landscape. There was so much more awaiting out there.

After 6 years of high education, an intense student experience in Buenos Aires and two degrees under my arm, I bought a ticket and decided to explore the world alone. It was scary, inspiring and extremely selfish. There won’t be a day when I look back and think it was the most selfish decision I have ever made in my life. But if there’s something you realize when you are closer to your thirties than your twenties is that you can’t have it all. You need to decide. Choices will always be hard and friends will be missed.

Some expat wisdom

Us, expats, tend to think that we have seen more than others, that we understand more and therefore, know more about the world. I try to stay away from that expat-ego thing. No matter where you go, your journey can be as scary, inspiring and selfish as mine. You don’t need to fly 12, 000 km away from home to understand how lucky you are. Along the way, you will openly confront with yourself and embrace otherness, and the lessons learned will become your sacred 10 commandments. Forever.

But remember: however you decide to travel, the places you love and the people you can’t live without, will be there. You leave nothing behind, just that old you who stopped you from becoming the person you always meant to be.

My 10 lessons learned

Now sitting in my old flat in Buenos Aires, which doesn’t look at all as I left it, I’m able to sneak back in and share with you the life lessons I learned while living in –what I prefer to call- Mother Denmark.

1. Think more, talk less: Silence can be enjoyable. I learned how to say “I don’t know or I don’t have a comment on that” and value other things than words. In Denmark, people really enjoy having deep talks and look straight into your eyes, instead of meeting in crowded places and talking while chatting on WhatsApp. It can be intimidating at first, but it’s worth trying.

2. Grow from constructive conflict: Not everything is about the problem, it’s about the solutions. You can move fast if you confront the obstacle and move on. Danes are really my heroes when it comes to solve their own and other people’s problems. If you are in a tough situation, a Dane will always rescue you. I can vouch.

3. Trust: Not everyone is your enemy. You are part of something bigger than your family and circle of friends, and that is called a community. Danes are ahead in giving, because they know that at the other end there is someone who is thinking exactly the same. Let go and trust, it’s not naive, it’s a precious value to trust and to be trustable.

4. Prioritize: You can’t have it all. You need to have goals, and believe me, realizable ones. Sometimes Danes are too much stuck in their own agenda, but just having a flexible plan helps lowering stress.

5. Do it yourself: While you can, be aware that you are doing less than you are able to. Don’t involve others, be independent. Especially when it comes to Danish women, they really believe in cutting all dependency. And they have done well. It’s powerful to do it your way.

6. Your body, your temple: If you are not in balance your life will never be. Mind what you give to your system, exercise, eat healthy and meditate. You will be shocked to see a 70-years-old person in Denmark and will immediately think you are seriously behind.

7. Be effective: This doesn’t mean ‘become the 21st century-multitask-slave’, but rather asses your weaknesses to work better. This doesn’t always apply in Denmark, but I learnt that you can be more effective if you leave behind old routines and are able adapt to new scenarios.

8. Mind your own business: This one is sincerely one of my favorites. What others do in their private lives is not your concern. Be direct and respect other lifestyles. It is a vital value. It’s easier, of course, in a Danish society where taboos are over and equality is highly appreciated.

9. Be kind: Being helpful does not to come naturally to some of us. While in Denmark I learnt how to be more tolerant and patient and the feeling of being nice to everyone around me grew in me. Trust me, it pays back in spades.

10. Use your brain: This will not prevent you from being ignorant in some topics but it means that you should remain curious. Ask, read and learn new things every day. Talk about any topic with a Dane, and believe me, they will know more than you. As a matter of fact, learning Danish was a big proof of this to me. For 2 years I have pushed my brain to the edge- and I didn’t fall!

Read the original article written by Pamela Leiva Jacquelín here.