Melanie Haynes moved to Denmark in search of adventure, and experienced the highs and lows of relocation
In 2008 I moved to Copenhagen with my husband. I had become tired of life in the UK – the daily commute and endless meetings – and saw our move as an adventure. If it didn’t work out we could always come back.
When we moved we had the help of a fantastic relocation company which did a lot more than just find us a home. The transition seemed easy, and I hadn’t felt so excited about new experiences since I started university aged 18. After three months we were smitten with our Danish life, and a year later my son was born.
However, by 2011 the impacts of the financial crisis were being felt and my husband was made redundant. We made the tough choice to move to Berlin when he was offered a job there.
Sadly, this relocation experience was different. Three months after our move we had only just found a permanent place to live after a stint in a depressing and soulless corporate housing building. I was struggling physically and emotionally, and just about holding it together for my son, then aged two. Without support from a relocation company, I was at sea with little to no German language skills. Even the simplest of tasks felt impossible.
Gradually things got better, and I began exploring nearby neighbourhoods to find places to go with my son. I decided to write about these places on a blog – partly for my own sanity and also with the thought that if I could help one new expat feel less like I had, then it was worth it. One day my husband asked if anyone was reading it and for the first time I looked at my stats. It was getting loads of traffic. I started to get emails from other mums thanking me for what I was doing – I was no longer living in a void and felt I had purpose.
In 2013 we returned to Copenhagen and resumed our life here. My experience made me realise that although I love this city, there are many people for whom Copenhagen is like Berlin was for me. With my son in pre-school, I now had time to fill. So I started a blog for expats sharing recommendations, advice on settling in and the little idiosyncrasies of living here.
One night my husband and I sat down and had a brainstorm about what I had to offer. We kept coming back to the knowledge I had of relocation (the rough and the smooth), my inside knowledge of Copenhagen, my outgoing and positive nature and my desire to help others.
I saw a gap in the market to help new expats with everyday things like getting to know your local area, shopping in a new country, and understanding the transport systems. I conducted a survey and found that one of the biggest issues cited was overcoming feelings of isolation. This was something I recalled very vividly from my time in Berlin.
So I decided to set up a consultancy service helping to bridge the gap between the first stages of relocation and the real settling in period, the time when it feels hardest to find your feet.
I give my clients a guide to their local area after talking with them about their specific needs, likes and fears. I can then take them out and about, for example to a supermarket to help them work out new and different foods (many new expats buy a litre of yoghurt thinking it’s milk).
The service is tailored to the specific person’s needs but there are many things that all clients are interested in. While I can give them an insider’s guide to living here I still remember how it feels to be new and apprehensive.
Setting up a business in Denmark was surprisingly straightforward. There are many outlets and organisations willing to advise and help, and even the tax office seemed very happy to answer my questions.
The consultancy is in its early days but I hope that it can really grow into a viable business for me in the next year. Work-life balance is a very important aspect of Danish life and working for myself, setting my own hours and goals, means I can enjoy both my professional and also my family life.
I love Copenhagen and my goal is to help other expats feel the same way. via the guardian.co.uk