After twenty years in Esbjerg, beauty therapist Sally Rasmussen finally feels at home.
Photograph: Aziza Berdieva
Text: Catriona Turner
Sally Rasmussen welcomes us into her home with a smile and the offer of ‘some proper British tea?’ A few moments later, she’s leaning back against a Union Jack cushion, and declares, ‘But I’m Danish now!’
It’s taken a while for Sally to get fully comfortable with her dual British-Danish cultural identity. She explains, ‘I’ve taken my time in integrating, but for the last two years, I’ve felt like this is my home.’
Her journey to feeling rooted here began when Esbjerg was a very different town – less international, even though at that time, there was a ferry link between Esbjerg and England.
All at sea
Sally shares her ‘Love Boat’ story: ‘I had danced all my life, and got a job dancing on a ship sailing between Harwich and Esbjerg. My husband, Søren, worked on board, in the duty-free shop. After 18 months of dating, we both knew we wanted to get back on land.’ Although Søren is from Aarhus, they moved into his Esbjerg apartment.
It was a struggle for Sally at first. ‘It took me ages to fully accept Denmark. I think it was because I left behind a job that I’d loved doing.’ She had to learn the language before she could do anything else. Meanwhile, she was trying hard to fit in. ‘Danish culture can make you feel like you’re not allowed to do something different. That held me back at the time, knocked my confidence.’
Then came marriage and family within a short space of time, and life took over.
About three years ago though, with her children more independent, she revisited her own goals. ‘Since I was about 19, I always wanted to be independent, with no boss, and to know that I’d helped people somehow.’
A room of her own
That’s when the idea for Beauty Room was born. ‘I loved the idea of giving massages, of taking people’s stress away and leaving them feeling better.’ She completed her beauty therapy course in an intense year of full-time study. The business, where she offers facials, pedicures, and other treatments, as well as her signature massages, has grown ever since.
I wonder aloud if having her own sense of purpose was the reason she finally felt rooted here. ‘I think that’s exactly what it was. I didn’t realise it at the time, but then suddenly I felt…at ease.’
The timing was right too. ‘It’s great to have a business now in Esbjerg. It’s developed a lot in the last ten years, very quickly. The town is up-and-coming, with a lot more small businesses popping up.’
She has plans to expand her services – and to help more people. ‘In the next year, I hope to do training that will let me add massage for cancer patients to my menu. If people who are having a hard time can come to me and feel better, even for an hour, that’s just the kind of help I really want to offer.’
"If people who are having a hard time can come to me and feel better, even for an hour, that’s just the kind of help I really want to offer." - Sally Rasmussen
Follow your own path
As an international who has settled in and ‘become’ Danish, what insights does she have for new arrivals to Denmark?
‘Don’t ever question yourself. Accept the differences in Danish culture, enjoy them, don’t fight them. But be secure in who you are as well. People used to make me think that speaking English with my family was a bad thing. But don’t let them make you question yourself. Be who you are.’
Now she has a ‘room’ of her own, Sally’s finally at home with her beautifully blended cultural identity!
Go to beautyroom.dk for the full treatment menu.