A lesson in humility
Moving your entire life to an unknown country is one of the bravest things a person
can do. More than that, it is a lesson in humility, which is the freedom from pride or arrogance.
Text: Bailey Jensen
By letting your guard down and feeling humble, you remove any past defences you have
built up and can easily evolve into your new culture.
“Suddenly living outside my native country, there was no catering to me. i was the same as everyone else, precisely the way it should be.”
Immediately as I began my journey as an expat, the experience quickly transported me back to my childhood. Suddenly, I was experiencing things for the very first time just as a child would be eating, watching, touching, and questioning everything in sight. Each new thing was more exciting than the last. However, learning the world in an entirely different way as an adult took great humility and vulnerability. When I first began learning Danish, I was not able to construct full sentences or ask questions properly. I often would blurt out single words similar to a toddler and hope the context of the setting would fill in the rest. Over time and with much practice, I began growing with Danish. With each new year, I became stronger and had new memories associated with my new world. It was just like growing up I suppose.
Before moving abroad from the United States, I was hesitant to admit if I ever made a mistake. I arrived in Denmark in 2012, which now looks like an archaic time period. I did not have a smartphone and no access to a digital map. Working with a paper map meant I constantly was lost, confused, and always in the wrong place. This required me to continuously admit my mistakes daily and reveal I did not know what I was doing. In a country such as Denmark where it is uncommon to talk to strangers, I consistently found myself humbly relying on the help of strangers.
Humility is the freedom from pride or arrogance, where you experience the feeling that you have no special importance that makes you better than others. One of the quickest ways I shed any entitlement I had and gained enormous humility was through my experience with Danish immigration laws. When applying for my family reunification visa in 2014, there was an exception to the immigration laws for the Danish language requirement, for those coming from English speaking countries. This was quite the relief for me because moving to Denmark was already a huge undertaking, and I didn’t have the added pressure to learn Danish quickly. With the swift change of the law, this exception no longer applied to me and I was given six months to pass the first government language exam. My visa relied on me successfully passing this exam or I would be sent back to the United States. At first, I thought this law change was unfair and ridiculous, but in hindsight, it was exactly what I needed to push myself into my life in Denmark. Suddenly living outside my native country, there was no catering to me. I was the same as everyone else, precisely the way it should be.
After enduring large doses of humility, this truly broke down my defences and preconceived notions I had unknowingly built up over the years. I knew that living abroad would change me, but I did not expect to evolve like this. Any previous pride or arrogance I packed with me to Denmark quickly evaporated as I began my evolution to an expat.