A firm believer in happily-ever-afters, Deloris Anda Nielsen found hers in the most unlikely of places - Denmark.
Photographs: Terumi Mascarenhas - www.fjordfoto.dk
Text: Michaela Medveďová
Once you’ve met a truly special person, no step will feel too big.
At least it didn’t when Deloris Anda Nielsen met her Danish husband in the United States and decided to follow him across the ocean - and started a new chapter in her life.
“Every time people ask me where I’m from, it’s a little bit tricky,” laughs Anda. She was born in the US to parents at the university there, fell in love, had a daughter, and moved to their homeland of Cameroon two years later.
Anda’s parents are originally from two tribes next to each other, speaking similar languages. “Most of my cousins from my dad’s side grew up speaking the traditional tribal language and the official languages of English and French, which I grew up speaking. But I don’t know how to speak my traditional language that much. I’ve been to the village once, and I felt so out of place because I couldn’t communicate, and my late grandma insisted on speaking to me in the language. So all I knew to say was hi and bye.”
Growing up in Cameroon, Anda did not really think about the small things that made up the culture. But a cultural clash she experienced later on in the US and in Denmark was interacting with elders. “Where I’m from, you can’t just walk up to someone 10-20 years older than you and call them by their first name. That is considered very disrespectful. So sometimes when you try to call people ‘mister’, they’re like: Oh, don’t do that, that makes me feel old.”
When she moved to the US at 15 and started high school, the adjustment was a little challenging. She came with a bit of an accent and sometimes would mishear or misunderstand some of the things other kids said. “If they did something wrong, people in school kept saying: my bad, my bad. So when I would write letters to my friends back home, I’d write: It’s so funny here. When something happens, people say ‘my bed’,” laughs Anda. The way she acted towards the teachers also distinguished her slightly from the other students. “In my culture, you don’t yell - you’re not rude or disrespectful. The way the kids talked to the teachers, it was insane. Of course, the teachers loved me - not because I was a teacher’s pet or anything, but the way I interacted with them was different.”
But she learned to adapt to the US quickly. Somewhat a necessity for someone who has spent most of their life living in different countries. “I don’t miss the country, I miss the people - my family out there, my friends.”
Love for travel, love through travel
One thing that Anda really, really loves is travelling. To the degree where she, at one point, got a part-time job working at the airport as a gate agent alongside her full-time job - because it came with travel benefits. “I worked there for four or five years, so I built enough seniority to trade shifts and accommodate my travels.”
This came in handy once the purpose of her travels changed. After she met her now-husband, she travelled at every chance she got to meet with him. “He had a job where he had to travel to Spain, so I flew there to meet him. This was very early in the relationship, but this was when I realised: Holy crap, I’m in love with this man.” Needless to say, Spain has a special place in Anda’s heart.
At the time of meeting her husband, Anda was working all the time and had had the same group of friends forever. Meeting new people was hard - so she tried online dating. Not looking for anything long-distance, she set a 30-mile radius of her Minnesota address. And she ended up with someone from Denmark.
Andrés used to travel to the US for work and ran into Anda’s profile. “I’ve never met anyone from Denmark, so I thought it would be interesting. We messaged each other for a month, and when he came to Minnesota for work, we met for coffee.” What was supposed to be a 45-minute date turned into four hours. “And that was pretty much it for me, to be honest.” They met in 2017, and Andrés proposed a year later. “Believe it or not, we saw each other every single month while we were dating.” In June 2019, a couple of months before Anda was supposed to move to Denmark, the couple came to Roskilde and married secretly. They later held their wedding in 2021.
People ask Anda all the time if married life is tough. “Obviously, adjustments need to be made when you live with somebody else. But when we met each other, we already knew what we wanted, because I was 35 and he was ten years older. My friends all got married in their 20s, and they made fun of me because they said I was in love with love. But for some reason, I never pictured the white dress and the wedding. I had never found anyone I wanted to spend my life with until I met him.”
Andrés had been married before, so Anda gained two wonderful bonus kids. They have a great relationship, and Anda gets on well with his ex-wife. Now they have dinners and celebrations together. “And when we go out with my bonus kids, people get confused because they think Andrés’s daughter is mine as she was adopted from Burkina Faso.”
A delayed study abroad
The children were another reason the decision to move to Denmark was a no-brainer. At the time, they were much younger, and Anda’s ties to the US were not as strong as the children needing their father. “And my one regret from my undergrad is not doing study abroad,” she laughs.
Now, Roskilde is home. “Take the library, for example. They have a lot of activities for internationals and a great English section. This was my haven when I had just moved. We were working on getting me a CPR number. I couldn’t work or anything, so I would come here and check out books using my husband’s ID.”
The process of getting all her paperwork sorted out was pretty smooth. After she received her CPR number, Anda thought getting a job would be just as easy. “That was a humbling experience because I didn’t think I would have a hard time finding a job. But it was almost impossible. My background is in administration, so many times, these jobs pop up, and hundreds of people apply. One day I thought: You know what, I look pretty decent in pictures. I don’t need Danish to take pictures. So I applied to a modelling agency.”
Working for Basic CPH was her first modelling experience. She searched for curvy model agencies, applied, and got a positive response. “I haven’t had that much work with them - I had three jobs. I ended up shooting three commercials with them. I have a lot of respect for actors; it’s a lot of work.” For one of the commercials, she got a lot of calls from people who recognised her - in the US, as that was one of the primary markets for the ad.
“But it’s not like I thought this would be my full-time job - so I considered it my side hustle.”
Focus on people
Meanwhile, she was still on the path to finding a full-time job. So she decided to go back to university and do another bachelor’s to improve her chances. “Luckily, Andrés was so supportive. He said: I don’t want you to get a job just to get a job. Focus on school, focus on the job you want. I got us.”
Anda’s always been interested in HR and had a little experience back when she ran the elections for a city. So she took the opportunity of free universities in Denmark - a massive shock to someone who still had student debt from the US - and started attending Roskilde University. She started applying for student jobs and encountered the heartbreaking reality of coming close to being hired a few times, only for the company to decide to hire someone else. “Then I applied for a job in Penneo. I was called in for an interview - the best I’ve ever had. But a few days later, I got an email that said they decided to go with someone else. I was crushed. But I replied that I love their company and if something comes up later, they should keep her in mind.” A week or two later, the phone rang with an offer to interview for a position Anda would be a much better fit for. She got the job. The university plan worked.
“It’s a student assistant job, so I hope I do well and can eventually work there full-time. But I’m getting the experience I need in the field I want.” Anda enjoys getting to know the different aspects of HR immensely. While obviously people-centred, it’s not just about interacting with people. Right now, she is working on contracts. “The whole point is to ensure people are taken care of.”
She loves the company, her team, and the flexible nature of the job. “I can fix my hours based on my schedule. It offers great work-life balance.” While she doesn’t have extensive work experience in Denmark yet, she’s noticed the lack of working crazy hours. “I used to work crazy hours in the US, especially during elections. But that couldn’t really be helped. And I’ve been fortunate to have awesome bosses in the US, as well. I remember my car broke down, and I called my boss, saying my car won’t start. So he drove to my house to help me jumpstart it - not to go to work, but so I can go get it fixed.”
"At university, Anda is a part of a student organisation called EduKitchen - dinner evenings that bring internationals together, where people cook different cuisines."
Sucker for happily-ever-afters
With all her experience, it is only natural that moving to Denmark felt like starting over. Going back to school definitely wasn’t in Anda’s life plan. The Danish project-based system is not something she was used to. “You have to work with people you may not normally work with. It’s kind of like practising for the real world, right? You must learn to work with people, even those you disagree with.”
But that doesn’t mean she did not find friends in the country - or, as she calls it, built her tribe. At university, Anda is a part of a student organisation called EduKitchen - dinner evenings that bring internationals together, where people cook different cuisines. “We’re going to make a Cameroonian dinner in a couple of weeks, and I will spearhead it. So I’m a little nervous about that.”
She also made many friends in the language school that completed her network outside her Danish family. “I’ve been so lucky. My in-laws have been nothing but supportive. It has helped me not miss my family so much. When Andrés still had the job where he would travel a lot, if he was gone for a week or two, his sister would pop by to see how I was doing or pick me up so I could have dinner with them.” She’s also lucky that everyone speaks English - even though, after three years, they mostly communicate in Danish around her. “I understand a bit more, so it’s not like I’m just sitting there completely lost. My Danish is manageable, and my accent is not bad - at least, that’s what people say!”
Anda and Andrés have talked about Denmark being the final station...or not. “We’re happy here. We’ll probably move somewhere else at some point once I get a full-time job. But we’ve talked about maybe retiring in France or Spain.”
But for now, they’re just letting it ride out and living their best life. As long as they are together…
“That’s the caveat. I don’t want to do life without him, that’s for sure. But I’m a sucker for the happily-ever-afters. And I’m glad I found mine. As stubborn, as tough as he is… He’s perfect for me.”