Note from Adrianne George, co-editor:
Lesley-Ann Brown pens the Black Girl on Mars blog about her life in Copenhagen. She is also the driving force behind Bandit Queen Press. She is a poet and spoken word performer, a mother, and a good friend.
While we were unable to conduct it face-to-face, Lesley-Ann gave me the following interview:
Describe your first trip abroad:
I traveled to Amsterdam, in the Netherlands, with my best buddy Reggie. I was supposed to travel with my then roommate, but she had just gotten a job and could not go. Reggie was the first person I called, “You wanna go to Amsterdam with me?” And we were off…
When did you realize that you had the Expat bug?
When I was a child I lived in Trinidad as well, and I realized that there were many different cultural perspectives in which to see things. I also realized that I wanted to experience other countries as well. I always felt boxed-in in both Trinidad and Brooklyn…
– That you wanted to live abroad?
Reading James Baldwin really cemented the fact that I would like to live in Europe.
Where were you born and in which countries have you lived?
I was born in Brooklyn, New York and have lived in Trinidad, Maui, Brooklyn, and now Copenhagen.
What has been your most enlightening experience while living abroad?
That I was not as open-minded as I had always believed myself to be.
What has been your most disheartening experience while living abroad?
That people very rarely give you extra-consideration despite the fact that you are a foreigner and struggling with the language…
What customs have you adopted in your new country?
Eating ramoulade—a kind of mayonnaise (for lack of a better description) with my French Fries, riding my bike and going out no matter what the weather. As the Danes say, there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing!
Which customs from home do you miss the most?
I miss the food the most—especially Caribbean food.
How important is knowing the local language?
Very—it makes you feel more part of the landscape and less of an outsider.
Do you have proficiency in the local language?
While I have passed the University entrance exam, I have managed, up to now, to live in a very English-based world. I now work in a Danish School and find that I am using my Danish much more, which means, in the long run, it will improve.
How have you gone about making friends?
I have been very lucky to meet people through the grapevine, work and from New York.
How do you keep in touch with family and friends from home?
Mostly by phone.
How hard is it to find a good place to live?
What goals have you achieved while living abroad?
I have completed two volumes of poetry, and I’m teaching in a very culturally diverse school—something I had always wanted to do.
What has living abroad taught you about yourself?
That I can be as narrow-minded as I am constantly accusing others to be.
What would you say to a friend or relative who is considering moving abroad?
Wherever you go there you are: So don’t move if you think your life is going to get better. The challenges are difficult.
Do you consider yourself a permanent expatriate?
When I travel now and miss home, it is Denmark that I miss.
How has your life as an expatriate changed who you are?
I’ve always lived on the outskirts of whatever society I have found myself…so this is just a continuation, I suppose.
Do Blacks (or foreigners in general) in your view have any problems with adjustment or discrimination?
Europeans definitely don’t think about race in the way we in the U.S. do. To them, we are American. There is a lot of discrimination if you are not from a Western country.
Will you describe the general composition of expat population:
Most of the expats I know I work with…they are here because of marriage.
Living & Spending in Copenhagen
At the end of this section you will find a global Currency Converter to calculate costs.
Cost for meals:
Compared to your home country are most things cheap/same/expensive?
A bit more expensive
Recommended monthly living budget:
6000 kr, after rent is a conservative amount.
How modern are basic amenities/infrastructure?
Any legal hurdles all foreigners have to face to live there?
Top 3 things you would recommend someone to bring when they come:
An open mind, No expectations and Money
Top 3 things you would recommend for someone visiting or living here to do:
Get on a bike, Walk around the city and…
Visit Christiania before it’s too late!
Top 3 hangout places:
1. Kate’s Joint
3. Loveliving…if you like shopping for girlie things…