Travel Thoughts: The bliss of feeling local abroad

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The underrated capital Cardiff, the metropol Madrid, a tiny village on the west coast of Wales and currently the beautiful English city of Bath. Having had the chance to live in these amazing places for more than just a holiday’s time has given me some truly unique experiences and also different perspectives on life.

‘The grass is not greener on the other side’ is not my kind of quote. Because although it might turn out to be fitting many times, it just has an adventure-blocking tone to it. “Stay where you are, nothing is better anywhere else”. Hmm.. is that true?

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The grass sure is green in Madrid where I have spent almost two years altogether

Although being from one of the world’s happiest countries (that’s what the survey’s tell us anyway), there’s absolutely nothing wrong with checking out the colour of the grass in other countries. It might not be greener, but what if it was blue? That would be an unforgettable sight right? My point is, I’m not asking for better – just different. Different perspectives, different cultures, different people – and in the end it might even make us see our own countries in a different light too, and possibly appreciate what we’ve got back home even more?

When first I moved to Wales back in 2007 it was exactly to try something different. To try to live abroad – and I loved it. I was also lucky to meet some amazing people, which made a huge difference. Other than that, admitted, life in Wales is not a world away from life in Denmark. But still another language, other systems, cityscapes, landscapes and ultimately perspectives.

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One of my old neighbourhoods in the Welsh capital Cardiff

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At my local café in Cardiff – a city that has become a second home through 10 years

In Wales I really felt the pride of a small country (like my own) and it stuck with me in some way. Also the small differences in culture were interesting to witness first hand. Just a thing like the British pub-culture, where pubs often make it out for community houses – which was far from the pub culture in Denmark.

SEE ALSO: 10 reasons why I fell in love with Cardiff

And later in Spain their famous tapas bars seemed to “take over” that function, where people meet, talk and enjoy each others company – very casually. In Denmark I was used to that if you go out for food there had to be a special occasion. A birthday or something to celebrate. If not we tend to stay home a lot and invite family and friends to visit for dinner. And therefore we Danes care a lot about our homes and we spend fortunes on design furniture and decoration.


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My former street in the heart of Madrid

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Taking a break at beside the Mazanares river in Madrid

It’s deeply rooted in the culture and a huge contrast between Scandinavia and Southern European countries like Spain. Also the weather naturally has a big role to play, when it comes to inviting people home or meeting up on the streets or in the park. But more and more cultures tend to blend and inspire each other.

This is just a few details of differences between the places I’ve lived. Another major contrast I have experienced is between living in the world city of Madrid and in the Welsh coastal village of Trefin. A village I have called home for four months over the last two years and will be calling home again for another two months this fall. A contrast of being one between a million of people… and opportunities. Or to be surrounded by the simple life close to nature. Honestly, I love them both because they are both different from the life I was used to.

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The village of Trefin in West Wales has been home for several months

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Getting familiar with the rugged West Coast of Wales back in 2015

And so is the neighbourhood of Bath that my girlfriend and I currently – and temporarily – call home. Although it’s quite similar in many ways to the life in Cardiff on the other side of the border to Wales. Here where you shop in Sainsbury’s and Tesco, have a pint at the pub or a cuppa at the local coffeehouse. Or maybe go browsing the endless stream of charity shops (selling second hand stuff), which is a tradition I really like about the UK.

SEE ALSO: England: 10 spots to soak up the beauty of Bath

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Our current neighbourhood in the beautiful English city of Bath

It’s an exciting and addictive experience trying to get under the skin of a new city. Find out what people do around here, where they go on weekend-getaways and which sports team they support. All those local things we often take for granted to know in our own hometown.

After having tried it a few times I find it easier to adapt to a new place – and especially here in the UK where there’s not really any language-barrier for me, compared to Spain, where I on the other hand have had my Spanish girlfriend as the best possible support.

SEE ALSO: Travel thoughts: Foreign friendships – keep them going

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A colourful sunset here in Bath

At the end of the day it all comes down to meeting new people when living abroad, to make it feel like a home. And in all those places I have lived, I have been extremely fortunate to meet some amazing people who have been the reason for many returns.

So, have you been living abroad too? Or are you living abroad right now? If, so where? And if not, would you like to give it a go? Please share your thoughts in the comments below…

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By Brian Schæfer Dreyer