VOICES OF DAVIDSON
Our Danish Neighbors
Freja and Rasmus Bjorholm and their two daughters (Sophie and Elise, ages 7 and 4) moved from Copenhagen, Denmark, to Davidson two years ago. We spoke with Freja to learn about her family’s life here and how it compares to their life in Denmark.
Why did you move to the U.S, and how did you decide to live in Davidson?
We moved for my husband’s job. Rasmus is a consultant with Ernst & Young (EY). For over a year, he was talking with different East Coast partners from EY the to find a good match for the transfer. At one point, he connected with Dimitris Papageorgiou, a partner from the EY Charlotte office, and it was a good fit. When Rasmus explained that we were looking for a family-friendly place to live outside of Charlotte, Dimitris immediately said, “Come to Davidson!” Dimitri, Jennifer, and their two girls have become our good friends and have played a big part in our settling in so well.
What did you think when you first heard the possibility that your family might be moving to America?
My first response was “Yes, yes, yes—a dream come true!” Our home in downtown Copenhagen was in an apartment building, and Rasmus and I both worked fulltime. With two little girls, we thought it was time to buy a home outside the city, but we were concerned that once we made that move, it would be forever. We saw the opportunity to work in the U.S. as one that would allow our family to lead different kind of life.
How is your life in Davidson different than your life in Denmark?
We were both very busy with our careers in Copenhagen—Rasmus with EY and I as a clinical psychologist specializing in child and adolescent psychology. As with many people, my occupation was a big part of my identity. We decided that while we are in the U.S., I would take a break from my job. We have seen that there are many more styles of employment in the U.S., compared to Denmark, where both parents are expected to work fulltime. There, it is hard for women to make the choice to take a break from their careers. I’m enjoying my time away from work, and I love spending more time exploring the area with my daughters.
Has Rasmus found that the work environment differs in the U.S. and Denmark?
With EY team members from all over the U.S., Rasmus works with a more diverse group of colleagues than in Denmark. He sees a comparable work ethic, but here, there is a blurred line between work and vacation time. In Denmark, an employer or a customer would rarely call you if you are on vacation, which is not the case in the U.S.
What do you like about living in Davidson?
Davidson is a beautiful town, and it is wonderful to live among such friendly people. Our neighbors and people we have met show a genuine interest in us. When we first moved and lived in the St. Alban’s neighborhood, many people came by with cookies and treats as a way to say welcome. I will never forget that. That would probably not happen in Denmark, where we are so much more reserved. We have received so many helping hands along the way.
What do Elise and Sophie enjoy doing in Davidson?
Sophie and Elise love getting to know people and places in Davidson. They like to visit the library, Ben & Jerry’s, DCPC (and its preschool), and Dance Davidson. Sophie is taking tennis lessons and both girls like to ride their bikes. I love that they feel part of a community.
I know your family has traveled to other areas of the U.S. What has been your favorite destination?
We loved Boston. It reminds us of Copenhagen, with the architecture and the walkability of the city. We visited Arizona and felt like we had been transported into a western movie set, with the striking scenery and wide-open spaces. We really enjoy visiting Charleston and Savannah, which we have done several times, and once we visited Cumberland Island off the coast of Georgia. To us, it is a secret gem—a lush, southern island with a beautiful beach. Our favorite part of traveling is to meet Americans from different parts of the country.
What traditional Danish foods will you be serving this year?
We will prepare traditional Danish treats—Christmas cookies (with cardamom, cinnamon, allspice, and ginger) and pancake puffs, served with jam and powdered sugar. This round dumpling is eaten at literally every social gathering in Denmark throughout December. Our Christmas Eve meal will be roasted goose and Christmas pudding (rice), which contains one whole almond. The person who finds the almond wins a small, marzipan pig.
Are there other Danish traditions you will be celebrating?
The Feast of Lucia which is celebrated throughout Scandinavia. Children in white gowns hold candles and participate in the Lucia procession, led by a girl wearing a crown of candles. The tradition signifies light coming into the darkness of a long, Scandinavian winter. Six months later, we celebrate midsummer (feast of Saint George the Baptist), also a celebration of light, where people throughout Denmark gather around a bonfire.
We celebrate a special tradition in Denmark, one that might sound odd to Americans: We have real candles on the Christmas tree, and we dance (walk) around the Christmas tree while signing carols. Then we open the presents. As a countdown to Christmas, the children receive Advent gifts from Santa’s helper, an elf-like pixie and traditional Christmas figure in Scandinavia—even more important than Santa. We believe that the helper lives in your house (traditionally in old farmhouses) and protects your household. But you better keep him happy and content, otherwise he might play tricks on you. You can keep him happy by leaving a bowl of rice pudding for him in the attic. I did that growing up, so of course, we continue the tradition with Sophie and Elise!
Allyson Ray has lived in and loved Davidson since 1996. She is a retired financial planner who enjoys retirement more than anyone she knows.