And why I keep coming back to America

Photo by Boris Stroujko

I moved to America from Eastern Europe 15 years ago, with $2000 and a dream, and I’m grateful for everything it has given me since. Yet after a decade of hustling to make ends meet, I was tired of the never-ending grind and needed a break. I found it in England, where I was lucky enough to pursue a graduate degree.

During my two years in London, I traveled Europe, observed, learned, and was stunned at a different approach to life it had to offer. Subsequently, I spent a year in Denmark, which took my idea of what’s possible even…


Are Americans scared of dogs, or of one another?

Photo by Dragana Gordic on Shutterstock

A bit over a year ago, an off-duty Secret Service agent fatally shot a neighbor’s dog outside of our building in Brooklyn. When I looked out the window, the dog was lying on the sidewalk with a leash still attached to it.

Later, the man explained that the leash was dragging on the floor, presumably giving him a permission to shoot. To my horror, in a heated media debate that followed, some people were justifying the agent’s actions.

While many people raged at gun violence in America, I had a different issue on my mind: why is America the only…


And what America can learn from them

Photo by R.D. Smithon Unsplash

A little over a year ago, my husband and his two daughters moved from Denmark, voted the second happiest country in the world, to America, the eighteenth country on that list. Here’s what they think so far.

American schools look like jails

When my 10-year-old step-daughter joined a (well-ranked) public school in Brooklyn, she asked me why schools in New York looked like jails. I got defensive, but I knew what she meant. Bleak corridors, colorless rooms, barred windows, lack of fresh air, metal fences around the building — nothing about her school was “cozy,” the word so loved in her home country.

Back in…


We can’t all move to Denmark, but we can bring some of it to us

Photo by Maksym Potapenko on Unsplash

When adjusting to life in Copenhagen, I noticed that things were very different in Denmark from back home in New York City. Locals seemed more relaxed, less addicted to their phones, more present with one another. Streets were quieter, shops and restaurants played gentle music on low volume. It’s almost as if people there didn’t need distractions from their reality.

Was it just the famous work-life balance and social welfare system or were there other, lesser known, reasons for their contentment?

When America is more gloomy than ever, I decided to look at some small, and big, habits we could…


And enrich your life by doing so

Photo by Priscilla Du Preezon Unsplash

I moved to New York a week after graduating from college in my home country. I didn’t know a single person. Everyone I grew up with was gone in an instant. For the next 15 years, I learned how to make friends as an adult, through trial and error. Moving around a lot didn’t help. But I think I finally figured it out.

Friendship, studies show, has a direct effect on a person’s happiness levels. Sometimes, the most profound effect. Yet so many of us take our friendships, or lack of them, for granted. …


These cultural differences were the cure I needed

Photo by ZGPhotography

Five years ago, I arrived in London from Los Angeles, burned out and wanting desperately to regroup and rethink. I walked endlessly in London’s many parks and thought long and hard about why I was so bitterly disappointed in American ways and whether I could ever salvage that, and myself.

In my two years of living in London, I noticed that, while England had its fair share of problems, the English seemed to be more relaxed and easy-going than us Americans, once you got to know them.

I desperately wanted that myself, so I studied the people around me and…


Cleaning out my life made space for happy changes.

Photo by Photographee.eu on Shutterstock

A German-American architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe famously said:

“Less is more.”

What’s true for architecture is true for our lives, too.

Three years ago, I was an American running back home to New York from a foreign country, broke and scared for my future, wrapping up yet another unhealthy relationship.

I was 34 and shattered.

If I were to get better, I needed radical changes. Somewhere around that time, an idea that less is more got stuck in my head. …


I was the least likely woman to marry a Scandinavian man

Photo by Orange Vectors on Shutterstock

I was 14, growing up in post-Soviet Russia when our school teacher took a group of girls from my class to a local park for a walk. She sat us down on large stones and asked us to listen. The reason she brought us there was to talk about our “lives as women.” This wasn’t a talk of empowerment. We were to learn how to take good care of ourselves and our husbands. Because “that’s what Russian women did.”

She explained that we had to shower regularly, smell well, cook well and never ever wear a stretched robe when our…


In an attempt to simplify this complicated world for her

Photo by Evgeny Atamanenko on Shutterstock

Since the birth of my daughter six months ago, I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want her life to be like.

The world, and the world of parenting, has become an increasingly complicated place. With so many choices, distractions and opinions, it can take ages to sort through the noise before you finally figure out what is actually meaningful. I know it did for me.

I want my daughter’s world to be a less complicated and a more comfortable place. For that, I’ll help her focus on what’s important right from the start.

She doesn’t have to be successful

I once asked a friend…


How I learned to indulge myself in Denmark — the land of candy, smoking and tanning salons

Photo by Shalom Rufeisen on Shutterstock

In America, we’re told that smoking is bad for us. We’re told that drinking is bad for us. So bad, indeed, that we’re not allowed to do it until we turn 21. Sugar is bad for us, too. And so is fat. Or tanning salons. Stay away from these things and you’ll be good, they say. But is it so?

When I first landed in Denmark, voted the Second Happiest Country on Earth, I was surprised to find out that not only the Danes seemed content, quiet and strikingly good-looking, they were also filthy smokers and drinkers, obsessed with candy…

Anastasia Frugaard

Writing about different countries, cultures and people.

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