For someone to contemplate moving their family to the other side of the world, there has to be something seriously wrong with their current situation, right?
Wrong. At least, in our case, it’s wrong, anyway. Denmark has been very kind to us. We arrived, nearly 10 years ago, with little idea of what living abroad would mean, fully intending to ‘try it’ for two years and then perhaps think about moving back home.
But Denmark has charmed us. It’s given us friendships we’ll treasure for life, a quality of life that was just perfect for us at this stage of our lives, and it has infected us with an outlook that I think is more grounded, less materialistic and altogether more humble. In short, it’s been good for us.
So, why leave? For us, there are two factors at play. The first is rooted in the general point that we are not leaving Denmark. We are going to Australia. Or, to put it another way, we are not running from, we are running towards.
Were it not for our good fortune in landing our Australian visas, there’s a good chance we’d be staying in Denmark for the foreseeable future. The second has to do with each generation’s role in determining the path of generations yet to come.
I’ve always marvelled at those who left Britain, Ireland, and other, ‘older’ nations, to establish the countries that became Australia, Canada, New Zealand and so on. In seeking better prospects for themselves, they influenced the nationality and nature of everyone who followed in their family line.
Perhaps you only really think about these things when you have kids. It’s fair to say that these questions never arose before my own children came along. But, on a quiet evening, over a glass of chilled Australian white wine, my wife and I played out a little game based on how the future might look if we stayed in Denmark.
Having been raised here, there’d be a good chance that our two boys would grow up considering themselves to be more Danish than English. That’s no bad thing and certainly wouldn’t affect our relationship with them – as I’ve said, we love the Danes. In time, it would be probable that they would settle down here – in all likelihood, with Danish partners. Again, so far, so good. If all that came to pass, in due course, we might even be blessed with grandchildren.
But here’s where our conversation got interesting. Those little babies, born to parents who were a naturalised Dane and a native Dane, would, to all intents and purposes, be brought up as Danes. Now, much as we love it here; much as we love the Danish outlook and that of our friends here too, the fact is, that this would create a disconnect in our family.
As much as we would want to love, know and nurture those second generation bundles – we would be communicating in a second language to a grandchild who might have no knowledge of the English language until, at best, their teenage years.
I don’t quite know what that would mean for our interactions, but I can tell you that it wouldn’t enable the kind of close, loving relationship that my wife and I have in mind. And so, as the current custodians of the family line, we have made a decision that we hope will keep us together, rather than isolate us after a single generation. Of course, it may not work out that way.
On a recent creative writing course that I tutored, I taught a very talented young writer from Australia. Her mother had migrated there from New Zealand, to which her grandmother had emigrated to from Britain. The reason this woman was on my course in Europe? She had just migrated back to the UK. Full circle in just two generations.
So, there are no guarantees that the steps we’re taking will have anything like the outcome that I have just played out. But as I’ve said before, it gives us a fighting chance, and I’ll take those odds for now.