Hang out the flags

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I have a difficult relationship with flags and the past few weeks haven’t helped. From the loutish behaviour of a few English football supporters in Marseille, to the feverish nationalism surrounding the Brexit vote, to the trampling of flags following the exit of the England football team from Euro 2016. Flags have a lot to answer for.

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Things we lost on the journey

We had tears in the CBRbound household the other night. For the past year, Mini-CBRbound has been asking when we can visit Denmark again as a family. He particularly misses his old football team and the team’s trainers, with whom he built up a close camaraderie over four years of junior football.

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Mini-CBRbound at his final tournament with his old football team.

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The symmetry of leaving

The cover of a book: Living In Australia, Beginner.

Perhaps we are ready for the next book in this series, Living In Australia Intermediate Level?

I’m in Denmark. Exactly a year ago, together with the rest of the CBRbound family, I was preparing to leave an empty house and follow a long-dispatched container of furniture on the long journey south from Copenhagen to Canberra.

We landed in Australia on Hallowe’en and overnighted at a Sydney airport hotel, where a tired and emotional maxi-CBRbound was too shy to say the words ‘trick or treat’ to the check in staff, even though a handful of sweets was on offer to every child who did.

The next morning, we took a final short flight to Canberra, to another empty house and to start a new life. Continue reading

Ice cold in Canberra

Frost covered trees in a snow-covered field.

In our last winter, the weather conditions were very different.

When we first told people we were moving to Canberra, non-Aussies would invariably ask where Canberra was, while Aussies would usually say something like: “What do you want to go there for? It’s freezing.”

But we’d seen the pictures of sunny Australia from afar, and had already gone through our wardrobes ditching thick jumpers and winter coats in anticipation of year-round pool-life in the lucky country.

So, now we are knee-deep in our first Canberra winter, how cold is it?
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Democratic rights

I’m sitting here, watching the UK election results roll in. The BBC keeps thanking me for staying with them through the night, but in truth, it’s not much of a hardship from my Canberra desk with beautiful sunshine streaming through the window.

Although I’ve been gone for ten years now, I still retain an interest in UK politics. However, I don’t vote any more – largely on the ethical ground that it feels unfair to vote for a government that I’d never have to live under.

My interest exposes a strange fact of expatriate life – that, while you retain voting rights in the country you have no intention of returning to, without citizenship, you get no say in the government of the country that takes and spends your taxes.

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Six super things about living in Canberra

We’re in our fifth month as Canberrans now, and the place is starting to feel like home.

We’ve been here long enough to notice a few things that seem odd, but also to appreciate things that may not stand out to other locals but which have really wowed us.

Here are our ‘six great things about Canberra’ so far…
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A healthy tip for new migrants

As a new migrant to Australia, there are some things that take longer than others to understand. And none, save pensions, seem more complex to me than the issue of healthcare and private health insurance.

I’d like to say that we’ve cracked it and that, below, you’ll find a short précis of all the things you’ll need to know as a new arrival in Canberra, but that’s far from the truth. But what I have cracked is a little tip that so important that I shudder to think that we may have missed it. Continue reading

Changing who we are

Australia’s Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, gave a speech to the Australian parliament last week, largely in response to the security questions raised by the Sydney siege a few months ago, but also in recognition of the lone-gunman attacks in other countries such as Denmark, the trickle of Australian nationals making their way to fight with Islamic State in Syria, and the highly publicised call for attacks on western shopping malls.

A few days before, Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt made a similar address in Copenhagen. But, while Abbott’s speech focused largely on security measures, Thorning-Schmidt included an important additional point: “We have to understand what has hit us, but we must insist on acting as we do. Think and talk like we want to. We are who we are.”

News of the shootings in Copenhagen rolls in on the TV.

The shootings in Copenhagen shocked Denmark.


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In the territory of the lost souls

I was reminded of them in Copenhagen, and it was a timely reminder.

I’ve often considered that life abroad consists of various phases. From post-arrival disorientation, to the honeymoon period when everything seems perfect, to integration and establishing a balanced perspective on your new home’s strengths and weaknesses.

But then there are those who never settle, who are always in search of something better. I call them ‘the lost souls’, and it’s important to guard against becoming one of them.
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The distance of time

My return visit to Copenhagen is at an end and, after a 24 hour stop-off in England, I’ll be on my way back home to Canberra very shortly.

Being back among familiar faces and places has been simultaneously fun, exhausting, repetitive and like I’ve never been away. But being here has also taught me something about why it’s hard to be away from our former home. Continue reading