Katharine Oakes moved to Luxembourg with her fiance in August 2019.
1) How did you feel on 24th June when you heard about the UK’s vote to leave the EU?
Slightly confused to be honest! 2016 was the year that I became vehemently more invested in politics and when the reality hit of what leaving the EU meant, I felt trapped and confused.
2) What were the key driving factors that made you decide to leave the UK?
I had mused with the idea of moving abroad prior to Brexit anyway after teaching in Poland for a short spell but at the point that the decision was made was in a secure position at a school that I adored. My partner announced one day in 2018 that he’d been offered a position in Luxembourg and was moving in the August of that year. I spent the next few months working out what to do but upon realisation of the need to move abroad before Brexit happened to make my life easier, I decided to follow him and take the leap.
3) How/why did you choose your current country of residence?
I hate to admit that shortly after Nick announced he’d gotten a job here I googled “where is Luxembourg” as it had never been on my radar of possibilities. During our 10 months of long distance, Nick and I realised what a quirky welcoming country it is. We also found out in those 10 months how highly teachers are respected in the country and that in itself has been a breath of fresh air.
4) Do you have citizenship for your current country? Do you still have EU citizenship? If no, are you hoping to obtain it?
We need to wait 4 more years to get Luxembourgish citizenship. I only have a British passport but can live as a resident under the withdrawal agreement. Of course, if Scotland gains independence and joins the EU I will be first in line for a Scottish passport. Hopefully with a unicorn on each page and opening with a Burns poem!
5) Do you plan to return to the UK or hope to move to another country in the future?
We’ll never say never but I think we’re pretty settled here. Moving back to the UK, unless desperate, is not on our radar.
6) What was the most difficult aspect/greatest you challenge you faced in moving?
I had not, and still haven’t, gotten my language skills ready. Not being able to speak French makes life here difficult at times. Most people do speak English, but having French is a lot more useful, especially when dealing with government offices.
7) What do you miss most about the UK?
Not a great deal! Anything I miss are just superficial things, like food or certain pubs/shops. But life in the UK? I don’t miss a thing…
8) What do you love most about your current country of residence?
Hmmm… there’s a bit too much to choose from. I think the fact that it is ‘sensible’. Everything just makes sense. Take COVID-19 for example: masks are mandatory when out in public now, so the government gave every resident 50 free masks. Logic powers things here.
It’s also stunning everywhere. I regularly exclaim that “I can’t believe I live here!”
9) Do you consider yourself to have a “European identity” and what that does that mean to you?
I do consider myself to have one and I feel like the longer I live here the stronger it will get. Half of my family are Polish anyway so I have never considered fully British. I prefer to see myself as a citizen of Europe, being within the EU or not doesn’t change that. I feel like too many people see UK as its own continent and forget that it is part of Europe. Leaving the EU doesn’t stop me from being European.
10) Do you still consider yourself to have a “British identity” and how do you feel about it?
For the first 24 years of my life I saw myself as Scottish and not British from growing up in the North-East of Scotland. When I then moved to Yorkshire I classed myself as British but what that means, I’ll never know. Living here with so many other nationalities does make me feel more British at times, such as when I make cups of tea at work and half of the staff room gasp in horror when I add milk. Generally though, I don’t feel overly British, European, Scottish… I’m just me.
Additional Questions (relating to Corona Virus)
11) How has the Covid19 pandemic affected your life?
Being forced to stop and slow down was so valuable for me and after a stressful 6 months of moving country it was exactly what I needed. The fear and worry, mostly for family and friends in the UK, got too much at times but luckily everything has been ok so far!
12) How do you feel about your country’s response to the Covid19 pandemic compared to the UK government & media?
As mentioned earlier, I feel like Luxembourg has been incredibly sensible and we’ve felt like we could trust the government’s decisions. Lockdown happened incredibly quickly but there were no protests against it, we just accepted it and got on with it. The lifting of lockdown has been a slow and measured process and mass testing has been rolled out. It helps that economically we’re in a better situation which is perhaps why everything has been stressfree, but decisions have been made based on science and learning from other countries. I’ve stopped watching the UK news but I feel like this hasn’t been the case in the UK, especially since the rules are so vague and there’s one rule for politicians and another for the general public.