Katherine Rose moved to Denmark with her husband & children in July 2016.
1) How did you feel on 24th June when you heard about the UK’s vote to leave the EU?
Waking up to the news of the Brexit Referendum result on the 24th June 2016 was heartbreaking. The sense of grief was almost suffocating. We had been making use of the rights and privileges granted to us by our EU citizenship for most of our adult lives so, alongside the grief and loss, uncertainty about the future crept in.
2) What were the key driving factors that made you decide to leave the UK?
We are the fundamental embodiment of the concept of freedom of movement of labour. We are the children of the generation who were told to “get on yer bikes” by Norman Tebbit and we did. We have followed work across the continent for more than 2 decades. In 2010 work took us back to the UK for the first time in more than 14 years. Returning, the country felt like quite an optimistic place, there were a lot of feel good events taking place like the Olympic games and the Queen’s Golden Jubilee. However, over the following years, austerity continued to bite, and it revealed the stark levels of inequality and insecurity in British society of which sadly Brexit is a significant symptom. When we needed to think about our next move at the end of 2015, we decide to look for a more progressive society.
3) How/why did you choose your current country of residence?
Our move was driven by my husband’s job search and finding a good fit for his skills and talents. Due to our language skill set our search encompassed both French and German speaking countries within the EU as well as Nordics. Educational opportunities for our kids were also a big consideration. Subsidised or free English language schooling is a big plus for internationally mobile families in countries like Finland and Denmark.
4) Do you have citizenship for your current country? Do you still have EU citizenship? If no, are you hoping to obtain it?
None of us have Danish citizenship and there are substantial barriers to achieving that goal. Although I have managed to pass the required language exam, there are still many other hurdles and another 4 years until I can qualify. My husband is lucky enough to still have EU Citizenship. Unfortunately, because we have moved so much, we have missed out on consolidating earlier times abroad into other citizenships. Perhaps the lesson learned is that if you have earned citizenship somewhere, you should commit to it because you never know what the world is going to throw at you next.
5) Do you plan to return to the UK or hope to move to another country in the future?
We have no plans to return to live in the UK and we do not know what opportunities the future will offer us. Obviously, the opportunities for our kids to move on independently from Denmark have been limited by Brexit. They will not have the variety of opportunities that our generation has had.
6) What was the most difficult aspect/greatest challenge you faced in moving?
We have moved internationally many times before, so we did not take up the offer of a relocation specialist on this move. The Danish state is active in helping foreign workers to establish themselves. Everything from registration, schooling and healthcare works well. The greatest challenge for families like ours is for the spouse to find work.
7) What do you miss most about the UK?
We miss seeing our families and friends, although when I think back to 1996 when we first moved to Germany, we only had expensive international calls from Deutsche Telekom and a dial up modem. Now, we are now truly fortunate to live in a world of video conferencing anywhere from the phone in your pocket.
I miss the beautiful wild places and rich history and culture that Great Britain has to offer.
8) What do you love most about your current country of residence?
I love how calm and safe Denmark feels. It has taken some time for our children to get used to the greater freedom and autonomy that this security affords to them. Feeling safe and secure is the foundation of what makes Denmark one of the “Happiest places in the world.”
9) Do you consider yourself to have a “European identity” and what that does that mean to you?
I have always been conscious of my European Identity. My Grandpa was a British Tommy who landed in Normandy on the 3rd day of the landings during WWII. Towards the end of the war he was stationed in Brussels where, one day, my Great Uncle Paul invited him to have tea with his family. It was there that he met my Granny Marguerite and the rest is history. So, out of the ashes of WWII a new European branch of my family and many lifelong friendships were born and of course the beginnings of the European Union.
10) Do you still consider yourself to have a “British identity” and how do you feel about it?
Being British will always be a part of my identity, but growing up with family from both sides of the Channel and having spent so much time living in other countries and absorbing their cultures and learning to see from other viewpoints has changed me. This was very apparent when we returned to the UK in 2010. The Blair years had changed the UK but 14 years overseas had also changed me. Returning to the UK, I felt more alien than I had ever done moving to a new country.
Additional Questions (relating to Corona Virus)
11) How has the Covid19 pandemic affected your life?
The Covid19 Pandemic has turned the world upside down. As the Danish border restrictions came into place around 13.3.2020 we rushed to get my mother, who was visiting us, on one of the last regular flights out to Manchester. It was the hardest of goodbyes, the profound uncertainty about the future, the feeling that I was letting her go from the relative security of life in Denmark to return to the UK where the unfolding government response already looked inadequate. However, Mum needed to return to the UK to weather the storm with my Dad, they needed to be together to keep each other safe and well.
As the weeks of lockdown rolled on, it came to feel like we were becalmed at sea. We felt reasonably safe but isolated. We are a very strong family. We have done many international relocations together, pitching into the unknown alone is not a new experience. We know how to support each other and work together even in the confines of lockdown. I think that we will all be able to look back on the last months and find the positive learnings and experiences and know that we succeeded together, and we are ready for what comes next🌹
Since the 18.5.2020 phase 2 of the reopening of Danish Society has meant that our kids are back in school and my husband’s office is operating a two-team compartmentalized strategy to reduce risk, so he is now back in the office on even weeks. Numbers of Covid19 cases are holding fairly steady, at a very low level, although it will be another week before we really start to see if there is a significant impact of the lifting of restrictions.
12) How do you feel about your country’s response to the Covid19 pandemic compared to the UK government & media?
Denmark’s government acted quickly and decisively to protect society. Trust in the government’s leadership and the social security safety net played a significant role in Denmark’s successful navigation of the Covid19 first wave. By contrast, leadership in the UK has been indecisive, which has resulted in significantly poorer outcomes. In the future, it would be interesting to look at the role that inequality and poverty played in the differing outcomes between the UK and Denmark.