Which path to take Lyds? That’s been the question Rich and I have been struggling with for the last six months, as we were coming to the next chapter of our adventure. An unexpected lease-end on our fourth apartment in Copenhagen, the beginning of school life for Lyds, a change was coming our way and we had to make the call whether Danish living was going to be for the long-haul, or whether this was the time, that we knew would come one day, that we return to Sheffield. There have been many times in life I’ve been faced with this picture, deciding which path to take. But this decision has been the hardest. Because it’s not just about me. Its not just about Rich. It’s about this little girl and her sister. And we’ve hit the stage of life where we’re ready for stability, a permanent home, a permanent local school and grandparents and cousins living on the doorstep. I hope our adventure has given Lyds and Sofia the option to take any path in their future. Copenhagen, Sheffield, anywhere in the world. And I hope it’s given those of you who have kindly followed me, some encouragement to go off course and take a leap of faith. We’ll never forget our three and a half years discovering my Danish genes and it won’t end here, I promise.
Lydia standing at the top of Superkilen, Nørrebro.
This is the entry I wrote when it was time to make the decision that we knew would come one day. We’d been debating about it since Christmas 2019 when school options in England were coming up for Lydia, and we found out we had to move apartment in Copenhagen – again! In December 2019 we decided that we’d move back to Sheffield during the summer. But soon after making that choice, we both had a wobble and decided we’d explore other options of staying in Denmark. Then the coronavirus came and we delayed our decision while we wobbled once more. But with a deadline for moving out of our apartment coming up, we had to make the decision by June about the next move. This is what I wrote, to help me accept what was in my gut. My post after this, will explain all the different factors that played into it.
May 15th 2020
Crunch time has come. Now is the time we really have to make the decision about whether we stay in Denmark or go. As I’m writing this I think I know the answer. I’m just reluctant to accept it. Because I like living in Denmark. I like living a different kind of life. Constantly learning, seeing ourselves slot more into a new country, hearing the girls become bilingual and have a Danish childhood. But life as an expat isn’t easy. It comes with uncertainties, adapting, learning through mistakes and feeling isolated at times. The rewards far outweigh this, which is why expats remain expats. But let me tell you, I have so much respect for people who live as an expat throughout their lives – especially those with children. You work doubly hard to learn the new cultural through your children’s eyes, you have to provide that stability and be present more than ever, to help them through the change and newness, all while having no one around to prop you up if you waver. It’s all on you. The expat families we have met in Copenhagen are inspiring. I don’t know one that hasn’t questioned, or isn’t constantly questioning, if they’re in the right place and what the next move should be, if one at all. Immigration rules constantly change, citizenship requirements change, your personal situation changes.
For us, it was always coming. This was never a long-term plan. If you’d have told me when we set off from Sheffield on 5th February 2017, that we’d be returning to Sheffield three and a half years later, with a bilingual almost 5 year old, a 2 year old born in Denmark, a qualification in reading, writing and speaking Danish, a new freelance portfolio and Richie having worked as a Northern European manager selling tiles and travelling across Scandinavia – well, I would have been in disbelief that could happen. And then there’s everything else. The friendships, the family we’ve reconnected with and discovered, the experiences, the memories. We did it. We achieved our dream. And it’s sad when the dream has to end. Except it’s not an ending. We will never lose what we have learnt during our three and a half years here. We will always come to Denmark regularly, to see family and friends. We will continue to expose the children to the language, to read them Danish books, to play their favourite Danish songs. It’s become part of our family unit now and that’s all I ever wanted. The girls will forever know about their Danish genes and the grounding is there now, if they ever want to explore it more.
I couldn’t love Rich any more for doing this with me. We came to this decision together, through many months, conversations and plans, and so many times he’s checked I’m ok. We’re both leaving with heavy hearts but we’re leaving excited about our future connection to Denmark, from a place where the girls will have the most incredible childhood in Sheffield, surrounded by the love and support of their grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles.
After writing this, we sat on the decision for a week or so, waking up each morning and checking in with each other that we were still both on the same page. Then on 1st June, Rich handed in his notice at work, and so the wheels were set into motion on leaving Denmark. During the last month, I’ve had a couple of big wobbles where I’ve cried and suddenly panicked about whether we’d made the right call. But Rich always calmly brought me back around, letting me have the option for him to call his work, get his job back, reverse all the things we’d done. I think sometimes you have to let yourself go there, cry it out, call or message friends or family and then get back on track and ‘move forward with conviction’, as my mum told me.
“The only constant is change. You’ve always gone with your gut instinct and it told you this was best. It doesn’t mean it’s easy though…Live Copenhagen life to the fullest and know there are so many who love you waiting for you on the other side.” This is what my friend Karli wrote to me during one of my moments of doubt and it really helped.
It’s been the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make. But I also know that the hardest things in life often bring the biggest rewards. So here we go.