This summer was relocation time for me and my family. Four wonderful years in The Netherlands had come to an end, and I moved to Denmark with our two teenagers, while my husband moved to London for work. Relocating from one country to another can be complicated, and a two-in-one move doesn’t make things easier. I am the one in our family to take care of paperwork and practical issues like contacting tax authorities, banks, building workers, electricity companies, health care etc., and the list was twice as long this time, because we were dealing with two countries (well, three including The Netherlands). We had the advantage of moving back into our own house in Denmark, which meant no house hunt. On the other hand, our house renovation project, which started five years back, was not completed. So, I had fun corresponding with contractors during and after our move about issues like “why is the heater leaking water”.
Are We in Uganda??? No, just British Bureaucracy
My correspondence with Danish contractors was fairly easy, though, compared to handling maintenance managers and contractors in London, who were supposed to fix some not-working electrical issues in my husbands’ rental. Holy smoke, such British bureaucracy and inefficiency! And this was after we had gone through the nightmare of getting the keys for the apartment: We had already paid the deposit and first month’s rent, and we had received around 100 pages listing tenant’s obligations + one page listing tenant’s rights. Also, I had bought tickets for London to go help get the keys and do the moving-in inspection, when the company representing the owner came back with changes to the rental contract: They wanted a clause saying that they could terminate the contract within four months! After several phone calls and emails, we had to agree to this clause, otherwise our money would be lost. To receive the keys, it turned out my husband had to meet personally in the owner’s representative’s office and show passport, paycheck, and original electricity and water bills from our former residence (we had of course already sent copies by email).
Now, six weeks later, half of the power issues in the apartment are still unsolved. Furthermore, the internet-television-phone package, we ordered from British Telecom, doesn’t work. Thankfully, the apartment has a great view over Thames and London’s skyline!
Living as a cross-border family
We are in the process of learning and adjusting to our new family structure with my husband and I commuting back and forth between Copenhagen and London. We talk on the phone almost every day, and I try to handle everyday coordination, tasks, and challenges during the week, so we can enjoy weekends together without too many chores. One major advantage of our setup is to explore London on a regular basis. To me, it doesn’t feel as a major change in life, because my husband traveled a great deal before. Hopefully, in a few weeks, I will even be able to offer tips on “how to survive as a cross-border family”.
I love being back in my own house and seeing old friends, I love the Danish landscape, the food, the less crowded roads, and I love living in a peaceful and free society (similar to the Netherlands where I moved from). But, if you ever heard the expression “homecoming hangover” meaning that repatriation is harder than expatriation, I can confirm. We feel differently about Denmark today, and the reason is, I believe, that we have changed. I find that many Danes tend to look inward. I feel an urge to shake my fellow countrymen to make them wake up and see their surroundings, both their immediate colleges, customers, people on the train, etc. and the greater world. From what I have heard, many repatriates – no matter which nationality – feel the same about their home country. I cautiously conclude, that an expat experience opens our eyes and gives us a broader perspective on things. Which is good. Let’s hope the effect is contagious and lasting.
Learnings and tips on moving to London
When I tell our “London story” to friends who used to live there, they smile knowingly. Apparently, we just have to get used to the British way of complicating things. So, if you are heading to London:
- Find accommodation, start on zoopla.co.uk, and note that the website is not always updated, so some properties may no longer be available.
- Consider a furnished apartment, if you have a setup similar to us, or if you are staying for a limited period.
- Read the rental contract carefully, and if possible, get help from an relocation agency (we used Sterling).
- Contact a bank, and prepare for an in interrogative meeting followed by a lengthy (two weeks) procedure to set up a bank account. Having a British bank account makes many things easier for you.
- Get an Oyster card, and top it up, for public transportation. Available at any tube or train station.
- Be patient and polite, but firm!
- Last but not least: Enjoy London and the British gentleman language. There is hassle and lengthy procedures, but the city is great and the style is charming!
Tips on relocating to Denmark
- If you are house-hunting, try boligportal.dk or housingdenmark.com.
- Don’t bring your own car! It costs a fortune to register. Buy a small car instead, if you need one. Biking and public transport works well. Buy a Rejsekort, and top it up at metro and train stations.
- Learn to love the changing weather and seasons, and buy a varied wardrobe.
- Talk to us! Many Danes are reserved, and breaking through the friendship barrier takes hard work and determination, but you will be rewarded with friends for life. Here is a place to start building your network.
- More useful information about coming to Denmark here.