Dr. Esbjerg, I Presume?

Over a year since the last posting. My oh my…

In a nutshell: last summer’s efforts to bring the family together here succeeded, we are all well, both children are happy at school and both parents are happy at work.

Goodness it has taken some time and effort though. I will spare you details of our quick half-day visit to a government office in Odense to register ourselves that became a two month exercise. Similarly we can compare the differences between state primary schools in England and international schools in Denmark on an other occasion.

The days, weeks and months simply fly by when there are four of us to take into consideration. Last time we moved abroad for a project, Medina was five months old and Aida wasn’t yet a twinkle in an eye. It was a challenge that Leyla bore the brunt of stalwartly and we settled relatively quickly. With the girls being seven and four years old this time around, expatriating has been a more complex and involving process.

Our being in Denmark on local terms rather than as ‘expats’ contributes to the situation. The industry was riding high during our last project which made rates and conditions generous and being on the other side of the world from home there was a sort of club mentality that bound the expats together. Leyla and I avoided spending too much time in the ‘expat bubble’ but it was there to dip into when required.

Between the last project and this one the industry has taken a larger-than-usual cyclical fall. Now a few miles east of Newcastle rather than in the Far East, we are earning more realistic wages with zero perks, there is no ‘expat bubble’ and we are paying the famous Danish taxes. It sharpens the mind somewhat.

One of the main reasons we chose to re-unite here was to try the much-praised Scandinavian work-life balance for the family. The time spent in England between projects made it clear to us that having both parents at work there would present expensive challenges. If you believe the press, it should be more straightforward in Denmark.

So far I would say Denmark is more supportive of both parents working in a family. Flexi-time and work-from-home options are far more readily available than I would dare to have hoped for during much of my working time in England. There is also encouragement that one should work one’s hours and get home on time rather than an unspoken expectation that one should frequently stay late.

The part that does not always feature when this subject is written about in England: in many cases I feel it could be a necessity rather than a choice for both parents to work in Denmark.

Leyla’s job started recently. During the months prior to that we were able to live well enough on a single income but we had to be careful. The extra money in the bank is welcome but of course there are certain additional costs to consider when there isn’t a parent available at home all day every day.

Ironically it is probably our ‘expat’ status that is contributing to the challenge. Many of our neighbours are paying mortgages that are much smaller monthly outgoings than our rent. When Danes choose to place their children in a fee-paying Danish school the fees are lower than those we are paying for an international school (for primary schools at least; I have yet to inquire about secondary schools).

Swings and roundabouts as they say. At least we are in the playground rather than stuck on a street corner and for that I am thankful.