Going home to abroad

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November 14, 2012 by Matt

If I’d ever had cause to think about it, I probably could have predicted this, but I didn’t so one of the most unexpected new experiences of living in a new country is the odd sensation of going home to somewhere that still in some regards feels like abroad.

Since moving to Copenhagen at the end of April I’ve come ‘back home’ to it just three times – from a family visit to the Midlands in June, a friend’s wedding in London in September and the trip I returned from this week, a weekend away in Barcelona. There was a fourth trip too, to Sweden for our honeymoon, but I don’t count that as it was in a car, so didn’t seem to carry the same ‘being abroad from abroad’ feelings with it (and I only really mention it here in case Dorte thinks I’ve forgotten about it if I don’t include it in my three-trip tally above!).

But the reason I don’t include it is that the peculiar feelings especially come at airports. Indeed, I’m sitting writing this in Barcelona’s sleek airport waiting for my flight home to Copenhague, as they call it here.

There are practical catalysts for these feelings when you travel by air – not having to show your passport is perhaps the most striking, as much of Europe is part of the Schengen Agreement which allows travel between countries with no passport checks, something which the UK doesn’t allow as it’s an island. Then there’s remembering to say Denmark, not the UK, when asked at the duty free checkout about my final destination. And of course, it’s a good idea to not let my eyes be drawn towards the ‘Londres’ mentions on the flight status screens when looking for my gate in a hurry. Minor issues in themselves but cumulative also.

At the other end it’s undoubtedly easier to get home in Copenhagen than it ever was in London, thanks of course to the modest size of the Danish capital when compared to the UK’s. Our flat, relatively centrally placed in Vesterbro near Enghave station, is just 30 minutes door-to-door from Kastrup airport, a feat which I couldn’t even accomplish in London when living in Chiswick, just a London-stone’s throw from Heathrow. And it’s cheap too – just a few crowns (about 19kr = £2) as opposed to the substantial Heathrow or Gatwick Express prices.

But of course, feeling at home is about much more than practical concerns. It really boils down to whether it feels strange to return to somewhere – whether the place you now call home actually feels like that, or if you feel like a fish out of water despite it being where your address is.

Luckily for me, the old saying that home is where the heart is certainly rings true in this case. Our flat feels unquestionably like our home, and my wife and I have so far succeeded in making our new home here. So although my brain is sometimes slow on the uptake to remember that the key letters are now CPH and not LGW or LHR, it feels comfortably natural to return ‘home’ to Denmark. Even if I have left my wife in Spain for a company meeting – I’d best have a glass of Rioja ready for when she returns.

As an interesting aside on passports, I stumbled upon a piece of research recently that surprised me with its findings. Dorte and I had had a jokey conversation about whether one day I’d become a Danish citizen, and trade in my British passport. Apart from it being a bit too early to call that, my instinct was to say no because I naturally assumed that a British passport was more ‘useful’ for international travel than a Danish one. But according to the research, the Danish passport gets you in to more countries without a visa than any other, including British and US. So maybe one day it will be a serious consideration!

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