Denmark, Expat life, Personal, Travel

Why I’m moving to Denmark from the UK in the middle of a worldwide pandemic

Days before Denmark became one of the first countries in Europe to close its borders and go on coronavirus lockdown back in March 2020, I received a job offer from Copenhagen for June 2020. I was delighted, of course – I accepted the job offer. My hope originally was to visit Copenhagen during Easter, scope out a place to live, move in the beginning of May, and be settled and ready to start by June.

But then, chaos.

Since the lockdown, questions from others that would otherwise be easy to answer (like if I’m going to travel by land or air) have, in this pandemic time, implicated sheer panic-inducing uncertainty for me. My most frequently used phrase in the past couple of months must have been ‘I don’t know’.

Last week I would have told you I’d be in Denmark by now, but my flight got cancelled last minute. I spent a small fortune booking another flight to Denmark (I’m supposed to fly in a couple of days, heavens willing) but who knows if this one will fly. So – I still don’t know. All I can do is wait and see.

Ok, back up. Can I not start my new job contract remotely? Why not just wait until travel restrictions are relaxed further before traveling/moving?

Believe you me, it’s no fun making travel plans during a global pandemic, let alone plans to up and move my entire life to a country I’ve never lived before under these exceptional conditions. I’m about a grand short due to travel and moving related expenditures at this point and don’t think I would have been able to sort everything out without savings. I’m also still juggling my current job (my contract in the UK expires the day before my new job in Denmark is set to start).

Here’s the reason it is imperative that I travel and move now (aside from the fact that I would like to start my job on time): my visa in the UK is about to expire. The UK Home Office is still only offering to extend people’s imminently expiring visas due to coronavirus (to those who are self-isolating due to illness or cannot book flights back home) until the 31st May 2020 – as if normal flight routes will be back up and running by then (?!)

Given the Home Office’s position I must make haste. 31st May 2020 is the absolute limit; after this date I would become an overstayer. It is on us ‘foreigners’ to travel out of the country, if we are able to so, by the end of this month, if we don’t want to risk repercussions related to our immigration status. There is no luxury of sitting back and waiting out the virus. It’s surreal to think about – despite getting my PhD in the UK, and having lived, studied and worked here for 9.5 years continuously, I am effectively forced out in the middle of a pandemic despite ongoing travel restrictions/disruptions because of my visa expiry.

Many people have incredulously indicated to me that, surely, the Home Office could not be that draconian – they wouldn’t actually punish overstayers and so on, given the pandemic. Hopefully not. But who actually knows? As a ‘foreigner’ with a precarious immigration status in the UK I find this kind of incredulity naive and frustrating. It’s easy for people to sit back and speculate about what they think human decency amounts to at the policy-level when they aren’t the targets of exclusion. I would love to believe that everyone gets treated in a reasonable way in the end, in whatever country they reside – but I’m wise enough to worry! Mind you, I’m speaking from a position of relative privilege. I’ve never made trouble in the UK, I can afford to live on my own abroad, my passport gives me international mobility, I don’t have dependants to worry about, I’m not stranded, I’m not fleeing a terrible situation in my home country, and so forth. Even so, I’ve had my fair share of Kafkaesque nightmares regarding immigration matters in the UK, and the psychological centrality of my insecure immigration status as a ‘foreigner’ is largely what makes me so eager to leave to a place where my permission to be there is not under threat.

But hey – I’ve made peace with the injustice of my relationship with the UK. I certainly don’t want to stick around to find out what happens to me if I stay here. My one beacon of hope throughout the uncertainty of lockdown has been the great competence and clarity I’ve received from Denmark. My experience applying for my work permit, enrolling my biometrics, and receiving the documents necessary to pass border restrictions in Denmark, has been unbelievably smooth, relatively unbureaucratic, and incredibly fast (I got my visa in 7 days). This has made a hugely positive impact on me during such an uncertain time. I will never forget it.

See you soon, Denmark, and thank you.


17 thoughts on “Why I’m moving to Denmark from the UK in the middle of a worldwide pandemic

  1. I used to study in Germany, so I understand how the “immigration status” affect us. Even though we did nothing, that status makes us nervous. I guess that’s the feeling of living in a foreign land. It must be really difficult for you to relocate during this crisis. There is a lot of thing to worried about. And many arrangements that need to be made. Glad to hear that everything is ok now! Wish you all the luck in Copenhagen 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  2. maristravels says:

    I’m sorry the UK didn’t treat you in a more responsible manner, but that’s life post-Brexit. In fact it was somewhat like that pre-Brexit, I must admit, but it has got much worse since. Good luck in Denmark, I’m sure you’ll settle there and have a good life. I enjoyed my few trips to that country, in fact I love all of Scandinavia but Denmark has always been regarded as the most friendly of the Scandi nations so I’m sure you will have no problems fitting in. Hope you manage to get away on time!


    • I will use only English for my job, but I will try to learn a bit of Danish as well – need to sign up to language lessons soon! I am told also that Danes have a reputation of being the best non-native English speakers in Europe as well (probably similar to other Nordic countries).

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: My (very emotional) experience flying from the UK and into Denmark during Covid-19 restrictions | Life in Copenhagen

  4. I am sorry that Britain has treated you so harshly. I think it is indicative of the inherently racist nature of the country I was born in. Personally, I think the more diverse and multi-cultural a society is, the richer it becomes. I wish you well in Denmark, it’s a beautiful country. Best wishes, David.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Being from the US, I am deeply aware of the lack of hospitality to “foreigners” here, and am sorry that the British government has been taking lessons from us. It limits our richness as a country, and denies refuge to those hurting the most, as well as encouraging an “us/them” mentality.

    That being said, your photographs are wonderful. You have a great eye for composition and color, and I look forward to seeing more.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: The most amazing sunset in the city | Life in Copenhagen

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