Together with thousands of expats across the globe, I am celebrating that Denmark has moved one step further toward dual citizenship this week.
I was born about 1000 years after my ancestor, Harald Bluetooth, raised Denmark’s birth certificate in Jelling. Jelling was my mother’s childhood home, and my parents had bought their first house in the town, when I joined the family. I was raised in Denmark through the 1970s and 1980s. I love the country of my birth and upbringing. It gave me my sense of identity, my Danishness, my culture, my language, and in the sandy soils of the Jutland heath, my roots are still healthily burried and tugging at my heart strings.
As a young person I felt the Nordic country too small and in my global outlook I found adventure in the great southern land, the island continent, Australia. I came as an overseas student and left after a successful year of study, engaged to be married to my darling man, himself a migrant from the UK who had made Brisbane his home.
And so, madly in love and with adventure in the stomach, I emigrated from my mother country, my father land and left my family behind. Together we made a home in Brisbane in beautiful Queensland; its nature more wild and its size more vast than a Danish cultivated girl could imagine. Brisbane’s balmy climate suited my ideas, though the city was provincial and small; I have seen it slowly transform to a thriving metropolis with an exciting arts scene, a New World City, which I love very much.
When I left, I intended to come back to Denmark when my yet-to-be-born children reached school age: no school system could be better than the one I knew from my own childhood. I could also not imagine depriving my parents from the joy of having a close relationship with their grandchildren, though I was painfully aware that giving them just that would deprive the other grandparents in Brisbane, who were much less able to travel than my parents. Such is the dilemma of couples of mixed cultural backgrounds, and migrants in particular.
Shortly after settling in Brisbane, something happened at home that changed my destiny. My parents separated and my mother was diagnosed with a tumour that would gradually change her personality and over 5 1/2 years to calcify her brain and kill her. The shock of the breaking up of my childhood home left me with a sense that home in Denmark no longer existed, and I became even more determined to make Brisbane my home and have my migration project succeed. When a few years later, I won a permanent position in the Queensland public service, only to be informed that I could not be appointed until I became an Australian citizen, I became terrified at the idea of not being fully accepted and integrated anywhere, of being a second class citizen in my new country, without having the safe haven of my old.
In one sense I saw my Australian citizenship as a formality – a bureaucratic necessity to properly function in my new country. When the man behind the counter at the Migrant Service Centre asked me to hand over my Danish passport, I cried my contact lenses out. I had heard of people who retained their Danish citizenship due to kind officials in foreign lands, and I had hoped that a wink and a nudge would let me keep the passport. But not so here in this cold centre of officialdom. I consoled myself at the thought I could always change the state of affairs in the future – that my ties with Denmark are so strong that surely it would be a similar formality to regain my Danish citizenship, my Danish birth right. Of course it was much more than a formality, as I realised when about 10 years ago I started wondering how I could go back to Denmark more long term than the regular 6 week holidays we were making.
I love my new country, and my old – it is possible to love both. In an ideal world, I would live in Denmark one year and in Australia the next. However, when I enter Denmark, I have to stand in the outside-of-EU queue, while my husband could enter through the faster, less controlled EU queue. When we go to stay for our sabbattical in Denmark, my husband just has to register at a citizen service centre (Borgerservice) with his UK passport, while I have to go to Migrant Service and fill out a permission-to-stay form.
The news this week is fantastic – the promise of retrospectivity in particular is great. A Bill is proposed to be introduced in Parliament during the second half of 2014, with the new rules coming into effect in July 2015. I just hope there is not an election that will see a change of plans – the right wing nationalistic force in Denmark is strong, as I wrote about in last week’s post.
In July 2015, we will be in Copenhagen. All going well, I will be able to make a declaration to regain my Danish citizenship and formally be a Dane again. We will have a great big party when that happens!
UPDATE: The laws were passed as planned, but the commencement was delayed until 1 September 2015. You can find the application forms here: http://www.statsforvaltningen.dk/site.aspx?p=8903