St. Elsewhere

On a recent trip to Copenhagen I was talking to someone at a bar and he was saying that America… it’s pretty great.

“You’re saying this… as in right now?” I said, wondering how drunk he really was.

“No, no, not right now. Right now it’s a joke. It’s going down fast. But it will bounce back. It always does. That’s what’s fantastic about America. You had Bush and everyone thought you couldn’t get much lower, but then you had Obama, and he brought it back around. Now you’re down again, even lower than Bush – wow! Who knew, right?! – but you’ll bounce back.”

“Four years is a long time.”

“You think? Here in Europe, things move at glacial speeds. Politics? Most of our countries stay on course for decades! Eh. It’s so boring.”

BRING ON THE BORING

Exhausted from the election, the election results, the uncertain future – my husband and I decided that now is as good time as any to try Europe for a while.

Politics isn’t the only reason.

We’re both sick of cars. Traffic in Seattle – where we still live – is the worst! Any day, any time of the day. I hate driving and I enjoy public transport. I love taking the light rail to work, but our light rail “system” isn’t really a system. It’s one line (luckily we live along that line, but still…).

Public schools are painfully and probably criminally underfunded. We’ve sent our kids to private schools, but this leaves us broke and bitter when they don’t deliver great grades. We’re also atheists, but because secular private schools are well outside our price point, we’ve been sending our kids to Catholic schools. The experience will make them into better, more well-rounded people, I’m sure.

I love to ride my bike, but am afraid to commute by bicycle. Bike lanes in Seattle are sporadic – they start and end after a couple of blocks – and then there are the hills…

I like to eat organic, non-GMO food, because I just do, okay? But in order to do that I have to seek it out, shop at specialty shops and I can’t control what my kids eat when I’m not around. I’m actually very excited for the super stringent food regulations of the European Union. Antibiotics to promote growth in food animals? Banned. rBGH growth hormone? Banned. Add to that restrictions on pesticide use and GMO-s. Sweet!

Soon my teenage kids will be applying to colleges we can’t afford. We do have savings accounts for them, but that’s only if they stay in state and don’t stay in school longer than the prescribed four years. We put our one daughter through college and we’re still paying for it. Education is a luxury in America. It really shouldn’t be.

We have a great health insurance plan, but we still spend thousands (as in around $6,000 a year) on medical bills. All those co-pays and deductibles add up.

And it really isn’t just about not liking it here any more. It isn’t just about the politics or the car culture or the lack of social safety net. It’s also about what we do like about Denmark. We love the idea of an egalitarian society, where no one is encouraged to rise above everyone else. We love the generous paid vacations; a society that values spending time with friends and family far more than one that values working yourself to death.

Also, our kids are growing up. If we don’t leave now they’ll miss out on a living abroad experience! (I mean, sure, they can live abroad once they’re adults, but what if they never become motivated to?)

So, initially sparked by the awful political climate, then encouraged by everything we’ve heard and read about life in Denmark, we decided that it’s time to go. Luckily, my husband has a very niche profession and he got a job in Copenhagen. We’ll soon be leaving our exciting, full of uncertainty life here in the United States in America and going to boring old Europe. Which really isn’t as boring as it was only a couple of years ago. Things are brewing in Europe too. Hopefully though, at glacial speed.

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