Family in Kildare, work in Copenhagen: Life as a 'commuter emigrant'

Chris Cox travels from Ireland to Denmark every week, to work on the city's new Metro

Chris Cox: ‘I am privileged to play a part in one of the biggest infrastructure projects in Northern Europe at the moment.’

Chris Cox: ‘I am privileged to play a part in one of the biggest infrastructure projects in Northern Europe at the moment.’

 

I have been commuting weekly between Kildare and Copenhagen for the past 6½ years.

Although the children were born abroad, in 2007 my wife and I, both Dublin-reared, decided to return to Ireland to avoid the cultural gap that would inevitably result from the kids growing up in an expat environment. The plan took an unexpected setback as a result of the scale of the recession and I found myself out of work at Christmas 2010. Since there were limited possibilities in my line of work (metro construction), I decided to work outside the country.

If someone told me then that I would still be travelling in 2018, I would have become quite despondent. Travelling on budget airlines is an often stressful experience, but you do become inured to it.

I work for Metroselskabet, the development company for the construction and operation of the Copenhagen Metro. We are in the last phase of the Cityring construction, which has 17 underground stations, due to open in 2019 with a fleet of driverless trains.

I am responsible for several of the contracts related to the construction and operation of both the new Cityring and of the existing Metro line, and have a staff responsibility for about 30 engineers and technical staff. It is an exciting and rewarding position, which are the main motivations to jump on the airplane each Monday morning.

Commute

During school term I am last to leave the house on a Monday at around 9am, since the Scandinavian flights are all after the morning rush, so there is no stress with the M50 traffic. I get to the gate with an hour to spare. I manage to do a bit of work in the airport before flying, and I am in the office about 3.30pm. I generally put in longer hours to compensate for this absence, which goes against the typical 37-hour working week in Denmark.

Dublin airport has transformed since 2011 when I started this commute. The 100 series gates where SAS, Ryanair and Norwegian depart from were virtually empty then. Now it is positively thronged. Delays are becoming more frequent and sometimes the queues to get off the ground can be six or seven aircraft long, adding another 20 minutes to the two hour 15 minute flight. The second runway is desperately needed.

On Fridays during the summer, I leave the office at 2pm and put the key in the door around 7pm. From that perspective it is quite acceptable. But the winter schedule generally means I am home much later, around 11pm. Nevertheless, I consider myself very fortunate, and there are several other regulars doing the weekly commute that have much longer journeys at either end and have to return to Denmark on Sunday night.

Naturally I miss my family, but I am privileged to play a part in one of the biggest infrastructure projects in Northern Europe at the moment. It is a truly international project with people from all over the world, implementing cutting edge technology. As a daily user of the existing Copenhagen Metro, it is immensely satisfying to be helping to improve people’s daily lives.

Absence

We are a close family and I think we cope well with the absence, and try to compensate at the weekends. I talk nightly to my wife, and the children often call me in the evenings if things are not going well. The EU roaming directive has transformed our connection as a family; calling, Skyping and SMS are frequent.

RTE Radio player keeps me in tune with events at home out of work hours. The children have friends with fathers that also travel, so we don’t see ourselves as that exceptional, although Denmark is probably a bit further away than the typical and I have been doing it longer than most.

I have small social network of expat colleagues that meet regularly, and there is always the famous Thursday night quiz in a well known Irish pub in the city centre for some additional diversion. But commuting like this does mean I seldom see my Irish friends, unless we really make a big effort to meet. They all lead hard working and busy lives too, and I don’t think I am very much disadvantaged.

This project will be completed in 2019 and I have the option to continue, but at some point I will probably look at returning if the right opportunity turns up. For the moment however, I will keep going.

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