Moving house is an opportunity to dump some of the crap you've accumulated over the years. moving countries makes you consider even more carefully what really matters, but when moving continents you end up asking yourself whether you care about any of it. We ended up shipping eight boxes, one for each year we spent in China. And yet, looking around me, I'm struggling to remember what they contained. There were standard items such as clothes, some scientific and medical textbooks (expensive to replace), as well sporting items such as tennis racquets and sleeping bags. (There would have been more camping gear but Korean Air managed to misplace my luggage once they put it on a plane to Incheon when I was flying back to the US a year or so back and never worked out what happened next). But apart from that, I'm not sure how it adds up to eight boxes. But already I'm wondering why I shipped a map of Lebanon and a 1:50000 scale map of New Galloway. And despite shipping a computer I've yet to turn it on because the Chinese plugs don't mate with Danish sockets and the price of adaptors means I make do with the laptop until I can find some place in Copenhagen selling dodgy knock offs. Perhaps I didn't need that either
It wasn't that we hadn't accumulated a lot of stuff in China, I handed over a flat screen TV to a coworker, together with a temperamental DVD player that I thought was on its last legs when we moved from Beijing in 2006. It was more a question of whether it was worth shipping, or it some cases, whether it was legal. We had to dump the DVDs we'd accumulated over the years since, understandably, the Danish authorities take a rather dim view of pirated movies. But the other issue was that the quality of a lot of stuff meant it wasn't worth the effort of packing a ninth box and paying to ship it over a significant portion of the globe. A lot of the stuff you buy in China appears to disintegrate at an alarming rate, non-stick pans that start to peel after the first fry up, saucepans with rivets that work loose as soon as you dare to boil an egg and furniture that swayed drunkenly every time a gentle breeze passed through the flat. There is talk in China about the injustice and potential pitfalls of laws that require properties owners to return their house to the bank after 70 years, but I have my doubts that any of the houses that were built in the last twenty years will last that long. The exterior of houses that were built in the late 90s look they were abandoned when the Japanese occupied China during the second world war and the newer houses are catching up fast.
In contrast, everything here feels so solid. Windows and doors close with a satisfying clunk, rather than with a clatter that shakes the frame and reverberates throughout the whole building. In China it sounded like the neighbours upstairs were practicing Irish step dancing every night and the ones below were either arguing or engaging in noisy sex. Here in Denmark, we live on the top floor and the couple downstairs look in their 80s and move around with excessive caution but I'm pretty certain sure we wouldn't hear anything even if someone started getting things on up on the roof.
Consequently, our flat has a pleasant sparseness to it, one might even say it has a barren feel to it. But it makes it easy to find things and tidying up only takes a moment. It remains to be seen whether we can maintain this minimalist lifestyle, the cost of living in Denmark certainly appears to tilts things in our favour.