I always expected to live in Copenhagen. But when I was 22, a friend, Bjorn, called to tell me his new girlfriend had a friend from Australia coming to visit and that he was going to set me up on a blind date.
When I arrived at the restaurant, I expected Bjorn would be there to introduce us, but instead I saw a good friend, Michael, who said that Bjorn had called him to go on a blind date with this girl from Australia! Then another friend arrived, and another, until there were around 15 boys sitting around looking at each other. Well, we started drinking and joking around about what we should talk about with this fictitious Australian girl if she ever arrived, and we came up with a list of topics, including the opera house, Kylie Minogue, INXS, kangaroos, Crocodile Dundee, and Uluru!
Finally, at about 10pm, in walks Bjorn with his girlfriend and this girl from Australia, whose name was Meghan. She was very attractive and lovely to talk to and she spoke Danish, which surprised me as Danish is a difficult language to learn. After that, we all talked individually to her, but I talked to her last!
Well, I was the successful candidate, and we started going out. But as she was on a tourist visa and I was finishing my thesis in political science at the time, it was difficult. At one point she had to go back to Australia, and then she came back for a job in Prague as an English language teacher, so we could easily travel by train to see each other.
Finally, we decided to get married for the visa, but because we didn’t want to take it too seriously, we organised it as a bad taste wedding. Everyone rocked up in their worst outfits. I bought mine for a dollar – a suit and pink shirt and tennis socks around my neck, and Meg wore a bra. In the spirit of bad taste, instead of throwing rice when we came out, our friends threw lumps of cooked rice and pasta at us. We served cocktail sausages on spears at our apartment, had a bucket full of potato salad, and a big plastic pink heart saying “Forever young Meg and Franck”. Later, we retreated to my room and a friend wandered in and fell asleep on top of us.
A year later, Meg said she was homesick, as she had been travelling for a while, so we decided to try living in Australia for around 6-9 months. 21 years later, we are still here!
I had already finished my Masters, but I enrolled in an HR postgrad certificate, because I wanted to understand the Australian way from a business perspective, and I also wanted to make my own circle of friends.
In the meantime, my brother in law was working for a company selling Foxtel and I became a part of a motley crew of a team of 7 driving around Brisbane. In a 6 month period, I think I knocked on 4000 doors, and as I am 6 foot 7 and have a strong accent, sometimes people would just stare at me! But meeting so many people in their own habitat gave me a lot of insight into the Australian way of life. And I really learned about resilience because if people didn’t like you, they closed the door in your face!
Next, I got a part time job as an HR consultant writing business plans for small companies, which got my foot in the door. Later, a friend helped me get a job at Orange, a telecommunications company, and that was the starting point in the next level of my HR career. That led on to 3 mobile, which later merged with Vodafone, and I am now a People and Performance director at Adshel.
Moving to Australia was life changing, and not something I had ever thought of or planned, but I’m absolutely glad I came and that’s why I’ve stayed, because it’s a lovely place to live. Meg and I always laugh about Crown Prince Frederick and Princess Mary, as the letters of their names are F for Frederick and M for Mary, and I am Franck and she is Meg. We laugh that they did what we did, but in reverse – they met in Sydney and we met in Copenhagen.
But we know we were the first!
Photographer: Kurt Tilse www.instagram.com/kjtilse
This month, we are bringing you a series of stories commissioned by TransferWise for their Faces of Australia campaign.Find out more about this exciting project here: https://transferwise.com/community/facesofaustralia