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Celebrating love across continents

From Dublin's vibrant streets to a small town in Brazil and finally settling in Denmark, Chris and Luana's journey is a testament to love, resilience, and the beauty of blending diverse cultures.

Photographs: Martin Macalpine

Text: Lyndsay Jensen

Chris hails from Dublin, Ireland, while Luana comes from a small town in Brazil called Corumbataí. Reflecting on their childhoods, Chris describes growing up in a working-class area of Dublin with lots of family, support and love around him. Everything you would imagine as a big Irish family was what surrounded Chris, and he loved playing in the streets, playing football in the park with his friends, and getting up to mischief while growing up. Chris also had a close relationship with his grandfather, who was a baker, which Chris believed sparked something in him as a youngster.

Luana fondly recalls her close-knit community growing up in Brazil. Her hometown, with a population of around 4,000 people, was a place where everyone knew each other. Her childhood was filled with roller-skating in the streets, playing with friends, and enjoying numerous family outings. Her parents worked hard to provide for her and her siblings, creating a nurturing environment filled with love and activities like fishing. Brazil's rich cultural tapestry, with its diverse music, dance, and cuisine, left an indelible mark on Luana. She speaks with warmth about the community-based lifestyle, where social interactions are frequent and filled with joy. Chris contrasts this with the more individualistic culture of Dublin, emphasising the strong sense of solidarity and banter among the Irish, something he deeply misses.

Both Chris and Luana miss different aspects of their home countries. Chris longs for the banter of Ireland, a unique flow of interaction that feels like music to him. Luana misses her family's warmth, the open and friendly vibe of Brazilian streets, and the communal culture where small talk and social gatherings were the norm.

Embracing Denmark: Challenges and triumphs

Chris's first foray into living abroad was moving to Denmark in 1997 as a teen. Initially, the move to Denmark felt like a holiday for Chris, but after two weeks, he missed his life and friends back in Ireland. Chris did, however, feel a newfound freedom in Denmark. He noted the different mindset and greater freedom and responsibility given to children compared to Ireland. In Denmark, kids were allowed more privacy and autonomy, which he appreciated. His early days involved befriending locals who spoke English, which delayed his need to learn Danish. However, once he began his baking career, the long shifts and interactions with colleagues encouraged him to improve his Danish, which became crucial for his integration and professional success.

Building a family and careers

Chris's professional journey in Denmark is marked by a blend of acting, culinary exploration, and a deepening connection to baking. His path soon led him to culinary school, where a foundation year as a chef included baking classes and a 4-year apprenticeship as a baker. Already familiar with baking through his grandfather, Chris had a natural talent for it. This led him to a four-year apprenticeship in Denmark. However, his passion for acting remained strong, and at 22, he decided to pursue it seriously.

"Denmark has given us calm, good education, and family around us," Luana reflects, highlighting the support they received in their early years in Denmark."

He sent an application with 50 euros to the Gaiety School of Acting, one of Ireland's premier drama schools. Using a piece from Conor Macpherson's work, he auditioned and waited six months for a reply. One day, after work, he received a letter he thought would be a rejection, but it turned out to be his golden ticket. Chris moved to Ireland and lived with his grandmother, which sadly coincided with the passing of his beloved grandfather. While there, he was able to support his grandmother through her grief and pursue acting. He landed some minor roles and really experienced the highs and lows of the acting industry along with fellow acting friends. A small part in "Game of Thrones" gave him a taste of success, but the acting world remained unpredictable, and could be lonely.

As fate would have it, Chris and Luana met by chance at a Brazilian party in Dublin. Chris, captivated by Luana, asked her to show him how to dance despite the language barrier. Luana recalls Chris going down on one knee and asking her to marry him that very night. Their relationship quickly blossomed, and after a year, they were married and became pregnant with Alanna, their daughter.

The decision to settle in Denmark was a difficult one, but it was always about family. Dublin is a fantastic town, but with an actor's life of jumping from project to project was not economically viable to raise a young family. When Luana was pregnant, she returned to Brazil to be with her family, and the familiarity with the healthcare system and her language gave her comfort while Chris prepared for their new home in Denmark. Despite the challenges of being apart during such a critical time, their bond grew stronger. Chris missed the birth of their second child, Benjamin, who arrived unexpectedly on Chris's birthday, but their shared commitment to their family's well-being has always been paramount.

On Luana's return to Denmark this was her second experience of living outside of Brazil, having previously lived in Dublin. They considered several options before settling on Denmark: Brazil, where Luana's family resided; Ireland, where they were already familiar with the culture; Wales, where Chris's father lived; and Denmark, where Chris's mother and extended family lived. Ultimately, Denmark won out for its promise of calm, good education, and the support of a nearby family.

Luana's adaption to life in Denmark was challenging. She faced a new culture, a new language, being a new mom, and the absence of her family, which made the initial years difficult. However, the support from Chris's family, mainly as they lived next door, eased the adjustment period. Their proximity allowed the couple to save enough to buy their own house after three years. Luana found the country beautiful but initially struggled with the cold and the language. Over time, she adapted and came to appreciate the stability and opportunities Denmark offered. Now, with their children a little more independent, Luana is ready to put her entrepreneurial hat on.

"Making a cake is like a canvas for me to express myself, and I love that," Chris shares, describing his creative process."

Luana has a Bachelor's degree in Tourism and Hospitality from Brazil but has sadly had challenges utilising her qualifications in Denmark like many internationals. Initially, she focused on raising their children and managing the home, but now that Alanna (10) and Benjamin (5) are older, she has recently launched her own cleaning business called Clean & Shine, which is steadily growing. Her spirit and dedication are evident as she balances her business with family responsibilities - utilising the famous Danish work-life balance.

Chris works full-time at a glass company as a machine supervisor. This job has given him the safety and security that is needed for a young family over the past ten years, and he enjoys working with his colleagues. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Chris started a hobby to give people something to see on social media called Sweet Cakes O' Mine (the original brand name), where Chris shared his baking journey, which quickly gained a large following. Now, with a new brand name, Irish Baker Abroad, he has 79,000 followers on Facebook, and his videos resonate worldwide, particularly with the older generation, who find inspiration to bake again. Connecting with people has given him the greatest personal satisfaction, and he says that making a cake is like a canvas to express himself, and he loves that!

"Irish and Brazilian culture are so similar," Luana observes. "Our home is a mix of both, and we can see that clearly in our children."

Blending cultures and raising a family

Chris and Luana find joy in their multicultural household, where Irish and Brazilian traditions blend seamlessly. Their children, Alanna and Benjamin, benefit from a trilingual upbringing, speaking English, Portuguese, and Danish fluently. This linguistic diversity enriches their lives and provides a unique advantage.

Chris finds joy in his family's happiness and the community he has built through Irish Baker Abroad. Luana cherishes moments spent together as a family, whether watching movies or going bowling. Their home is a lively mix of cultures, reflecting both their Irish and Brazilian heritages.

Raising children in a bilingual, bicultural environment has its own set of challenges and rewards. Chris and Luana have managed to create a harmonious blend of their cultural backgrounds, which is evident in their parenting style and the values they instil in their children. Alanna and Benjamin are already fluent in three languages, demonstrating the flexibility and adaptability that comes with a multicultural upbringing.

Chris and Luana emphasise the importance of family time and creating joyful memories together. Whether it's dancing to music at home, going out for family activities, or simply enjoying each other's company, they prioritise building a strong, loving family unit. Their story is a testament to the power of love, the strength of family bonds, and the beauty of cultural diversity.

Denmark has been a good decision for us, and even though I love and miss Ireland, I do have a relationship with this country and an emotional connection with Denmark. Although I'm still Irish, I'm grateful for everything it has given us as a family.

As Chris and Luana continue their beautiful journey together, their story reminds us of the power of love and the beauty of embracing diverse cultures.

If you would like to support Luana's business, Clean & Shine, you can give her a call at +45 60549418. Also, make sure you follow Chris and the Irish Baker Abroad; check out his Facebook Page and YouTube Channel.

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