Hej! Have you heard of Carlsberg, Legoland, H.C. Andersen, Helene Christensen, Mikkel Mikkelsen, Lurpak and frikadeller? Well surprise surprise, they are all from Denmark! Teaching in Denmark has been an amazing adventure since I moved here from New Zealand about 18 months ago. Here are a few things that I can share about living here as an expat and international teacher.
I work at Esbjerg International School in Esbjerg which is a city in Southern Jutland in Denmark. Esbjerg is about 3 hours by train or car away from Copenhagen which is the capital city. The school is made up of students age 3-17 and staff from about 38 different nationalities. In total, we have approximately 250 students and still growing due to the rise in the number of expats coming to Esbjerg. Esbjerg is well-known in Denmark as the ‘Energy Metropolis’ as big names such as Maersk Oil, Schlumberger, Rambol and SEMCO to name a few are increasingly attracting foreign skilled talents as the industries of oil drilling and renewable energy are booming.
I got this job through Teacher Horizons as a pleasant surprise as I decided to work abroad about 18 months ago. I put in my CV to TH and in a few hours, I was contacted by one of the agents, Eldon Pascoe and since then, things were started in motion. I had a few options and was spoilt for choice. In a couple of days, I had to pick which interviews I wanted to go for after the selection process and within 3 days, I ended up with a job offer from this school in Denmark. There was little stress, hassle or problems as Eldon was amazing at sorting everything out for me and everything was clear and simple to comprehend. The whole process was so quick and easy that I couldn’t believe it! In a period of 3 or so weeks, I had to pack, leave and move to a country which was on the other side of the world to start my new life and adventure!
So what is it like working and living in Denmark as an expat? A big culture shock for me at first as coming from NZ and from the capital, Wellington, I was introduced to a totally different lifestyle, climate and culture altogether! Since Esbjerg is situated on the coast of South Jutland, it is a quaint city making it the 5th largest in Denmark and quite the opposite of the capital city, Copenhagen. It is industrial yet pleasantly peaceful with a population of about 70,000 people, mainly Danes and about 10% foreigners. Weather is quite cold as this is Scandinavia with lots of wind being on the coast and temperatures ranging between minus temps to a high of 17 degrees celcius on average although in the Summer it can get up to 30 if we are lucky! Foodwise, the staple diet is mainly meat and Pork is the national meat of Denmark! Other typical Danish food are frikadellers also known as meatballs, remoulade, herring, schnapps, laks, and believe it or not, Danes consume a lot of CUCUMBERS! Danes love cycling and it is very bike friendly! The cycle lanes here are generous and spacious making it so attractive to bike anywhere. Favourite sports here include Handball, Ice hockey, Soccer, Cycling, Badminton and martial arts.
The cost of living here is really high plus taxes which make living here expensive and relatively hard to save. Nevertheless, the standard and quality of life is superior as it’s clean, safe, peaceful and comfortable. The work life balance here is amazing and I have quickly adapted to it. I truly appreciate and understand now why Danes are so productive and efficient despite the shorter working hours because of their positive and balanced lifestyle making them one of the happiest people in the world.
Also, since moving here, I have picked up the language and Danish is not the easiest language to learn. It truly is as if you have a hot potato in your throat while trying to speak fast! So far, I think I am doing well but don’t worry, Danes are proficient English speakers except some of the older generation do not speak English. Being single has its drawbacks as Esbjerg is unlike Copenhagen but it has got a great service from the Kommune which organizes events and gatherings for newcomers and expats regularly which helps! I have made many friends from these events and now I am more settled and have a busy and fulfilling lifestyle.
For families, Esbjerg is perfect as it has lots to offer which has been the greatest attraction for most expats with a family. Hence why our school is growing and Esbjerg is too! Most of my colleagues with family are really settling and enjoying what the city and country has to offer and many are deciding to settle here for a longer period of time.
Finally, it has been an amazing experience so far working and living in Esbjerg, Denmark! I have been able to travel lots more within Europe and see more of Scandinavia, learn a new culture, language, lifestyle, meet new people from all over the world, extend my teaching experiences and journey as well as grow as an individual. Thanks TH for making this a great opportunity with no fuss! If any of you ever decide to teach abroad, wherever you decide or go, DO IT! It’s the best decision I have ever done and being an international teacher is the best job ever!