Missing piece

I had my last day at work last week. It feels frightening not having a job or not really knowing what I am going to do the next couple of years. It feels like a piece of me is missing.

Your job and identity

I would define my professional identity with Before and After Teaching. I studied languages and pedagogical studies in Finland and eventually got a job as a language teacher in a business school. I liked my job and the school and students. A teacher in Finland has a lot of freedom and they are trusted experts. Days were never alike and you got to cry every spring when the classes graduated.

Then I met my Dane and moved to Denmark. I wanted to try something else than teaching – I thought I would go back to teaching once I had learned Danish. Life happened – I never got back to the classroom. I managed to learn Danish but it took a long time and by that time I was no longer a teacher.

The great unknown – career abroad

I have had quite a few jobs during my almost 15 years in Denmark. I even tried working as a substitute teacher in a private school in Copenhagen. I got a job a couple of years ago that I really enjoyed doing and where I felt I was improving and learning new skills every day. I felt the same drive as what I had as a teacher in Finland. And now I had to leave that job and jump into the great unknown.

We (me and my husband) have discussed that my task in New Zealand will be to help the twins to settle and give them the best possible start in the new country with a new language. And I am fine with that – it is a privilege to be able to do that. But knowing our twins I think that they might be fast in integrating and making new friends. What will I do then? I´m afraid I will feel restless without a job.

Redefining yourself – again

So I will have to redefine my professional me again. I have always said I would love to be an entrepreneur. But I was a teacher and being an entrepreneur was just a silly dream, I told myself. Well, now I have a chance to develop that idea, I guess. I get exhausted by thinking of the possibilities but also excited. When you are moving to another part of the world, nobody knows you. I can dye my hair blue and wear hippy clothes and pretend I have always been avant-garde like that? I guess I am not doing that.. However, now is my opportunity to take the time and think: what do I want to do (professionally) in my life? Or do I need to do that?

Karriereverweigerer

German language has a word for a person whose priorities lie somewhere else than in her career. I am not a career person – if career means being ambitious about your title, how many people you manage, how much money you earn etc. But I have always wanted to have a job with challenges and possibilities to grow and learn and it is important for me to do quality work. We Finns are quite similar to the Germans – hard work is highly valued. Nothing wrong with that – if that is what you want. But people who openly say that their values are different, are often considered as lazy.

When I stayed at home with our twins for 2 years, that was pretty damn hard job. I felt (every single day) that if I was in an office, at least I could drink a cup of coffee when it is still hot. But I loved being with the kids and chose to do it (again, we were privileged to be able to do that financially) even though it was not a standard in Denmark and I had to justify it (many Danes told me I was doing my kids harm by having them at home – they would not learn to cope socially with other kids) over and over again.

Now I need to find that same mode again – even though the kids are bigger and they don´t need me 24/7. But I am pretty sure that a new country, new culture and new language will give me a new status at home – a status, which I myself have to learn to cherish.

PS. I had this post as a draft for couple of days. I have already done some research in LinkedIn, applied for a freelance job, found a full-time distance job I am considering of applying… I try to stop myself – this post is something I need to read myself, again and again.

Hygge in Denmark

I must say I love living in Denmark and have not even considered moving back to Finland. There are many good things about Denmark and here are my top 3:

1. Hygge

hygge/ˈh(j)uːɡə,ˈhʊɡə/Lær at udtale

noun

a quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being (regarded as a defining characteristic of Danish culture).

Sometimes it feels like the purpose of life for every Dane is to have it ´hyggeligt´ all the time. And what is wrong with that? Nothing! I have learned to love the word and everything that comes with it.

Every now and then the Danes try to have ´hygge´ so much, that they get stressed. For example social gatherings: many are so busy to book all kinds of ´hyggelige´ social arrangements with their family and friends, that they get stressed, because they don´t have any weekends left for doing nothing. Well, now 2020-> we have had a lot of hygge at home with the closest family, so I am sure the entire country goes crazy, when the restrictions stop one day. Cannot wait 🙂

Working in Denmark

Denmark ranked high at OECD´s Better Life Index. Only 2% of the Danes work long hours (over 50 hours per week) whereas for example in France the number is 8%.

Copenhagen is also a Nordic metropolitan. Many companies have their Nordic headquarters here and the job market is good for people who can speak Nordic languages – even if you don´t speak Danish. Many companies offer nice benefits from free physical training, cheap lunch, recreational activities etc.

The hierarchy is flat and Danes are straightforward as managers and colleagues. For me, as a Finn, that was a relief. I changed my career completely when I moved from Finland to Denmark and did not know what to expect outside the school environment that I was used to. I adapted fine and have been enjoying working in a few Nordic and global teams for both international and Danish companies.

Laidback Danes

There are rules and laws, of course, in Denmark. But it is more socially accepted to break the rules sometimes than what it is in Finland. This irritated me so much when I moved to Denmark but now I appreciate the attitude of the rebellious Danes, who march to the barricades, if they think the government is not doing things right. Maybe not as much as in France but definitely more than in Finland. A good example of this all is maybe Christiania, the freetown or self-governing society, where they bend the rules.

At work the laidback attitude can often be seen in clothing, which is often smart casual, also in institutions, that are more formal in many countries, such as banks and consultancy companies. Meetings are not formal and everybody can freely express their meaning, despite their title. This is purely my subjective experience from the companies I have worked for.

Folkeskole

I come from a country that has one of the best school systems in the world. However, I still find the Danish system very good. I used to be a teacher myself in Finland, so I have experience from Finland as both as a pupil but also as a teacher. Here in Denmark, I can only see how my own kids are doing at school.

I could go on and on about this but I try to keep it short. When our twins started their school career, I was not happy about their academic challenges. I thought they were not learning enough.

The school is very focused on “trivsel”, meaning well-being at school. I can see now how important this is. The twins´ class is working so incredibly fine as a team, we have not had any problems with mobbing or somebody not having anyone to play with during classes. Both kids love their teachers and play fine with everybody in the class. This is so important also for the academic work. The class can focus on the learning during the classes and group work is never a problem, no matter how they create the groups.

I don´t know how I would feel, had one of our twins any learning challenges. Luckily they don´t and I think that this focus on well-being and group dynamic in school will benefit them the rest of their life. They are socially well-behaving and trust people and are content in social arrangements. This is so important also later in life – to know how to interact with people and how to respect all kinds of people and personalities. I am happy to have my kids in Danish school and can only hope the system in New Zealand is at least half as good.

Against the odds

Cross-cultural marriage, twins, long-distance relationship…. Those are the factors that give low odds for a relationship to last. The cultural differences between Finland and Denmark are not that huge, of course – but there are differences. First a couple of them that I found the toughest.

Intercultural communication – Direct Finns

The worst one for me has been this: We Finns are more direct in our communication than Danes. This has caused me some challenges both at work and in private. At work I had to learn (read: still learning, still not natural for me) to “decorate” my mails and messages. With decorating I mean polite beginning and all greetings and wishes etc. at the end. Possible claim or negative feedback also needs to be said indirectly – or at least not as bluntly as I probably would do it in Finland. In private I have kept my more direct way of communicating – mostly because my husband´s family and our friends know who I am and what my intentions are and do not (I hope) think I am obnoxious or arrogant. Or maybe they do but do not know how to deal with me and my finnishness…

Party-loving Danes – more socially distanced Finns

The Danes love to celebrate everything. Mother´s cousins auntie´s 57th birthday needs to be on your calendar and the whole family is expected to participate. After moving to Denmark you soon realize none of the weekends are just yours – there is always at least one social arrangement that you absolutely need to attend. If you want to have a weekend without social engagements, you need to work for it (before Covid-19 anyway).

Then there are some bigger milestones that were new for me. The confirmation party (for confirming your religion) was a shock for me. In 2016, according to the bank Nordea, the average Danish family spent 30.375 Danish kroner (around 4000€) for the food, present, clothing and party for the teenager (who at the time is around 14 years of old) and they invite, in average, 37 guests. You need to plan a year ahead if you want to find the perfect location, catering, the right dress for the girls…

The next surprise was copper-wedding party. That is a party for having been married for 12,5 years. Could not find statistics for finances for that but I´m sure it is at least as big as the confirmation budget. I have attended only one of these myself but it was like a wedding, just without the priest and the church part. The one I attended was at least for 50 guests, everyone invited over night at a hotel with dinner and breakfast next morning. The day also includes traditions like friends and family waking up the couple with brass music etc.

I have learned to like socializing and throwing parties and inviting people to our house. What is not natural for me is, that at the beginning and at the end of any social event (within family or outside) you go through every guest and shake hands and say hello. I still find it uncomfortable. I try to be on time and one of the first guests (nobody to shake hands with)… As a Finn, I am always trying to be on time (or 5 minutes early), so that helps a lot. Danes are not as punctual as we Finns – bless them.

Twins and marriage

We survived the long-distance relationship period in the beginning, cultural differences and eventually got married and had kids. Well, twins. Parents of twins are more likely to get divorced than parents of singleton babies. And moms (probably dads as well, just less researched) have more mental health problems. I have to say I cannot remember the first year with the babies that well, although my husband was at home for 3 months with us. It was tough, mainly surviving day by day, but our relationship got stronger, not weaker. I stayed at home for 2 years with the girls and really enjoyed the second year.

Heading New Zealand – challenge or threat – or opportunity?

I read this article about relationships and moving abroad. I am anticipating the same kind of stress test for our relationship as the twins were. We have beaten many odds by sticking together and our family, so I am optimistic about this next step in our life and that it will bring us more positive experiences than negative. I am optimistic by nature and a risk-taker. When things get too secure and predictable in life, I get anxious. That´s why I didn´t really think twice when the opportunity to move to New Zealand was ahead of us.