The Wonderful World of Work in Denmark
This week I was lucky enough to be featured in The Local Denmark, who interviewed me about my experiences adapting to working life here.
If you missed the article, you can take a look here. It's mostly just me trying (probably unsuccessfully) not to sound like an idiot, but it was a really fun opportunity to reflect on my first few months working in this weird and wonderful place.
Quite a few people have contacted me since I started the blog to ask some practical questions about how easy it is to find work abroad and adjust to cultural differences. Since this interview got me thinking about all of those things in more detail, I thought I would do a quick FAQ for anyone who's thinking of taking a professional leap overseas.
I hope it's helpful - if there's anything I've not answered that you'd like to know then I'd love you to get in touch!
Q: How difficult is it to find a job in Denmark?
From my own personal experience of searching for work in Denmark, the hardest part is prepping your CV and cover letters, the rest seems to fall into place once you begin speaking with potential employers.
My advice would be to first prepare a set of requirements and 'non-negotiables' for your new job. Working in a new country can be a tough adjustment, so it's important to make sure your new job is one that you love. Once you've got a clear view of what you are looking for, I would then put your ambitious and sassy, confident hat on, and begin firing out your CV/portfolio/whatever it might be at all the companies you find exciting - even if they aren't advertising roles. I knew I wanted to work for a young company, so I began my search by scouring forums, shared work spaces and Danish startup news bulletins to create an initial hit list. I applied for roles that I was wildly under-qualified for, knowing that I didn't have a chance of getting the job, but those applications almost always led to a really positive conversation with a hiring manager who then recommended me to their friends and colleagues. From beginning to end it probably took me about 3 months to find a job, way less than I had planned.
It's a lot of trial and error, and there will be many times when you feel like you're almost at the finish line only to never hear from the company again. Be resilient and just keep at it. The more applications you send the more you'll perfect your own personal narrative, and that will make your applications stronger and stronger. The most important thing is to make sure you don't settle for a role "just because it's in [insert dream place]". I had moments where I almost accepted roles that I knew weren't right for me just because I so desperately wanted to get to Denmark. Eventually you'll have a ta-da! moment with the perfect company and it will all just click into place.
Q: How challenging is it to transition to Danish work culture?
From my own experience, it's been such a positive professional experience to adapt to working in Denmark. It reinvigorated and re-energised me, and gave me the boost I needed to engage in my career in a way that I'd felt unable to do in my previous routine. It's challenging at times, of course, but if you wait for a job at the company that is just right for you, then you'll experience all kinds of fantastic counterbalances to those challenges, namely the flat heirarchy and the overwhelming culture of trust.
My advice here would be to stay patient in the first few weeks and months. If you're anything like me you'll feel impatient to be a fully functioning, fluent Danish speaking wonder-worker. It takes time (especially the language bit), so just resist the pressure to give yourself a hard time for not getting there quickly enough.
Q: I want to move to Denmark but I'm worried about the tax rates being so high, has it affected you?
Yes tax rates are super high in Denmark, but salaries tend to be proportionally much higher too, so I really wouldn't let that put you off. You can earn a decent living here even doing jobs that I am used to being quite underpaid, like bar work, for example. You also have to factor in the money saved from other things that overall help to balance out your net income each month. To name just a few: transport is super cheap (or free if you cycle!), you will have lunch provided by work at a very low cost (around £2 a day), and services like mobile/internet/tv are much, much cheaper here. Overall, I've not at all been negatively affected by the tax rates out here. I was very worried about it before we arrived, but on balance it all evens out to leave me better off than I was in the UK.
Q: I've been offered a job but I don't understand how much I'll get paid after tax. What advice do you have?
No-one understands what they'll get paid after tax, so fear not, you're not alone! The truth is, until you get your first pay check, you'll struggle to get a definitive figure on how much you'll take home each month, but there are a few handy guides you can use to get a close estimate. This website has some sample salaries and breaks down the tax for each. This is by far the most digestible guide I found before moving out here! There are also tax calculators but these are all in Danish, however if you have a Danish speaker on hand to help then you can use this website to get a more accurate figure (though it's currently set at 2015 levels). When you do get your first month's payslip, you're going to need either a PhD, or this guide from the Danish tax authority, to help you figure it out. When you arrive in Denmark, you'll need to get yourself set up with a Tax Card, you can find out more about how to do that here.
Q: How much holiday do you get in Denmark?
Statutory holiday pay in Denmark is 5 weeks BUT...and it's a big but, you only get paid holiday based on what you worked in the previous year. So in your first 12 months in Denmark (depending on when you arrive), you won't be paid for the holiday that you take. Yes, it sucks. No, there's no positive spin that I can think to put on it. On a more practical note, if you leave Denmark, you will need to notify the authorities so that you are reimbursed for any accrued holiday time that you didn't take.
Q: Any regrets?
Nope. Not one. Cliché as it sounds, my only regret is not having come sooner. If you're thinking of moving over to Denmark for work, I couldn't encourage you strongly enough to JUST.DO.IT.