‘Don’t be afraid to speak Danish’

Agata Plechan came to play floorball but became so taken with the country that she decided to stay in Denmark to get and education and pursue her professional development alongside her sport career.

'Don't be afraid to speak Danish'
Agata in a competition. Photo: Piotr Ludwichoski.
Agata Plechan came to Denmark eight years ago to play floorball. Born in Poland, Plechan was scouted by a Danish team when she played in an international competition with the Polish national team. Since then, she has switched clubs numerous times, allowing her to learn several different cities in Denmark and make friends throughout the nation. 
Why did you come to Denmark?
I came in May 2007 with the Polish national team to play the World Floorball Championship in Frederikshavn. After the tournament, the FC Outlaws club offered me a chance to stay in Frederikshavn and join their team. I wasn’t getting paid to play floorball but the club helped me get an apartment and a job. 
How did you settle here?
One season turned into another and at some point during the second season I decided to start my studies here. I wasn’t sure at first because that meant committing to stay in Denmark for at least five years but I stuck to my decision and got my Bachelor's and Master's in Development and International Relations at Aalborg University. 
Where has your floorball career taken you?
I spent four great years with CF Outlaws in Frederikshavn before switching to AaB Floorball. In the last year of my studies, I went to Brussels for two internships: one at the European Parliament and the other at the European Olympic Committees EU Office. While I was in Belgium I trained with the Tornado Brussels male team, which was a big challenge for me. I still continued to travel to Denmark for important games whenever I could.
This year I joined the club Hvidovre Attack and I’m happy to meet new people and try my skills over here in Copenhagen.

Agata with the ball during a match with Polish team. photo: Martin Flousek.
What advice would you give newcomers to Denmark?
People say that it’s difficult to make Danish friends, but my situation was special. I am around Danes all the time – at practice, games and at work. In Denmark, foreigners often tend to go out with other foreigners while Danes stick to other Danes, so it’s not always easy to mix with the locals. It helps to share an activity, like a sport, with them. 
What has been the hardest part of staying here?
Currently, it is a challenge to develop my professional career here. I feel like I could easily get a job in Brussels or Poland, but then I wouldn’t be able to enjoy the Danish lifestyle. My goal is to find a job connected to the experience I gained in Brussels. I'm currently working in the tourism industry alongside my floorball. People usually move where the work is, but I decided to stay in Copenhagen despite possibly having better options in other places.

Agata and her father at the top of highest mountain in Europe. Photo: Submitted.
How did you learn Danish?
I only speak Danish with some of my Danish friends. Learning the language is a great way to get deeper into the culture and local habits. I didn't take my first Danish course until May of this year but by then I had pretty much taught myself because I heard so much of the language. Speaking Danish helps you a lot in many ways here. Danes will always try to understand you despite your little mistakes. Don't be afraid to speak Danish!
What do you enjoy doing when you are not playing floorball?
In August 2014, I climbed Mount Elbrus in Russia, the highest mountain in Europe, along with my dad. Now I am thinking about Mount Kilimanjaro. I love mountains. This is one of the few things that I cannot do in Denmark though!

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‘We wanted to make chocolate to reflect Denmark’s seasons’

Stuart Eve moved to Denmark with his family after his wife, an archaeologist, was offered a job at Aarhus University. Nearly four years later, he is the co-founder of a fair trade chocolate business in the Scandinavian city.

'We wanted to make chocolate to reflect Denmark's seasons'
A chance meeting at their children's daycare resulted in the Ørbæk and Eve families starting their Danish business. Photo: Stuart Eve

Eve still works full time at his day job, also in archaeology. But the sweet-toothed entrepreneur told The Local that Denmark provided him with inspiration to try something out of his comfort zone – starting his own business in a foreign country.

After meeting business partner Anders Ørbæk at the daycare centre attended by their children, the two began the project, initially producing the chocolate out of their own kitchens.

“That has now moved to the renting of a professional space, so that we can scale up production and also get all the relevant food hygiene certificates and so on,” Eve said.

The archaeologist said having Danish partners had been beneficial in the course of setting up a business in the Scandinavian country, even though the process itself was straightforward.

“Actually starting the business was a matter of filling in a few forms online and showing we had 100 kroner [13 euros] in the bank. However, I think without our Danish partners, it would have been quite hard – mainly because of the technical Danish required. My Danish is pretty awful – and there are a lot of financial terms that are difficult to translate,” Eve said.

READ ALSO: Danish: Is it really so hard to learn?

“So I think for us it was essential to have Danish partners. Also, the food hygiene rules and health and safety, while similar to the UK, are quite onerous – and again very technical.

“I run my own archaeology business in the UK, so that has set me in great stead for the financial and business side,” he added.

The startup currently sources some of its supplies from Eve’s native UK – one aspect that may be complicated by Brexit, he said.

“My secret dream is that the chocolate business will enable us to beat Brexit and stay in Denmark for a lot longer — but we'll have to see how it pans out,” he said.


Packaged up and ready to go #somerferie #chokolade #beantobar #chocolate

A post shared by Ørbæk & Eve (@oerbaekandeve) on Jul 3, 2017 at 2:40pm PDT

It was not just the administrative side that Eve had to learn on the hoof for his Danish-based business, though – the process of producing the chocolate itself is also new.

“I was eating some Ritter Sport one evening and wondered to myself how chocolate was made, thinking it must be some incredibly complicated industrial process. So I checked out a few YouTube videos and it turns out you can make chocolate in a coffee grinder – it tastes awful because it is so crunchy, but it shows the process. From there it was a matter of buying a bigger grinder and starting to experiment. We have so much to learn still, but people seem to like what we are producing so far,” he said.

The chocolate produced by the startup – which is both fairtrade and organic – is heavily influenced by Denmark’s nature and seasonal variations, including a quarterly subscription service which can be signed up for via a crowdfunding campaign.

“We have been trying to find a way to really represent the beauty and abundance of the Danish countryside and combine it with something that Danes really love – chocolate,” he said.

“Strawberries from Samsø for summer, hazelnuts foraged from the woods for autumn, etc. Between us we have six kids so the family always come in and help during the production days,” he added.

A longer term aim is to consolidate the new company – named Ørbæk & Eve after its co-founders – as a well-known ‘bean to bar’ company in Aarhus.

“Our main reasons for doing this are two-fold. First, we eat a lot of chocolate and have become increasingly concerned by the human and environmental costs of industrialised chocolate production – there are new reports about destruction of rainforest for cocoa plantations and slave labour in West Africa, for example. In order to not be complicit with this, I wanted to figure out how it was made – and to do it myself.

“Second, we have really noticed the differences in the seasons since we moved to Denmark, so we wanted to make chocolate that reflected and celebrated the different qualities of the changing seasons,” he said.

Eve, Ørbæk and their partners are currently spending evenings and weekends on the chocolate production runs.

“As things pick up, I suspect I will move to one dedicated day a week, but we have four of us working on it, so we can usually juggle the time,” he said.

READ MORE: The Local's 'My Danish Career' series