‘Copenhagen offers a more healthy and happy balance’

UX designer Daniella Mancini traded out the London rat race for the more relaxed Danish capital and found both personal and professional success.

'Copenhagen offers a more healthy and happy balance'
After a chance visit to Copenhagen in May 2015, Anglo-Italian Daniella Mancini fell in love with the city and decided to escape the pressures of London and move to the Danish capital.
“I had been living in London for around eight years and I could feel myself increasingly being drawn into the rat race. The move to Copenhagen was very much driven by a desire to achieve a more healthy balance to my life. My main reason for the move was 'a pursuit for adventure and happiness', something that was noticeably lacking in our lives back in the UK,” she told The Local.
As a UX designer she set about looking for a job in the city before moving here and was lucky enough to land a position with a new creative and strategic agency called Great Works based in the Nyhavn area. She moved here in April.
Mancini is enthusiastic about her new employment and the difference in her working life here in Copenhagen versus London. 
“I feel like I can achieve so much more here in my role as a UX designer, mostly because I feel I'm in a much more risk-taking and innovative environment. Maybe that's because the digital industry isn't as established as it is in the UK, so there's still room for great agencies to shape it in a way that's not quite possible in London,” she said. 
The big pluses Mancini lists about living and working in Copenhagen probably won’t come as much of a surprise to other expats who have made the move. The trust-based and flat hierarchy in companies here is a refreshing change for many people. 
“It’s no problem if people have to come in late, or leave early for whatever reason, because there's an unspoken trust that you will just make up that time as and when you need to. It's just generally a way more relaxed and progressive work climate here,” she said. 
“Everyone’s equal, from the CEO down to junior staff or interns and that's exactly the kind of place I want to be working.”
Although Mancini finds she is still working the same 9-5 she did in London the shorter and healthy cycle commute means that she has so much more free time on her hands that she almost doesn’t know what to do with it. 
“Sometimes I get home at 5:15 and I'm almost a bit overwhelmed with how early it is, I'm just not used to it,” she said, adding that she finds the Danes very sociable so that extra time is spent enjoying new friends and the city.
There are, of course, challenges in moving to a new country no matter how positive the experience is, and for Mancini not speaking Danish at the moment is tough. 
“Though my team is quite international, the default language tends to be Danish and I sometimes feel frustrated when I can't get involved. I'm used to throwing myself into building personal relationships by being quite chatty, but I've found that more challenging here,” she said. 
“But I totally believe that it's on me to fix that. I've come to a country where the first language isn't one that I speak, I need to get cracking and just learn it,” Mancini added. “I really don't want to only have non-Danish friends. I want to fully be a part of the Danish community and I feel like that's going to be more tough whilst I don't speak the language. ”
She is also finding there are some cultural difference that she needs to adapt to. 
“I've definitely become a lot more conscious about the way I talk since I've been here. One Dane (not a colleague) asked me why I always wanted to know how he was after saying hi. He said that If you ask a Dane how they are they assume you want to know in depth detail about what's going on in their life, whereas for Brits and Americans asking how someone is is almost just an extension of saying hello,” Mancini said. 
“I then went into work the next day and – perhaps a bit awkwardly – explained to everyone that when I ask how they are I genuinely did want to know that all was well, and that I wasn't just saying hello. Things like that have forced me to reflect on my own Britishness, which has been a fun experience in itself.”

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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