Stephanie Lambert says she's had a hard time adjusting to 'only' working 40 hours per week. Photo: Submitted
“As a primary school teacher in the UK I was working a 60 hour week, with a to-do list that was never ending. I spent many sleepless nights worrying about whether certain children would reach their targets, irrelevant of whatever maybe happening in their lives outside of school,” she said.
“We could not afford the time to take a holistic view of the child, they needed to reach their ‘age related expectation’ and pass the exams so that we could prove we were doing our jobs well,” she continued. “We could teach only the core subjects (maths, reading and writing) but as long as the children passed then the council would be happy.”
Since starting her job in Copenhagen, Lambert says she has noticed a huge difference in the model of teaching and the approach to children here.
“Working within a kommune [municipality-run, ed.] school in Copenhagen, the focus is completely different. To start with, the recent government reforms in education mean that I can legally only work a 40 hour week. This has taken a lot of getting used to for the expat teachers in our school, with many of us finding it difficult to close down the computer and go home after just eight hours,” she said.
Lamberts using some of her newfound free time to make friends with a royal guard. Photo: Submitted
“The Danish education system, alongside the European Curriculum, is not at all prescriptive. This leaves the teachers able to plan topics that interest the children and are at an appropriate level for the class that you teach.The education and child care systems in Denmark are hugely child-centred and this leads to well-rounded and enthusiastic children,” Lambert enthused.
Another thing that came as a surprise to Lambert, given Denmark’s reputation as an expensive place to live, was how affordable it actually is to live in Copenhagen.
“I find that the cost of living here is so much more affordable than life in England. The wages are higher, even after taxes, and the cost of renting or buying is far cheaper than where I am from. The public transport is also less expensive and more reliable - even though the Danes say otherwise,” she joked.
Although she comes from a similarly rainy country, Lambert says she has had to make some weather-related adjustments to her life (and wardrobe), but she doesn’t mind.
“I actually enjoy being outside in all weathers; back in the UK I would just hop in the car, turn up the heater and never need to spend time outside in the rain or occasional snow. Here I love that no matter the weather; you chuck on your waterproofs and head outside without worrying about getting strange looks for your attire.”
But of course there are some downsides to living in Denmark. One that concerns Lambert is the concept of hygge
and its connection with the consumption of cake.
“Hygge seems to require cake, even at work, which involves me trying to implement my already weak self-control. You would think that all cycling would counteract all cake but as a notoriously clumsy person cycling will never be my forte. Although I am trying to embrace both cycling and self-control, I think it will be a long uphill battle.”
On a serious note, Lambert, like many expats, struggled with the housing situation. When she moved to Denmark the only rental she could find for a tenancy longer than two months was a small apartment far out in a Copenhagen suburb south of the city.
After six months there, she and her boyfriend were told they would have to move out.
“That should be plenty of time to find somewhere to live, unless you are in Copenhagen. Faced with the prospect of moving every few months we took the plunge and bought a flat, one of the only ways to ensure consistent housing in Copenhagen.”
Finally, what are the benefits of living here for Lambert?
“The work life balance here is amazing, after work I still have time to go out and socialise, attend Danish classes and even read a book.”