‘Working in Denmark has allowed me to enjoy my time with my family’

In the latest edition of My Danish Career, The Local spoke with Australia native Tim Farrell, who said one of the best things about working in Denmark is the sense of teamwork among his Danish colleagues.

'Working in Denmark has allowed me to enjoy my time with my family'
Farrell is returning to Australia soon but said his time in Copenhagen has been good for his family. Photo: Gemma Farrell
Tim Farrell moved to Copenhagen from Canberra, Australia in June 2014 with his wife and young family. He is a Senior Advisor at the Copenhagen Centre on Energy Efficiency based in the UN City Building in Nordhavn. The Copenhagen Centre also serves as the Energy Efficiency Hub for the Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL) initiative. 
Farrell will be returning to his home country this summer so The Local asked him to reflect his time working and living in Denmark on the eve of his return to a more familiar environment.
“I have enjoyed the more flexible work hours in Denmark, where working overtime and not spending time with your family is not considered being successful. The whole ethos towards work life balance has meant that I have been able to enjoy my time with my family here whilst still building my career and undertaking interesting, challenging work which has a high impact and is very rewarding,” he said. 
“I have been very fortunate to be able to travel abroad and have visited many interesting countries through my work. Part of my job here over the past two years has been my role as Chair of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe’s (UNECE) Group of Experts on Energy Efficiency focusing on promoting energy efficiency in its 56 member States.”
Farrell is contributing to SEforALL's ambitious target of doubling the global rate of energy efficiency improvement by 2030 by identifying and promoting best policy practices globally, developing a knowledge platform and facilitating global collaborations.
“I find the Danish workplace to be one in which I  am valued and appreciated for my work, but it is also refreshingly non-competitive with a real feeling of teamwork. People are generally more humble in their work and achievements here,” he said. 
Farrell and his family have enjoyed many of the benefits of living in Denmark, including affordable child care, but the relatively high cost of living has meant that staying in Copenhagen for the long haul on one main salary is not a viable option. In addition, the Australian finds the long, dark Danish winters quite a challenge.
“Despite the supportive expat environment, there is a downside of living so far from family and friends, particularly when you have a young family. We miss the support of close family,” Farrell said. 
“I also feel slightly removed from the Danish experience as I work in a very international environment. Having said that, when I started working here few people could understand what I said due to my strong Australian accent! The language is a huge hurdle. Not speaking Danish means I can’t read newspapers or listen to local news, so in that sense I am sure I do miss out on a lot.
Farrell said that after nearly three years in Denmark he still doesn’t “feel fully immersed in local life and community”.
“I find my colleagues very sociable and like anywhere it takes a while to meet a circle of friends, but making an effort means it is rewarding in the long term,” he said. 
“I have noticed that many expats relocate to Copenhagen and their partners come with ambitions to work but in reality many struggle to find it. Some forge their own way and start small businesses but that also takes time to build a network. My wife, Gemma, works as a freelance photographer here and has been building her business over time. The benefits of affordable daycare for our youngest and the after-school activities for our eldest have made it possible for her to build her successful career,” he added. 
As Farrrell enters the final stretch of his time in Copenhagen he said it’s the friendships he’s made here that he’ll miss the most. 
“It will be sad to say goodbye but I am sure our paths will cross again and I am hoping we will have a few visitors to Australia. I’m looking forward to seeing my family and friends again in Oz, and immersing myself in my local community again.”

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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