'Denmark's Jantelov is similar to what we call 'tall poppy syndrome''

Michael Barrett
Michael Barrett - [email protected]
'Denmark's Jantelov is similar to what we call 'tall poppy syndrome''
Drew Fisher moved to Denmark from Australia in 2015. Photo: supplied

In the first of our Q&A series profiling The Local’s readers in Denmark, we spoke to Drew Fisher, an Australian operations developer who works for Danish jewellery manufacturer Pandora.


Fisher moved to Denmark for work in early 2015 and was granted a work permit shortly afterwards. The 31-year-old, who grew up in Sydney, had not previously lived abroad, with the exception of a short spell in Poland. He lives in Copenhagen.

Why did you move to Denmark?

“I had worked for Pandora in Australia since 2008. In 2014, I decided to move on to a new challenge, so went to resign. I then sent an email to colleagues in Denmark I had worked with to say goodbye. A week later, I got a call from a director over here asking me to join his team and move here. I accepted the job within a day.

“I’d been here once or twice before for personal travel and work. I didn’t really think much about ‘well, this would be a nice place to live’ or anything, so it was rather a chance thing that I was later asked to come and move here.

“Europe in general had always been a place where I wanted to live, and I knew from the Danish people I’d worked with that the sense of humour and the way they were was something I related to.”

Danish humour can be notoriously difficult to appreciate, though.

“It’s similar to the kind of sarcastic humour you would get in Australia. And also sometimes that kind of belittling humour. ‘Jantelov’ is very similar to what we would call ‘tall poppy syndrome’. It a very Australian thing that when someone is getting a bit above their station, it’s kind of a cultural thing to cut them back down again. That’s similar to Jantelov.”

How does working culture in Denmark and Australia compare?

“I can see a lot of differences, particularly the work-life balance here, it’s a lot better. There seems to be a lot more flexibility around your life, your employer understands that you have a life and that sometimes you might need to come in late or leave early.”

How do you get on with your Danish colleagues?

“I think the main difference, something that I often hear international people say, is that some Danes do keep their personal lives personal. There are times when I’ll have colleagues that I get on really well with and I would even call them friends, but I’ve never once hung out with them outside of work. It’s only at work social functions that you’ll have any social aspect.

“If you ask (Danish colleagues) out to the pub on a Friday night, they’ll say, ‘no, I’ve got to go home’.”

READ ALSO: The dos and don'ts of Danish business etiquette

What is the biggest obstacle you have faced while living in Denmark?

“The language is a huge obstacle when it comes to paperwork. In Australia I always made sure to know my rental rights, read through contracts thoroughly and so on. Here, I often feel powerless when I need to ask my boyfriend or a friend just to help me do something that I could easily do, if I knew the language.

"Also, not knowing the things most people just know. For example, I might want to buy something and in Australia I would know exactly what store to go to, here I might have no idea. Or I don't know there is a public holiday... very minor things, but if you're a little vulnerable, they can really ruin your day.”

Is Copenhagen a good place to be in a same-sex relationship?

“In Australia it’s pretty liberal and (same-sex relationships are) accepted, but in Australia marriage equality was only achieved last year, so that’s one huge difference. Coming here, even just mentally, I felt more accepted. I’ve never spoken to a Dane who, when I’ve mentioned that I have a boyfriend, has even batted an eyelid. The conversation just keeps flowing.

“I grew up in a suburban area of Sydney and Australia has a very masculine culture in a lot of respects, so it is often something you feel you have to hide away. I’ve never felt like I’ve had to do that here.”

How long do you want to stay?

“Currently my permits are valid until next year. I very much expect and hope they will be extended. I would love to stay here in Denmark, and have no plans to leave. I also suspect my boyfriend would prefer I stick around.”

Describe one way in which you think Denmark has changed you.

“My quality of life is better. I cycle everywhere, I go to the gym, I run; I have a very flexible employer who provides a good work-life balance. In general, I feel happier, healthier and like life is better.”

READ ALSO: OPINION: A foreigner's attitude hacks for transitioning to life in Denmark

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