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New beginnings

Aarhus and Eastern Jutland is home to many internationally-minded companies and organisations that all contribute to the internationalisation of this area. This month International Community advises internationals arriving in the darkest and coldest months of the year.

Photographs: Unsplash

Text: International Community

In striking contrast to December, January and February lack the holiday cosiness, lights and social gatherings. So what do you do when arriving in Denmark in the darkest and coldest months of the year? I turned to Helle Fjord from Slater Consult to pick her brain on ensuring the best possible arrival, avoiding being sucked into the gloom of the winter months.

Before arrival

Helle Fjord explains that a positive experience starts at home before moving to Denmark. "When moving to a new country - or geographical area in general - establishing a network is hard work in general, regardless of climate. I recommend any newcomer to Denmark to become familiar with their own behaviour, routines, preferences and activities during winter in their home country BEFORE moving to Denmark. I suggest you make up a wishlist BEFORE moving to Denmark. What kind of activities, sports and spare time engagements will be important for you to maintain/uphold/start pursuing or let go of?"

Build a social network

Upon arrival, you will want to establish a social network. Helle Fjord points out that many feel that Danes become more anti-social and even hostile during winter. However, this is not the case. "During the dark months in Denmark, many Danes pursue indoor sports and different association activities, attending evening or weekend courses, lectures on different topics, concerts/ music arrangements, learning various sorts of crafts. Some become more "homely" with creative activities such as knitting, drawing, slow cooking, etc. Visiting friends and family, spending more time on cooking and invitations for dinner and

board games is also an appreciated spare time activity."

Being an avid advocate for the Danish clubs and associations myself, I agree that this is THE way to build that life-saving social network. I also want to emphasise that Denmark is a Facebook country, where you can find a lot of communities based on cultural background, language, sports, general interests etc. Helle Fjord continues: "My advice is to be curious with your own behaviour and desires as well as the social life around you. Ask your colleagues about what they do during wintertime, what is going on week by week socially where you live, and how you can start a new hobby that you've really wanted to try out. Get out there and seek new ways of doing things, given the opportunity that you are now in a new place where nobody knows you."

“All in all, it is important not to presume what your new colleague may want and need. Ask curious questions and pay attention to the answers.” - Helle Fjord, Slater Consult

Advice to companies

"For the sake of year-end closure and avoidance of split taxation as well as for emotional reasons, I recommend hiring companies not hire anybody from abroad with a start date in December. Wait until January." Helle Fjord says, and she continues: "This will give the new colleague a chance to celebrate the seasonal holiday in their home country and start the new job as when new year sets in. Don't be fussy with starting date. It is important that your international colleague gets a good start and has had the opportunity to be with family and friends with peace of heart - as well as foreseeing non-hectic travel towards a new beginning."

In-house support is crucial to ensure the best possible start. Helle Fjord recommends host companies appoint a "buddy" that can be available to answer more specific and personal questions from the international colleague if and when they arise. Helle emphasises: "This buddy should be a neutral and impartial person with a duty of confidentiality that the international colleague can rely on for clarification of questions that may not feel comfortable enough for the new colleague to address with host manager or HR." She also recommends appointing a mentor: "In parallel, it may also be a great support to appoint a mentor for the international colleague. This person will have a more work-related role to the new colleague to introduce the team spirit, meeting culture, lines of referral, organisational structure, different policies and becoming familiar in general with the what, how, who and when."

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