The big decision
Barbara is a Hungarian radiologist, who moved to Denmark through Medicolink, together with her family in 2014. She hadn’t thought about moving abroad permanently, until she realised that she didn’t have any time for her family or recreation. As she puts it: I loved my job, but I also thought that the healthcare situation in my home country was in bad state, but that this could be improved upon over time and through our efforts – but when she realised that the stress and work overload at her work place was going to influence her family life permanently, and that this wasn’t going to change, she decided to change her life radically.
The family decided to find a job in Scandinavia because of the extended social network, and because they could see that the Scandinavian countries are much better at considering the needs of the entire family when offering someone a job. However, they also found that they would not have enough energy and knowledge on the topic to arrange the process and to take care of the family through this process at the same time, and they found that their chances of succeeding in moving to Scandinavia would be better with official and expert help. During the language learning process, she was also occasionally worried and felt the pressure of having been responsible for turning her family’s life upside-down by making the decision to move abroad. But after having successfully completed her language exam and begun her job at the Danish hospital, her worries slowly faded away. Medicolink helped me a lot until we were relocated, also in terms of arranging the paperwork – we could definitely feel that there was a model, and if we followed it, everything would be fine.
So how is Denmark?
Naturally, Barbara was met with both positive and negative surprises when she and her family arrived in Denmark, and there are many cultural differences between Denmark and Hungary:
Danes are usually friendly, but are much slower at opening up to other people than Hungarians are. This means, that you will be invited to their homes at a much later stage than we do at home, but after a while they consider you a good friend and socialize a lot. As I see it, it takes time for them to decide whether they want to invite you or not, but afterwards they have no prejudice or second thoughts about you.
They take the emancipation of women very literally and consider it natural. For example, I showed them pictures from Easter, when the boys splash water on the girls in Hungary, and sometimes the girls get a bucket of cold water over their head. They were all smiling and said that it was a fun way to tease girls, but also asked: how do the girls tease the boys? And only then it occurred to me that yes, we have a much stronger tradition for teasing girls than for teasing boys.
Danes are not so flexible and rather bureaucratic. They follow the rules carefully. This can feel a bit rigid sometimes, but life is more predictable that way. Some people say that it’s boring, but I’m glad that my environment is calculable – then I can spend my time and energy on other things if I want to.
Working in Denmark as a radiologist
The work culture is completely different – the Danish colleagues take their tasks and responsibilities very seriously and they know their protocols well, which saves them a lot of energy. At home we are forced to find alternatives or loopholes many times to solve the problem, which is not necessary here. At first, there were some misunderstandings between Barbara and her new colleagues because of the different protocols and workflow. But the radiographers and her colleagues helped her and explained the local practice and now they can work together without any major conflicts. She is also allowed to take out 1-2 hours off from work every week in order to visit a private teacher and perfect her Danish skills. She has the opportunity to improve professionally as well, such as attending congresses or trainings, and after 7 months she has been promoted to a consultant – which, as others have said, usually doesn’t happen till you’ve worked 1-2 years as a staff specialist.
Barbara’s partner, Sándor is a software engineer, and he was also able to find a job within his field of expertise 1,5 months after he had been officially registered in Denmark. He already spoke basic Danish, but he and his colleagues agreed that they would speak English for the first 3 months and then switch to Danish.
The kids are all right
In the beginning the children were finding it very difficult, as they could not speak any of the languages spoken in Denmark. But after three months they started to communicate and they became rather relaxed because of the openness here, and they have started to feel that making a mistake is not the end of the world, but rather that it is normal in a learning process, so they should not have to be afraid of it. Bullying is rather rare here, and it is not typical to form cliques. The school is also much more practical and interesting. At first, I was a bit sceptical, because I attended a more strict school, and thought it was good and necessary, but here I have realized how stressed my children were at the school at home. Teaching is practice-oriented and they prefer students to collaborate on projects in groups. They present their projects to each other a lot in school, so they can give a “speech” about their opinion in front of a lot of people, independently of their education level or age. They convey and teach a lot of knowledge in the final years of school, in the first years of teaching, they encourage students to use “common-sense” and speak about everything in an appropriate way, and without taboos.
Of course my children miss their family and their friends at home, but both girls have already stated that they feel very comfortable in Denmark and that they wouldn’t mind if we never go back to Hungary.
The first 2-3 months were very tiring and difficult, but the family was prepared for this and we are over the initial hardships. For years I hadn’t been able to just sit down or catch up with myself. I got my freedom and private life back, I have time to my family, to read and even to have hobbies. – as Barbara summarizes.
You should have realistic and rational goals. You shouldn’t be surprised or disappointed if during the first year you feel that you have suddenly lost 20 IQ points… After a year it will only feel like 10 points and this will continue to improve.
So as always, it is important to know what you really need, for example – as a mother of two children – I needed more free time, a cosy and safe atmosphere and good work environment, so this little and friendly town is perfect for us (Barbara lives in Holbæk). We can visit Copenhagen anytime in our free time, but have calm every days. But if you prefer a more diverse and attractive cultural and social life and big challenges every day, you should try to find a position in a big city or at a university hospital. Medicolink has the professional knowledge to help you with this.
You constantly have to practice being more patient with yourself. There is no rush with anything – nothing will be decided irreversibly during the first 6 months or first year. Take care of your family’s wellbeing – everyone experiences different challenges and have different skills.
And language, language, language… the sooner you can speak Danish fluently and understandably, the fewer problems you will have.
And last but not least: Good luck for you all!
Are you interested in your opportunities as a doctor in Denmark?