Dimitris, Psychiatrist from Greece working in Denmark

DIMITRIS and Martina came to Frederikshavn in early March 2014. They brought with them their 6 months old son, Marius. Dimitris is a trained psychiatrist and at first he worked for a few months in the psychiatric clinic in Frederikshavn, then on September 1 he began work in psychiatric out-patient care. The first few months in Denmark, the couple lived in an apartment that the psychiatry service had arranged for them. After 6 months they found a new apartment themselves.”

About the first contact with Medicarrera

Dimitris says, “I remember it was at a job fair in Greece. Actually, it was not because of MediCarrera that I was there, but because of another recruitment organisation that I had heard about. But I remember that I was contacted by a representative from MediCarrera, and that we exchanged contact information. Later, after the fair, I was approached by MediCarrera, because he thought he might have an interesting offer for me in Northern Jutland. Thus the whole process started”.

The choice was clear: We wanted to go to Denmark

“I was really excited, and maybe a little nervous. I had always wanted to go to Denmark. I remember that I had previously been to another job fair, and I had spoken with representatives from Norway, Sweden and Denmark, but for one reason or another, I was convinced that Denmark was the right choice for both me and my family. Denmark was where I saw most clearly that I could get a good balance between work and private life, with a working week of 37 hours. In fact I am also a trained set designer, and have always been very interested in movies. Therefore, I also had a special interest in Danish film, and this may have subconsciously affected my choice.”

It was all relatively rapid

“After the first contact with MediCarrera, the entire recruitment process started. First I had an interview in English, because MediCarrera wanted to check my English level, and then I had to fill out various forms and also information regarding my partner and, finally, my CV and my references were checked. All this went fairly quickly though and before long I was invited to Madrid for a first interview with some section chiefs from the North Jutland hospital. Just three weeks later, I was invited to Denmark to my second interview and to see the region I was to work in, if everything went according to plan.”

Dimitris recalls that the interview trip to Denmark went well. He was in Aalborg for 5 days, which meant that he had plenty of time to see the surrounding area. “The interview trip was a great combination of work related activities, where I received a lot of information, but still had time for doing some tourism. I went alone, as this was when my wife was pregnant with our first child,” says Dimitris.

After the interview trip, Dimitris received an offer for employment in the psychiatry service in North Jutland. He recalls that it was not an easy decision to make. “For my wife, it was an especially big decision because we were not talking about just one big change in our lives, but two, as we were both moving to a new country and we were also going to have our first child.” “It was not an easy decision,” Dimitris remembers, “but Martina, my wife, trusted in me.”

“The interview trip was a great combination of work related activities, where I received a lot of information, but still had time for doing some tourism.”

About MediCarreras Danish training

“First, I had to go through the e-learning course, where I studied at home in Greece and had very little contact with my Danish teacher. It was OK, but I think that sometimes I focused on the wrong things. Things that weren’t so important. I thought, for example, that the pronunciation and listening exercises were very difficult, and I spent a lot of time listening, trying to catch what they were saying. It was very difficult to hear if they said one word, two words or maybe even three words. Later, during the intensive course, I found out that the Danes ‘eat’ many word endings, and that makes it very difficult.”

Intensive Course

Dimitris attended the first month of the intensive course via Skype from Greece, because his wife had just given birth to their son when the course began. It was hard to start the intensive Danish course having recently become a father. But he is happy that MediCarrera was flexible and allowed him to stay at home with the family during the first month. Subsequently, he went to Madrid alone, where he followed the intensive course. He had just a short break around Christmas, when he was at home with the family.

“The intensive course was incredibly efficient and very hard. We studied a lot. We had five hours of lessons a day, and afterwards we had to do homework for 2-3 hours a day… And we also watched many Danish movies, so it really was many hours with Danish every day. But it worked! It is absolutely essential to speak Danish at all times, also during the breaks. And we were in complete agreement on the team. We only spoke Danish, although it felt a little strange at first, but it quickly became natural”, explains Dimitris. “I remember that in Denmark, one of the first days, there was one of my new colleagues who spoke to me in English and I had to explain to him that he should not. It is very important to remember, also in Denmark, that the language to be spoken is Danish. Otherwise you will not continue being better,” says Dimitris.

We ask him: “Your wife didn’t attend MediCarrera’s language training because she was pregnant with your first child. Has she now started studying Danish?” “No, she has not yet started her Danish training,” Dimitris answers. “When we came to Denmark MediCarrera offered Martina a shorter Skype course to begin with, so she could get started on her Danish training, but she said no. She had seen how hard I had struggled with the lessons on Skype, so she did not want to go through the same thing. But she has just received a letter from the municipality, and will probably soon start her Danish classes,” Dimitris tells us.

About understanding the Danes when they talk

Spoken Danish is, according to Dimitris, clearly the most difficult part, especially if there is a little dialect involved. As Dimitris is working in North Jutland, where people speak with a strong local accent, he many times has to ask them to repeat or speak more slowly. “At work I have to do dictation in Danish. I have a medical secretary, and she understands well what I say, so that is fine. We have agreed that she should always correct me, but when we are busy it is not always possible.”

About beginning the new job

“In the department we are two psychiatrists. I have a contact person and she helps me when I have questions regarding professional issues. Prior to starting this job, I didn’t have any specific expectations. The goal is that I will end up working in district psychiatry, and that suits me better. In the beginning I felt that there are many differences between psychiatry in Denmark and Greece. It was a little bit hard and I am still getting used to it. I started very early to have duties where I was on call and to have my own patients. I was really well prepared linguistically, and I’ve actually gotten much praise for my Danish.”

It’s easy to be spoiled

We ask him: “What about the balance between work and private life, which was one of the main reasons why you chose Denmark. Did you find it?” Dimitris laughs: “No, not yet. But I haven’t given up hope!”

About moving to Denmark and the first time in the ‘new’ country

Dimitris remembers that the first few weeks in Denmark were tough, although everything had been pre-arranged by MediCarrera. He was free of work for the first 10 days in Denmark, since the introduction programme didn’t start until a little later, as there were more doctors from other countries coming to the region. This meant that he and Martina had plenty of time to get used to the new place, to go for walks in the area and to organise practical things. “The arrival in Denmark was tough and it took time to get settled”, says Dimitris. “Although the staff at MediCarrera was very helpful in organising our move, there were still many new things and challenges during the first month.” For example, there was a sudden problem with the apartment we had been offered by the psychiatry department, and we ended up staying in a hotel the first 2 weeks.

“I contracted mobile phone service myself, not because my contact wouldn’t help me, but because I wanted to do it myself. In fact… You can get spoiled, and I think that you should be a little careful in this regard. Actually it is very satisfying to solve some of these tasks on your own in the new country and in the new language,” says Dimitris. “It is important for your self-confidence and your faith that you will be able to succeed in this adventure. It’s a delicate balance: How much help do you need and when should you try to handle things on your own?”

About the Danish humour

“I can understand Danish humour when I talk to only one person. So I think in situations one to one it is OK but when the Danes talk amongst themselves and make inside jokes it is very hard to follow,” Dimitris comments.

The biggest surprise

When asked what has been the biggest surprise, Dimitris explains that he was most surprised by how good the working environment is in Denmark. All the colleagues are extremely friendly and happy to help if they can, and there is a good atmosphere at the meetings. “There is always someone who brings tea and coffee. Generally, there is a good balance between professionalism and a friendly working environment.”

Do you have any advice for others who are considering going the same way?

“My best advice to others is that they really should try to think it all through as well as possible. The new work situation, the salary… Which area do they want to live in? Is it near the airport? Is it easy to come home to visit and for the family to visit you? Which department would you like to work in? Should it be a big or a small town? And so forth. And they should always make sure to translate all vital documents into English and also bring the originals. It might not always be necessary, but it is much better to have one document too many than one document missing. And if they are not sure, they can always ask the staff at MediCarrera.”

A ‘solstrålehistorie’ – A sunshine story

We ask him: “This all sounds very positive. Haven’t you had any negative experiences after you came to Denmark?” “No, not that I can think of… It has generally been very positive”, says Dimitris. “So your story is a real ‘solstrålehistorie’?” we ask. “A what?” asks Dimitris. “A ‘solstrålehistorie’, we explain, “is a success story from real life. When something is a ‘solstrålehistorie’ it means that in spite of all the trouble and hardship, the ending is happy and positive.” There are still many new words and expressions which Dimitris must learn, although he speaks very good, effortless Danish. Our conversation lasted nearly an hour, and you would not believe that a year back Dimitris could not speak a word of Danish.