What’s your job and what do you do during a typical day at work?
I work at the Museum of Copenhagen as an archaeologist responsible for excavation at Rådhuspladsen. A typical day depends on whether I’m in the museum or on site. In the museum I’ll be sitting at my desk, dealing with various things to do with the archaeological excavation that took place at Rådhuspladsen (2011-2012), most importantly writing the report on that dig. On site, I currently work on a site on Nørregade, where new district heating pipes are being laid. We watch the contractors dig the trench, and if archaeology is encountered, it’s our job to document it before it is removed and to collect samples or artefacts as appropriate.
How long have you worked for the Museum of Copenhagen?
I have worked here now for just over five years.
What brought you to Denmark?
Back in 2009 I heard about the Metro Cityring project from a Swedish friend and former colleague, and he suggested I apply for this big upcoming archaeological project. I was offered a six-month contract that December.
What’s the best thing about working in Denmark?
Work conditions are good here; the hours are reasonable, good holidays, not too much pressure overall.
What’s something about Denmark that would surprise someone who hasn’t worked here?
The most surprising feature of working in Denmark is the importance of cake in a myriad of situations. Never underestimate the power of cake!
What makes you proud about your job and your workplace?
I’m proud when we achieve a good result. I’m proud of the work we did during the excavation at Rådhuspladsen in particular. It can always be better, but we got most things right.
It’s often said that the working environment in Denmark is relatively informal and relaxed. Is this the case at your workplace?
My workplace is probably similar to most here, in that it is quite informal in many ways. I’m sure that it’s just a surface difference (compared to at home), but it is nice. No-one ever wears a suit to work here, which is also nice.
What are the most striking differences between Denmark and your home country?
The boundary between a stranger and a friend is more blurred in Ireland. You greet your neighbours and end up chatting to people you don’t know more often than here. Ireland functions on a more informal social basis, while Denmark operates more according to the rules of society – a sense of social responsibility is strong here, but is also needed to replace the friendliness that allows chaotic Ireland to function!
Are you aware of any stereotypes about Denmark and the Danes? How do these compare with reality?
Stereotypes – Danes should be tall and serious and athletic, like Peter Schmeichel! Also good looking, like Helena Christensen. It’s mostly true!
Is there anything you miss about living and working in your home country?
I miss my hometown Killarney, and the scenery – the mountains, lakes and so on. And friends and family of course. I don’t miss working there that much, though I do feel a bit out of the loop at this stage.
Did you feel that it was easy as an expat to come to work in Denmark?
When I arrived in 2010, it was quite difficult to get set up: a lot of indecipherable red tape, and unfortunately quite a few unhelpful people initially. The phrase ‘if you don’t have a CPR number…’ was very familiar for a while. But from what I hear, things are more streamlined now, and it has become easier. It is also quite expensive to get set up, and finding an apartment is still a challenge.
Are you involved in any clubs or societies outside of work?
I’m involved in two clubs in Denmark. I’ve been involved with Copenhagen GAA (Gaelic football club) since I got here, and it was very important in helping to find a community at the start – people who understood what you were experiencing in settling in. Plus, training with the club you feel like you are at home! We travel a fair bit too, which is great, from Budapest to Guernsey, Tallinn to Oslo, and those tournament weekends are great fun!
I also joined a rowing club in Copenhagen last year, KVIK, and that’s a really great way to get out of the city a few times a week. Sit in a boat, and row away up the coast past Hellerup, Vedbaek and so on – what could be better! It’s a long way from the Killarney lakes, but just as good a location to forget about the day-to-day issues that clutter the mind!