How to feel connected when you relocate

My name is Chang Fei, and I come from Ipoh, a small city in Malaysia. I left my previous life behind in Singapore, and I am now embarking on a new journey in the Nordic world. In my free time, I enjoy video games and movies, and I recently picked up a new hobby: Taking a brisk walk in the cool weather of Denmark.
Man standing in green field with sun out

One day in September 2020, I got a call from my current manager that would change my life forever. He told me that I had passed my interview and, in the next few months, I’d be preparing my relocation from Singapore to Billund, Denmark, where the LEGO Group’s headquarters are located. In addition to relocating, I was being promoted from Jr. Mould Designer to Mould Designer.

After graduating from university seven years ago, I had made a similar move: From Malaysia to Singapore. However, it was not too different as compared to this new relocation. I was easily adapted to Singapore because my home country Malaysia and Singapore shared similarities in terms of historical background and culture. The biggest difference for me was just that in Singapore I lived in a much bigger city. Fun fact: Singapore and Malaysia were once one country for three years until Singapore separated from Malaysia in 1965 to become an independent and sovereign state.

But this new relocation came as big news to me, and it was both exciting and scary at the same time. Having to leave my familiar place, people, food, and weather to venture out into the other side of the world… How was that going to be?

#LETSCONNECT

As the big moving day approached, I stumbled upon an interesting initiative on the LEGO® intranet. It was a Diversity & Inclusion initiative to enable informal conversations between two LEGO colleagues, called #LETSCONNECT. I didn’t know anyone in Billund except a few colleagues I had worked with, so I thought it’d be a good platform for me to know someone in the city and from a different functional group. So, I set forth again into the unknown but thrilled because I didn’t know who I would be connected to.

It was a match!

I was matched with Patricia Lima, a Brazilian based in Denmark who works in the LEGO Friends marketing team. We soon had our first online meet-up. I told her about my relocation, and she got excited about it. Listening to her experience as a foreigner was quite interesting, as she has been living in Denmark for the past eight years.

She told me that, in the beginning, she had a hard time adapting to Denmark. Coming from a tropical country and a vibrant culture, when the Danish winter approaches, she needs to “dial down” her Brazilian instinct and embrace hygge – a Danish word for creating a cosy atmosphere that helps cope with the dark and gloomy season. I got curious about what hygge was all about.

Patricia said she learnt one thing when practising hygge: Life is not always about chasing something outside; happiness often happens when we enjoy the present moment. I guess this is one reason why Denmark constantly tops the rank of the happiest countries in the world.

Meeting Patricia in person

After final preparation, farewell with my Singapore colleagues, friends, family, and an 18-hour flight, I started my new life in the Viking land. It meant Patricia and I were finally able to meet each other in person. Patricia and her Danish husband Stefan received me in their home. They were very friendly and recommended me to try æbleskiver and rugbrød & pålæg. It was simple yet quite fulfilling food.

During the dinner, Patricia told me that she finds the Danish language quite challenging. Although grammatically not too difficult, the hard part is the pronunciation, and it sounds different from the written word. She described it as having a potato in the throat when speaking. Now that I’ve started Danish lessons, I’m also in the same struggle with pronunciation. Not to mention the Danish number system – they pronounce the units before the tens! For example, they’d write 32 but pronounce it two-and-thirty.

Man and woman in wood with white dog

The challenge and inspiration

I have just completed my seventh month in Denmark, and I’m confident that it was worth it to embark on this adventure.

Although it was not the best period for relocation due to challenges posed by the pandemic – and despite some cultural shock at the beginning – people around me, my new colleagues and my friends helped made this journey smoother.

My main takeaway so far is, whether you’re relocating or connecting with new people, be open and curious about it. It may bring great adventures and positive surprises into your life.