Adapting to Danish culture has not always been easy, but for this French family, life in Sønderborg has nevertheless led to greater well-being and a better work-life balance. Today, they would think long and hard if they were offered the chance to move their home and career away from Sønderborg.
Jean-Patrick Perruchot, 39, began his early career in the automotive industry in Nevers in the Burgundy region, where his partner Hélène Trinquet is also from. A trained engineer from the industrial sector, his career took off in 2019 when he was offered the position of Division Quality Director at Danfoss in Lyon. Today, he has brought his sense of quality assurance to Nordborg, where he has been working in the role of Climate Segment Quality & Safety Senior Director since November 2022. His main job is to ensure that the different stages of the product’s life cycle always take the customer into account. This is achieved by ensuring the right working conditions for colleagues so that Danfoss remains a safe and pleasant place to work.
“I have really noticed the difference between working for a Danish company and a French one. The Danish values were even evident in my position at Danfoss in Lyon, where, most importantly, the organisational structure was flatter than what I was previously used to. Everyone is heard and everyone is encouraged to have their say. I would also say that I myself have become a more peaceful person, both in my personal life and in my job as a manager, but I’ll let others be the judge of that,” says Jean-Patrick.
Back in Lyon, the couple had just bought their dream apartment. In the midst of demolishing walls and installing a new kitchen in just the right colours, Jean-Patrick came home one day and jokingly told Hélène that he had accepted a job in Denmark. The job offer at Danfoss was real, but Jean-Patrick had quickly turned it down. The family, now including sons Antoine and Léandre, had clear dreams of a life in Lyon. Moreover, the idea of Denmark was colourless – sub-zero temperatures and darkness six months of the year, and even if it didn’t snow, it certainly rained. Had it not been for 38-year-old Hélène’s attitude to at least investigate what they were missing out on by saying ‘no thanks’ to the job offer, the family would never have taken the plunge three months later.
“We had the opportunity to experience Denmark with excellent support from the HR department. After Jean-Patrick’s first job interview at Danfoss, we all travelled to Denmark, this time to Billund, where the children were able to visit Legoland. The job could be carried out in Kolding and Nordborg, so we visited several cities in Southern Denmark. For us, two things were particularly important – the children’s schooling and the opportunity to live close to the water. After that, the decision wasn’t that hard at all,” says Hélène.
The prospect of a future in Sønderborg
In January 2019, Jean-Patrick moved into a temporary apartment in the centre of Sønderborg, where he stayed for four days. Here he took delivery of the pre-ordered furniture and waited to take over the keys to a rented house on Redstedsgade in Dybbøl. The family lived here for two and a half years, and although Jean-Patrick’s position is contract-based, they didn’t hesitate to look for a house in Sønderborg. Today, the family has settled into a large, yellow, single-storey villa in Ulkebøl, where they have been able to decorate exactly as they wanted.
As newcomers to Denmark, everything felt different. For Hélène, language also played a particularly important role. She was limited by only speaking French, and as a trained legal assistant with extensive knowledge of French legislation, the job search was far from easy. For Jean-Patrick, the transition was, professionally speaking, less challenging.
“The international environment at Danfoss means that everyone automatically switches to English when we meet. This is both a benefit and a disadvantage, because I have never been pushed out of my comfort zone when it comes to learning Danish,” says Jean-Patrick.
“From a personal point of view, despite some challenges, we have had a smooth integration into life here. I remember that on my many trips to the library with the boys, I often came across this one woman. She understood that the language was difficult for me. Every time we met, she was kind enough to make small talk with me so that I could learn the language little by little. People in Sønderborg have generally been very friendly, and that gives you a good sense of security,” Hélène adds.
On weekdays, when the clock strikes ten minutes to eight, Hélène sends her sons off to Sønderborg International School. Nine-year-old Antoine is in his fourth year and his younger brother Léandre, aged seven, is in his second year at the school. When the boys are not at school, you will find them either ensconced in the after-school club ‘NXT EV3lution’, swimming or having music lessons where they express themselves musically on the violin and piano.
The decision to uproot the family and start a new life in a foreign country has meant that Hélène has paid close attention to her sons’ well-being. Dedicated to the boys’ education, she has also chosen to participate in the parents’ organisation, where she works as a volunteer treasurer. Hélène has also found that she wants to immerse herself in the world of associations. She teaches French to a small group of adults at the Alliance Française, which promotes knowledge of and contact with France and the spread of the French language and culture.
More time together
Denmark was not high on the list of countries the family wanted to move to, but the benefit of living in Sønderborg has been an eye-opener for them. Hélène can indulge her passion for horses and goes out several times a week to see Jack, the racehorse in which she has a share. This is a passion that was difficult to fulfil at home in France due to their distance from the countryside and the high cost of keeping horses.
For Jean-Patrick, life in Denmark has provided new insights and experiences.
“In France, I would typically get home from work at half past six, so Hélène was the main carer for the children. Today I have much more time and can be much more involved with the children and their interests. Now it’s not limited to an hour of socialising with them in the evening. I can follow their development and watch their lives grow, and in this way the whole family has become much richer, I think,” says Jean-Patrick.
Moving to another country has not necessarily been the biggest revelation for the family. Rather, it has been more of an eye-opener to move from a large metropolis to a town like Sønderborg – so close to nature, yet so close to other people.
“You can cover a lot of ground by bike. The infrastructure here is really good and the relationship with nature is wonderful. We didn’t think it was possible to swim in the sea, but now we do it from June to September. We just bought wetsuits so we can extend the swimming season. The children love the water,” says Jean-Patrick.
“You can have great experiences for very little money here, and we have both the time and finances to own a small boat, travel and do much more. In Sønderborg, you really can live the dream,” Hélène adds.
The family sometimes misses certain aspects of life in France, especially the open food markets and fresh vegetables all year round, as well as their family, but they are not sure if they would still fit in. They don’t yet know what would happen if Jean-Patrick’s employment at Danfoss were to change, but they haven’t actively discussed it yet either.
“We hope to stay in Denmark even longer. We might consider other openings abroad, but we would definitely think twice about it. We are very conscious of what we have been given and the life we have built here in Sønderborg,” says Jean-Patrick.
Hélène agrees with her partner:
“A lot has happened in France since we left, and the systems in Denmark are much better, especially for children. The pace of life here suits us and our new work-life balance has given us so much more to appreciate.”