A Geologist turned into a finance professional - now that's something you don't see every day! Fascinated by Scandinavia since childhood, George is now living his dream and works in Copenhagen for a multinational company. Our today's interview is about surpassing expectations, falling in love with a foreign country, hobbies, traditions, Danish way of life and, of course, Romanian roots.
Name: George Popescu
Abroad since: 2011
Living in: Copenhagen DEN most of the time, and Malmo SWE with my girlfriend
Current position & company: Corporate Finance Executive, British American Tobacco (SPOC - single point of contact)
TGR: What is your main responsibility at the job?
GP: SPOC or single point of contact means I represent the link between one of my company's end markets (Denmark in this case) and the finance shared service we have back in Bucharest (that is the place where I also started working for this company initially). So everything that the end market needs to be done by the shared service must pass "through" me - all boring finance I must say what I love the most about this job is the people I work with both in Denmark and Bucharest, cause otherwise it's plain routine
Who are these people you love working with in Denmark?
My team is made of a Fin, a Danish and me (that is the corporate part) - but our entire Finance team is even more mixed: 4 Romanians (biggest minority!), from Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Albania, Azerbaijan, Faroe Islands, England, Vietnam, Ukraine... pretty multi national!! We have a great time together and since there is such a huge cultural variety there is always something interesting to learn, hear, experience.
That is indeed a fabulous exposure! How do you stand out? Can you tell me something you can do best?
I don't think there is anything that I am best at or unique in doing it - at least not work related. I work in finance after all, not inventions department at NASA!!! I do though try to do my best in everything I do, therefore I put a lot of soul in it and do make sure that my work mates enjoy working with me. I am though proud that I do what I do without having any Finance background - I am actually a Geologist
How do you spend your free time?
I like traveling a lot with my girlfriend! Otherwise my free time is spent with people from all over the world, including the home country. I also play football for a local Old boys Danish team So, there is never a 100% Romanian party or an expat or a local, it is always a big mix.
From the outside, Danes seem a little reserved as a nation. Is it true?
I don't know who said that, but no, they are not reserved, at all! They do like their space and their privacy but that's a different story. Danes travel a lot and like to experience a lot, therefore I think they are pretty open minded in any possible way: trying new food, new drinks, new...you name it! In order to understand them, you need to live among/like/with them - and I guess that applies for pretty much every nation in this world. There is one thing that they are not really good with and that is romance It must be because gender equality is very important to them, therefore no man is holding doors for a woman or carrying her bag - helping with it..yes, but not doing the job 100% alone
So, it wasn't difficult to integrate, was it?
No! They are raised to treat everyone equally no matter what! They don't like to lie and they are bad at it. Usually you get very straight honest answers and nobody tries to mess around. Maybe I was lucky or I don't know, but I did feel welcomed and part of everything immediately. Must have helped the fact that everybody speaks English! And I mean eveeerybody!
Why Copenhagen? Is it so much different than Bucharest?
Well, it was the job that took me there and since I had this opportunity, I went for it. I was always fascinated by the Nordics and thought it was a great opportunity to spend some time here. I anyway think that life should not be spent in one place, since the world has so much to offer. Even if you afford to travel a lot and see the entire world, living in different places makes a huge difference and adds great value to your life experience. Once they graduate high school, the Danes take one year off to travel the world, it is like an initiation for entering the grown-up world. They usually do it with the back up and they work for it, even though they might come from wealthy families that can afford paying for that travelling year. Most of them know how to value small things and enjoy life at very low costs - which many would call "cheap", I'd rather call balanced.
Is there anything disappointing, maybe something you've expected to be different?
Well yes! Danish bathrooms are very small! I remember when I moved to Copenhagen and I was looking for an apartment, I asked the real estate agent (after seeing a couple of apartments): "Is there an apartment that I can see, which has a bath tub?" - the answer just muted me: "What do you need the bath tub for?"..
Jokes aside I am a very optimistic person and I always look for the full side of the glass. I think it is always a matter of choice, If you don't like something, change it! Or go away from it if you cannot! It is me that had to adapt to Denmark and not the other way around. And I must say it was not hard at all, I like it here and I do fit in pretty well.
And there is one thing that I expected to be different.. When I was a child I always thought Denmark is a country with a lot of snow... and tough winters... Totally wrong Not even close to what we had back home.
Well, George, from your enthusiasm it is pretty obvious that this is your home now! Can you tell me a crazy, unique experience you had so far in Denmark?
Hmmm..I don't really know if I had any CRAZY experience (well there are some but I will keep for myself ), but I know for sure I had an awkward one.. I've been asked for the same directions by the same persons in 2 different places in Copenhagen, in 2 different days (3 days interval between the encounters).. What were the odds?? Spooked me a bit! A lucky experience was also having the opportunity to see The Rolling Stones in a live concert after 50 years from their first show in Denmark! And they were amaaazing!!
Now, let's talk a little bit about our home country. How often do you travel to Romania?
Well it depends - usually at least 2 times a year or even 6-7 times... Friends and family are very important to me and I do all I can to see them as often as possible... Still struggling to convince my mother to fly, a bit of issues with that one Maybe I get lucky next summer!
What do you mostly miss about Romania?
I would assume most of the Romanians will start their answer with "Romanian food" - I won't! I love to cook and I can more or less do any Romanian dish if I miss it. Besides, there are some shops that can provide all the needed Romanian ingredients.
The one thing I miss a lot is my university colleagues whom are like family for me and I do try seeing them as often as possible. Every time I see them it feels like just 2 days passed from our last meet up!
Since I like fishing a lot, my one true love will always be the Danube Delta. That is the one place where I am going 3-4 days every summer to charge my battery, away from technology, civilization and all. Every time I leave the Delta it is with a broken heart! The nature, the mornings on the boat... the memories - priceless! For everything else - there is Mastercard
I know I know, you love and breathe Denmark however I keep asking this everyone I interview: do you somehow see yourself moving back?
I don't know! I never think about it! It takes me a couple of hours to fly to Bucharest and 3 more to my home town...I don't think I can consider myself "Away"!
I won't plan anything yet, the world has still a lot to offer and there is much to see and experience. Maybe I will retire there, there are a million factors that can change your life in a blink of an eye. We live in fantastic times, with very few war zones around the globe, Europe with no borders and decent travel costs. We are extremely lucky and we should take advantage of it!
Please tell me something particular about Romania that you would usually say to a foreign friend.
I do encourage all my foreign friends to go and visit Romania and do give tips to those that go there and help them get the best experiences. I never spoil the picture for them and try not to create any kind of image or expectation in their brains because I know I would not like that either. I want them to discover and perceive everything though their own eyes.
What is your biggest dream?
I guess I want to leave a trace behind me, something that will influence this world (in a positive way of course), but if that's not possible, I'll settle for 100.000.000 $
Good, let me know when you do that and don't forget to throw 4-5 millions towards me OK, George, for the ending, please one last remark about Romania!
I hope "my" Delta stays at least as "virgin" as it is now!!
It definitely should! Thanks a lot for your time!
The Golden Romania
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