Transferring to a new country: from Copenhagen to the USA

Nov 26 2019
A photo of Emil Schwartz with colleagues in the US

J. Lauritzen has offices in five locations: Copenhagen (head office), Singapore, the USA, the Philippines and Dubai. This provides opportunities for our employees to experience life and work in another country.

Emil Schwartz is an Assistant Chartering Manager in Lauritzen Bulkers, who has recently relocated from J. Lauritzen's head office in Copenhagen, Denmark to our office in Stamford, NY, USA.

How did the opportunity to transfer to a different office come up

I began my career at J. Lauritzen in the Singapore office at the start of 2017 as a student assistant. I was studying for a bachelor’s degree in International Shipping and Trade at Copenhagen Business School, which includes an exchange programme. This gave me the chance to spend 5 months in Singapore, working part-time for JL. After that, I relocated to the head office in Copenhagen. 

After about a year, I learned that two employees from the Stamford office were moving back to CPH. I could see myself filling out part of the void they left. I had a very specific interest in moving to the US as I had already worked for a while in Asia and then in Europe - so this was a good opportunity to work with a different culture on a new continent.

What inspired you to take the transfer to another country?

Before starting in JL I had never thought about moving to another country and settling down anywhere but Denmark. Working in Singapore was a big eye-opener for me and planted a seed in me and an appetite for trying out life as an ex-pat. 

I had never set a foot on US soil before I moved here, so my first time in the US was when I landed in JFK with four suitcases back in July. Another major factor contributing to my willingness to make this move and what really encouraged me to do so was both the support from JL and their interest in enabling this transfer.

The company has been very supportive, and it was highly encouraging to see how living abroad had benefitted others in the organisation, both professionally and personally. 

What were your first impressions of your new country – and of the new office?

I have now been living in the US for about 3 months, and so far it’s made a very good impression on me. I have visited several of the major cities on the east coast including Boston, Washington DC and of course New York on a regular basis. Going from living in a small country like Denmark and moving to such a big country has been a real eye-opener.

In Copenhagen, I was used to biking everywhere and had never owned a car in my life. Now I have a big American car with a V8 engine. Distance is a totally different ballgame over here and moving here as a Dane, you quickly grow to realise that driving anything less than 4 hours is considered a short trip. That same amount of time would basically take you from one end of Denmark to the other!

I have a good impression of American culture and Americans. People have been very kind to me, and professionally we enjoy close relationships with the brokers, agents and the charterers. I have been welcomed with open arms wherever I go - and Americans are generally more open-minded than Danes, in my opinion.

The office is also significantly smaller than both CPH and Singapore. The close working environment in Stamford has very much a “family” vibe to it which I enjoy a lot.

What are you hoping to gain from this experience?

Professionally I hope to be able to explore unknown territory for JL, business-wise, and re-ignite previous trade lanes. This experience should hopefully enable me to build up relationships which JL can continue to benefit from when I one day go home, but also some I can take with me when I go back.

I have so far worked in areas which I’m already well-acquainted with. But the interaction with brokers and charterers is much different in the US compared to Europe. So, being in the US for a couple of years should without a doubt make me more complete in my job, compared to if had I stayed in Copenhagen during that time. 

Have you done anything fun?

At the beginning of August I went down to New Orleans on a business trip to see one of our timecharter vessels with Rebecca Semsel, our experienced Senior Operations Manager.

We saw everything from how the agents work, got a tour on a pilot launch, boarded the ship on the Mississippi River, saw how vessels are cleaned and even did an airboat ride in the swamp! I also got a real taste for how serious Americans take their sports as I joined a tailgate before a Saints game and watched the game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. 

Can’t beat ‘dat southern hospitality!

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