Herdis Pedersen can literally look back at an eventful first year in the role as Secretary of the Committee for the Danish Business Association of Singapore (DABS). With numerous, successfully planned events behind her, she is embracing her new life in Singapore – even though it got off to a slightly unexpected start.
Herdis Pedersen knew that it would be hard for her to find a good job in Singapore when she arrived on January 1st last year. Her husband, Arne Palsbirk, had already moved there in October to start his new job for Jensen Asia Pte Ltd, and when Herdis followed three months later, the couple had yet to find their own place to live. So she expected to spend several months attending to all the practical tasks involved with their move. Also, she hoped to revive her long-neglected creative talents by taking an education in jewelry-making, which would leave her with enough time to go with her husband on some of his business trips.
In the months after her arrival, Herdis and her husband were temporarily staying with a friend, who was a sitting board member of DABS. One day he came home and told Herdis that the position as Secretary of the Committee was open. Herdis cast her plans to the wind and decided to apply for the position, which would put her in charge of planning all the DABS-events.
Much to Learn
She got the job. Only a month after her arrival she started working.
“It was much earlier than expected. I was both ecstatically happy and nervous at the same time. I didn’t know very much about Singapore or about how things work when you need to negotiate with local business people. But in Denmark I used to arrange events, which would have over 1600 attendees, so I figured that I somehow would be able to do this too,” Herdis Pedersen says, referring to her 7 years of experience for the Danish Archers’ Association (De Danske Skytteforeninger), where she would plan events like the National Danish Championships.
However, as Herdis would soon find out, there was no reason to be nervous. During the first month and a half in the new job, the person whom she was replacing, Lone Wigh, was there to show her the ways of the job. Letting Lone’s experience rub off on her, Herdis quickly learned that a “yes” doesn’t always mean “yes” when dealing with venue owners in Singapore.
“It was nice to have that transition time, where I could just soak up so much from Lone’s experiences. For example, she told me how to always double-check with the venue owners who tell you “yes, yes” about us using their facilities for an event. Sometimes you need to go and check out if the venue actually exists,” Herdis explains.
The Annual Ball Almost Dropped
As the Secretary of the Committee, Herdis is the organizer that makes stuff happen, once the DABS Board of Directors have had an idea for an event. She books the wanted speakers or performers, makes sure people can sign up for it, she books the facilities, and pulls the strings so that nothing is lacking. Many of the DABS-events take place at facilities like the Danish restaurant, Akvavit, in Singapore, in various clubs, or hotel conference halls. So far, Herdis Pedersen has not experienced any major complications in the planning of any of the events, however there have been times when she has felt the major culture differences shine through.
“Every year, DABS has its Annual Ball. It’s the event of the year, and people show up in tuxes or beautiful dresses. Therefore, the surroundings have to match the occasion. Obviously, last year’s Annual Ball was my first, so Lone Wigh who still lives in Singapore came in to assist me in the planning of it. We had agreed with the venue that Lone and I would show up two hours before the guests were to arrive, just to check that everything was as it should be,” Herdis remembers.
“But when we got there, they had only put the table-cloths on the tables. Not plates were put out, no silver-wear, no flowers. That sure got our adrenaline pumping. We were suddenly in a hurry to get everything ready, and we just made it in time. None of the guests knew that the place had actually been completely undecorated and unfit for the Ball just two hours earlier,” she says.
Living the Dream
The job is part-time, which still gives her plenty of opportunities to pursue some of the interests that she had hoped to find time for when she came.
“I really wanted to be able to go with my husband on some of his business trips if I could afford it and if my schedule was free, and so far I’ve been able to go with him to India and Denmark, which I’m really happy about,” she says, adding that it was a great chance to see her two grown-up sons, who still live in Denmark.
“When we moved out here, I really wanted to learn more about the culture. Once a week, I attend lectures at Asia Civilization Museum, where the topics vary from week to week. It gives me exactly the historic input about the culture here that I wanted,” she says.
And then there’s her creative passion for jewelry.
“I came here with a dream to unfold the creative side of myself, since I’ve spent the last many years working in an office. Before my life became all about kids, husband and work I was actually a very creative person, and I would like to explore that again,” she adds. Although her job as the “practical wizard” of DABS leaves no time for taking an actual education in jewelry-making, she makes due with her own small spare-time home production.
“Right now it’s more like a hobby. I have attended several jewelry courses and seminars here in Singapore, and I hope that I will have time for more of those in the future,” she says smiling, realizing that basically all of her pre-arrival dreams and expectations for her new life in Singapore have either been fulfilled or are close to getting there.
Having launched a few new ideas for the DABS website, Herdis Pedersen has managed to take the job and make it her own. And yet, it’s a job full of contrasting social patterns.
“It’s really great for me to have this job, and I definitely haven’t been disappointed. It’s a really good way to meet a lot of people, but at the same time it can also be a bit lonely in the daily duties of the job – working from home like I do. The freedom of working from home is one of the best things about the job, but in my case, the best privilege is also the worst disadvantage,” she shares.
“But when friends and family ask us how long we are planning to stay in Singapore, we usually tell them that we’ll stay as long as we like it. And right now, we still really like it,” Herdis says.
——————— Fact Box —————————-
Danish Business Association of Singapore (DABS)
DABS was initiated by the Danish Embassy and established in the autumn of 1983 by a group of Danish businessmen. The main objectives are to actively contribute to the business developments between Singapore and Denmark and to contribute to the members’ interests and development of their organisations.
DABS has about 160 members of which 40 are voting members. The Committee meets once a month. Members are invited to about 10 DABS functions annually. In addition, a number of social gatherings and entertainment events vary the topics for spouses and guests.