From Copenhagen to Laos - Life abroad as a finance graduate

Simona, our Finance Graduate, is on her rotation in Laos. Get a unique glimpse into life as a graduate in a different culture when she tells you about her experiences, spicy food that is in a different league and why she had to exchange her Copenhagen bicycle for a mid-sized SUV.

I remember signing my Carlsberg Finance Graduate contract. The job sounded very exciting, and I was looking forward to rotating in various finance functions, but most of all I was curious where I would go on my rotation abroad. 1.5 years into the program, I got into a plane and moved to Laos for a 6 months adventure. Sounds like the beginning of a good story, right? Well, it is!

For those of you who are not familiar with the Carlsberg Group’s footprint in Laos, here are some facts:

How did I get here, and how is your rotation abroad decided? It is a mixture of two things: personal preference and professional opportunities. My wish for this rotation had been to be closer to the business, in a market completely different than my own, so I would challenge myself both in the workplace, but also culturally. Laos became an option when the previous VP Finance for the Group took a position as the head of finance in LBC. Having worked with him in Copenhagen before, we started talking, and identified a position where I could both contribute and learn from. It works differently for every graduate, but it has to be a market in which there are projects or positions where the graduates can make a difference and challenge themselves.

The plan for these 6 months was to start by doing Marketing Controlling, learn the company, and transition into another position midway. As you read this you might wonder how long I have been in Vientiane for – the answer is 2 months.

In my two months here, I have had fantastic experiences, both professionally and personally.

From a professional perspective, it is very insightful to be so close to the business (and not just any business, but one that is extremely successful). I learn new things every day, from how people work here (not that different than Denmark, only a different context), to how the finance function is run in a market with such high market share. I will detail more about ways of working in another post.

On the personal front, there is something new more or less every few hours. The most challenging or interesting ones for me have been:

  • The people. Lao People are very friendly and polite and will go the extra mile to make you feel comfortable. This makes adjusting to the new culture much easier.
  • Driving. Having a means of transport is mandatory in Laos, otherwise good luck getting from A to B 😊 After having ridden a bicycle for 8 years in Copenhagen, I switched to driving a mid-sized SUV, in a country where traffic rules are not always respected.
  • The local food is very spicy here. I don’t mean “tourist” spicy, but “I will now cry for two hours” spicy. I have not adjusted to that yet, and I tend to stay away from signs of chilli. I get tricked at our work canteen to eat something “not so spicy” sometimes, and the tears settle in. It’s all part of the game though. However, there are also interesting ingredients here, like ant eggs and steamed bees – those I really enjoy.
  • Pi Mai. This is the Lao New Year, and the biggest celebration I have seen. It is also a water festival, so you get buckets of water in your face when you walk down the street. It helps that you have a BeerLao in your hand, and there is loud music from every corner. I added some pictures to give you a taste of what it’s like.

So far, I have enjoyed being in Laos. Life is different, and I am curious to explore it.

If you want to hear more, then stay tuned! I plan on writing constant updates of what I do here – I find it surprising as well when I think about it (such as the time I went to a miss Vientiane contest, or when I had graduates from other countries visiting me).

Traditional Lao food

Tuborg party in water park