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Starting A New Life In A Global Company

Jacobi is a global company. As such, there are opportunities to relocate and experience a new lifestyle. People who move enrich and develop our business and bring new ideas to the team. Starting over in another country is always a fascinating story, no matter where you come from or where you go. In this article, we meet some colleagues who have found a new life in another part of the world.

Dawn Tang
From: Beijing, China
To: Kalmar, Sweden

Pierre-Eric Blanc
From: Singapore
To: Paris, France

Usman Saeed
From: Coimbatore, India
To: Vierzon, France

Vidura Jayasooriya
From: Colombo, Sri Lanka
To: London, UK

Dustin Wissinger
From: Columbus, US
To: Kalmar, Sweden

Dawn Tang

Moving from China to Sweden

Dawn, why did you move to Sweden?

In 2011, I was working for Sony Ericsson in Beijing, and there was a vacancy here in Sweden, so I just grabbed the opportunity and moved for the job. I came here in November 2011 – to Lund, in southern Sweden. Sony Ericsson had layoffs in 2016, so I applied for a job at Jacobi in Kalmar and joined in 2017.

I visited Kalmar, on the east coast of Sweden, just before applying for this job. Little did I know that I would end up living here a few months later. 

You came here to a dark November, was that a shock for you?

Well, I didn’t come from Sri Lanka or another tropical country, which must be a horrifying experience for someone from that part of the world. We do have seasons in Beijing, but it’s not as dark as here during the winter.

I remember the first day I went to work after moving here; I was supposed to be at work by eight, so I woke up at six, and it was completely dark outside. I took a shower and had breakfast, and it was still dark. I waited a bit longer because I had never gone to work in darkness before, but I started to get late, so I stepped outside. It was still completely dark, and I hardly saw anyone in the streets, so I figured I had walked into some apocalypse movie.

And then came summer, and it never went dark. I was sitting on my sofa reading, looking at my clock, and it was 10 pm, and I couldn’t believe it was still bright outside. Yes, the light, or the lack of it, was a new experience for me.

Dawn Tang works at our Global Supply Chain Team and is mainly responsible for the external sourcing of our resin products. She started at Jacobi six and a half years ago but moved from China to Sweden long before, in 2011.

Did you bring a whole family, or did you come by yourself?

I was 26 years old, just graduated from university, so I didn’t have much. Just two suitcases, that’s all. Nothing with me, not knowing anyone. Most of the time in complete darkness. But it was okay; my first time here felt very exciting.

What has been the most challenging part of moving?

Being far away from my family, they still live in China. You miss spending time with your family, your friends, and your relatives. Especially now, when your parents are getting older, you want to be there more for them.

I really wish that we could spend more time together, but nowadays, it’s better than before because now we can have video chats, and yeah, that helps a lot.

What is it like to socialise in Sweden, finding friends and social activities?

I wouldn’t say it’s hard; I have made some friends while living in Sweden, including Chinese and Swedish friends and some other nationalities. And Kalmar, where I live now, is a small city where everybody knows someone who knows someone.

I made my first friends through my Swedish lessons, people who were in a similar situation. It’s up to you if you find any friends, I would say. Then I met a man. We have two kids now, aged nine and two, and you also meet new people via your kids.

What has been the most rewarding part of moving?

It has enriched my life and opened my eyes and mind to another world. Taught me to look at things differently, to do things differently and treat people differently. I think my perspective is broader now than it would have been if I had stayed in China.

Any stand-out memories from your time in Sweden?

This one is a bit funny. When I signed the contract and decided to move, I asked a Swedish colleague for some advice. And he said, “I can give you one suggestion: don’t try to learn Swedish because you will not be able to use it anywhere else.”

I had signed a contract for two years; I didn’t really plan to stay in Sweden for so long. So, I actually took his advice the first two years I was here. But things changed, and I realised I would probably stay here, so I’m working on my Swedish now.

Pierre-Eric Blanc

Moving to Singapore and back to France

Pierre-Eric, why did you make your move to Singapore?

In 2016, I was asked if I would be interested in the position of Sales Director in Asia. I had no experience in Asia but knew our products well. I started with a pretty young team, and the team I left is much more senior. It was a great adventure for me and my family.

What was the most challenging part of moving?

I didn't speak Mandarin, and I didn't know how to do business in Asia. Another thing is that you have to relearn everything. How do you get electricity at home? How do I register my son at school? How do I open a bank account? Our belongings were on a boat in a container. The apartment was empty during the first few weeks, and we slept on inflatable mattresses. So yeah, the first two months were quite hectic.

Also, we were in Singapore during Covid, and their regulations were very strict. So we really felt locked into this small and heavily populated island. However, one positive side of all this was that when I got back to France, I appreciated everything that I had taken for granted my whole life much more.

Pierre-Eric Blanc is our Sales Director for EMEA. He started his career in France, then moved to Singapore with his family for six years, and now he’s back again.

What was the most rewarding part of moving?

I would say discovering Asia. I have learned to understand the cultures in Vietnam, Thailand, and Indonesia. We came to Singapore pre-Covid, so as a family, we could travel and experience Asia in a way that we would never have been able to do otherwise. Returning to France, I can now function as a bridge between Asia and Europe, which will be good for me and Jacobi. We're not young anymore; if we had not done it now, we would never have had this experience. It was an experience, some good and some not so good, but definitely worth it.

How did you and your family feel about your new country?

It was challenging for them. A bit easier for my son, he was 12 when we left and 19 now. At his age, at school, you quickly find new friends. But for my wife, it was more challenging. Singapore is a nice place, but she could not work there. We could have applied for a special permit, but they are very hard to get.

Then you have the social aspect; you leave all your friends, and it takes time to find new ones. She felt a bit lonely at times. We thought we could mingle more easily with the locals, but it was a bit harder than expected. 

Any stand-out memories from your time in Singapore?

There are many to choose from. The sunsets we have seen, absolutely stunning, out of this world. All the places we have seen. The enriching experience of living in another culture for many years. And leaving strict Covid restrictions, with the mask tight on, to find out that nobody wore them anymore when we came back to France. Covid was almost over, and it was like entering a whole new world.

Usman Saeed

Moving around to become a global citizen

Usman, what is your role at Jacobi?

My title is Director of Operations & Engineering EMEA, which means I am responsible for production and CAPEX investments in our European entities. I ensure that our plants are running at optimum efficiencies in a safe and environmentally compliant manner. Furthermore, I act as an advisor and 'bridge' between the sites to share best practices in any way possible.

Where did you start your career, and why did you move?

I moved around with my family during my upbringing. My father chose to come to Sweden in the sixties to find work. I was born and raised in Spånga, outside Stockholm, Sweden, so I speak Swedish. I've been around the world during my career, but I have two distinct career location moves. The first was to India, and the second to France. I've been in France for ten years now.

My time with Jacobi started in Kalmar, Sweden, in April 2010. My mission was to get my initial training in Sweden and head to Sri Lanka to our prestigious Sri Lankan factory, our first real production facility. I think I was there for about a month and a half. Then, I moved to my final location, Coimbatore, India.

My parents come from the Punjab province up north, so the move to India might have looked easy, but the northern and southern parts of India are like two different worlds. Different culture, different language. People speak Hindi up north and Tamil in the south. So, I was really going in at the deep end, but I knew I could find my way through that.

With your diverse background, what are you at heart? Swedish, Indian or something else?

I think people like me tend to have difficulty answering that question. And actually, we ask ourselves that question on a very regular basis. The world is globalised. I have travelled a lot and studied and worked in many countries.

I don't feel like I'm attached to one single place. Expats like me have lived in a havoc that we have accepted over time. We integrate and adapt. You know, we don't fight the system when thrown into a country with a different culture, language, rules and specific bureaucracy. We don't spend time being upset; we just get on with it. So, I feel at home more or less anywhere that I am. 

After many years of moving around, you could say that Usman Saeed is a global citizen. As such, you acquire a certain mindset to integrate and adapt quickly to your new environment.

What has been the most challenging part of moving?

The most challenging part is the initial days or weeks. To understand practical things when you come to a new country. And finding a comforting and soothing place to live that feels right for you. I've had help finding accommodations, but I have always moved to the right place after a while.

When I came to India, the company helped me set up a bank account because if I went there on my own and said, "Hi, I'd like a bank account, please", I would still be in that office ten years later. It's a funny story. I didn't close my bank account before leaving India because getting one was hard. Ten years later, I still have an active bank account there. And I regularly get an email saying, "Hi, you have zero rupees in your account. Would you like to keep it?" You never know if I'm returning to India again to work.

But honestly, I think I will stay in France now. It's not just me anymore; I'm married, and we have our baby boy, Noah, who just started school and enjoys his life here.

What has been the most rewarding part of moving?

The most rewarding part has always been learning and growing personally. Taking these steps in your life, you grow as a person. Thanks to all the moving around, I speak six languages. Learning the language has been a key to connecting with people, making new friends, and learning new cultures.

I'm blessed to still be in touch with my friends from India, the UK, or everywhere else in the world and create this small community of people I can connect with outside my current location. And all the professional experience you get from moving around and being in the pool's deep end but learning to swim fast.

I am grateful to Jacobi for giving me all these opportunities to grow during my 20 years at the company.

Vidura Jayasooriya

Moving from Sri Lanka to England

Vidura, where did you start your career, and why did you move?

I started my career at Jacobi more than 12 years ago, working with IT. So, I've spent 14 years at Jacobi in total. The reason why we moved was to find a better life in Europe.

Sri Lanka has gone through some hard times lately, with political and economic instability so my wife and I talked a lot about our future, particularly our son’s future. The main reason was to provide for a better future for him. Today, he’s four and a half years old and we believe he will have a better life here.

How much has Jacobi helped in this process?

Jacobi helped me a lot. Their support has been priceless actually, I didn’t expect to get this kind of support. I want to mention Rasanga, the Country Manager in Sri Lanka, Andy Wilde, the Chief Information Officer at Jacobi and Remko, our CEO. I got to know Remko better from our virtual Jacobi band, where we play together. I also want to thank my colleagues and bosses in the IT department, Riaz and Sam, who have supported me a lot. 

Vidura Jayasooriya moved from Sri Lanka to London in 2022 to work as an IT Infrastructure Administrator. A different life in a different part of the world for him and his family.

What has been the most challenging part of moving?

We are missing the people who were closest to us in Sri Lanka. I went back to see my family after a year, which was emotional. I’m hoping to bring my parents here for a more extended vacation in the future.

What has been the most rewarding part?

As I have already mentioned, we now believe that we will be able to provide a bright future for our son. Our life here is comfortable. Maybe not weatherwise; the weather in Sri Lanka is wonderful, but we feel safer here as part of this political and economic system. We have a better quality of life here.

Any stand-out memories from your time in London?

One is the feeling I had when we landed in the UK and exited the airport to the taxi. It was so cold. It was at the end of February and still winter. I remember thinking “Why did we come to this country?”, but only two months later, it was spring, and everything changed a lot. This winter, we were better prepared.

Dustin Wissinger

Moving from the US to Sweden

Why did you make your move?

Growing up, I'd never had the chance to travel. My childhood vacations were mainly tent camping close to home. However, I was fortunate enough to travel to Europe for PICA early on in my career when I was in my early twenties.

And in 2020, right before the pandemic started in March, I came to Kalmar as part of a supply chain summit and I just fell in love with the city. So, I went back home and told my wife that maybe, we could move to Kalmar someday.

Dustin Wissinger works at our head office in Kalmar as Executive Vice President of Global Supply Chain. During a summit in Kalmar, he fell in love with the city and started thinking about moving from the US to Sweden.

How did she respond to that?

At first, she wasn't on board. She thought it was just another crazy idea that I had, but I started planting that seed and, over the course of a couple of years, we had more and more discussions.

How do you and your family feel about your new country?

I have an older daughter who is 23 and she stayed in the US. She's married and has her own independent life, but we keep close contact. My younger kids, now thirteen and seven, moved with me and my wife.  They easily transitioned to the school system and made friends quickly.

Our 7-year-old at the time picked up the language really, really fast, correcting me and my wife all the time. My 12-year-old had a bit harder time, but she's doing fine. It helps to be really young when you are learning a new language.

My wife took a break from her career. She was a paediatric physical therapist in the US and could only practice in Sweden if she was proficient in Swedish. So, she has been working on her Swedish via SFI (adult education in Swedish for immigrants), and sometime next year, we'll have to see what she wants to do.

The whole family together at Dustin's oldest daughter's wedding.

What has been the most challenging part of moving?

Mostly practical things. Understanding how things work, from traffic and getting driver's licenses to finding housing and a school for the kids. Getting our dog here, a German Shepherd, was a bit of a challenge, but overall, our move here was a pretty smooth process.

What has been the most rewarding part of moving?

I have always been fascinated by Europe, its history, and the variety of cultures within close range. I also like the fika time here. People take a break from work in the middle of the day and just have a coffee and talk about things. That is not common in the US.

Having a better work-life balance has also been a breath of fresh air. You don't stress about daycare issues for the kids as you do in the US, and the stress around healthcare is close to none. And safety is something that is just a different world for us, we feel completely safe here.

Any stand-out memories from your time in Sweden?

The Christmas party when I just got here is a stand-out memory. This was my first after work experience with my new colleagues. Swedes know how to have fun, and they really let their hair down, as we say back home. A lot of singing, dancing and... singing.

And living close to the water here is amazing. The big island Öland outside the mainland where I live is just beautiful.

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