Denmark provides a 'great' career and life

00:01, May 29 2014
thomas orr
EUROPEAN LOVING: Former Timaru man Thomas Orr and wife Ditte travel as much as they can - this time taking in the sights of Paris.

When deciding on a career which will help you travel and make the world a better place, you could take the lead of former Timaru man, Thomas Orr, for whom teaching has been just that.

Orr said he grew up wanting to help people and that is one reason he became a teacher.

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Orr had the need to help people instilled in him by his parents, Trish and Stewart, who had met on a Volunteer Services Abroad programme.

When he began his science degree, he had no intention of becoming a teacher. He did not know where his degree would take him

However, in his second year his father, who had been a high school teacher, died suddenly, and he began thinking along those lines.


"It wasn't like he was a cop and I felt a legacy. It was more that I had been exposed to that environment and it fitted," he said.

Finishing his tertiary education, Orr took on his first role at Wanganui High School (WHS).

He said it was a purposeful move.

"It was a tough school. I knew that going into it. I wanted to test myself a little bit ... It was not the easiest school to teach at."

An example of this is when he reprimanded a student for swearing at another one and demanded a written apology. The apology note read along the lines of ‘Sir, sorry for swearing but I meant it'.

As with many stories, a romantic twist ensued in the form of blonde Danish gap student teacher, Ditte. Her English teacher in Copenhagen had known the WHS principal which is why she went there.

When her year was up, it was decided he would follow her back 11 months later after he registered as a teacher.

"I was always going to go to Europe. Going to Copenhagen wasn't that much out of my comfort zone."

Orr said there were other factors pulling him.

He found himself working at an international school in Copenhagen and noticed the huge difference from WHS.

"I have very driven kids who are given every opportunity to do their best ... I feel like I am feeding their curiosity. I don't feel like I am making kids learn stuff they don't want to."

Orr has always been actively involved in sports and has the opportunity to travel with his students on sports trips.

"Last weekend I took a group to Bonn, Germany to dominate in football."

He has also taken students to Switzerland to go snowboarding.

Orr has now been living in Denmark for seven years and he finds it hard to remember what was tough about first moving there.

"I'm sure there was lots of little things, they just don't seem like a factor now."

He does have Marmite in the fridge but he does not feel like it is a make or break to have it in stock. Language has not been a huge barrier.

"I live in a very English world."

However, there are times when he knows he's in a foreign language speaking country.

Growing up he was a prolific footballer but because in Denmark he could not speak the local lingo, that sport was ruled out.

Instead, he took up rugby with fellow Kiwi and Australian expatriates as a way to make friends. The other time is when his now wife, Ditte, gets angry and starts yelling at him in Danish.

Fortunately, there is quite a big lead up with English words spoken first so he has a good idea of what she is getting at.

Orr said he cannot imagine coming back to New Zealand to live. "It's pretty great here."

The Timaru Herald