DUBAI// Thirty-one years ago, Jens Lund first set foot in Dubai to spend Christmas with his parents.
He has celebrated the festival in his adopted home ever since and now helps other Danish newcomers to settle in the country.
“My early teenage years were spent in Copenhagen with a typical middle-class family, both of my parents who were working,” said Mr Lund, chief executive of Dubai-based IT-Serve.com and president of the Danish Business Council.
“In 1980, when I was 15, I went to live in Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) for three years and then I went back to Denmark to complete my education, while my parents moved to Dubai to work.
“My father was an air-traffic controller, and my first experience of Dubai was visiting my parents in the Christmas of 1983.”
Mr Lund has fond memories of the city in those days.
“It was an entirely different place then compared with how it is now,” he said. “There weren’t very many people around and it had the feel of a small village compared to the fast-paced city that we see today.
“They [his parents] had a typical life as an expatriate, a much more laid-back lifestyle and the royal family was very open as well.
“I remember meeting Sheikh Rashid and his family, who were very welcoming.”
After completing his higher education in Denmark, Mr Lund first worked as a computer programmer at a technology company Great Nordic before becoming a project manager for Danish State Railroads.
He would follow this up with roles as a head of section for international payments for Denmark’s largest bank and then its head of IT for the first European Direct Bank, a bank within a bank.
“I was there until 1992 and after watching Denmark win the European [football] Championships that year I thought to myself that I had seen and done everything I could in Denmark and so decided to move to Dubai,” said Mr Lund.
He initially helped in his father’s business before working with public and private companies to prepare for the millennium computer bug.
He set up IT-Serve.com in 2001 before becoming the president of the newly created Danish Business Council in 2005.
It is a position he holds today.
“The key point for us is helping Danish companies set up in the UAE and encouraging investment into Denmark from the UAE and from Denmark into UAE,” he said.
“We aim to be a bridge between the two countries and help companies get started here.
“We also help newcomers with managing their expectations and respecting the cultural heritage of the UAE,” he said.
The main issue for many people coming to Dubai is the high cost of living, he added.
“In Denmark education and health are free but in Dubai although you don’t pay tax you end up paying more for education, health, rent and other living costs,” he said.
Despite this, the Danish community in the UAE has increased steadily from between 50 to 100 people 30 years ago to around 5,000 today.
“Dubai is very unique because 80 to 90 per cent of the people living here have chosen to come of their own free will,” he said.
“That means there is a real drive to succeed among the population but at the same time there is a lot of competition.
“I advise people to come here to keep their eyes open, be patient and make sure you have enough capital to tide you over for the first few years as your company finds its footing.”
He also advises people to learn to listen and understand the culture and how things are done in Dubai.
“Setting up businesses in the freezones is much easier now but it remains time consuming and bureaucratic outside these areas,” he said.
“However when you compare Dubai with other countries in the region it is without doubt the easiest to do business in.”
Under Mr Lund’s leadership the business council also organises a number of social functions and events for the Danish community in the country.
“After 30 years in Dubai I see myself as a child of Dubai,” he said.
“I do a lot of travelling and whenever I feel that I want to go home, it is Dubai that I always think of.
“I have a business and my family is settled here in Dubai, so we will stay here for the foreseeable future.”