Danes are known for, and often pride themselves on, their knowledge of English. English is studied for around 7 years at school, and films often only get subtitles in Danish, rather than being dubbed. Therefore, newcomers to Denmark, including me, often think that they can easily get by with English, at least at the beginning. But is this the experience in practice? Can you get to the information you want if your Danish is limited to non-existent?
In today’s interconnected society the internet is often the source most people would resort to for information. And that, of course, was my plan of action before moving here. As can be expected, there is quite a lot of information out there. However, I was surprised to realise that quite a significant number of resources directed towards foreigners are written only in Danish. This included websites, such as the state administration website containing information on getting registered in Denmark, which were incompletely translated, making the use of googletranslate essential for finding out all the information you need!
Of course, lack of English-language information online might be an oversight, or a symptom of too much to be done. However, things did not necessarily get easier when trying to sort things out offline. When trying to get a bank account I was told that I would need to make an appointment, while when Michael started speaking Danish we got one there and then. Tax card? I was told I need to post a form and it would take around 2 weeks while Michael called a few minutes after me and managed to get it done for me over the phone.
By now I was starting to realise that I really needed to learn Danish sooner rather than later. So I emailed the kommune, asking for information about how I could get this done (Denmark offers free Danish lessons for immigrants).
Dear Sonderborg kommune,
I am Ann Fenech. I moved to Denmark around 1 month ago. I was informed that the commune offers Danish classes for newcomers. May I please ask how I may avail myself of these lessons?
Kind regards, med venlig hilsen,
This is the reply I got from the kommune’s job centre’s immigration team:
Tak for din mail.
Du har ret til 3 års danskundervisning gældende fra den 8. dec. 2011 – 8. dec. 2014. Jeg vil lave en henvisning til Lærdansk, Augustenborg Landevej 7, 6400 Sønderborg.
Du vil senere få et brev eller en opringning fra dem, hvor de vil invitere dig til en visitationssamtale.
Jobcenter – Integrationsteam
I kid you not!
In these circumstances I wonder how someone with no Danish skills (and even more so with no English skills, which is something I haven’t really thought about?) would deal with moving to Denmark.