What’s it like living in Denmark as a foreigner – part 1/2

As Danes we are generally proud of our country and quite often think that Denmark is a good place to live – probably the best place in the world. Forbes and OECD have made surveys that shows that Denmark is ‘the happiest place in the world’.

However a lot of foreigners have a different opinion. Danes consider themselves happy here but when you ask non-Danes you get quite a different reply. A website called Worktrotter did a survey amongst expats (people who are here on their own device and not counting refugees) in Denmark and asked Do you perceive Danes open towards foreigners living in Denmark? The findings are quite revealing.

“46% of the participants don’t feel welcome versus 26% who do. 28% gave a neutral answer. Considering that 98% of the 703 survey participants are well-educated, this is a very worrying result especially as Denmark claims the need for well-educated work-force from abroad.”

In general the survey is an easy read and it gives a good indication of some of the issues foreigners experience when they live in Denmark. The survey identifies five challenges that expats are met with.

  • Social Interaction: Danes are friendly but not easy to get close to as they often have established social circles. It’s rather easy to get by in English but at social gatherings the language often switches to all Danish leaving foreigners out of the discussion.
  • Government and Authorities: Politically Denmark has become a lot more strict on immigration with tests, points and fees that change very often making it difficult to come to, or stay in, Denmark. It doesn’t seem to be a problem speaking English with most authorities but a lot of the information available on websites, in folders and on forms is only available in Danish.
  • Media: When foreigners are mentioned in the media they are often described as problems rather than assets. Negative stories often generalise foreigners as being a problem, whereas good stories are about individuals. We have had a change of government since the survey was done so maybe things will change eventually. However the public discourse and opinion is not going to change overnight and there seems to be a tendency of Danes making generalising negative comments about foreigners.
  • Language: It takes years to learn Danish but Danes are not very patient with people speaking a not-native Danish and quickly switch to English. Some say they get treated worse if they speak Danish with an accent than if they speak English.
  • Being treated as equals: Denmark is a country of equals. But it seems that “some are more equal than others”. Finding a job with a foreign name or without speaking Danish proves to be a huge challenge for people. Some had the same problem when trying to find housing. Racist comments in the media, work place and elsewhere occurs without being challenged.
As a Dane I can see the above issues present when I look at myself, my family and my friends. We are not always as open and accepting as we would like to think we are. If we as a country and people want to take part in the globalised world we need to embrace people and ideas from other cultures better than we do now in my opinion. This report does provide good ideas for how Denmark can improve.
If you are a Dane who wants to know what other people think of us or you are a foreigner who wants an idea of what it is like living here give the report a read.

3 thoughts on “What’s it like living in Denmark as a foreigner – part 1/2

  1. I frequently hear all of these but I disagree about the language one….
    Danes seem so appreciative when I speak Danish. Of course many switch to English when they hear my accent, but I answer them back in Danish and they realize I know what I am doing!!! 🙂

    • Just saw this comment. I like your way of dealing with people answering back in English. Once I am more comfortable with the language I should keep this in mind!

Leave a Reply