Tag Archives: expat

Guest Post: Parting Thoughts


For the past few months, Ashish Patel has been occasionally driving back home from work with me and my friends. The time has now come for Ashish to return to India. Luckily for us, he had written a post about his thoughts on his first day here in 2011. That post will come up in the coming days.First we get to hear what his thoughts are now that he is leaving for India, what he thinks of Sonderborg, and why he has decided that it is time to move on. Over to Ashish:

Sønderborg, sounds like a medieval exotic kingdom with elves and fairies and sorcerers of the middle earth.

Though it is not exactly true but what is true is the fact that Sønderborg does make you feel out of the world.

There is strange sense of calmness coupled with grandeur and serenity that oozes out of the laid back lifestyle here.

There is no hurry, no hustle and definitely no traffic jams. Most of houses are centuries old and mostly old cars to match them.

If I were to describe the experience of living here in one word, that would be cozy. Right from the candle-lit drawing rooms, to the musty study, to the nicely decorated dining rooms, there is a homeliness and coziness which comes along. People are polite and have a very private way of life here. They give prime importance to family and after dark people tend to stay at home spending quality time with their loved ones.

The best part of Sønderborg is the area around the castle overlooking the king’s bridge and the massive church. I never fail to feel amazed walking over the bridge onto the line of fabulous restaurants facing the water coloured in different shades of yellow and pink.

The park behind the castle and the harbour sucks out every inch of negative energy and tiredness and fills you with a feeling somewhere between happiness and content. Watching the water from the bench on the long promenade sometimes makes me think I want nothing more from life than to sit and admire the simple sounds of water hitting the rocks.

There is so much to soak here, the rundstykkers of Fridays,the people lining up for ringriderpølser, the Sonderborg band playing in every special occasion, the huge horses and their riders with spears in the ringrider festival, the crazy drunk teenagers who ring people’s door bells on every Friday night.

We made lots of friends at office and at the LærDansk (Danish learning centres) and fitness centres.We had many parties, we joined the Sonderborg cricket club and enjoyed playing here, we did everything to stay busy. I thought I would never get enough of the charm of Sønderborg.

Many many months have passed since we first came here and now the very thing that we loved is also the reason we want to move on. We are citizens of India and growing up we were used to lots and lots of people, lots of noises, lots of friends and lots of family gatherings. When we came here the sudden change brought peace and quite and I am thankful for that. We got time to do what we couldn’t do there. But now after spending a few years here, we miss the noise, we miss the people and we miss the fun we had with our family and friends.

The one thing we learned here was to that the most important thing in life is to have the calmness of heart and the importance of spending time with your family and that is why we want to go back to spend some time with our family.

Vi Ses.

Longest Day of the Year

The lit path

June 21st is the longest day of the year. In Denmark this corresponds to a whopping 17.5 hrs of sun, and 19.5 hrs of light. In comparison, the shortest day of the year in December is more than 10 hrs shorter.

Scandinavians love their long summer days. Summer is when they come out of the homes they have been holed up in all winter to enjoy the outside environment. They find the days perfect for lounging out in their gardens, grilling, and just enjoying the longer days.

But how is a girl from the Mediterranean dealing with these days?

The longer days are great! After work there is still so much time to do other things you enjoy – from walking along the beach, kayaking on Als Sund, cycling around town – that it feels like you have time for both a day of work and a day of free time each day. However, there is one place where I am really struggling: Sleeping!

The long days have really messed up with my sleep. The sun being up for so long doesn’t really indicate to my body that it is time to sleep. Combine this with black-out blinds that are not as efficient as I am used to back home, and it is a recipe for disaster. Danes and expats who have lived here for a while tell me that they typically sleep longer in winter and less in summer. Unfortunately, no one told that to my body as yet!

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

A good way of finding out what it’s like to live in a place is to find someone who has made the move before you.

When I left Denmark for the first time seven years ago I started reading blogs from people (mostly foreigners) living in the places I was moving to and found it a good way of exploring the place before I arrived. Sometimes it even evolved into friendships once I landed in my new location. Around the same time I started reading blogs from foreigners in Denmark as well. It was an interesting way of getting an outsiders perspective on the things I took for granted about my home country – and if you didn’t know Danes often have a somewhat skewed perspective on Denmark.


Here are some quotes from foreigners blogging in Denmark I have come across over the years.

[W]hen sharing food with the Danes, you may not take the last item on any given plate.

You may take half of it, and it is quite entertaining to watch the last of a plate of delicious cookies be halved, and halved again, and then halved one last time, so there is only a tiny crumb left – which no one will take because it is the last item on the plate. Someone will gobble it guiltily later in the kitchen during clean-up.
My Life in Denmark: Danish Manners


Denmark’s a firmly admirable place. It’s the world’s example of how the state can deliberately create a culture and administration around social justice. There’s basically no poor people here. The working culture is the best in the world, and my professional experience here has solidified my commitment never to move back to the US. […] That said, Denmark has some serious problems. The world sees Denmark as a model of ‘how things are supposed to work’, and Danes see themselves like that too. This ‘we are awesome so we don’t have to try’ attitude translates into a society-wide smugness that can be hard to thaw. The ethnic discrimination, for example, which is as severe here as anywhere in Europe, is ignored by the popular and political culture. Domestic politicians are more interested in blocking immigration than developing Denmark’s international competitiveness.
Rotten in Denmark: The Exit Interview


The question in my case is more emotional than rational – do I like this place? Can it become ‘home’?

The answer isn’t clear. I definitely feel a sense of affinity to Denmark. In fact, I sometimes feel the story of me and Denmark is one of unrequited love (me being the one doing the loving). The reason is simple – it’s never nice to feel like a second class citizen.
Shahar Silbershatz


[A] Copenhagen restaurant won a fine dining award so now Dan-splainers tell me that Denmark has the best food in all the world.
Or a study several years ago finds that Danes are “satisfied”, so I am told that Denmark is the current happiest country in the world.
Or they get it completely wrong and tell me that Denmark has the best schools (really: top 20), or best health care (really: top 40), or highest taxes (really: top 10), or hardest language (not even close, try “one of the easiest according to the CIA”).
Kelly Draper: Dansplainers I have met


You arrive in your new country and are instantly enamored with its charm and beauty. It’s all so DIFFERENT! So EXCITING! You explore your new city and check out all the neighborhoods you’ve been visiting online for months. You spend a few days looking for a place to call home. You sign a lease and then BAM! Reality hits you and you realize you have absolutely no idea what you’re doing. […] The first thing that you should know about our move to Denmark is that it did not go entirely smoothly. There isn’t just a whole lot of information out there about how to do things here and a lot of what we managed to get done was simply a matter of trial and error.

A Belle Abroad


Whenever I’m visited by someone from the states, I inevitably end up having to grab their arms and jerk them back to stop them from stepping directly in front of an oncoming bicycle. The experience is usually instructive enough not to have to be repeated. You really, really need to be aware of those bike lanes.

The Morons Guide to Denmark for Americans

A number of the bloggers mentioned above have since left Denmark. If you want to start following someone who is in Denmark and blogging have a look at some of these. They all write witty, thoughtful, eye opening posts about life in Denmark as expats:

Or read them all here.

This is part 2/2 – Read the first part of this series here.

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.