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A spotlight on internationals!

Summer is a chance to get out of the city, slow down and connect with nature and family.

Photographs: Danks Industri / Folkemødet FB Page

Text: Heather Storgaard

Folkemødet is an annual democracy event every June on the Danish Baltic Sea island of Bornholm. Inspired by a similar event held on the Swedish island of Gotland, Folkemødet was launched in 2011 to bring together politicians, grassroots groups and representatives from the worlds of business, culture and anyone who wishes to participate in open dialogue.

Demokrati - an essential word in your Danish vocabulary

Participatory democracy is seen as an integral part of Danish culture and society. However, it would be a mistake to think this starts and ends with voting in referenda and elections. Throughout the year, various events unite citizens to encourage participation in as many political themes as possible, with Folkemødet now the largest. By nature, open to everyone, a wide range of participants, from politicians to community leaders and curious spectators, travel to Bornholm to participate in the Festival of Democracy every June. The best part for internationals, often disenfranchised while living abroad, is the chance to impact the nation we call home, for now, or forever.

Far from being all talk, Folkemødet is an actual festival in the sense that art and culture are encouraged to flourish. At this year’s festival, many of the art exhibitions focused on inclusion in democracy, ensuring the visibility of many who struggle to find a voice in Denmark- for example, At høre til (To Belong) examined the lives of 20 of the 500,000 people in Denmark living with a disability, and explained their experiences of finding and belonging in a society. Folk (People) was a series of black and white portraits of people the photographer met at 2022s Folkemødet, from local homeless people to visiting hijabi women and some of the country’s most influential decision-makers, highlighting the diversity of the festival’s participants.

"Let's work together to make Denmark more welcoming and inclusive for everyone!."

Internationals represented

Our Editor and Founder, Lyndsay Jensen, participated in a historic debate at Folkemødet this year. Together with representatives from Dansk Industri (DI) and a Bornholm-based international, Yana Grundke, she discussed the challenges internationals face in Denmark. Indeed, with recent statistics showing that approximately 10% of the population of Denmark are non-citizens, it has never been more relevant for internationals and Danes alike to work on issues of democracy, which ultimately affects all areas of society. Søren Kjærsgaard Høfler, Chefkonsulent at Dansk Industri, said there was no doubt that international labour is a crucial component to the success they have seen in the Danish labour market over the last ten years. He mentioned that almost half of the increase in the labour market came from internationals. During the debate, Lyndsay called for businesses in Denmark to recognise the existing talent of internationals already living here, be they accompanying spouses, refugees, or international graduates from Danish universities. She has named them as the “forgotten gold of Denmark”.

Upon reflection, Lyndsay’s favourite question came from the moderator to both business and municipality: “What can you do to make your business or municipality more attractive and welcoming when you wake up on Monday morning?” We want to extend this call to our Danish readers to also make a positive impact with internationals. Make international residents feel welcome and wanted and promote ongoing, active cultural change for the better. Folkemødet and this debate clarified one thing for Internationals: sammearbejde, working together, is the way forward. Denmark needs internationals to move here and stay and have the best experiences. So that takes a combined effort of our Danish family, friends, colleagues and neighbours. Let’s work together to make Denmark more welcoming and inclusive for everyone!

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