Aarhus and Eastern Jutland is home to many internationally-minded companies and organisations that all contribute to the internationalisation of this area. This month we interview writer and the head of International Community Tiny Maerschalk, who lives and works in Aarhus.
Text: International Community
Foreninger and foreningsliv are key words in Danish society, and they are all about community, volunteering and diversity. The local foreninger or associations are the cornerstone of Danish culture and your opportunity to become part of local society and feel a sense of belonging.
Foreningsliv, what is it all about?
I have to admit that I didn't know that much about Danish foreningsliv, how it is run, and the opportunities it holds when I moved to Denmark 20 years ago. Today, I am a strong advocate for the Danish clubs and associations and advise every international moving here to find a hobby and become a local club member.
Ten years ago, I moved to Beder, 12 km south of Aarhus, where I found Beder-Malling Idrætsforening or BMI in short. BMI is the local area's sports association. It surprised me that BMI has about 3,400 members divided into 16 departments and activities. As a result, there is a wide range of opportunities for sports-oriented social gatherings in the local sports centre or at the local schools.
As in Danish associations in general, in BMI, there is a solid voluntary community. Therefore, as a member of BMI, you get much more than just pure physical well-being. I feel that BMI delivers the good experiences that arise in the community with other people. This makes me look forward to coming to the weekly training and feel like participating in various events with other members of BMI. Experiencing the joy that a sports association like BMI can offer has a double meaning. I experience both the joy of practising the sport itself and the relationships that arise in connection with the sport. It is incredible how much the local sports association means for local society and brings people together.
"It is incredible how much the local sports association means for local society and brings people together.”
Run by volunteers
Many Danish children and adults engage in organised sports activities, and it is an official political objective in Denmark that sports should be for everyone.
Different to many other countries, volunteers run most sports clubs and associations in Denmark. This helps to keep the participation fee low so that everybody has the means to participate.
Are these volunteers professional trainers? No, not necessarily. However, what they might lack in professional training skills is compensated for by a relentlessly radiating enthusiasm and love for the activity they are in charge of. Training styles will differ, though. I have to say that I believe that my current body movement instructor has watched the recent TV documentary on Jægerkorpset, an elite special operations force of the Danish Defence part of Special Operations Command. When we chit chat, we get ten burpees. A lack of commitment sends us on a run around the school. She takes her volunteer training job seriously!
My children, aged 5 and 10, participate in the local idrætsforening too. They have both chosen gymnastics with training at the local school's gym hall. Ella, my 10-year-old, bikes 600 m to school herself every Tuesday at 17:00. I accompany Ida, my 5-year-old, to her class on Wednesdays. As Ida's volunteer instructor is six months pregnant (say what!), parents are encouraged to assist. And everybody gladly does so, as this is an innate part of Danish culture. The kids don't question this and accept every single adult's instructions. I don't have any experience with gymnastics, so I stick mainly to setting up the equipment and turning on and off the music – I know my limits.
Most local associations will round off the season with either a tournament or a show where the different sports display what they have been working on. This is usually one of the big days in the community, where social networking and togetherness are essential.
Should you be interested in finding a club or association, then I can assist you. Fill out the form on https://internationalcommunity.dk/ClubsandAssociations to get started.