Parts of Denmark’s countryside feel like large holiday resorts, with summer houses hugging the coast. While summer houses offer many families a much-needed space outside of the city to relax and spend quality time in, they cause some challenges for those who live full-time in the countryside. In my local area, the council and local community groups are doing their best to attract families to the countryside and show that it isn’t just here for tourism.
Photographs: Visit Denmark / Unsplash
Text: Heather Storgaard
Of course, the countryside can be challenging in the winter, and the weather has an even larger impact than in the cities – especially with the amount of mud. The lack of year-round residents is also felt outside the summer house season, as our remaining shops have reduced income and therefore reduce their opening hours accordingly.
My husband’s family come from Helgenæs, a peninsula an hour from Aarhus, the second largest city in Denmark, half an hour from an international airport and twenty minutes from the Mols Bjerge National Park. Close to Aarhus, there is an international school in Grenaa, less than half an hour from most of the villages on Mols and forty minutes from us. In many larger countries, this would be prime commuter territory, but most Danes I know seem almost scared of the unknown nature. In Syddjurs, the council is working hard on bringing families back to the countryside to change some of the ideas about the area being far away and cut off. Events such as “Mød Mols” (Meet Mols) brunches offer those considering moving out to Syddjurs the chance to talk to locals and ask questions about life in the area. In Ebeltoft, the council have also organised events for those who have recently moved to the area to get to know one another. On an even more local level, community groups host monthly dinner parties or events based on the expertise and interest of locals - we had an Irish Beer tasting earlier this year, and I have talked about doing a whisky one, although I’ve not yet gathered up the courage! These efforts seem to have an effect in the nearest village to us, with locals bragging about eight children there.
"The countryside also offers the opportunity to truly integrate with Danes."
Some of the needed changes go beyond building a community and are also about practical efforts. My favourite example is that bus stops have been put up for the first time recently! In addition, they have added some bus shelters - much needed for the winter weather. This might sound absurd to city-dwellers, but it is genuinely a big step forward. Back when I went to language school, on the same bus local children take to school, I had to stand where my husband suggested in the hope that the bus driver was local enough to know where to stop. If someone from the city was standing in as a driver for the day, no one of any age was getting to school or work on time!
The countryside also offers the opportunity to truly integrate with Danes. Every newcomer to Denmark learns quickly that Danish society can be a hard nut to crack. In the countryside, however, Danes are typically much more open and keener to get to know their neighbours. In addition, those who have moved from the city to the countryside may also understand how it feels to start afresh in a new location, even if they are still in their home country. This may be a bold claim, but coming from the countryside, albeit not the Danish countryside, I believe I sometimes fit in better than some of the Copenhageners who move here!