Getting the most out of your expat experience!
Moving anywhere new is difficult at first - writer Shani Bishop offers the best advice on how to join in.
Text: Shani Bishop
Joining in might be helping at a school event, joining a sports club or attending the social events at school. International schools understand that integrating is hard, so families have many events throughout the year. If you befriend people at other international schools, you might get an invitation to their events. For example, Halloween is great at Ryygards and International Day at NIS is superb. One club I really enjoyed was LINK. They organise lots of extraordinary events during the week and are very welcoming. It's a massive mix of foreign nationals and Danes, making for an exciting experience.
Make international friends first and locals later
Expats are in the same boat, not knowing anyone, so it's much easier at first to make friends with internationals. You might be surprised to hear that many internationals move from country to country and are used to networking efficiently - so watch how they do it. Start with your nationality as this is easiest, and you already share a common language, values and understanding and go from there.
Making Danish friends is a bit of a project unless you are lucky. Often the ones interested in meeting international friends are those Danes who have lived abroad themselves. To be successful, it's best to join a club. Personally, I think sports clubs are good. Many Danes run regularly, and this would be a great activity. Handball and Badminton are very popular, and Denmark does well internationally, so maybe give it a try. The sports facilities are excellent too, which helps.
"Some of the best tips I got were from lifers. These are foreigners married to Danes or people who plan to live permanently in Denmark. This is because they have such deep knowledge of the country and culture and can help you navigate quicker."
Befriend a lifer
Some of the best tips I got were from lifers. These are foreigners married to Danes or people who plan to live permanently in Denmark. This is because they have such deep knowledge of the country and culture and can help you navigate quicker. Like the Danes, however, they are sometimes not interested in friendships with people who are ultimately leaving - it depends on the person.
Try language classes
These are free again, so well worth a try. Most people get to Level 2, and a small number go further. In Copenhagen, it's tough to practise Danish as the Danes speak such good English that they switch to English as soon as you struggle. Outside Copenhagen, everyone will assume you are Danish, so it's easier to practice more. After a while, they stop switching, and you gain more confidence, which is always a surprising moment.
Prepare for winter
I always enjoyed the run-up to Christmas in Denmark. So many pleasant events are happening - see our events section in the November and December issue for ideas. After Christmas, book a holiday somewhere warm for the winter break. There's some crazy figure that says around 2 million Danes leave Denmark during the winter break – out of a population of 5 million, that's a lot. Remember, when in Rome… If you think the weather will affect you, as it does a lot of people, buy a light lamp and increase the amount of exercise, you do. The mood in Denmark changes in winter, and people retract, so have indoor activities planned.