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Life away from home

What do expats miss in Denmark? I was talking with foreigners around me about their points of view on life in Scandinavia.

Photographs: Pexels

Text: Natália Šepitková

In the first quarter of 2024, international persons with an officially listed address in Denmark accounted for 15.9% of the population. Many come here because of work and study; others flee war or a crisis in their homeland; some decide to go due to family reunification. But they all have one thing in common. They long for a better and more satisfied life in a country that has long been ranked among the happiest countries in the world. But will they find true happiness here, or do they often feel lonely, missing home and unable to fit into society completely?

Two challenges

Choosing Denmark as your future settlement will challenge you in finding a good job and making the right friends. Now, I am not sure which is more complicated. The first requires building a solid network and being lucky, and the second requires the same.

“I consider Denmark my home, although my family is not here, and I miss them,” admits Alex from Romania, who has lived here for five years. He came to Denmark because of his education, and now he works as a sales manager in a Danish company. “It is not always easy; being a foreigner sometimes comes with limitations, but if I were to choose to be a foreigner in any country, I would choose Denmark. Most of the population speaks English, making life easy.”

More sunshine

Studying also brought Matea from Croatia to Denmark. She is a full-time student at Aalborg University and an event manager at the Aalborg Institute for Development. Despite being happy with life here, Matea misses the sunny days. “One of the best things in Denmark is the long summer days. Winter months can be depressing. Furthermore, I miss Croatian bakeries and the Croatian way of meeting for a coffee. These are two simple things but are not even remotely similar in Denmark,” she adds.

The same goes for the Brazilian expat. “Rays of sunshine clear our minds and shine bright on our hearts. I think Denmark needs more sunny-hearted people, like in Brazil,” Natacha says. She has a Danish husband and came to Denmark more than four years ago. The educated engineer and designer claims that her liking of life here is directly connected to the people she met. “I met my husband and great international friends who fulfil my need to have a life surrounded by different cultures.”

"Choosing Denmark as your future settlement will challenge you in finding a good job and making the right friends."

To build networks

Breaking into Danish social circles is more complicated than it might seem. Marian from Germany came to Denmark because of his Danish fiancée and an internship at the hospital as a medical student. He appreciates the work-life balance and the well-digitalised and bike-friendly country but misses a social network outside work and language school. “That is mainly because there is not much more time left but also because it is hard to get into existing friend groups.”

The Italian Giorgio also knows his own story, for whom finding friends in Denmark was a big challenge. “It is quite difficult to socialise with locals and other internationals,” he admits. After five years of living in Denmark, he moved back to Italy. “I could not find a job in my field. Despite hundreds of applications I sent over a year and a half, I could not land a job. The most frustrating aspect of the job hunting was when I asked about the reason for rejection; most of the time, the reason was that I could not speak Danish fluently, but none would say it directly.”

Better life – better future

British couple Sandy and Lisa are delighted with the Danish lifestyle. They left their homeland after Brexit, and considering Denmark scored very well on many metrics, they settled here. Sandy works remotely in the IT business, and Lisa is currently unemployed. “It is a bit quieter around here than it was in London, unsurprisingly, but generally similar in approach,” Sandy describes his ongoing life. His wife adds: “I like the relaxed way of life here and that people care about improving their community. Apart from friends and family, I do not miss much about England. I sometimes crave Marmite, though!”

Irina also tries to find a better life in Scandinavia. “I came to Denmark four years ago to change my life. I felt that I was standing in one place, and I decided to move on,” explains Irina, who is working on a pig farm. “Life in Denmark is different from life in Ukraine. Not everything is perfect, but I like the standard of living, nature, and delicious food. I love people and their attitude to life.” She misses her family and friends the most. The war separated them, so they rarely see each other.

Each of us internationals has a different story, but we all want to be accepted by the country we choose to live in, to offer our talents and skills there, and to create a better future for all.

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