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Making friends in Denmark

Photographs: Pexels

Text: Dominic J Stevensen

Let’s call a spade a spade, Denmark can be a tough nut to crack regarding making friends. Along the way, I have even heard some rather undesirable comments. I do not myself see it negatively. Are we not hoping for tolerance towards us? We should, therefore, have it for others, too. Perhaps Danes are wary of those coming from beyond its borders, and to establish valuable and lasting relationships it takes time and the opportunity to see each other’s true colours. What is wrong with that? Much as there is no business to be done here sharply and shadily, with the necessity to find out if the common ground exists in which to flourish as partners or collaborators, so it also is in the social sphere.

Let’s get real. Making friends gets harder as you get older. It’s a fact of life. To those of you who are not a partygoer hopping from one country – or location – to the next, only ever having fun with whoever is available, relationships of real note grow fewer with time. Those genuine connections of note, however, have the potential to be deeply enriching and vastly more profound. Relocating and blaming your newfound situation and its people will not really do. Establishing anything valuable takes hard work.

I know people who have come here and immediately expected to find defining relationships. If that’s your approach, you’re in the wrong country. However, there is great warmth within the confines of this beautiful small land. Far beyond the concept of hygge, there is a sense of community, and Danes possess an open-minded friendliness not found in some of Denmark’s neighbours. Whilst not pointing fingers at those who throw labels around, they are neither ‘cold,’ as I heard before moving here – it was an Argentine who first alerted me to this stereotypical view – nor the perplexing ‘Latinos of Scandinavia.’ So far-fetched are these labels, and so relative is everything, that it’s better to simply take them on board as inaccurate, comical throwaway portrayals.

Does not everything decent take time to fashion? Isn’t it worthwhile to establish trust and authentic friendship than to have fake friends with instant rapports that do not endure? Of course, it depends on what you seek and how your age might determine that. Denmark is a hive for buzzing expats and job seekers/relocated employees, many eager to incorporate themselves into Danish life.

No, people are not throwing themselves at you in more Mediterranean fashion, but nor are they frosty, distant, and uncommunicative. Quite the reverse, Danes are a sociable, curious, and, yes, it’s been said before, a cosy people. They like their lives the way they are, but they also welcome additional warmth into their cocoons.

You have to meet them halfway, maybe even more, but let’s remember this is their native country. They are not entirely closed off to socialising with foreigners and newcomers. I sense they are wary, but she or he who has not naturally developed this by middle age is indeed of a rare breed.

There is a tight sense of community, yes, but I think establishing oneself here – in the working and social spheres – presents the opportunity to connect and create foundations of friendships that could well last. Positive vibes can often be found in the simplest of dialogues with Danes. They are attentive and thoughtful and will make friends if the chemistry is right.

If you network, have hobbies, have kids who attend kindergarten or school, or live in a residential area with a plethora of neighbours, you cannot avoid contact with Danes as well as other expats. Put simply, life is out there, as are the friends that will come with time. The loneliness does not need to last.

I have felt both welcome and isolated since my arrival here a few years ago. If you step outside of your comfort zone, embrace the Danish culture and its people rather than expecting to recreate your own country in micro-form, and show your desire to be a part of the country you now find yourself in, the pieces will slowly fall into place. You cannot rush a good thing!

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