Making friends with the Danes
Aarhus and Eastern Jutland is home to many internationally-minded companies and organisations that all contribute to the internationalisation of this area. This month International Community gives the floor to its very own Camilla Hauge Hansen, living and studying in Aarhus and taking an internship with Erhverv Aarhus.
Photographs: Camilla Hauge Hansen / Unsplash.com
Text: International Community
In August 2021, I started as an intern at the International Community. I have a considerable interest in international relations and cultures. Having people close to me in cross-cultural relationships has given me a more international focus, which played a significant role in choosing this exact internship. A cultural gap I keep noticing is linked to how we build up our lives. For example, we go to school with the same people for at least ten years through the Danish school system, which forms the foundation for our future. This way, Danes build up few but close friendships in these phases of their lives, developing themselves. These will often be the friends we stick with throughout life, making friendships a commitment.
When I was six, I went to 'folkeskole', which is a 10-year compulsory school. Here I spent time with the same people through the entire ten years, some of which I had already met in kindergarten. Like most of my classmates, I went to secondary education followed by five years of university. All within the same region of Denmark, with a few detours of travelling to other countries for a shorter period. This means that growing up, the school system made it possible for me to tie close relations with friends and keeping them in my later life. I have always loved the connectivity and closeness of my friendships.
Travelling and meeting internationals
My family and I have travelled a lot in Europe, but in December 2016, I went travelling for the first time outside Europe, and since then, I have been travelling whenever I have the opportunity to do so. A few years back, my sister, who now lives in Taiwan, introduced me to some internationals living in Aarhus she had met through being a buddy for exchange students. So, slowly, I joined the buddy system myself and searched for international roommates, allowing me to learn about other cultures and meet people who might have a different mindset. Getting to know more internationals from travelling and the ones I have met living in Denmark has allowed me to look at opportunities from others experiences and perspectives. However, it was not until I started learning more about the international community in Aarhus that I became aware that we, as Danes, often make friends when we are growing up and keep them. Unfortunately, this doesn't leave much room for new relationships. This could be a big reason why it's difficult to befriend a Dane.
"Through the Danish school system we go to school with the same people for at least 10 years, which forms the foundation for our future lives." - Camilla Hauge Hansen
Finding the cheesiest way to put it, I would describe friendship (and relationships in general) in Denmark like a plant - growing slowly and needs to be taken care of and watered regularly. It is not because you are international that it is hard finding new people. It would be the same for a Dane moving to an entirely new city because of the culture. Friendships in Denmark might not be the same as friendship in other countries. Thus, it can be challenging to get Danish friends if trying to do it from the concept of friendship from another country.
I think the best tip is to meet Danes in their environment. That could be finding a Danish roommate, joining a club or association, attend events, or do volunteer work. Another thing to have in mind when wanting to create a relationship with a Dane is patience. As harsh as it might sound, keep asking to join instead of waiting for an invitation. Remember that Danes are like coconuts – hard on the outside and sweet on the inside. Just like opening a coconut, it takes hard work and a long time to get Danish friends.