The Hot Debate about the Cold Danes

Following the publication of a series of survey results by Worktrotter last week, Politiken wrote that “well-educated foreigners feel rejected”, Jyllands Posten has published an article suggesting Denmark “be more like Switzerland”, The Copenhagen Post interviewed Lars AP about “being (swear word removed) nice to each other”, and in the same paper, my colleague Peter A. Lemmich addressed the debate by asking “Are Danes really Anti-Foreigner?”. I can also refer to our own on-going survey and debate on the Expat in Denmark Blog.

What do the surveys tell us? The Worktrotter survey posits that 54% of the respondents feel that Danes are very, generally, or kind of open. 34% answered “not really”, and 12% don’t think Danes are open to foreigners at all. Interestingly, respondents are also asked to specify why they answer what they do, explaining that their impression of the “openness” is a result of, for example, social interaction, government and authorities, media, language, or the general feeling of not “being treated as equals”.

In my opinion, the report lacks some important methodological considerations resulting in a too simplistic view of a complicated issue; not least what is meant by “open”? Is the foreigner / newcomer / Expat supposed to represent the respondent or a general definition? Do superficial impressions of Danish authorities, politics and media constitute a valid argument?

Moreover, from our own surveys and especially the extensive surveys the like of which have been compiled by Oxford Research in their Expat Study (the latest version being published next month) , the picture is far more complex and sophisticated than can be dealt with a solitary question. For example, yes – a majority of expats feel that Danes could be more open with them. However an even higher number of the same group state (1) that they find Danes friendly and (2) that Denmark is an excellent place to live? A clear picture? As clear as mud, and in need of serious discourse.

Of course, the overall message is one which generally underlines what we have known for quite some time: that retention isn’t just a question of lowering taxes or building more international schools. More than anything else, it’s feeling a part of the society you’re living, working or studying in. At the very least, as part of the local community of foreigners or Expats.

The survey results also demonstrate that it’s still early days for the Expat community – Denmark has only recently experienced an expatriate influx which is both visible and permanent. As we have mentioned before, Expats in Denmark are true pioneers! Society and social culture is only just trying to understand what is going on, and what the practical implications of a new, modern, multi-cultural Denmark are. What is Danish social culture? How do we interact with each other? Until recently, Danes haven’t had to address their social discourse, not to mention its effect on foreigners – expatriate or otherwise. That’s why debates like these are so important, just so long as we recognise the complexity, dynamism, and maintain a positive and constructive attitude.

Danes are generally hesitant of initiating contact with foreigners because they don’t want to ‘trænge sig på’ – to intrude others’ privacy! (Dennis Nørmark)

So what can we do about it?

Well, first of all we (Expats and Danes alike) need to try to understand the Danish social culture and code. Danes won’t change overnight. No ‘big red button’ exists which can be pressed. Had it existed, I’m sure it would have been pressed long before now! In other words, if we wait for Danes to “open up”, we’re in for a very long and frustrating wait.

Dennis Nørmark, anthropologist, commentator and consultant at Living Institute confirms this: “If you wait for the Danes to take the initiative, you’ll probably be waiting forever”. According to studies, however, this isn’t because they don’t want to meet expatriates. Danes just generally don’t initiate contact with people they don’t know in advance, or know through someone or something. As Lars AP, the man who wants Danes to “be nice” says, 42% of Danes don’t intiate contact because they respect the privacy of the other. As Dennis Nørmark puts it, “Danes are generally hesitant of initiating contact with foreigners because they don’t want to ‘trænge sig på’ – to intrude others’ privacy!”

This cultural trait doesn’t just apply to foreigners – as any Dane will tell you, it applies to other Danes as well! In other words, they’re actually trying to be nice by showing you that they respect you. It seems cold (and no, it’s not exactly the latino spirit), but in, by far, the majority of cases it’s neither racism, xenophobia or particularly anti-foreign.

The logical consequence then is for Expats to initiate the contact. We need to be “first-movers” and challenge the social bubble that surrounds the Danes. Again, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution, but you could try to invite a colleague out for a beer, a couple you’ve met over for an informal (!) dinner, or suggest a family activity if you have kids. If you’re learning Danish, you might suggest a weekly 1-hour coffee+language session. Just remember to keep the relationship light, and expectations realistic and clear.

Books like the Xenophobes Guide to Danes are a wonderfully entertaining read, and do indeed point to many of the traits that frustrate expats. There are, however, around 30 Xenephobes Guides to various nationalities, not just the one book about the Danes.  One might pause to wonder why.

If Danes really are cold, then we probably just need to chill. Denmark and the Danes will surely open up over time, but they’re not going to do it on command, and they’re not going to do it without the patient warmth of the Expat community.

118 responses to “The Hot Debate about the Cold Danes

  1. You’re right, this “openness” and “coldness” thing has not been properly defined. I am not going to leave the country because Danes respect my privacy or because Danes find it hard to open up to me, I am going to leave this country because some Danes are actively unpleasant to me. I have actually stopped leaving my house except to go to work or the airport, it happens so frequently.

    If we call this bad behaviour “coldness” or a “lack of openness”, then it means it can get conflated with Danes not falling over themselves to be your friend and it is a separate issue.

  2. Having read all the remarks just have this to add…..

    we all come from different countries and have different cultures etc……yet we share mostly the same experiences and complaints when it comes to the Danes…

    I would rather say those in Copenhagen as having travelled a little in Denmark have found it more pleasant out side Copenhagen

    So question is …is it really for us to change? is it not for the “Danes” to sit up and listen, get some manners, respect and to stop making faces when we try to speak Danish…..learn that having an accent is normal and doesn’t make us freaks……learn that saying “that’s how we do it in Denmark” is plain and simple arrogance……

    It’s a beautiful country and there is plenty of space for all to share…..

    Perhaps as expats or refugees….and being a refugee doesn’t mean that one is uneducated btw that’s pretty bigoted thing say……let’s influence by being the good example of politeness, tolerance and respect….perhaps then our lovely Danes will see how agreable it can be…….

    Does anyone out there also hate how Nøreborro is labeled a gheto? How more negative can one get …there are loads of areas in Nøreborro that are buzzing with life and it’s not as dangerous as the media makes out…..

    Here’s a story of Dane who asked a friend of mine who happens to be black if he speaks African…he is meant to one of the educated Danes….African is not a language …someone should tell him….my friend said no I am english….he said yes but your family etc….reply…they come from Jamaica…..Dane said…so a long time a go they spoke African……Bigot screams loudly here and is sadly not uncommon…….btw the same Dane invited my partner and I for dinner and we walked out after being called an F…….g muslim……nice……

    Anyway lets not give up…Denmark has actually had immigrants for over 200 years …so not really a new thing… perhaps in another 200 years it will change…..I’m a stuborn expat that will remain who I am regardless of the assimulation games… I am here to stay as I am happy with my Danish man…….

    Skatesection I really empathise with you and totally don’t blame you for wanting to leave…lord knows I have felt the same many times…….think when Danes say it’s worse else where it’s just a poor excuse to do nothing……bless the apathy here…remarkable they get anywhere…..and don’t you just love when you ask people if they have such and such and the bog standard answer is “no”…..doesn’t reflect much of their education they boast about….lateral thinking seems non existent here along with service …..anyway good luck and all the best :)

  3. “we all come from different countries and have different cultures etc……yet we share mostly the same experiences and complaints when it comes to the Danes…”

    I am sorry Marie, but you are wrong here. This thread is a one-sided beat up of Danes, the rest of the crowd is either ignored or simply have no hope for xenophobe discussions like this.

    Good luck.

  4. Marius,

    I must say that I take some offense to your comment. Although it is true that I criticized the excessive conformity of Danish society, I did say quite clearly that I believe that what they have decided to conform to is generally quite cool. Certainly more respectable and admirable than many other countries, including the ones (plural) I come from. There are plenty of great things about Denmark! However, the discussion here is not about what is great, but about what makes it difficult for foreings when it comes to fitting in. And of course it’s difficult to fit in when what is needed to fit in leaves a narrow window to maneuver as a foreigner. If one likes different music, wears different clothes, has different political thoughts and views, then you are not treated the same. Im not saying this because it has even happened to me because I actually agree with most of what is considered appropriate or good. However, I can clearly see that those who dont are left to be outsiders. This is an observation, not a xenophobic attack. Now, perhaps some comments here have been more passionate than others, but to treat those who criticize as xenophobes is just plainly unfair.


  5. Poloma,

    About fairness, please see my comment about ethical level below.
    The main problem of this discussion is just complaining about specific cases and then generalizing them to entire society — that is unfair in any consistent moral framework. I am challenging you to be more constructive.

    “If one likes different music, wears different clothes, has different political thoughts and views, then you are not treated the same. ”

    I disaggree. Most danes won’t even note your style, and even less likely to comment in public. Political thoughts? Even I do get enough attention and I am at the lowest VIP rank in a huge institution, which is university — or perhaps that is an exceptional place?

    “I actually agree with most of what is considered appropriate or good. I can clearly see that those who dont are left to be outsiders.”

    This is a general problem with any social structure. So you either accept things as they are, or you won’t be satisfied anywhere.
    Those outsiders are called minorities. Minorities indeed need special handling, and in Denmark most minorities do have quite a protection, e.g. once you are enrolled into social insurance system you get all services despite your gender, skin color or culture, and sometimes one can get a native translator in a hospital setting.
    Perhaps you know some minority where this is not the case (would be interesting to discuss), but expats are not (e.g. — you may even be lucky to read rules and regulations in your native tongue).
    Most comments here are going in circles about openness, while not being open themselves and then complain that rejecting crap is not open enough.

  6. Marius,

    “Most Danes wont comment on your style?” Ok, I see we’ve come to focus on the main point I meant to discuss too narrowly.

    I really just mean to highlight the lack of variety of culture so apparent in other places in the world. For example: Spain with its various regional identities and languages; NYC with everyone in the world and the US with centuries of migrants; India with its thousands of languages, several religions, cultures, etc; Latin America with its history of slavery, indigenous peoples and Spanish descendants all mixing together; and the list goes on. I imagine these things have lead to societies that have various subgroups, subcultures and varying traditions (obviously, this leads to having more variation in fashion, religion, politics, so on and so forth). And I haven’t found such a variation here. Ive never been in a place so untouched by foreign influence or past mixing of cultures.

    Anyways, this is a theoretical discussion that could be interesting to have but not here. I havent been here long enough to know who is “right” in this debate (though surely you can agree that there is a lack of diversity?) I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt though. Im open to believing that danes are naturally open to new things, and that what Ive seen in this short time is nothing but the views of a select few. I am actually optimistic about the prospects of being here, but it’s obviously quite a change from more cosmopolitan places in the world like NYC. And Im happy to hear your views on this. It’s definitely nice to get some positive views on the subject, because the more negative you hear, the more you come to believe that all the negative just might be true!

    Vi ses

  7. Yes, Paloma, aparent monoculture is aparent to me as well, and it has also crossed my way too, but this monoculture does not penetrate everything, it is only at the aparent level.
    I think the main reason is high taxes and social economy:
    1) it’s very difficult to carry your national identity, because you can hardly find food and clothes you are used to, and thus hard to carry on your native lifestyle.
    2) it’s a small country so everything gets integrated one way or the other. if you take evolutionary phylosophy, then only the the fittest/best survive, so you see only things that have survived this harsh environment. Moreover there is nothing personal here, or no central figure to blaim.
    Things can get very different in bigger countries.

    The reason is that it is very expensive to be special in any way even though nothing forbids. i.e. one cannot produce/support in small quantities (the very definition of being special), because high taxes demand high efficiency which is achievable only in bulk quantities. Imports seem to be very much regulated and restricted — I don’t know yet how and why.

    So as a concequence one either pays high price, or drop the expensive lifestyle.
    One can blaim high taxes, but this is the base upon social welfare lives on, also the essence of being Dane (or perhaps Swiss or Canadian).
    Then add the rule “one is no better than the other”, i.e. ignore one’s own desires and you will see that expensive lifestyle is meaningless here. And again, they would rather impose high taxes just to avoid anyone becoming too rich, because “one is no better than the other”.
    I think Danes are secular (even though they have many churches, religious arguments are simply foreign to them), thus they are curious/open about you, but will very likely reject claims from holy book, or stay polite and coldly ignore them.
    At the same time they don’t fall for materialism, well, at least not as much as Americans.

    The same goes with rude language — they demonstrate that they have free speech, feel unconstrained by any particular artificial framework and they will not respond to politics of fear — they actually do cultivate individualism and variety, albeit not the material one.

  8. I can only agree to Marius quotes. I am almost shocked about how unopen, arrogant and dan-bashing this circle here is. It is the responsibilty of the ones, that move-in, to integrate, not the other way round. (this goes for all countries, not only denmark).

  9. Kathi, I could not agree more.
    If we sit around feeding our negative attitudes about Danes, we will NEVER feel like we belong…
    we have to GET OUT THERE and try!

  10. “It is the responsibilty of the ones, that move-in, to integrate, not the other way round.”

    I am afraid Kathi that the above is not the right way to go either.
    Both sides can be/go wrong, make mistakes etc. I am seeking for objective truth if possible.

    I found some details revealing the problem:
    Religious disagreements:
    “the same Dane invited my partner and I for dinner and we walked out after being called an F…….g muslim……nice”

    Humour differences across cultures:
    ““that’s how we do it in Denmark” is plain and simple arrogance”
    [this one actually brings a big sincere smile on my face, I see no arrogance, whatever the context was, I am happy for this dane for one enjoying what one is doing]

    None of this is easy, but the issues still work at a personal level, i.e. I stand by my opinion that at society level there is little if at all wrong with Denmark.

  11. I agree that it is on the shoulders of those of us who come into the country, to do our best to integrate, for as long as we’re here. But have you never heard of the idea of ‘making someone comfortable’ when they’re a visitor? I certainly remember being taught that as a child, both at home and school, whenever new people came around. Which would mean that, while it is the responsibility of those coming in to do their best to work with the natives, it is the responsibility of the natives to, at the least, keep the path smooth so that the newbies have a greater chance of becoming part of the whole. Denmark has done a lot of good things for immigrants (expat or otherwise), but some occasionally have a bit of a struggle with holding up their end of the bargain, including the government. It does work both ways. It has to, otherwise someone on one side or the other begins feeling taken advantage of.

    For me, I like it here, unpleasant quirks of some Danes notwithstanding. Luckily, my path through things has been relatively smooth. So I do my thing, confuse the natives regularly with a smile and a nod, and live life. That’s what you do, wherever you are. (I don’t bash Dan though, he’s my brother. He’d tell on me if I did… ;D)

  12. I speak for myself: I moved here, so I don´t expect danes to adapt to my culture. If I want to live here, I have to accept the danes as they are. I have only met open danes, I – from my swiss polite-upbringing point of view – think, this “rudeness” is refreshing.

    What I get out of most comments, is a judgement that “being open” is better that “being reserved/Closed”. But this viewpoint is definitely not share by all people: To me, this “Leave me alone” – is much more appealing, I don´t feel comfortable in southern countries because of their openness and lacking distance – and thats exactly why I do not move there.

  13. woa woa hang on there… integration is always a “two way street”! this is the exact reason why so many nations have getten it wrong… this is why Denmark is getting it wrong now. The Danes have no excuse for getting it wrong because they have the benefit of hindsight.,.. only need to look to their neighbors like Sweden, Holland, England, Germany, France etc. for ideas on what works and what doesn’t. But do they do this ???

  14. yes but the survey was on how we feel as expats in Denmark not other countries…. and none of our feelings should be dismissed……..because it’s worse or the same else where does not mean that the Danes should not improve…….

    and no matter how hard I try (and I have also lived in France with much less difficulty as far integration is concerned) I am still confronted with rudeness not coldness but rudeness….just for the record my partner is Danish and completely agrees with me and is both embarrassed and horrified by his fellow compatriots…..

    in fact I have met many Danes that say the same as me ……if it was not true how is that there are more and more reports in the newspapers on this very fact….written by Danes no less…

    And if I am personally being called an f…..g muslim I am sorry this is not ok with me

    I agree with Mackadamian ….it is a 2 way street and Denmark has plenty of examples in the rest of the world how not to approach the question of integration…..

    Sadly the list of negative experiences is longer than that of positive ones for the most of us………other wise I don’t think we would have this blog if we were not looking for a solution……

    My Danish language teacher once said to us in class when she has someone being polite to her it surprises her….where as for the most us in our countries it’s more the norm to give a good service and to be polite….

  15. This article, although right on, doesn’t touch on what I consider to be a much more important issue regarding Danish culture, which is its propensity to conform. It seems that the modus operandi of Denmark, or at least Copenhagen, is that everyone conform to the widely accepted views of what is good or how things should be. This type of conformity seems to relate to everything from fashion, music, and general aesthetics, all the way through to where to go (Roskilde, Distortion, etc. etc, anyone?), politics (the margins of this variation within Copenhagen seem to be rather minor) to how one should behave during social encounters (discussed above). I’m not complaining about the content of the consensus, (it’s all quite hiptserish and cool) but about that fact that everything is predictable and uninspiring because of the lack of said variety–and really–the lack of acceptance of variety. I don’t hear anyone really complaining about this. Everyone happily continues to love the same bands, go to the same festivals, wear the same clothes, use the same bikes, have the same opinions about politics, go to the same places after high school (for one year), think the same thing about Jylland, and so on and so forth. Unfortunately, this is something that I find troubling and uninspiring.

    Now I know that as expats, we are the ones that can bring the needed variety, but it’s just a difficult issue to deal with when you originate from different places Latin America and then lived 8 years in NYC, as I have. I imagine I’m not bringing up anything all that deep or insightful about Danish society, but I do think it is something important to discuss when it comes to the integration of expats, as discussed in the article above. :)

  16. here here……have never seen such a uniformed society before in my life….being bold and having something to say is very much frowned upon…especially as a woman….A dane said to me “if you are going to emotional then we can’t have a sophisticated conversation”…then proceeded to get my Danish partner on side…….told him to go away of course….however I am digressing…..change and improvement also being different or should we say being an individual seems to scare the pants off folk here….for music we go to FNAC Paris, clothes London, etc….sad when Denmark is known for design….trouble is everyone has the same…………best place in the whole of Denmark that expresses true democracy , tolerance and celebrates diversity is Christiania….the one saving grace which is sadly under attack…..

  17. just my two øre:
    1) you need to be careful with surveys. If you want a clear picture, you have to design it very carefully with concrete hypothesis in mind and then test it with answers.
    2) you get mixed results at least partly due to uncertain expectations by the survey participant (did you measure their expectations?). i.e. if the expectations are high (for some reason — this would also be interesting to find out where, when and why), then it is very likely that the person will be disappointed about some specific issues. e.g. southern cultures expect very emotional, “hot” attitude and they get disappointed by “cold” treatment in the north. I come from north, and I get overwhelmed by hot temper in the south — something I would brag along.
    3) Denmark “be more like Switzerland” — this is completely un surprizing: if you look at happiness indices by country, social values and social systems of these two countries, then they fall side by side, very close to each other. I’ve never been to Switzerland, and I have no clue how it feels there, but statistical data is very suggestive.
    4) I am frustrated about what you mean by “openness”. Danish culture is very much secular, it’s very hard for me to imagine a better standard of equal treatment. Once you understand this, you will get quite a relief. When I came here, I was surprised that the person handling CPR formalities wanted to enter my complicated surname in native letters (of course it did not work, but there are technical reasons).
    If you want to “change them”, then I really wonder what that change is about (are you really sure with what you want?). Most danes are very open, see, they don’t even put up blinds or curtains on their windows. Open culture? it’s so open that there is way too much weird, useless and thoughtless stuff, yet much of it is copied from elsewhere. Your culture is not there yet? well, join the parade :-) mind you, you have to do serious preparations even for carnivals just to be noticable.
    Open economy? this one I would accept, but that would only serve corporate capital interests.

  18. I like the author’s approach and advice. I’ve only been here a couple months, and so it is much too early for me to get much below the tip of the Danish cultural iceberg. In general, though, I have found Danish people to be extremely welcoming and easy going on a social level. Denmark is a great place to live, and the Danish people are right to be proud and protectful of it.

    That said, with the rapid economic growth and development going on in other nations and regions, it is my view that Denmark’s political leaders have quite a bit of work to do enable Denmark to continue to be a great place to live. The recent 2010 Foreign Investors Summit sponsored by AmCham Denmark highlighted the shortage of highly qualified labor in Denmark. It is well documented that Denmark needs to attract foreign talent both to meet the demand from its existing businesses based in Denmark and to fund the long-term social security obligations to retired Danish workers. In short, Denmark needs highly skilled expats more than such expats need Denmark. It is not enough to attract such expats – it will ultimately be necessary to retain them too.

    Forward thinking Danes know this.

    It will be interesting to see whether and how Danish politicians tweak the tax and immigration laws and regulations to address the expat retention challenge in the coming months and years.

    Med venlig hilsen,

    Brad Furber
    An American Expat living in Copenhagen

  19. Can see that also as expats we need to also be patient, however a question to Dennis Nørmark , why in Copenhagen are people so rude? why are Danes unable to say excuse me instead ramming their bicycle into me when they want to get passed? Why is it so hard in general for Danes to provide both their compatriots, visitors and expats with a service with a smile instead of making comments like “that’s how we do it in Denmark”…stinks of arrogance sorry but this is not pleasant for any of us…it’s a question of treating people with respect…

  20. It has been very interesting to follow your comments on this and having dealt with many hundreds of expats in the past, I can’t really say I’m surprised when hearing about the experiences (maybe a little when it comes to the conclusions).

    I think everybody needs to remember that “culture” is not an absolute thing but a relative thing in the sense that Danes are not like this or that, but like this and that COMPARED to other cultures X, Y and Z. There is no one culture without cultures.

    I need to stress that before answering your question Marie, because courtesy is also a matter of viewpoint. What is polite in your culture might not be in ours. So saying that a specific culture is impolite doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

    I think that when Danes bump into you and don’t excuse themselves, it HAS something to do with the shy and modest attitude. If you are not seriously harmed I wont intrude into your private space and create personal contact with you. You might want to be left alone so there is no need for me to address you just because of some banal slight physical contact. I might even come out as a quite “desperate-to-seek-social-contact” if I talk to you after stepping a little bit on your toes.

    For instance a lot of Danes really hate the American tendency to say “I’m sorry” and “are you OK” all the time, for what we consider minor faults and mistakes. Honestly – “Leave me alone” is how a lot of Danes react to such well-meaning approaches.

    Also it has something to do with the very high trust in Denmark. If you trust somebody you don’t need many niceties and “wrapping in” with polite remarks. Just remember how you speak to your own family. This is because remarks that are too polite (too polite from the Danish perspective) create a distance between people. When using more formalized and polite approaches you are making people strangers. And strange people, you trust less than people you know.

    In big countries you meet a lot of strangers, so you speak in a more polite way. But Danes like to think of their countrymen as part of a “Danish Family” – and you don’t want to address family like you address strangers.

    I hope this clarifies some

    Dennis Nørmark

  21. I would argue that tipping off to authorities is exactly the sign of trust in their own society, i.e. who are you to judge?
    Danes just let the professionals to handle the case and the authorities are not stupid, they know that there is a risk of false positives.

  22. I’m sorry, Dennis, but this:

    “I think that when Danes bump into you and don’t excuse themselves, it HAS something to do with the shy and modest attitude. If you are not seriously harmed I wont intrude into your private space and create personal contact with you. You might want to be left alone so there is no need for me to address you just because of some banal slight physical contact. I might even come out as a quite “desperate-to-seek-social-contact” if I talk to you after stepping a little bit on your toes. ”

    is sheer bull.

  23. This comment:

    “Also it has something to do with the very high trust in Denmark. If you trust somebody you don’t need many niceties and “wrapping in” with polite remarks. Just remember how you speak to your own family.”

    Well actually, in many cultures, we speak respectfully to our families. But sod the whole culture angle. There are Danish families who make the effort to speak politely to their own family. Imagine if you bumped into a family member in the kitchen and did not say sorry? What the?

    Trust in Denmark? One of the peculiarities of the Danish Way is that Danes often ‘inform’ on each other. I don’t know where we would find any formal stats for this, but moving about as I have, between all sorts of levels of Danish society I have been shocked at the number of cases of people informing on their friends for things like ‘bad’ parenting, in each case only ever being an unfounded suspicion of bad parenting or some sort of legal thing (tax or similar) etc. We can of course say that it is important, if a child is being mistreated for someone to do something about it, but in the cases I have met, the informing has been on an incorrect basis and it has been more about some revenge act or a jealous move.

    I haven’t had the experience myself of being informed on, I guess I haven’t angered anybody to that degree, but I have met it happening to other families (quite innocent of any slurs too) time and time again. It is also fairly common in Denmark for angry types to ‘land someone in trouble with the authorities’ in some way by way of anon tip off. This is far more usual here than in England for example. Where informing would only be done due to the most serious grounds.

    I’ve got to know Danish mothers very well at various points and once in the trusted circle I found out that a lot of Danish parenting is about APPEARING to be towing the line, because there is this great fear of the authorities being involved. How on earth can I prove this? I probably can’t. They tell me things that are not public. That they are afraid to deviate from the norm and that it is important to keep up the external image. This is where the much maligned foreigner fails, who does not know that Denmark is all about pretending to be something. Many expats who approach the Danish way in a professional go-getting manner do very well here, because they know how to keep the image up.

    There is little trust in Danish society. There is a lot of blindness and this is about being hostage to the system and having little choice but to go along with what everybody else does.

    I challenge the suggestion that Denmark is all about trust, or even that that trust is well placed.

  24. If The Danes are so shy to intrude, why are they so quick to tell you what you ‘should’ or ‘should not’ do? I can not count the number of times Danes tell me what I need to do with my (my!!) dogs when I am out in the woods. My dogs are small and do not go to other dogs, or attack them, they just leave them alone. My smallest one is often afraid and wants me to pick her up so she feels safer. Even that is not allowed by some Danes who question my behavior. How is that about ‘not intruding’?

  25. Not everything is ‘relative’. Some behaviour is rude, whether it is committed in Denmark or the USA. Charging into people, pushing them out of the way, jumping in front at the bus stop, laughing at an attempt to communicate, denying equal treatment in the job market, labelling refugees as ‘ghetto dwellers, etc, etc, is simply bad mannered, even if you are Danish!

  26. perhaps I wasn’t clear….the guy didn’t bump into me he actually rammed my front wheel 3 times with his front wheel because he wanted to get passed….it certainly is not being shy but rude……

  27. omg yes, that thing they cyclists do here? that ramming thing? There are so many things I came to love Denmark in a superficial way: the cycling culture being one, that i now regard with the utmost hostility. Cyclists in Denmark can be mean mofos to be sure! I was once rammed, while carrying a baby! It seemed to me like the creep in the cycle helmet speeded up when he saw me trying to cross. What utter horridness. I no longer consider cyclists to be sensitive individuals considering their health and that of the planet, but horrid neurotic and aggressive types (in some part more than anywhere else).

    Am also sick of negotiating the crossing of a cycle path to hear a horrid roar of “PAS PÅ!!!!” good lord, who teaches these people manners?

    A recent trip to London, where cycles are used much more in the inner city than every before left me feeling refreshed and enamored of the cyclists there. So polite, so jovial, it was like they were a) enjoying themselves and b) aware that they didn’t own the road and c) cared about what happens to the bipeds.

    How very different to the cycle culture here with all it’s snobbery about who has the biggest bike (or crate on a bike) and the racing and ramming they do.

    Ugh. It’s also not safe for kids to cycle in a lot of cycle lanes due to the nature of many of the cyclists here.


  28. The debate certainly needs to continue, this is true. But saying to expats ‘You have to be more open’ isn’t necessarily going to help so much. We can be so open and friendly we look like we’re channeling a Disney movie, but if people aren’t receptive to it, then it does no good. And if, in trying to be open and welcoming, we are instead seen as too needy or clingy somehow, then it works in a negative way.

    Denmark is new at the immigration game, that is sometimes screamingly obvious. But honestly, it’s not that hard. If you’re willing to let people in, then you have to be willing to let them in all the way. You don’t invite people you want to be friends with over to your house and say ‘Ok, you’ve made it into the foyer, that’s far enough’. You invite them in, show them around, offer them coffee and cake, and get to know them. Now, I know the pastries here are pretty fab, so this isn’t rocket science. Open the door and let the famed hygge flow. Danes don’t have to ‘adopt’ expats (though that might actually be a good idea, now that I think of it), but they can show a bit more than polite interest. Because not all expats have enough time to let the Danes warm up on their own. And the more that leave here thinking their time was a waste, the fewer that will come. And the less chance Denmark has of keeping up with the rest of the world. Maybe that’s what some folks want, but that’s not necessarily a good thing. Not for a country of this size, with its particular tax burden and welfare state.

    Some Danes may be trying to be nice by not initiating contact, but as something of an introvert, that lack of response doesn’t encourage further effort. Whereas just the tiniest bit of returned interest will get the same back from me. Of course, if that (respecting someone’s privacy) were completely true, then you would think you would never hear of people being accosted by random folks while out and about, being criticized for not speaking Danish, or doing something different that just ‘isn’t how things are done here’. But as I have read stories by other expats of that exact thing happening (though it hasn’t to me, but it would be kind of funny if it did), I hesitate to believe that it’s all about respect. So, maybe it’s growing pains, on the part of some Danes, getting used to the brave new world that’s popping up around them.

    To me, it seems fairly simple, though I’m sure the execution isn’t. Figure out how to adapt to an ever-changing world, or stick to your little corner, refusing to accept the changes that are occurring, and watch everyone else pass you by. We, as expats, are doing our part. Many of us come over here, bright-eyed and willing to tackle the new adventure wholeheartedly. And yet, many of those same people end up feeling somehow lessened by the walls they run into here, or run away screaming, vowing never to return.

    You are right though, those Danes who aren’t welcoming won’t suddenly do so on command. And they do need the exceedingly patient warmth of expats to help warm them up. But they also have to be willing to do more than sit in their little homes and dream of the days when Denmark was just another dot on the map. If they can, they will also then see how welcoming our warmth can be. :D

  29. Well done on pointing out that expats need to take the initiative! This approach has been very successful for my husband and me.

    However, I am concerned by the lack of nuance in the foreigner debate in Denmark. I get the impression that expats, by virtue of being foreign, get lumped in the same category as poor, uneducated and often socially problematic refugees. However, expats and refugees are generally worlds apart.

    I am very happy in Denmark and feel that I am accepted and respected by the Danes I know. I do not expect that my children will face the same language and social problems as refugee children do. However, due to the lack of nuance in the national debate, I sense disapproval from people who don’t know me when, for example, I talk to my son in English rather than in Danish. To me, this is a far bigger and more thorny issue to resolve than merely having to take the initiative to break into Danish society.

  30. Yeah, couldn’t agree more. I wish Danes would only disapprove of poor, uneducated, socially problematic foreigners when they see them speaking their language in the street.

    We should be treated differently! We are rich, educated and not as socially problematic (often). We should get better treatment! We’re a better class than them.

    I wish the Danes would recognise that instead of treating us all the same. The poor ones DESERVE it and we don’t. So there should be more differentiation, shouldn’t there?

  31. Yes, Jeanine, very good point.

    It is really so very irritating that when I open my mouth and speak in English many Danes look at me with something akin to what can only be described as disapproval. I become so frustrated on these occasions I often want to simply yell out: “Hey! You’ve got me all wrong! If you only knew me you would respect me!”

    But of course it is so rare I get the chance to prove that I am as you so succinctly put, worlds apart from the problematic refugees.

    My husband and me also came up with something that the parent of a profoundly handicapped child we know came up with. She was so tired of strangers getting the wrong idea about her son, thinking him to be badly behaved rather than mentally sick (he has the disease of adhd) that she decided to distribute little info cards when and if she got those stares and looks of disapproval. They read something like: “Hello. Today you have looked at my child with disapproval. Perhaps you thought that his behavior was a sign of being badly brought up. In actual fact, my husband and me would like you to know he has recently contracted adhd, and this is why he behaves the way he does. I’ll thank you to think about your own lack of nuance in future, instead of needlessly judging innocent bystanders.”

    My husband and me have had printed some small laminated cards that read: “Hello. You may have heard us speaking in a foreign language to each other. Perhaps you think we are the poor, uneducated and socially problematic foreigners. In actual fact we do not face the same language and social problems as refugees and are in fact: expats. Expats are not the same as refugees, in fact, we are worlds apart.”

    Except we’ve printed them in Danish, for obvious reasons. I intend to hand them out to people if they look at me a bit funny or if I am worried they think I am a moslim or something (in the winter I sometimes wear a snood).

  32. Mmmm… I am not entirely convinced by this tale of “coldness caused by respect” that leads you to support the view that Danes care so much about you, that they do not want to intrude into your private sphere.
    Before moving to Denmark in 2006, I lived in Stockholm for three years. Trust me, it is pretty easy to tell apart the shyness, respect and, why not, sometimes the social awkwardness that you find in Sweden, with the lack of openness and interest in anything out of the ordinary I often found here.
    Mind you, I do not pretend that the Danes MUST be interested in opening up and warming up to other cultures in general and to me in particular. I humbly suggest that they should stop pretending otherwise. And this will be an even better place to live!

  33. Wouldn’t Danes interpret all the suggestions (Again, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution, but you could try to invite a colleague out for a beer, a couple you’ve met over for an informal (!) dinner, or suggest a family activity if you have kids. If you’re learning Danish, you might suggest a weekly 1-hour coffee+language session. ) as disrespect if they are keeping their distance as a sign of respect?

  34. good suggestions, skatesection.

    However I was making a general point: I have very good social interactions with some Danes: my daughter, my partner, for example! ;-)
    My experience is that, in comparison with other countries where I lived, Denmark comes out more closed, cold and inhospitable for the average foreigner. Nothing wrong with that, but clearly not a plus for the people that moved here for whatever reason. Then you have you balance with all the wonderful pluses of this country, and then decide whether this is the place you want to live in for the rest of your life!

  35. Great analysis Craig – I agree that it’s early days for expat presence in Denmark, and perhaps that’s one of the reasons why Danes are not quite sure how to view highly-skilled migrants here (expats or others). It probably doesn’t help that the debate around ‘integration’ in Denmark over the last decade focused on a very different kind of immigration (refugees, asylum seekers and low-skilled migrants), which makes it difficult for many Danes to understand that the issues surrounding highly-skilled migration are very different. Lastly, many Danes assume that all expats benefit from the special 3-year low-tax arrangement (called forskerordning in Danish) – something that creates resentment among some Danes towards foreign professionals. This can be understood when Denmark’s socialist nature is taken into consideration.

    So what can we as foreign professionals do? First of all, calibrate our expectations. Every country seems unwelcoming at times to foreigners so we can’t be expecting too much. Second, we need to make a genuine effort to understand the local culture, speak the local language (to some extent) and initiate social contact as you suggest. Another thing we can do is educate – as this is a new phenomenon we can try and help the Danes understand it better and see the value in it. We can do it at work, with our friends or through more public channels. This is partly what I try to do with my blog on Berlingske Tidende:

  36. Having lived, unfortunately, in Denmark for 4 years, it is clear to me that what I perceived and received as prejudice and xenophobia towards anyone who wasn’t Danish and didn’t speak Danish in a perfect manner, is and was exactly that. I recognise that Danes appreciate and and take pride in their culture, language, way of life and ‘nation-hood’ – I think this may lead to a narrow world view and a marked disinterest in other cultures and world views which may then produce a lack of openness. I wouldn’t on the basis of my time in Denmark suggest that any foreigner in their right mind end up in Denmark. For this foreigner, Denmark and the Danes aren’t even worth a survey!

  37. Let me lift your argument to the ethical level.
    1) according to Chomsky the minimum requirement is “what is good for you, should be good for others, what is bad for others should be bad for you”.
    2) I would grant you that there is a grain of truth in your argument but only in a concrete setting, i.e. like in every society there are misbehaving individuals (e.g. criminals) and everybody has some positive amount of (un)luck to bump into them.
    3) however, if you generalize your claim to entire (danish) society, then you are no better xenophobe than them. Well, unless you can demonstrate a society-level property, like a xenophobic law, people will call you xenophobe too.
    4) being happy about one’s identity is healthy, at least to a some extent, so stop behaving like a hedgehog nobody likes:

  38. Too true. Denmark simply isn’t a place for foreigners. And foreigners at exec level working here will attest to how absolutely unwieldy a staff of Danes are in the face of a foreign boss. There’s little respect if you are ‘beneath’ a Dane, and lord know what respect if you are ‘above’.

    What is needed, for Denmark’s sake, is a total revamp of their educational system. Denmark is stuck in the early 1990’s. And that, my friends, was a very long time ago.

  39. Dear BABSBABSBABS that about 90’s :D is true and I think you was generous, I think in DK stuck in the 60’s :S, I don’t like here, bad education in all levels, bad healthy sistem, bad places for live, bad weather, bad food ( supermarket cheating with all), I get intoxicate many times :( for something I bought or for eat in a restaurant :( (turistics ones!). Plus the famous “integration” is a joke…

  40. Indeed a very interesting subject. Based on my own experience I have to say though, that it IS easy to get in contact with danes if you are open and genuinly interested in their country. What I experienced much more – and what you also can see in above comments – is, that expats group themselves together, complaining about everything that is bad in denmark. Danes are cold, danes are rude, danes are too equal, etc. Yes, all of these clichés have a truth in it, but surely it will not make it any easier to be “welcomed” by danes, if you think that. If you consider someone coming to you complaining about your country, would you be welcome this person with open arms? Rather, by believing in these stereotypes, you will get confirmation all the time which will make your belief even stronger. I´ve seen several examples of that.
    Btw.: As a swiss I can say, that it is definitely not any better in switzerland, I wonder what exactly Jyllandsposten meant by being more like Switzerland!

  41. I’m not sure that’s true. I came here with no prejudices and I was ready to learn about Denmark and love Denmark. It took about six months but they beat the stuffing out of me by being mean and disrespectful.
    That was the order it happened for me: come to Denmark, love Denmark, get treated badly, hate Denmark. Next step: leave Denmark.

  42. I do not doubt your experience. But seeming rude and disrespectful is not necessarily meant rude and disrespectful. My experience is, that this rudeness is part of danish culture, just as “diplomatic” is of swiss or “openness” of american. I think people should just accept these different cultures, withough judging them. Because once you get over the rudeness, Danes are very warm and lovely I think.

  43. The problem is that there is a general miserable and coldness to the Danes, so if you take a walk on any street, you are likely to meet this. If one has been used to other cultures, maybe not less cold ones but more expressive ones, so that there is a whole gamut of emotions being expressed at any given time on any given street then the move to Denmark can feel like an emotional lobotomy. The best people it works for are those who have invested a great deal in Denmark and feel they get a return. For many people the return is very little, and this can lead to a lot of unhappiness here.

    I don’t think anyone can seriously blame the Danes for the way they are, because they are so obviously a product of their uniformed educational system. Many foreigners here become rather rude about the Danes after years of being polite. It happens. I am saying that it is interesting to have known so many people here, over the years, and to say, without a doubt, that even someone like the author of the worktrotter survey (for example) can end up absolutely disgusted and unimpressed with the Danish culture after some time. What I have noticed is that those who speak the loudest against expats who complain about Denmark, are the most likely to leave Denmark forever and over night, at some point in the future.

    Of course, every human being has layers, there is always a sweet inner core somewhere, and if we get to know each other on an individual basis then it is a different story. I.e: not all Danes are ‘cold’ and ‘rude’. But what you will hear from seasoned expats here or people who have really gone through the mill, is that we just get tired of trying, tired of digging, tired of always having to smile at a miserable crew who think they are the bee’s knees and won’t consider any other way of doing things than their own.

    Most people who travel here are fairly tolerant, one has to be tolerant to be a traveler, we are most of us used to lots of different cultures, those of us who fled here or who had no choice to come know which side of the bread is buttered and appreciate what we can do here and the fact we are here at all, but the Danes? They do our heads in, many of us. It is amazing how much it has affected many of us. It is so frustrating that our being here seems to be only seen as negative, if we consider that our being here has to change Danish culture.

    The crux of the matter is that the Danish education does not prepare Danes for any other life but the life of 5 million people living on a small patch of land with very little deviation in habit from family to family.

    We are foreign and different, and therefore a threat to the Danes. Most of us have had a far superior education, with greater breadth and in that case, it looks like we are arrogant because we have simply experienced more. There are so many problems to this issue that I don’t know where to start, or where to stop.

    I’ve been here a long time, a lifetime in fact, I know more about Denmark in terms of seeing it from an outside point of view than many Danes do from living it. I know more about Denmark than a lot of the cheerful and dynamic newbie professionals who think they can nail it by being permanently positive and ignoring the dodgy politics, but I don’t see any point in pointing that out too often. Headstrong foreigners think they can make it here, but I have seen, time and time again, those who come here all guns blazing, setting themselves up, integrating, learning the danish..time and time again, they will be the ones who crash after a few years.

    Only the very few last the distance with a smile on their face and a positive impression of Danish culture.

    I for one, believe in joining together the issues of ‘refugees’ and ‘expats’ and am totally against the snobbery in expat and international circles here. Getting rather tired of ‘international wives’ who feel they are somehow above the so called lower class of immigrant. Why do they feel they are so elevated?

  44. Kathi –

    I don’t doubt your experiences, either. I’m glad that the Danes you’ve met have been nice and welcoming, and that’s great. Definitely a plus.

    However, not everyone has that experience, and I think it has far less to do with how people THINK Danes are acting, and rather on how they ACTUALLY DO act. Yes, we can just accept that some Danes are rude, and that is part of their culture. But, for a country that wants foreign talent to come and work here, funneling money into the economy, then a bit more openness might be better than holding onto the rudeness.

    I mean, can you see the signs for this: ‘Come to Denmark and be as rude as you wanna be!’ ‘Denmark – for the rude in you!’ ‘Århus – City of Rudeness!’ While it could make for an interesting study on truth in marketing, I don’t think it would be quite so effective as some might hope. :D And of course, the bigger problem is, some people don’t get past the rudeness to find the real, nice Danes inside. They leave here with an impression that Denmark is a cold, rude place that is unwelcoming to anyone who doesn’t fit into the mold. Since that mold is a pretty tight fit for anyone not Danish, that’s a very bad impression, true or otherwise.

    Foreigners aren’t the only ones who need to be accepting of other cultures. Danes need to be willing to do the same. For those who are, they find that foreigners can rock the hygge as well as, if not better than, they do.

  45. That’s a pretty offensive post, Jeanine Shepstone. Do you think you deserve better treatment than these “poor, uneducated and often socially problematic refugees”. Are you better than them? What about the “wealthy, educated and often socially problematic ex-pats”? Don’t those guys deserve a mention in your “analysis”? Or what about the “poor, educated and often socially disadvantaged refugees”? Can we lump them in with the “problematic refugees” by virtue of religion, colour or status?

  46. Hey Greg, sorry to tread on your toes! It does leave me wondering though – were you also offended by the “We are not tourists” campaign?

  47. I’m not aware of the campaign you refer to. All I was noting was how rude it is to suggest that you’re a better class of foreigner than refugees. I knew many nice refugees when I was at sprog skole. I would never dream of setting myself up as higher than them.

  48. I was slightly offended by the ‘we are not tourists’ stunt. I chose not to get more offended than slightly because at the time I had a heavy workload and couldn’t possibly spare much time challenging the very clumsy attempts to elevate some foreigners above others. It’s just the tip of the iceberg.

    *sniffs imperiously*

  49. I would have to agree with Greg… shouldn’t matter where we come from or how much money we have….we should all treat each other with equality and respect…..

    Diversity should be celebrated as something that enriches society …..

    I think Jeanine the type of snobbery sorry that you have expressed is exactly the type of snobbery that most expats experience and are protesting against…….

  50. One must remember that every country has its own myths. There are myths about the American Dream, myths about being British, and myths about life in Denmark. One of the biggest myths is that Denmark is a fairyland where everyone is happy and where the social welfare state is the best economic model on earth. These myths, to some degree, are propaganda that have been perpetuated by marketers, politicians, and others who have a vested interested in doing so – they are trying to sell Denmark and therefore try to paint the rosiest picture of Denmark. They are less concerned about telling the truth and only present those facts that promote Denmark. They conveniently ignore the other facts that might present Denmark in a negative light.

    If one is interested in the truth – the whole truth – then I think it is disingenuous to paint such a one-sided view of Denmark. All one has to do is read through the blogs on this website and on and other sites that allow expats to voice their uncensored opinion to get a more realistic and truthful and complete view of life as an expat.

    One must understand that actual life in Denmark (or American or Britain or Sweden) do not always live up to the myths and exaggerated claims that marketers and politicians make about their country. If foreigners aren’t provided with accurate and complete and brutally honest information, then they may be very disappointed when they get here!

  51. Also, it seems to me that the mentioned survey done by and Politeken is no less valid than any other survey where one is asked a generalized question like “how happy are you” or “are Danes welcoming to foreigners”. These are valid questions, methodologically and statistically, but one must be able to interpret the results correctly and draw the valid conclusions and understand that the responses are culturally influenced and culturally dependent.

    First, as pointed out in the below sites (see links below), one must understand that definitions of words may carry slightly different (and sometimes huge) meanings in different cultures. Secondly, one must understand that in questions regarding happiest, one expectations about what it takes to be happy and what it means to be happy, are different across cultures. And third, that questions like this are a snapshot of a particular point in time, so survey results like this from 2006 are less valid than survey results in 2010 because cultures change over time.

    In the US for instance, I would think that Americans, because of the American myth ideal, have a rather high standard /expectation (a big house, a big car, a big back account) for what it takes to be ‘happy’ because the message that one needs all these material things has been relentlessly drummed into them every day by marketers and politicians for decades. The more one buys into this myth, the more one will try to ‘keep up with the Joneses’

    But in Denmark, being a social welfare state, they perhaps have a relatively lower threshold for what it takes to be ‘happy’ – a less materialistic view of what happiness means. So, one should not discount, out of hand, survey results just because one doesn’t like the outcome of the results or because they don’t support one’s own agenda. We shouldn’t be afraid to speak the truth, even if it is painful, and have an honest and genuine debate about all the facts – ‘the good, the bad, and the ugly’.

  52. What you see in those articles are just the conclusions — just a tip of an iceberg, the researchers do take many details into account.
    For example, meet psychoanalysts and ask them what is happiness. They will tell you that current society is very much driven by consumerism which is an attempt to substitute desires, while desires themselves are non material, moreover, according to Lacanian philosophy, one can never ever satisfy Desire (or even name it!). The concept of Desire arise from consciousness, from understanding of being imperfect. Add a moral principle that one is no better than the other, and thus the conclusion is inevitable: americans are tought to go after material things and generally feel unsatisfied, while Danes go after hygge and feel rather happy.

    I am very curious what could be an alternative interpretation of that poll data — it is going to be very difficult to disprove the current state of affairs as it would undermine >100 years of philosophical works.

  53. Comments that are right on the mark based on my own experiences and observations:

    skatesection: “I am going to leave this country because some Danes are actively unpleasant to me. I have actually stopped leaving my house except to go to work or the airport, it happens so frequently.”

    paloma: “It seems that the modus operandi of Denmark, or at least Copenhagen, is that everyone conform to the widely accepted views of what is good or how things should be.”

    Marie: “Why is it so hard in general for Danes to provide both their compatriots, visitors and expats with a service with a smile instead of making comments like “that’s how we do it in Denmark”…stinks of arrogance sorry but this is not pleasant for any of us…it’s a question of treating people with respect…”

    Wrenni: “Many of us come over here, bright-eyed and willing to tackle the new adventure wholeheartedly. And yet, many of those same people end up feeling somehow lessened by the walls they run into here, or run away screaming, vowing never to return.”

    Jeanine: “I sense disapproval from people who don’t know me when, for example, I talk to my son in English rather than in Danish”

    Olers: “I wouldn’t on the basis of my time in Denmark suggest that any foreigner in their right mind end up in Denmark.”

    Babs: “I’ve been here a long time… I know more about Denmark than a lot of the cheerful and dynamic newbie professionals who think they can nail it by being permanently positive and ignoring the dodgy politics, but I don’t see any point in pointing that out too often. Headstrong foreigners think they can make it here, but I have seen, time and time again, those who come here all guns blazing, setting themselves up, integrating, learning the danish..time and time again, they will be the ones who crash after a few years..”

    And the one that is the most appropos: “I came here with no prejudices and I was ready to learn about Denmark and love Denmark. It took about six months but they beat the stuffing out of me by being mean and disrespectful. That was the order it happened for me: come to Denmark, love Denmark, get treated badly, hate Denmark. Next step: leave Denmark.” by skatesesction

  54. Jeanine.

    Your thang about expats being different to refugees…this very site outlines what an expat is:

    “What is an expat?
    Expat is an abbreviation of expatriate, the English term used for someone temporarily or permanently residing in a country other than that of upbringing or citizenship.”

    So where is the difference between the expat and the refugee?

    I think we could make things a lot simpler, looking at things the way you (and countless others) do right now, to label foreigners by grade. The expat you think you are (perhaps), is a Grade A expat. So moving along these lines we can see the worlds apart ‘fugees you mention could be called Grade E? With so called ‘mail order’ wives a sensible Grade D? Exchange students..they can be Grade B, if they come from a non Islamic land. Children of Danes with one parent being foreign, sorry to say, but they are about a Grade C, especially if they have picked up any habits from their non-danish parent.

    Expat wives of highly educated foreign men here who work as professors or execs, the ones that do nothing but chase dust bunnies around and bewail a life in a supporting role whilst enjoying the status: these can be a special grade all to themselves: Grade A+, because they are exempt from everything and get to move around like fickle fish from one group to the other. One minute disgruntled expats, the next willing ‘guests of Denmark’, depending on how depressed they are and who is coming to dinner. And who they think is listening and if they know that some so called friends on facebook are actually spies pretending to be friends.

    Ugh. The ‘expat’ community in Denmark, coming from someone who has tried out more than one expat community, it is rife with nonsense.

  55. It is not only about coldness and the distance danes are used to have with strangers ( that perfectly I undestand, we can not all be the same, but it must never be brought to the extend of limiting oneself to say hello to the neighbour, or to the parent of your child’s mate in the kindergarten ),It is about being rude and unfriendly. I have so many examples of this, and I am sure I am not the only one. it is not applicable to all danes of course, and especially to all situations, because another interesting thing is that the same Dane can be different one day or another depending on the situaton, person, weather, or who knows what :)

  56. Being an expat sucks. It’s really as simple as that, and has NOTHING to do with how cold the Danes are.
    I’ve been an expat in the US, and the first years were just as crappy as the first years in Denmark. As a foreigner you get treated as a second-class person. Period. You don’t speak the language, you don’t have a network, your education doesn’t mean anything. Been there twice, and I‘ve got to tell you: it’s NOT the Danes fault that you feel this way!
    Sure, they’re cold and rather rude, but they like living that way. They haven’t waited for some expat-messiah to descend from the oh-so-open-and-diverse world to teach them that they should be welcoming foreigners. Denmark is good enough for the Danes. And they certainly don’t see any reason to change it.
    My strategy: Have plenty of expat friends, and give your Danish acquaintances PLENTY of time to warm up. It takes many, many, many get-togethers but you will make a friend for life.

  57. Interesting to read all of your comments. Funny enough this Hot debate on the Cold Danes has kept us (expats) busy talking about. The general thing is what I read in most comments is that we share the passion of the country / city we have come to live in, but tend to focus a lot on the negative points. So here is my try to throw in some constructive lines.

    1) One of the things I like about the Danes is that they are family oriented. At my work place it is totally normal to leave work around 4pm to pick up the kids. Besides that how great is it to see so many dads wondering through Copenhagen with their kid. Have nowhere seen this before.
    2) Once you’re in – you’re in. OK – it took me a while to get through the bushes to get my CPR number… but once I got it… it felt like being part of Danish society. Very organized this system is, you only have to remember your CPR number and the Danish bureacratic world opens itself.
    3) Most people speak English! After work I sometimes apologize for not speaking Danish – luckily most encounters have been brilliant, and the language barrier is not that noticeable.

    Lastly being an expat myself, and having lived in South Africa, Switzerland, France, USA, Belgium and the Netherlands – leaving your home base automatically means culture shock. I guess it is how you deal with it yourself, keeping an open mind and on the look out to make new contacts is what cosmopolitan life is about!

  58. Hi My name is Sia. I am a 25-years-old woman from Denmark studying at Copenhagen Business school. I am currently working on a project on how to attract more highly skilled people to Denmark. In my group we have talked a lot about the mentality of the danes as, at least in some way acts as a barrier to integration – so I find your debate on culture and identity very interesting.

    Would love to get your opinion on what could be done to attract more highly skilled people to Denmark (especially from the companies point of view- what could they do??)

    Thank you all for coming here (to Denmark):)

    Best wishes

  59. How could companies attract more “highly skilled” employees? Simple: just copy what Swiss companies do:

    – Declare English as the company language. That means all correspondence is in English, as well as all meetings.
    – Make sure that expats will find doctors, insurance brokers and bankers that are fluent in English
    – Don’t expect Expats to learn Danish. They’re not immigrants. They will leave whenever a better opportunity arises.

    Always glad to help.

  60. Well I have been in Sweden 15yrs and I actually experience a similar situation. I speak fluent Swedish, so this is not a handicap. But no ‘real’ friends. Lots of people that one can invite to dinner and have a pleasant evening with. But then the return dinner is never recprocated…..And if I do have friends who are a couple one of the two is inevitably from another country
    If dinner (or any other social event) is to be organised then spontaneity is not the name of the game. Book at least 3 weeks in advance. Expect at least 30% to cancel 1-2 days before and as for letting ones hair down (a bit)…well not seen it yet.
    Maybe its a Scandinavian trend….(probably genetic)

  61. reading all the posts, I noticed a few interesting facts:
    – some people in our ex-pat community are REALLY unhappy about life here, and this influence their decision to stay on. Mind you, I do agree that this is not welcoming country, but I do not give any thought about any “stare” that I may receive (and that anyway I do not notice). Maybe it is my “Teflon” personality, but since it is my right to live here, according to the laws that the Danish gave to themselves, I couldn’t care less about disapproving looks. So, I am here to stay until my circumstances will change, and the decision to leave or stay will be 100% mine. So i suggest to look elsewhere (the “foreigners” community, maybe!) for warmth and friendship if one feels rejected by the Danes.
    – I do not like the distinction between “good and bad” foreigners. It takes guts, drive and energy to decide to leave your country to seek fortune in a alien place. We all people that decided to leave abroad, as a PhD or running away from a war, we share some common traits, and I feel proud to be included in the category of “invandrere”. Maybe some of us are easier to tolerate or to “accept”, but are the people that had the courage to change that made great nations.
    – the Danes have many good qualities, like every other nationality on Earth. Nobody denies that. I find bizarre this effort to put in good light the rudeness that many of us meet in their daily life. Being rude cannot possibly be construed as being hyperrespectful. Being polite does not mean to be nosy or slimy: it is simply a show of respect. And that is even more true with the people you are closer to.
    – I agree with Norma: moving is tough! I experienced moving in other countries and also in different cities in my own countries. I am ready to admit that the places where I had more difficulties to create a social network were in my country, Italy, when I move to some small provincial cities. For me to move to Sweden or Germany has been a liberation and has been very easy to bond with “natives” and have a vibrant social life. So, in a nutshell, there are differences among countries. Or cities: maybe Stockholm and Munich are just more cosmopolitan and open then Copenhagen or Verona

  62. I have read through just about all the comments here, and figured I could chip in my opinions. However, the preamble must be that any person’s opinions/comments (mine included) can only ever be considered a miniscule sample of the variety of life in Denmark (no matter how long the author has lived here or how many friends’ stories he/she has heard) :-)

    In the first apartment my partner and I rented, we had no real contact with any of our neighbours, apart from exchanging ‘hej’s on the staircase/in the courtyard.
    On the first day of moving to a new apartment six months later, I was greeted very warmly by a passing new neighbour (first in Danish and then in English, when it became apparent that Danish wasn’t my first language), we were offered help/tools if needed to set up home, and on the second day were given a lovely bunch of lillies by another neighbour.

    I don’t come away from the first experience thinking all Danes are cold, or that they are all very shy and respectful of my privacy. I don’t come away from the second experience thinking that all Danes will welcome every new expat/refugee/international student neighbour with flowers.
    I try and look at each encounter with a human being as a formative experience that I hope will help me better interact with other human beings in the future, not as another tick mark on a list of possible stereotypical interactions.

    Inevitably, most of us want to live somewhere where we have a reasonable expectation that the people we encounter will behave towards us in a ‘positive’ way. But one man’s positive is another man’s not-so-positive. Even my definition of positive will depend on my mood, time of day etc.
    When a work colleague proffers a correction to my spoken Danish, how should I take it? One more step to better grammar, or just one more unwelcoming Dane (tick-mark) pointing out that I don’t yet ‘fit in’?

    (my) Bottom line: take what you can from each interaction, and if you can identify interactions that you consider ‘positive’, figure out what they have in common (both the other person, their input and your contribution) and see if you can spend more time maximising your chances of further positive ineractions. Easy, eh?! …hmmm

    If you’re finding it impossible to see any positives in your interactions in Denmark, then hey, maybe it is time to work out where else you can go ;-)

    p.s. for what it’s worth, I have a Danish friend who has returned to Copenhagen after some years away (i.e. a ‘re-patriate’) and she tells me she finds it very hard to feel at home…go figure!

  63. Craig,
    just wiping the results away as “superficial impressions of Danish authorities, politics and media” is sad and disappointing.
    I had hoped that people and organizations (ExpatInDenmark too) would just pause for a minute before rejecting the results and think if there was something to them. If you then find that there is no truth in the answers of 700 participants you are welcome to dismiss them. Just because this survey wasn’t paid by public money doesn’t make the answers less valid.

    How does media report on an almost daily basis about foreigners?
    Should all those that describe bad experiences with staff at authorities be just “stories”? Many feeling incriminated by the style of the public and political discussion around foreigners, should these just be superficial impressions? Many getting a different treatment when they speak Danish – unfortunately with an accent. Stories too?

    The survey is not to prove Denmark a bad place to live. Denmark is as good a place as many others. But there seem to be aspects that can develop into problems and signals can be taken serious or can just be dismissed.

    If you list the Worktrotter DK survey results as you do (54% of the respondents feel that Danes are very, generally, or kind of open. 34% answered “not really”, and 12% don’t think Danes are open to foreigners at all) you get a rosy picture and everything looks fine. You might also wonder why there is an organization like ExpatInDenmark at all.

    But if you put the positive assessments vs. the negative you get 26% that feel welcome versus 46% that don’t and 28% with a neutral +/- answer, you might see a need for changing the atmosphere towards foreigners.

    Would it not be good to think whether there are things worthwhile improving?

  64. I’m sorry but you used quite a poor methodology and you cannot properly test your hypothesis. So Craig is right.

  65. Some people have said that the worktrotter methodology is poor (and then they imply that the results are therefore unreliable) but no one has yet to give a valid statistical explanation of how or why it is poor. No one has yet to provide the logical reasoning to substantiate that claim. If one is going to make a generalized claim, one needs to be able to support the claim with relevant facts and sound reasoning. Just making a claim doesn’t necessarily make it true. Maybe the methodology is poor (and maybe it isn’t) but where is the valid scientific and statistical reasoning to support that claim? On the other hand, every researcher should, in like manner, be able to explain statistically what research method they used and how they arrived at their conclusions. If one is seriously honest about getting to the truth of what life is like for expats in Denmark, we need to have a complete and truthful and unbiased interpretation about what expats are saying.

    So, do the worktrotter results accurately and completely represent what life is like for expats in Denmark? I cannot say with certainty because there are shortcomings associated with using an online survey but, in spite of those shortcomings, we shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss the results. It is worth noting however that Politiken newspaper believed the worktrotter results to be of high enough quality to do a front-page article on them.

    Do the quality of the worktrotter results meet academic journal standards? Does it provide the whole truth? Does it provide the definitive answer? The answer, in my opinion, is no BUT just like Politiken I think there is enough good data in the results to give us a better understanding of what expat life is like in Denmark and therefore they are worth taking a look at.

    Some things to think about:

    Disadvantages with open online surveys (these disadvantages exist whether they are done by or or or any online survey!):

    1) the respondents are anonymous so there is no way to verify that the person taking the survey is actually an expat in Denmark
    2) there is no way to verify that the person taking the survey has taken it only once
    3) there is no way to verify that the person is actually telling the truth when he/she answers the survey questions (but this is a problem in every research method so we have to assume they are telling the truth as they see it)

    Advantages with open online surveys:

    1) they allow the researcher to gather a larger sample size than would otherwise be possible (this is why they are so popular and are used by and even academic researchers now)
    2) they allow the researcher to conduct a survey much faster and much cheaper than would otherwise be possible
    3) they allow for greater anonymity of the survey takers

    At a 95% confidence level (i.e., 5% margin of error) for a population size of 10,000, a minimum sample size of 370 is sufficient to make the sample representative of the population, assuming of course that the sample of survey takers are indeed drawn from the population at random. The larger the sample, ceteris paribus, the more representative the sample is (central limit theorem and law of large numbers). Of course, even with an adequate sample size, the reliability and validly of the results is still a function of several factors. But if we assume, just for the sake of argument, that these factors are adequately addressed, then it comes down to 1) was the sample size adequate to represent the population, 2) was the sample drawn from the population at random, 3) was the data correctly analyzed using appropriate statistical methods, and 4) were the right conclusions inferred from that data.

    Other thoughts?


    Barnett, V. (1991) Sample Survey Principles and Methods. London

    Coomber, R (1997) ‘Using the Internet for survey research’, Sociological Research Online, Vol 2, No 2. Availbable at

    Selm, Martine1; Jankowski, Nicholas (2006) ‘Conducting Online Surveys’ Quality and Quantity, Volume 40, Number 3, June 2006. Available at

  66. The methodology was poor because was used. A user can take the survey multiple times. All she has to do is disable cookies, or wipe her browser history to this. I tested this myself, and took survey twice.

    We also do not know which people took the survey. If one is conducting a survey that seeks a specific answer from a specific group, it is important that one targets the right people. Spreading the word on website forums is a poor way of achieving that. It would be better to research 100 people beforehand and get them to take the survey than to use this scatter gun approach, which may or may not have attracted the right people.

    Importantly, the survey results CANNOT be verified. We cannot TEST whether the results are true. Or rather, we can test whether the results are true but that would entail making yet another survey.

    Then there was the comments ….

  67. You don’t seem to be aware that surveymonkey saves the IP addresses of participants. There were not many duplicates and they have been checked.

    Or do you question online surveys in general? There are good reasons that they exist in parallel to other methods (like choosing the participants after various criterias).
    After your opinion, was the CPH post survey that ran recently, distributed to the “right” people? I am not sure which other channels except for the newspaper and expatindenmark were used.

    As mentioned in the report preview a more detailed survey is necessary anyway and that was clear from the beginning. But even a detailed survey will focus on certain areas and I hope that the signals that resulted from the Worktrotter survey are taken serious and added to the areas of research.

  68. I would love to hear the opinion of another group of people: danes that are coming back from years spent abroad. Personally, I found it difficult to move back to Italy after a few years spent living and working in other countries. All of a sudden, behaviors that I was accepting without really reflecting came across as difficult to tolerate or even to accept. At the sam time, I found again some little pleasures of life that I was taking for granted living in Italy, and I missed abroad.

    Maybe these danish re-pat can shed some light on this discussion, provided that they read this forum…

  69. Finding this discussion a little confusing. Of course Dagmar’s survey isn’t perfect – she’s not a sociologist. What she wanted to do was raise awareness and spark discussion. So she’s been successful at that. What would be useful would be constructive action whereby next year Dagmar & EiD do another, improved survey together!

    Look, I’m an American. Obviously I have a great time in Denmark because Danes overall like Americans and American culture. It’s easy for me to talk to Danes – we all like mostly the same movies, music, clothes. CPH is the New Berlin and it’s awesome to be there. I’ve seen the Lars von Trier and Bille August movies, I’ve seen Matador, I own some Efterklang, all that, so we can talk about Danish things too. You all can call me a freak but Danes are super-friendly. The last time I went to Ruby I just talked to everyone in my crazy Dan-glish mix and it was awesome.

    If the Danes tease you about your vowels, just tease them back about their z. And buy another cocktail. No problem. My Danish will get better and they’ll improve their z, it just takes time. There really is an international culture now that’s not about Danishness or Americanness but is more around iPods, music, games, movies, fashion, lifestyle. And we are already living in it, if we take a moment to see that.

    CPH is a big city, like New York or Paris. Some people are going to be rude jerks. Some people are going to be ultra-nationalists and yell at you because you speak English. Dudes, in California and New York some crazy people will yell if you speak Spanish. It’s everywhere right now, and it’s caused by a bad economy, and it will go away when the economy gets better.

    As for “Danishness,” you know when I was in Florence I met with a nice elderly lady, descended from aristocrats. I asked her how long her family had lived in Florence. Big mistake! “Since before Dante!” she huffed. She saw herself as Florentine first, Italian second. I mean, there’s no way to get in on that – can’t say you belong unless your family’s been there like 900 years. Only 500 years – well, forget it. Don’t get wrapped around that axle, because most Italians aren’t like that at all. It’s just the same in Denmark. Most Danes just aren’t snobby.

    What I’d like to do is actually probably stay because Denmark’s really lovely and it’s a great place for living. So to Sia’s question, it’s not so much that companies need people for 3 years. It’s that Denmark itself needs people to come and stay, to bring their expertise and work for 20. I’m happy to improve my Danish, read Holger Drachmann and Halfdan Rasmussen both! But then you’ve got to let me join the whole society. I’ll probably never quite get rid of my American accent in Danish but that doesn’t mean I can’t love Denmark, or that Denmark can’t love me.

  70. The response to The Hot Debate about the Cold Danes has been overwhelming, and I would like to thank everyone for their contributions to the debate.

    I would also like to address some of the issues, questions and topics that have arisen.

    1. Xenophobia topsy turvy

    A few of the commentators seem to have adopted a strategy of topsy turvy xenophobia, going by the motto of “the best form of defense is attack”. Some of these are truly disturbing, and I find no humour in blogs like that of “Babs” ( I suppose that the world would be a boring place if we all agreed. However, I myself find it hard to believe how anyone, anything or anywhere can induce such blatant animosity. I don’t expect all Expats to feel equally comfortable in Denmark – does anyone know of a country with a perfectly happy homogenous expat community? – nor do I expect the Expat community to constantly praise their host country.

    For fear of littering the debate with yet another bromide, treat others the way you want to be treated yourself. If you come across a rotten individual or two, give another one a chance. As Kelli put it, “if we sit around feeding our negative attitudes about Danes, we will never feel like we belong”.

    2. You cannot compare Denmark to New York City

    It seems rather obvious, but Denmark (not even Copenhagen, Wallpaper editors) isn’t New York. The east coast of U.S.A. has experienced immigration from all parts of the world for over 200 years; in Denmark immigrants were primarily Scandinavian, German, Dutch or Polish until 30 years ago, when companies first started to import foreign labour for farming and industry. A serious influx of Expats didn’t start until around 10 years ago. Some places may seem too “conform” (perhaps moreso in Jutland), but no more conform than high school football, suburbia, pick-up trucks and prom nights. The Expat community is the variety, at least when it comes to national origin, ethnicity, languages, and cultures.

    3. Growing pains

    As one commentator put it, you might say that Danes are experiencing “growing pains”, adjusting to the Denmark evolving and internationalising around them. This, by the way, is no different than in any other Western European country. I do think, however, that the reason why many Expats don’t feel properly “welcomed”, or that Danes don’t do enough to make foreigners “feel comfortable”, is a question of not knowing who you are – as individuals, and as a group.

    The vast majority of Danes unfortunately don’t know what an Expat is. How do we normally treat people we don’t know? If we think they’re tourists, we might try to help them get around. If we can tell that they’re from our own country, we treat them as countrymen. But, and this was the point I was trying to make initially, if strangers seem foreign, Danes simply don’t want to risk making the mistake of presuming that you are a tourist, or a visitor on business, if in fact you are a “local” – and they have very few other categories to place you in. Because Denmark is more like Wisconsin than NYC, that’s just the way things are. It’s changing, but very slowly.

    4. The We Are Not Tourists campaign

    This brings me to our own We are not tourists campaign, which was also mentioned a couple of times. The campaign is primarily a tool to communicate a very simply message to as many Danes as possible: We are Expats, we live and work here, we are here voluntarily, and most of us don’t plan to stay forever. It is not about branding one group of foreigners as better than another. Is is, however, about acknowledging the different priorities, considerations, policies, and discussions that apply to this growing community.

    5. Living the Expat life

    All comments are a reflection of it is like to be an Expat, and what it’s like to be an Expat in Denmark. Some, like Norma, see the difficulties of living in Denmark as the difficulties of being an Expat in general: “As a foreigner you get treated as a second-class person. Period. You don’t speak the language, you don’t have a network, and your education doesn’t mean anything … I’ve been there twice, and I‘ve got to tell you: it’s NOT the Danes fault that you feel this way!”

    6. The “coldness” isn’t meant to be rude

    Dennis Nørmark gave the example of bumping into each other on the streets. If it’s not a serious infringement, move on. Another example of how culture is relative is the Danish approach to titles. Saying “du” (you – informal) to your boss or teacher would be unthinkable in many other European cultures. Does that make it rude? Socialist? Incorrect? And who are we to judge anyway? In any case, we need to stop generalising. As Chris aptly put it, “I try and look at each encounter with a human being as a formative experience that I hope will help me better interact with other human beings in the future, not as another tick mark on a list of possible stereotypical interactions”.

    7. The methodology and validity of the Worktrotter survey

    For the removal of any doubt, I thoroughly welcome any serious attempt to cast light on a complicated and serious debate and welcome the fact that Worktrotter / Foreigners in Denmark wish their voice to be heard in the national debate.

    I believe that we, collectively, can make a difference. However, our task is to facilitate cohesion, not increase tension between the Expat community and the society (or rather societies) we live in.

    Moreover, it’s not that I necessarily reject the result of the survey of Worktrotter / Foreigners in Denmark. Certainly, I was not in the slightest bit surprised by it! Of course we completely acknowledge the existence of an issue to be dealt with – otherwise the government wouldn’t have created Expat in Denmark in the first place.

    I will openly admit to dozing off in some of my poli-sci classes, so I am no expert in quasi-quantitative research methodology, but my comments about the Worktrotter survey stem from the number of relevant questions being limited to one (do you perceive Danes to be open to foreigners?) from which I don’t think it is possible to draw any conclusions that the right people will take seriously enough, nor be able to use in a constructive manner.

    I believe that we, collectively, can make a difference. However, our task is to facilitate cohesion, not increase tension between the Expat community and the society (or rather societies) we live in. One of the ways of doing this is by raising awareness of the challenges of living and working in a foreign country – but without constructively (and realistically) suggesting how we can ameliorate the situation over time, the survey remains finger-pointing on behalf of the “helpless and confused” expatriates Dagmar refers to in her conclusions. If that is not what Dagmar intended (and quite possibly it is not) then unfortunately it certainly is the not-to-be-unexpected result of such a binary survey.

    Finally, Dagmar refers to a survey which we recently profiled, namely the Expat Study 2010*. This is implemented by Oxford Research and The Copenhagen Post, and financed by among others, 3 Ministries, Copenhagen Region, Copenhagen Capacity, IDA and DTU. Maybe some of you have taken part in it. I did, and also took part in Dagmar’s survey. I don’t for a moment think that it being (part) publicly financed makes it any less or more valid than the Worktrotter survey. What differentiates it, however, is the basis upon which it is performed, and its usability.

    *) Along with the Copenhagen Post and ourselves, the survey was disseminated among the international students and international research staff of most Danish Universities, the companies of The Consortium for Global Talent, PWC HR network and International Community.

  71. Craig, speaking as the author of the ironic construct that is ‘Babs’ – the blog is a platform for voices that are not getting heard.

    It’s only the tip of the iceberg, but I think what your comment emphasizes is that you don’t find it funny.

    P.s: I am not what could be described as an expat, I suppose, because I could be seen as Danish, in more ways. I have several decades of experience in Denmark and my agenda has always been to draw light to areas that remain in the dark. This includes what people are really saying (including expats trying to get a good feeling out of their time here). If you serve as the welcome committee for a bunch of people coming here for a short term (1-5 year) stay then you are doing a good job. You just need to make sure your name tags are on straight when you meet each batch off the plane.

    I am interested in Denmark becoming a less bigoted place, and this may come about when the class system emerging within ‘foreign’ circles here is really taken apart. We have desirable foreigners and undesirable foreigners. So long as that is going on, expats here (or the foreign wives of Danes) will always end up crying in my kitchen. Year after year, batch after batch.


    The Author and creator of ‘Babs’ (funny to some, but too close to the bone for others).

  72. Babs (or whatever your name is), honestly: if Danes and Denmark are as horrible as you describe on this blog, why are you still here resp. why did you stay decades here?

    ps, luckily these crying expats have your shoulder to cry on

  73. I think greensleeves is right when he/she says: “Of course Dagmar’s survey isn’t perfect – she’s not a sociologist. What she wanted to do was raise awareness and spark discussion. So she’s been successful at that. What would be useful would be constructive action whereby next year Dagmar & EiD do another, improved survey together!” In other words, it’s just one piece of the puzzle.

    Indeed, as I mentioned before, online surveys (as with any type of research method be it an online survey, a paper-based survey, or any other method) have inherent advantages and disadvantages that the researcher must be aware of and then take appropriate actions to minimize those disadvantages. I suppose that one could physically bring together at 370 expats (not just 100, assuming an expat population size of 10,000) into a room and verify that they are indeed expats by checking their passports, etc and then administer a survey and then do the analysis and then send the results to a another peer researcher to verify the integrity of the methodology/results and then publish all this for other peer researchers to examine and comment on. But now we are talking about a peer-reviewed academic research process which the worktrotter results are clearly not.
    Also, in order for the result to be both statistically valid and reliable, the sample of survey takers must be drawn at RANDOM from the population. And yes, one could do all these things but often it is not always practical, which is why even the (oxford research) uses an online survey to conduct its research on expat life in Denmark.

    Unfortunately, Greg bases his argument on some logical fallacies, such as:

    – he sets up a ‘straw man argument’, i.e., an argument that misrepresents the position of another in order to make it appear weaker than it actually is, then refutes this misrepresentation of the position, and then concludes that the real position has been refuted. For instance, he claims that “A user can take the survey multiple times. All she has to do is disable cookies, or wipe her browser history to this. I tested this myself, and took survey twice.” and so implies that because this is possible, the researcher perhaps did this. And he ignores the fact that researchers remove data from duplicate IP addresses in order to prevent this from happening. It is worth noting that with the, a user can also take the test multiple times but I assume that they will not count data from multiple IP addresses to prevent this type of bias from occurring. the same can be said for the survey that is currently being conducted by

    – he uses a’ sweeping generalization’, i.e., applies a general statement too broadly. For instance, he claims that is not an acceptable online survey instrument at all under any circumstances, and therefore the methodology is poor and therefore the results must be dismissed.

    – he uses a ‘fallacy of relevance’, i.e., attempts to prove a conclusion by offering considerations that simply don’t bear on its truth. Rather, in order to prove that a conclusion is true, one must offer evidence that supports it.

    So, when people get dogmatic about their view of the worktrotter results and totally dismiss the results out-of-hand and don’t even want to discuss them, then I begin to get the impression that maybe there are ulterior motives at play, rather than just an honest, unbiased examination of the data to try to get at the truth.

    Online surveys are a valid form of research and many researchers use them routinely now but they have to be used properly, as with any research method.

  74. Harry: You’re misrepresenting what I wrote, which is itself a strawman (or a bundle of).

    Firstly, I did not imply that the researcher took the survey more than once. This was your interpretation.

    Secondly, I did not ignore the ‘fact’ that researchers [might] remove data from duplicate IP addresses in order to prevent users taking the survey more than once. If you had read the posts chronologically, you would have seen that the researcher in this instance only mentions this happened after I had suggested users could take the survey multiple times.

    Thirdly, I did not say Surveymonkey is not an acceptable online survey instrument ‘at all under any circumstances’. Nonetheless, I did make an assertion that it was unfit for this purpose. Why? Well there are a number of issues, all of which the researcher chose to ignore when discussing her methodology. For a start, Surveymonkey is not protected by a password. Hence, we get the potential for people to take the survey more than once (in this case we are assured that didn’t happen, although I don’t recall this being mentioned in the original document). Additionally, there is an issue with whether respondents on online surveys are honest in their answers. Without knowing which people are taking our survey, we have to trust that we have an honest, forthright bunch. Furthermore, and related to the last point, we have no way of establishing what our demographic was. If you cannot select the demographic beforehand, you cannot determine that the data is representative of the demographic you claim to be representing.

    As for the rest of your post, which is rather long for one that makes few points, I agree. Yes, the survey does probably replicate what a particular section of the expat community is feeling. I have no personal reason to doubt that the results don’t indicate a truth of sorts. It’s a shame that the researcher chose to use her own interpretation as to why people are feeling like this (like you say, she’s not a sociologist). But that doesn’t alter that the crux of the survey.

    Nonetheless, due to the issues above, we have a huge problem in testing the results. Moreover, the results don’t tell us anything that hasn’t been demonstrated before. The government and expats know that there is an issue. We’re no further along the road in establishing how that can be overcome.

  75. Please, please, why does this have to get so personal? I am sure Greg didn’t mean what he said about Harry, and Harry didn’t mean what he said about Kathi and this is all just a storm in a teacup.

    Let’s try and have a reasonable conversation without resorting to thinly veiled insults and snide remarks. We need to stay within the perimeters of reasonable behavior.

  76. Apologies to H Hawkins for calling him or her ‘Harry’. I’m not sure why, but for some reason I read your name has ‘Harry Hawkins’. In fact, you might be a Henrietta Hawkins or Horatio Hawkins.

  77. Craig,

    Excellent points. It is much needed. I think this whole discussion (except for those personal attacks that some make) is healthy as it gives expats a voice and a forum to discuss and even debate issues affecting them and it builds awareness of our expat community in the Denmark. For better or worse, I think that some expats have taken to creating their own sites, their own blogs, etc, is perhaps because they do not feel that their voices are being heard or taken seriously – at least that may be the perception. But that’s where you and your organization come in – to give expats a voice and to create a virtual and real community where we feel welcomed, where tolerance, pluralism, and diversity is valued, and where people feel free to express themselves (within the bounds of respectful behavior. of course) according to their own cultural heritage, values, etc.

    I agree that “our task is to facilitate cohesion, not increase tension between the Expat community and the society (or rather societies) we live in. One of the ways of doing this is by raising awareness of the challenges of living and working in a foreign country…” By doing this, hopefully life will improve for everyone here.

  78. I am quite convinced that i will always be an expatriate in Denmark, doesn’t matter that my children and husband speak fluent Danish and i don’t see us moving from here in the near future. However that’ s what the society, politicians, ordinary Danes wants me to feel. They will never except a Pakistani woman as a Dane. That’s how closed they are and the media btw is not much of help either!

  79. I grew up in Luxembourg which has an expat community of almost 50%. This is of course not comparable with Denmark, but what is clear is that the expats in Luxembourg have their own, well-established communities, forums, social networks, clubs and hang-outs. Even though the true Luxembourgish population has come to accept all these foreigners in their country – they don’t really have a choice – there still is no great convergence between the local and expat communities for the simple reason that locals have their local experiences in common and the expats theirs. It’s the same if you go on exchange to a foreign university for example. All the exchange students gang together for that “ERASMUS” experience and are unlikely to cross over in their host nations sphere. Of course, there are a few exceptions, but most of those exceptions are foreigners reaching over the fence and truly taking an interest in the local population. As expats we should get together as expats and simply enjoy our shared experiences of being expats. We should not expect too much of our host nation, not get ourselves down if we’re not completely accepted, but enjoy all that is good about finding ourselves in a foreign culture with strange customs.

    This is why Expat In Denmark is a step in the right direction for the expat community, but I don’t think that wearing an “I am not a Tourist” T-shirt, that rubs salt into the wound, is going to help.

  80. Further to my comment above, I had a slightly disturbing conversation with my Danish neighbour the other day. He has been living the expat life in Luxembourg and Brussels for the past 30 years or so. He has now retired “home” to Denmark and himself feels an expat and slightly uncomfortable here due to the “rudeness” of Danes and their uncanny lack of service-mindedness. I asked him what he made of Netto and it’s bad service and Irma with it’s extortionate price discrimination. His response was: “Shopping in Irma is cheaper than a heart transplant after my blood pressure boils over in Netto.”
    Other Danes I know who have lived many years abroad find it extremely tough moving back too, but maybe it’s because there is a great solidarity, openness and friendship amongst expats that you simply don’t get in your home country.

  81. Kathi. Why don’t I leave? Well, I don’t see why I should be driven out by the politics? My home is a beautiful oasis? I love my neighbors, my friends and my family here (they are a very select bunch though, that has to be said)?

    Your question is so typically ignorant. “If you don’t like it then leave!” You know, this could be asked of anyone finding a problem with the politics or lay of the land. “Hey, if you don’t like being forced to sit on the back of the bus, then get off the bus and walk home with your watermelon!” “Why moan about the difference in pay between men and women? If you find the need to complain about it so much, then why don’t you just leave your job? If you complain so much it’s obviously a sign you shouldn’t be here”

    Really. *rolls eyes*

    Honestly, number one: the Danes have not been ‘described’ as ‘horrible’ on that blog any more than any Danish satire program sends up Danish ‘types’ (go check out Danish comedy, dearie).

    Most of the recently spearheaded campaigns (including the ‘we are not tourists’ *cringe* and the *covers face in shame* Denmark for Dummies) are incredibly patronizing to foreigners coming into Denmark. Y’all getting treated like idiots! Now that would be funny if it wasn’t so tragic in terms of people investing a lot in coming here and a good number turning on their tail and leaving.

    I admit, I used to be the welcome committee, I’d be there bragging about Denmark, extolling it’s virtues, giving the newbies the big smile and the ‘this way!’. But you know, after a few years of noticing, I saw the same patterns over and over again. Directives like expatindenmark probably will go some way to helping people be here, I am not questioning that, but the outcome will be the same, people will still leave in droves. If you don’t get why then you don’t get why. Dagmars online survey was an attempt to understand why. The tone was an insult only if the survey is seen as anything more than an online survey.

    I can remember a newbie expatindenmark once commenting on a blog supporting Geert Wilders that posted an outraged article about how it is found that many immigrants here get their education and then leave. The person who commented saw it as an abuse of the system here, how dare the immigrants get the free education and then leave!!! *AHEM* Such a class system operates among expats here. As I said, so long as it does, it will be the way it is.

    I am truly sorry if I annoy or put noses out of joint purely for saying what I know. I had hoped for better for Denmark. I love Denmark. She’s looking mighty silly right now though. I have to laugh at the way things are going, so I created a composite of ‘Babs’ who will say anything that she hears. I basically listen to what Danes are saying, what immigrants are saying and I mash it all up into post after post. Not all of the posts are my opinion. I want to represent the stuff brushed under the carpet. There is too much brown nosing going on in expat circles. A lot of the expat wives have to tread a pretty fine line in terms of supporting their expat husbands in their exec positions. This leads to a lot of fickle behavior. A lot of the women and men married to Danes have a lot more than their pride to lose if this venture fails.

    The majority of long term expats here (we can’t include the droves who left year in year out) may well be here because they have found happiness but there are a good number of seasoned foreigners who look at these campaigns and see how ultimately harmful such campaigns are by not allowing people to speak up or ridicule the set up without being labeled as ‘haters’ or as seeing Denmark as horrible.

    There are a lot of double standards here.

    My personal suggestion is that people stop being so afraid of what happens when and if you confront the less blue skied version of Denmark. It is there, and may go some way to explaining the high suicide rate amongst Danes every spring.

  82. my question was out of genuine interest, because I would never stay in a country about which I would have the opinion you have.
    You talk about double standards, about not allowing people to speak up, about stuff brushed under the carpet – but you did not allow any other opinion here than yours. You disregarded, talked disrespectfully or made fun of everyone that wrote positive about denmark, up to the point that you called it bullshit. You write as if you would know all expats and as if you would know, what will happen to all of them. Stupid me, that I still like it here, because in some years – according to you – I will anyway move back – I just don’t get it yet. If I don’t get why, then I don’t get why.

    Either you are just plain arrogant, or you have a very selective perception. Or maybe this is your kind of humour – well, then I just don’t get it.

  83. Fair enough. But you should lay off telling people to ‘leave if you don’t like it’. Really, you should. If everybody did that, then people would last less time than they actually do. Many have a great period of adjustment. Many go through teething problems. Leaving because they don’t like it could be seen as quitting for those? Some people grow to feel better here after getting through hard times. If they had left when they didn’t like it there would be few left eh?

  84. Babs,
    Having skimmed through your blog, I have some observations and a question for you:
    1) you seem to opinionated about almost every topic, and in your opinion you can differentiate things like day and night, even suggest that you can share a method of obtaining this knowledge.
    2) at the same time, you take a burden to mention that none of your claims can be proven, or could stand in court etc., to the point that it seems that this method/knowledge is not used nowadays, especially Denmark, nonetheless it does not contradict the first observation.

    So, assuming that your position is always consistent and you are intelligent/educated as most expats claim to be, I am genuinely curious:
    What constitutes your point of reference for this knowledge, which is unprovable?
    What principles of morality/ethics do you consider when judging a particular issue?

    I will not take any negative answer like “I am not this or that” (similarly “we are not tourists” — such claims are void and state absolutely nothing, compare it to “we are not Marsians”).
    Try to be positive at least once.

  85. The differentiations like night and day happen to be because the blog is a platform for many voices. I do not necessarily agree with every voice that is platformed. I should state that somewhere so people don’t misunderstand, but I have been, to be quite frank, far too busy with my charity work for the disadvantaged to get round to it.

  86. Babs, I am not asking to defend other opinions, there’s enough of your original material about pedophilia. I can understand the danish position, but I see no clear position or reasoning of yours. The reading is just a waste of time at best.

    skatesection, no, it does not. Sure we can have a good chuckle (and so what? BTW, isn’t it rude to laugh at children’s problem by some standards?), but if you want to be taken seriously you need something more.

  87. Why do folks (as above) suggest that if you have problems in Denmark, you should just leave? What about the people with husbands, wives, children in school, mortgages, jobs, loans, friends, etc, etc? It just seems so crass to use the ‘why don’t you leave’ card every time anyone has a gripe.

  88. Greg,

    First of all, I totally agree that it is so crass when people presume to tell other people that if they don’t like it here, ‘they should just shut up or leave’. In my opinion, labeling people as ‘complainers’ or telling them to ‘just shut up’ are lame tactics to try to shut people down. I believe people have a right to speak up if they perceive a problem or injustice or believe they are being mistreated. People have a right to voice their concerns about a situation, AS LONG AS it is done in a respectful manner and it is based on the facts, including one’s own personal experience.

    One’s personal experience is just as valid as anything else but the caveat is that one’s personal experience is filtered through one’s own past experiences, one’s own personal standards, one’s own expectation about what is acceptable behavior and what is not, etc. And because we filter the facts through our own filters, it makes the interpretation of the facts more difficult. So, I agree that “It’s a shame that the researcher chose to use her own interpretation as to why people are feeling like this”; especially given the fact that Dagmar is not a professional sociologist, nor claims to be. Given this, I think the survey would have been more credible if the facts were left to be interpreted on their own by each individual. Nonetheless, I do credit Dagmar for having the courage to put herself on the line and adding to the public debate.

    Secondly, the wording of Dagmar’s research question could have been better constructed for several reasons, but even with that caveat, given the large number of respondents and the survey results, I think it does replicate qualitatively how many expats are feeling. I also agree, as I have stated before, that the survey methodology needs to be better explained to ensure confidence that it followed appropriate research procedures (methods) and applied correct statistical rules to ensure an acceptable level of validity and reliability.

    Nonetheless, the results, at least qualitatively, and as Craig and others have pointed out, are still consistent with what we already know to be true. But that doesn’t necessarily imply therefore that we are no further along than we were before. To the contrary, I think it serves to reinforce the belief that many expats are not happy here and choose to leave Denmark earlier than they originally expected too. As I’ve mentioned before, surveys like this are a snapshot in time (they are time dependent). Conditions change (politically, economically, socially, etc) so surveys need to be done regularly (every year or two, not just every five or six years) to gauge what expats are experiencing. And generally it also reinforces what I heard from many expats, both in person and on several online networking sites.

    Thirdly, it’s true that in an ideal case online surveys need better controls (password protection, removal of duplicate entries, removal of ‘outliers’, ensure the sample is drawn from the targeted population demographic, etc) to ensure a high validity of the results. Without better controls, there is no way to ensure conclusively that those taking the survey are not other ‘foreigners’ such as immigrants, tourists, international students, etc. So, I agree that ‘we have no way of establishing [conclusively] what our demographic was. If you cannot select the demographic beforehand, you cannot determine that the data is representative of the demographic you claim to be representing.’ So, if we can’t do this, we have to trust that the survey takers are indeed who they say they are (expats) and that they indeed represent a cross-section of the expat population chosen at random.

    But it is this last point is the problem that I have with the survey. If the survey is also ‘disseminated among the international students’, then the data will be skewed because I do not consider them to be part of the expat demographic – unless you ask them to self-identify their reason for being in Denmark and then parse them out of the expat results. Additionally, and this is perhaps an even more important point, the online survey seems to lack some of the same controls as the worktrotter survey, e.g., no password protection, users can take the survey multiple times. The same can be said for the survey that is currently being conducted by

    So, my main point is that the same rigorous standards should be applied to every online survey.

  89. It might be that the results of the Worktrotter survey did not surprize you, but they definitly surprized me.
    So far there’s mainly talk about the social “coldness” of Danes. See the initial blog entry of this thread, see the article in Jyllands Posten (Oct 17), etc. etc. This is where the earlier and current efforts focus on. Nothing new about that.

    However, I was taken by surprizes about how many people pointed out the 4 other areas where they see challenges.

    How many mentioned a negative atmosphere at authorities towards them. I cannot recollect this aspect being looked at in any of the previous or current surveys.

    Same applies to the political and public discussion towards foreigners and media representation of foreigners. In general it is claimed that Denmark is open to well-educated and Westerners. But the survey shows that not even those that “should” feel welcome, do feel welcome. Is this looked at in surveys? I haven’t seen it.

    Same applies to how many mentioned that they feel that equality does not apply to them – in a country that claims to treat anybody as equal. Can’t remember being asked in a survey about this.

    Those that know the Worktrotter activities and the “Worktrotter’s Guide to Denmark”, know that I am not into pointing out problems without looking at potential solutions. This is what all my work has been about. Understand Denmark and the Danes better to be able to settle here faster. We, the foreigners, can do a lot (like taking the initiative towards Danes etc.), however, the survey shows that many experience challenges in areas they cannot do anything about.

    In the preview of the survey-report you will see that some thoughts are listed about what could help to make the identified challenges smaller. We don’t have any influence on changing these aspects. This is why I hope that these aspects are taken serious and looked at. We cannot change the attitude of authority-staff, we cannot change the atmosphere towards foreigners, we cannot change being seen of an equal potential, we cannot change our beatifully accented Danish being taken serious.
    We cannot change them ourselves, but we can definitily support and cooperate with those that want to trigger changes.

    It is correct, I am not a sociologist. I am a business / product /project manager. I have led plenty of projects and “lessons learned” sessions to improve things and put improvements into practice.
    From this discussion I can see areas where the final report of the Worktrotter survey needs to be modified and how to present the survey and the results better. For making the final report as good as possible I would like your help. The better the report is, the higher the probability that changes happen. You are welcome to send me your input to contact ( at )

    H. Hawkins, thank you very much for your support. I would appreciate your input a lot.

  90. I am happy about Dagmar’s survey. Finally a survey that didn’t take me trough 369 questions about all the aspects of my life here. With the rising xenophobia in many countries, one of the main questions before moving somewhere is: are foreigners welcome there? When I showed the survey outcome to my friends, they nodded in agreement.

    Greg, all this suspicion if people really, really said the truth in this survey. Heck, some don’t say the truth even in court. Conducting a survey in person doesn’t help with this aspect either. You don’t seem to question participants telling the truth in the cphpost, expatindenmark surveys. You somewhat biased?

    Talking about surveys run in person. I was one of the “hand picked” people for last year’s Expatindenmark / Oxford Research survey “Myths and facts”. The outcome shocked me. A rose tinted version of life in Denmark! Some 60 participants and not ONE negative comment? I have given some and some other participants have too. What happened to them?
    If that “survey” was about writing yet another marketing broshure, our time should not have been wasted. Is this the “quality” you praise so highly, Craig, when talking about Oxford Research? Is this the “quality” we can expect from this years surveys?

    I read also Dagmar’s Worktrotter’s Guide. THAT was helpful. I was taken by the hand, taken through all the questions that might come up, showed alternatives and I could learn from the experiences of other expats. And all this in a neutral way. Even now my friends and I are checking topics up once in a while to find out how to do something, where to go, what to consider etc.

    Life not being all on roses, doesn’t make it bad, it just makes it real.

  91. To Craig Till:

    You have I assume, a professional need to be biased as an employee of the Danish government, and maybe an interest in rejecting ‘unfavorable’ opinions about Denmark. Under the circumstances I wouldn’t expect you to support, comments on blogs or websites that didn’t toe the line in anything but a positive tone, in fact I find your remarks perfectly commensurate with your position, I probably would exercise restraint and focus if I was a public servant, and a representative of the law givers, and it was my meal ticket.

    That said, it does not confine others, who have a rich and long experience of being expatriates in Denmark from having, and airing views which are not of the same caliber as the kind you apparently prefer. The syntax and content of some of these ‘contrary’ views may not appeal to some, but that nevertheless does not invalidate their meaning! Under the flippant messages lie serious and genuine observations, which are not ‘animosity’ but a satirical tone applied to life itself – in Denmark, through the eyes of articulate and very often extremely funny people, humour being a little trait the Danes would benefit from, it’s in fairly short supply, and a useful medium for communication.

    For novices to Danish society it may appear esoteric and crass to read how some interpret life in Denmark, but for others much of it rings a bell or two. From your post I can understand that you have ingested the statistics, and offer some ideas for expatriates to alleviate the problems they are facing. That is admirable, but not so easy in practice, – believe me, and many others! I’m no novice here; I am pre foreign invasion, pre internet, and very much pre the Expatindenmark website. There is no patent recipe for breaking through the barriers here, despite being willing to bend like a willow in the wind, most avenues are impenetrable, and if you do get through there is always a codicil from the Danish side, a subtle reminder that you are not one of the flock; this becomes apparent sometimes too late, when you have already dug your heels in, so the return ticket, as in ‘if you don’t like it, go home’ or other similar clichés, is very harsh, because for some, there is no ‘home’ to go to anymore. I for one can express consternation about many of the things that I have experienced here, but, in some ways they triggered some positive resources in my own personality which I have used to construct a life from. But, unfortunately, I don’t see that the attitude from our hosts has changed, in fact the political arena here adds fuel to the fire, and the population mop it up wholesale, which in turn exacerbates the problems of being an expatriate.

    Much of the problem is the Danish communication arena, the press, and also the government, with the consequence that the indigenous citizens believe what they read about us, very often from distorted journalism, which makes us a foregone conclusion, to the extent that they appear to think we are a homogenous entity with the same lousy agenda, and they respond accordingly, and often with arrogance, and indifference, a knee jerker for the recipient who’s making an effort!

    Life as an expat in DK has a pioneer flavor, and for the moment we seem to be part of an experiment, where the government has many initiatives for foreigners, but on the other hand, those efforts are diluted by government legislation in the form of more demanding rules for those already here, and especially for those who are considering making the leap. Government initiatives to promote solutions are often counterproductive when they are offset by their own laws which make a bad recipe towards a conducive and harmonious compromise.

  92. I think much of the problems is the way expats are being packaged in Denmark. All the hype the expats are generating is not doing anyone here any favors. The expats want to fit in with EACH OTHER more than they want to fit in with the Danes, which is why there is so much brown nosing going on and why many are afraid to speak out. This expat hype about Denmark, the dreadful chiding of those of us who have rather grave messages to convey in the face of all this ‘We shall be positive or die’ is feeding into Denmark’s failings not helping matters at all.

    I’ve met some quite damaged people being encouraged to move to Denmark or stay in Denmark by expats already in situ, as if we are supposed to be recruiting expats??? Granted a lot of this batch of expats do have an evangelical glint in their eyes. Hold on…don’t tell me…is that what all this is about? Denmark needs expats? O Lord. Is that what all this is about?

    Those of us who remember Denmark through the ages, who were here when the first wave of immigrants came, who remember the bouncy expats arriving and setting about making Denmark their world (in the case of ‘Danwives’ with a kind of desperate all or nothing fervor and in the case of expats on contracts with the air of someone who has six months to live and who might as well blow the budget)…KNOW that it is gonna take a lot more than a few government sanctioned and funded posititivity drives and some cheerleaders to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.

    Denmark is basic, why are the expats trying to make it like freaking Barbie’s Palace with flying unicorns? The land of ‘fairy tales’ and HC Andy? I love Denmark, that’s my own private detail. But it’s a warts and all thing. I love Denmark because I’ve known Denmark so long. I am sad to see the state she is in, it’s embarrassing actually, I had higher hopes. And this whole expat mission is the icing on the cake. So much hype with so little regard for the actual lay of the land here. The actual people.

    The worst thing about Denmark right now is not the Danes. Y’all gone and created a monster. A big expat monster wearing a nametag who wants to tell you to ‘get out there!’. They gonna be taking a mighty short trip. What are you going to do when this batch of expats reaches the end of their rope? Are you planning to revolutionize the Danes? Or is it really, as one expat spokesperson puts it, down to the ‘guests’ to live according to the rules of the ‘hosts’?

    And if the ‘government’ really want to know why people leave Denmark, perhaps they should ask some of us who know?

    I am not the only ‘expat/foreigner/dane’ who is tired of the very aggressive evangelical ‘Positivitity’ drive that some expats here are spearheading. Many of us did not find happiness through that route, and know there are other far more serious issues to address. We are sick and tired of being dumped on for seeing to business that is not seen as palatable by the new wave of expats who are here on a mission.

    The writer and feminist Carol J Adams said: “The attempt to create defensiveness through trivialization is the first conversational gambit which greets threatening reforms.”

    The problem is that the government is simultaneously trying to squeeze the life out of the lesser desirable foreigners in Denmark, telling them how they should be bringing up their kids and driving them out wherever possible, preventing them from bringing their family members in, at the same time as trying to attract the more desirable foreigners, making schools for their kids (where Danish is taught as a small part of the school year and isn’t the main language), giving them tax concessions, allowing them to bring wife, kids, au pair and all that. It’s not going to work. Sooner or later the edges are meeting. You are not going to turn this around by being cheerleaders. You need to look at the root problem.

    It is not my mission to make ‘expats’ feel more comfortable in their delusions. But I can see how some people have turned it into their mission, as long as they live and breathe Danish air. Fair enough, ignore what is really going on, make sure your name tags are on straight and see if you can drum up a few more happy expats for the government.

    The expat-on-a-mission here is an insult to what is actually going on.

  93. Babs, let me warn you about the hazards of negative thinking:

    1) negative claim alone does not make it a valid critique. There are no conclusions to be drawn from negative claim except the claim itself. I can give you a formal proof that from one negation one can generate infinite theory (with deep and profound sense, so that everyone goes ooh and ah), while the theory itself is always inconsistent (doh!). This is exactly how conspiracy theorists “work”.

    2) negative claim alone does not bring anything new to the discussion. Most often, everyone is already aware of the shortcomings, and most often they accept it as a compromise, a lesser “evil”. Heck, Danes even provide you with their rationalizations — you don’t have to agree, but you see, it still goes nowhere — the burden of proof and change is still on your side.

    3) openness. how open minded do you want (others) to be? do you want to be reasonably open with skeptic reservation? or do you want to be open to everything, like a garbage bin and accept stuff like #1 above?

    So all-in-all, negative observation alone is a bad thing, unless you use it as a motive and you propose a solution, preferably constructive. If you have something constructive to say — my attention is all yours.

    Now specifically, let me enumerate your mentioned problems:
    1) The problem is that the government is simultaneously trying to squeeze the life out of the lesser desirable foreigners in Denmark.

    OK, you need to show it how, so I read further.

    2) telling them how they should be bringing up their kids.

    This is not true in my opinion. I would grant you that they tell what you should *not* do, but they don’t tell what you should do — they are very much open on that part, unless you can show some specifics.
    Moreover, it has not been always like that, perhaps we can trace where this change happened (the history can be quite long) and why, but we cannot do anything unless you are specific — again, your negations don’t help here at all.

    3) and driving them out wherever possible.

    Nobody’s driving me. Enlighten me.

    4) preventing them from bringing their family members in.

    They can come, I suppose at least for a short while, there’s visa procedures etc. Moreover there is no single central point of control — you can even appeal if some officer rejects, it’s not new and there have been quite a few changes through press exposure. It’s not like Queen hates you. There is no conspiracy, or are you about to proof one?

    5) at the same time as trying to attract the more desirable foreigners,


    6) making schools for their kids (where Danish is taught as a small part of the school year and isn’t the main language), giving them tax concessions, allowing them to bring wife, kids, au pair and all that.

    So they do allow bringing their family (cf #4), or they don’t?
    Now I am really confused.

    7) It’s not going to work.

    Life is tough, but it works somehow.

    8) Sooner or later the edges are meeting. You are not going to turn this around by being cheerleaders. You need to look at the root problem.

    Being positive is not about being cheerleader, it’s about being constructive.
    So what is the *root*?

  94. This is not a plea to be more constructive or to find the “root”, this is a plain and simple “shut down”. This is not high school debate team.

  95. I am not saying *You* are negative, but rather your claims are negative — they are all negations of some sort, and some are probably true, but they are not helpful because they are not constructive.
    Let me put it this way: you don’t like how Danes behave (that’s perfectly fine), but you fail to tell how and why you want them to behave differently.
    I think if you dig into the why part, you will see that there is a reason for them being like they are (notice that burden of studying Danes is upon you, because you are raising the problem), however since you don’t state how they should behave differently, or why should they, i.e. why your solution is better — we have no way to advance the discussion, you are simply giving no opportunity or a chance to Danes.
    So don’t be surprised that they just shrug their shoulders in a “rude” way (“yes, so what?”) and move on. Some are really helpful at providing you hints with rationalizations, others aren’t even conscious about it — they won’t tell you anything.

  96. Marius, with all due respect to a disjointed voice on the internet, I think I know more about the so called ‘Danes’ than you do.

    From the inside and outside. Past and present.

    you said: “Let me put it this way: you don’t like how Danes behave (that’s perfectly fine), but you fail to tell how and why you want them to behave differently”

    *sigh* I do like how so called Danes behave in lots of instances, the aspects of the rather predictable Danish integrated behavior I don’t like I can explain how and why I want them to behave differently, but I do not expect them to behave differently until they receive a whole other form of education than the one that is on standard offer in Denmark, from CPH to Thisted, today.

    Stop telling me about who the Danes are. I know far more than you. Obviously.

    And anyway, right now, I am not so concerned with the often boorish attitudes of many and in fact most Danes (BLESS THEM), and I am more concerned with the hype that a lot of these expat campaigns are creating, that do the Danes no favors and merely attempt to plump the cushions of affluent and upwardly mobile expats in Denmark.

    The way the danes behave is being over simplified in these campaigns, and that in itself is also offensive to Danes.

  97. What would be great to see is the so called ‘immigrants’ and ‘refugees’ turning up at these open events for expats. They simply don’t feel welcome and many are not aware that such events are taking place. I’ve met more than one so labeled refugee who is ‘highly qualified’. Their spouses of course need support, and help to be here, and to understand Danish conversation. They also need special schools to be created to keep their children close to their own language and culture and to have Danish as a lesson, not as the dominating language. Hvorfor ikke?

    Perhaps if the so called ‘refugees’ are approached the same way as the ‘expats’ are approached Denmark would be a better place for all? Let’s try it shall we? Let’s try attending to the prime concerns of the immigrant, giving the immigrant what he wants and then providing ample opportunity for the immigrant to be involved in the mores of Danish society? Let’s start by trying to please them, and having a great deal of respect for the fact that they will want an alternative educational system?

    Or better still, let’s recreate the Danish elementary educational system to allow for many cultures, do away with the mandatory Christian religion lesson in Danish state elementary schools (‘Kristendom’) and introduce a lesson that helps children to respect and understand that the world is made up of lots of interpretations, some being religious some not being religious and ways of life as different as a fingerprint. If the so called perks of life in Denmark were as high as is claimed to be, the free education/health and politics, then there would not be a need for all these dreadfully patronizing ‘Expat Action Now’ thingies.

    Ah but this would mean admitting that it is not possible for most foreigners in Denmark to live by the adage:

    ‘It is the responsibility of the foreigner to acclimate to the Danish way of life, by studying who they are, learning Danish and aligning their practices with the Danish standards. The Danes established this country and system long before the arrival of the foreigners, so who is the foreigner to demand that the Danes just accept them with open arms with no expectations to adapt to the Danish way of life?’

    Expats are getting the red carpet rolled out for them. This is cringe-worthy in the face of the aggressive politics against the lowly foreigner in Denmark’s new class system.

    We should be working on translating some of the bumpf from the so called international community and expat meetups into more languages so that these events can be broadcast in the so called ‘ghettos’.

    It’s important to be part of the solution instead of just pointing out the flaws, I agree.

    I’ve contributed enough to this thread, there isn’t really much more I can say on the matter. The whole drive to ‘recruit’ expats, spearheaded by evangelical go getting campaigns increasingly lead by individuals, is not especially positive. There is a lot of denial and a blanket refusal to take a real look at the politics.

    The root? Get your hands dirty and find out.

  98. Now I start understanding you, and I really appreciate the idea that all immigrants, refugees and expatriates should be treated the same.
    BTW, did you look up the About section of this site? Did you see their titles?
    I think the highly qualified work force is their main interest (can’t blame them, that’s what they do) even though they lack social agenda (which seems to touch you professionally).

    However I have the opposite perception of history in a sense that it got “better” for all immigrants:
    Before EU expansion, there were great barriers for immigrants, basically only the most skillful could get through.
    After EU expansion, the barriers have been lowered for most, thus allowing more of less skillful workers in.
    My conclusion is that there were/are little or no barriers for highly qualified immigrants (they are difficult to exchange anyway) but now there are less barriers for less qualified, which allowed more of them from greater EU and this influx probably created some additional stress for both Danes and immigrants from outside EU.
    As a result Danish politicians are trying to control this and the top businessmen are trying to defend their interests in expats, however there seems to be no one standing behind refugees.

  99. also for the record as expats we are not the only ones that experience prejudice here in Denmark….unlike the UK newsreaders are not allowed to maintain their regional dialects..there are linguists employed to ensure that those from the regions do not have a dialect…therefore those in regions are also being rejected by the powers that be in capital……society is made up of many different types of people who should fairly represented in aspects……

    sadly all over the world we have right wing politics which is destroying any notion of equality and fairness…..of course it is not just Denmark, but we are discussing Denmark and also the claim here is that it is a democratic, liberal and an open country which is far from being…..therefore I believe the purpose of this survey and blog is not only to discuss but to hopefully improve things here.

    We should also remember that Denmark like many countries are experiencing a brain drain meaning there are just as many people leaving as entering….so the question is how to invest in people rather than alienate them….by calling where they live a “gheto” for example….which automatically undermines the people living in these areas….

    The whole question of integration is huge and not easily solved……however the rhetoric needs to shift from them and us … simply us….how we can make things better… everybody can be included and how everyone can contribute regardless of ethnic, religious sexual orientation, age or sex….

    I do try however I wouldn’t treat anybody how I get treated here and that is my protest…..

  100. It looks like the discussion is now on the danish society in general… I am not sure this was the topic of the discussion! To me the issue is simpler:
    – the Danish government is concerned about a potential skill shortage. One of the solutions they have identified is to make Denmark more attractive to temporary foreign highly qualified worker, that will bring the necessary skills but the do not plan to permanently live in Denmark: the now famous “expats”.
    – These “expats” are supposed to be a scarce commodity, that moves (almost) freely across countries and continents, and therefore there is competition among countries and companies to get hold to them
    – A research found that many “expats” are potentially unwilling to stay in Denmark long enough to have a positive influence on the skill pool of the country. Why? Because many of them find Danis people unfriendly and closed.
    – Hence the issue discussed here is not the fairness of Danish immigration and integration system: it is way more pragmatic. Would these “expats” remain longer in Denmark if they get more integrated in the Danish social life? How can the authorities and the Danish companies make sure that the hypothetical benefits brought by these expats are fully captured? This of course besides provide some economic incentives or material facilitation. Fair or unfair, this is a typical demand and offer problem, as it is perceived by the government.

    I understand that around this topic there are lots of emotions: I have expressed my views, and I would like to hear more comparisons ans “real life examples”, but also stories far from my experience! I am not so interested in complicated justifications of rudeness and coldness.

    I would like also to understand if some of the hypothesis are really true: have many people REALLY left this country just because, ceteris paribus, the Danes are unfriendly? For example: if asked, I would definitely say that I do not like the weather here, but definitely I would not leave Denmark for this reason!

  101. Very good summary. I’d like to add that it’s not quite the Danish government (as a whole), it’s just the Ministry of Economics and Business Affairs is involved here (with expats), and I wonder what the social department(s) have to say here, because it seems that the main criticism fall into that area.

  102. Pingback: 2010 Review & 2011 call for blog contributions « Expat in Denmark Blog·

  103. I used to live in Copenhagen for 2 years. (Yes before you ask I have lived and travelled all over the world). I went with a positive attitude, bit my tongue, tried to “fit in”. I took all the sarcasm and ignorance that a man could. I used to nod and agree with people and not give my opinion as to not offend. I did what they all did as I saw the extreme conformity that goes on. They have the same look, glasses, clothes, lifestyle, views etc. I could go on. I didnt expect people to welcome me with open arms, change their life for me or bend over backwards. I didnt expect apologies when people “bumped” into me. When out and about, I tried. I tired buying drinks for people (not welcomed), chatting to people, smiling and trying to be a gentleman without any success. In fact, the only time someone tried to communicate with me was to shout or tell me what I should be doing. I had many expat friends who tried like I did but they all ended up leaving. I tried swallowing the “best in the world” edict about how wonderful life is in copenhagen and their views about how awful Britain is (where I am from). Lunchtimes consisted of people trying to brainwash me or tell me “facts” about Britain – it’s a third world country and not up to Denmark’s standard blah blah. I met a few nice danish blokes. One in particular was really cool but repressed by his feminazi girlfriend to the point of becoming a zombie (just like I became). And that sums the place up. Repression. Conformity. Insecurity. Even the best people there are caught up and come out the other side crushed. One memory sticks in my mind. I was looking for my seat on a plane in London to fly to Cph. I said “Excuse me, I need to get past” to a lady. She said “OH! Youre a foreigner!! How nice”. I said “Yes a foreigner!” (she was one too). She looked like a peasant finding a bar of gold. As for me, I ended up like a poster at the top of this thread – I stayed in, only going out for food, work or the airport and drinking cheap red wine at night, getting wasted and taking antidepressants purchased over the internet, dosed up to my eyeballs, trying not to let anyone notice I had lost my mind. Good night.

  104. Really interesting discussion. I guess Danes can be a bit cold… But anyways if some of you are interested in knowing more about what Danes are like then visit this site

  105. The Danes are like a brand new bottle of ketchup sauce, sometime you just have to shake and tap the bottle the right way.Beware, you may end up with either sauce all over your food, plate and table or sit there with your food going cold and the sauce still in the bottle.

    I have had both negative and positive experiences with Denmark and the Danes, you have to learn to respect the other persons beliefs even if he or she is in love with Søren Pind and Pia K. I dislike pushy people , or condescending remarks if your language skills are not up to their expectations and this counts for both sides. I feel for the immigrants that have a completely opposite culture or alphabet than that of the western world, the clash between these two worlds seem to like oil and water, you make make them mix but after some time they separate.

    Denmark is a push over for criminals or people living here with ill intentions, the police and politicians should work with a hard line with illegal or criminal immigrant, then focus on real refugees in need.

    The bottom line is that if you argue with a Dane in public, you will end up second best even if you are right, but sometimes it is just worth it and remember to be f#%king nice to nice Danes and nice people.


  106. Danes are definitely a cold people. I’ve been everywhere in the world and you cannot compare for instance a dane with an american.

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