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An Expat Talks about Living in Copenhagen , Denmark

Dec 19, 2017

Copenhagen, Denmark

An expat living in Copenhagen offers an incredible glimpse of what it's to live there. Although Denmark is very homogeneous, Danish people are open to other cultures. The high cost of living and tight job market can make staying in Copenhagen long-term difficult for many expats.

What is the name of the city or town that you are reporting on?


How long have you lived there?

2 years

What activities, clubs and organizations would you recommend to newcomers to help them meet others?

Try Facebook groups- there are some expat in Copenhagen groups. Unfortunately, compared to other countries, Denmark lacks in terms of organizations to help meet other people, as many require Danish proficiency. My best advice- if you have a child, get involved with your child's international school, you are sure to meet tons of expat families and local Danish ones, and is a great way to meet new people.

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In terms of religious, racial, economic and cultural diversity, are the people of this city or town diverse? Are they accepting of differences? Describe.

Depends on where you are from whether you will think it is more or less diverse. If you are from a place like the US, Canada, the U.K., Singapore, the UAE, or countries similar where there are many cultures, you will be surprised at how ethnically homogeneous Denmark is. One local told me it is a tribe almost, nearly everyone is ethnically Danish and there is little cultural diversity.

However, if you are from a place such as Norway, Sweden, etc. where society is largely one race, you won't be in for much of a shock. Of course, larger cities here are more multicultural than urban areas.

Danes are very accepting of culture generally, although many have mixed experiences. While I, as a person of color, have generally had good experiences, many of my friends have not, although a large majority have. I think overall though, Denmark is extremely accepting, and is fortunate to have legislation that guarantees personal rights and liberties upon everyone. Denmark is very much centered around equality. However, often minorities of any form will experience some form of ignorance, although many locals describe it as just ignorance and not malicious intent- being an ethnically homogeneous place, many Danes have not experienced multiculturalism the way other countries in Europe and America/Canada have for example, although in my opinion it is still no excuse for any hateful comments. Opinions vary, the best advice I have (which is general I apologize), is to talk to as many people you can including locals and experts to gain your own perspective on this issue, which is not so clear cut here in Denmark, although it is safe to say it is a Western country and is tolerant and accepting, so don't worry :)

What are the main industries in this city? What types of career opportunities commonly exist? How do most people find new jobs?

Not really educated a ton on this- but I know from within the expat community a large portion work in the shipping, oil and gas, renewable energy, and health and medicine industries, with some also working as diplomats for their home country.

Many expats come to Denmark with a job contract and an accepted offer, but if you are looking for a job in Denmark, as often quite a few accompanying spouses do, beware - the job market is VERY difficult, at least from my experience as an accompanying spouse. Many jobs are Danish speaking or require some level of proficiency, and string adjusted to the CV/resume/interview process can be frustrating and confusing.

In general, what are peoples' priorities in this city? For example, do lives revolve around work, family, socializing, sports, etc.?

Lives revolve around family, if you are from the US for comparison, life here is significantly LESS stressful in terms of work. The working hours here are shorter, and most jobs require around 37.5 hours a week. Lots of vacation too and amazing maternity leave benefits. All of these contribute to more family time, and in general Danes tend to prioritize family time or meet friends usually in a small social circle.

Of course, some expats want to meet a lot of people (myself included), and there are opportunities to meet through expat groups (see above). Additionally, there are sports clubs although check beforehand as most of not all speak Danish :(

However, DON’T be discouraged from exercise, there might not be groups but many Danes and expats alike like to spend time outside with their family. Many residents of Copenhagen are extremely active, and a large population bike or walk to work/school, go to the gym, run, etc.

For group sports for kids, check with your child’s school, many offer programs. For adults, your options may be more limited but try social media to find groups, or if not create a group with fellow locals and expats :)

If a friend of yours was thinking of moving to this city or town from far away, what other advice would you give them.

Copenhagen is a small city but is a gateway to many parts of Europe, make travel a priority to keep things interesting. At the end of the day, it's still a European country and shares many characteristics with its counterparts, although personally I think for expats it's better than the US or UK if you are English speaking for example, although Denmark speaks excellent English and there is hardly a need to learn the local language (at least for a short term stay) However, of course being from the US, I would not rate it as the best expat destination due to its small population and sometimes lack of activities.

That being said, it is a great opportunity for immersion in a new culture and to get to know both the country and the Scandinavian culture better. My advice: Denmark is a place where especially if you are from outside Europe or a place where the cost of living is much lower, will be a big change in terms of lifestyle, there are some sacrifices to be made. If you are willing to sacrifice a little, I view it as a great short-term destination, and if you want to stay a little longer, I wouldn’t blame you- Denmark has many appealing factors.

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