HomeBlog → Do you perceive Danes open towards foreigners living in Denmark?

Download the final survey report

In the many discussions I have had with foreigners as part of my role in leading activities aimed at cultural integration in Denmark, I got the impression more and more that certain challenges have not really been explored yet. It is often the case that well-educated foreigners leave Denmark due to not being fully capable of settling properly. The reason usually mentioned is that they have a strong difficulty in becoming a part of the community, and building a social network. Families become isolated and are unable to find their “place” here.

However, many people mentioned that not only do they struggle with integrating they also feel that they are not wanted in the country. That was the trigger to look more closely into this topic and served as the motivation for conducting this survey and to determine if the related experiences of not feeling welcome were singular and only the experience of a few or if it is the experience of many. By examining the experience of a large number of people it is my hope that problems can be identified and solutions found to help bridge the gap between Danes and the international community.

The result: 46% of the participants don't feel welcome versus 26% who do. 28% gave a neutral answer. Considering that 98% of the 703 survey participants are well-educated, this is a very worrying result especially as Denmark claims the need for well-educated work-force from abroad.

The result of the survey gives a strong signal that there seems to be a problem, that foreigners don’t feel wanted here. This is not only unpleasant for the foreigners themselves and can influence them to leave the country (which in fact many do), but it can also have serious consequences for Denmark and its economy.

Openness, friendliness, “hygge”, and treating people equally is the Danish way.
Or do we have to say “was” the Danish way? Considering the results of the survey, many foreigners don’t seem to experience these Danish qualities. Hopefully they will not get lost in the current focus of protecting Denmark.

Download the final survey report

Dagmar Fink

Openness, friendliness, “hygge”, and treating people equally is the Danish way. Or do we have to say “was” the Danish way? Considering the results of the survey, many foreigners don’t seem to experience these Danish qualities. Hopefully they will not get lost in the current focus of protecting Denmark.


#70 Louisiana 2013-12-23 03:59
I am Danish, I lived in Copenhagen and I have immigrated to Australia because of my Australian husband. I have also lived in other countries as well. And this I know; it is always difficult to be a foreigner. It takes a huge amount of energy and time to settle in and make your new country a home. People from Copenhagen, or Denmark, are no different to those from Australia, Sydney, America or Thailand for that matter. Lets just face the fact, the no matter what country we move to, it will be hard. Simpley because it is not home. It is foreign, strange and unknown. Nobody is able to fulfil the dreams many project into a new country when immigrating. That fact is, that it is us, the new comers, who have to prove ourselves. Prove that we are friendly, that we want this new culture, country and language. That we do have something to contribute with. Everybody is competing. Australians amongst Australians, Englishmen among Englishmen etc. Everybody is stressed by the huge expectations form our 'X factor' values and the dreams the media put into our heads. But in the end, we are all just humans. Trying to make our way through life. So stop judgeing the foreign country. It is not their fault. No country and no culture is perfect. In Australia, it is hard to get friends. Very hard. It is hard to get a job if you are not local, many well educated immigrants live of cleaning jobs to a lower price than in England. Many feel unwanted and unwellcomed and coloured people experience a racism we don't even know of in Denmark. I have come to think, that immigration in general is just very difficult for us humans. Sometimes we are lucky, but most times, leaving everything that is connected to our identity, feeling of security and 'home' - will always be deeply painful and difficult. We literally have to start all over when moving to a new country. New friends (and that does take time), start all over with a new language, new social norms and rules, new food etc. Our attachments means everything for us humans. On every possible level, and that makes us deeply dependent of other peoples support, acknowledgement, acceptance as well as our our own will and emotional resillience to settle in as well as to adjust and embrance the new culture and way of life. If we do not do so, we will never succed. It is all up to us. So don't think that Denmark is the only country who discriminated foreigners. All countries do - all nations do.
#69 TFB 2013-11-14 12:02
I am Danish but I lived ad worked in several other countries. I agree with what I have read in other comments; being a foreigner i hard no matter what country you are from and move to. You can not compare it to being a tourist. I have also worked in th UK and even though I was fluent in English, I could still only get lowclass jobs, as cleaning at hotels. But that was just how it is. I have also experienced prejudice, but have found that the way people excepted me had a lot to do with how I approached them! I never went to a country and demanded to keep the behavior I would have in Denmark,I studied the behavior in the country I was in, and intregrated. I knowwe often come of as rude. That is the way we speak, that is our humour. God how I had to learn to adjust my humour, actually the only ones I have met who got my black Danish humour were the Australiens. When I lived in Norway I had an Austrailian friend and all the Norvegians thought we loaded each other because of the way we talked to each other.
With the comments here from people considering us rude, in many cases it may just be misunderstanding or them expecting us to be in a way we are not. Should we not be allowed to be who we are?I am a big smalltalker,and I mostly have no trouble having conversations with strangers or making new friends. But it has to start with me. My experience is, that it helps reading up on the way people are in the country you move to, and then adjust to that.
But with that said, yes I too feel racism has grown in this country. Not just for foreigners, but also for ex. unemployed. I feel a lot of this is created by the media, tha fact that we pay so high taxes that we become greedy considering what they are used for, and politicians making rule after rule after rule. There are not only rules on who can or can not enter this country, there are also rules on which dogs are or are not allowed. I do not like this development, but I do not know how to change it. I do know peoplewho are racist, but almost all of them have foreign friendswho they like, because "he/sheis all right". But when we constantly hear how foreigners do not want to work and how much of our tax money it costs while the elder and the hospitals need money, wether it is true or not, it does unfortunately create dislike. I think it would in most countries.
#68 Rasmus 2013-06-04 09:22
i am a dane (so i will be biased), i´ve been living abroad for some time, and i do understand why many people do find danes closed..

But i must admit, i also find many people not open to intergrate.

I´ve been living a couple of years in UK and 6 years in the US, i´ve moved there being able to speak english quite well, i had a job when i got there, and i tried to intergrate and not to insult people, i tried to FIT IN..

Danes normally work quite well abroad, because they do not take up much space.

but it creates issues the other way, sinces the danes always try to "make" the least amounts of noise, then "people" from abroad, normally seems rude to us when moving in..

thats the first issue..

We get these "high speaking" "yelling" people, that fills the room. they do not fit danish culture. and some people living here like that culture.

learning to speak danish, helps a lot, sinces it helps you communicate, most people JUST assume, that all danes want to communicate in english, since many speak it well, but it does not mean that they are comfortable.. danes are afraid of making mistakes.

Openness differs from abroad, when danes open, THEY open.. they just need trust, and trust is earned, in Denmark ALL people (also danes) earns things, meaning that they have to show value, before value is accepted as a fact.

I feel openess especially in the US feels fake (for a dane).. it really does, nearly every colleague i have, wants to be friends, they come and visit, and SHARE EVERYTHING, and i do mean everything, i accept, because i live her, but it simply doesn´t feel real, is easy to feel welcome, but i never fell that i find high valued friends.

Then also remember, danes pay 50+ % in taxes, a high amount of sales tax, and taxes on everthing, its an expensive sociaty to live in, so when you move her, and use the social system, and dont want to integrate, then they might get a bit mad, because they are paying, and living with less money than elsewere to CREATE this sociaty. (when 60-70% of your money goes to paying for Denmark, then its hard to see money being spent on wellfare of people that never paid or worked in Denmark)

they "own" the sociaty, and yes they want people that love it, and want to help, to be a part of it, by all means JOIN in..

I do miss Denmark from time to time, what i as a dane miss is..

The open work culture, were we´d support eachother, and HELP eachother, we were happy to see others succed even in high level jobs were i were.

I miss when people say they will do something, THEY WILL...

I miss that you can be a garbage man, and still have the same status in sociaty as a high level manager, i think here in the US we quite often look down on people in lower income layers. (and these are people that DO work, and support the states)

i feel my current culture at my job now, is more backstabbing, PEOPLE WANT my job, and i have to use time do DEFEND IT.. (and then they all act like BEST friends, thats why i feel its a bit false, the "openness"

getting used to the working culture in the US were hard, i feel less value creating, im forced to use a LOT of time on things that are time wasters, i could do more value in a normal 37 hour work week, that i sometime do here in 60+ ... i did however normally do the same hours in Denmark, but i feed on being value adding, not just doing things because, because i should.

i miss the deep conversations i could have with danish friends, i do still have them, i dont have ANY friends here were i feel, i REALLY REALLY can talk about things that are HEAVY.

but.. its all in the eyes of the guy living there...

im in Denmark at the moment, and i´m reconsindering my now long career abroad, give up the money and the career, and get back, and start a bit over.

I do love the time spent in U.K. and the US, and we (me & my wife) both had a LOT of fun.

i will AGREE that its quite visible, that its easier to get integrated into many other contries than Denmark, BUT if you come to Denmark with a open heart, and a WILL to be a DANE, not to be a immigrant, then it will happen..

but i you come there with the mindset, of THEY & THEM, and THEY need to integrate me, and THEY need to be open, and live like i did in XXXXX then you will not like it..

you have to accept the culture you want to live in, and absorb it..

if you just want to be f.ex. a guy from the UK living in Denmark, then you will never be danish.

and to like living in Denmark, you will have to like the culture, and the way of living..
#67 Adrienne 2013-03-27 19:38
Thank you so much Sun26, I couldn't agree more with what you say. Hope you manage to return to UK soon.
I have a lot of contacts to other expats and I think the prejudice on the job market is what turns off people most. I know SO with a PhD in chemistry from Berkeley, unemployed, SO with a MB and several years of employment in upper mnagement in the computer industry, unemployed, SO with a PhD in nuclear physics from Max-Planck institute, no job in Denmark, SO with a MSc in economics, no job, SO with a PhD in biology, no job, I could go on and on. Nearly all these people came with their partner and believe me, these people won't stay because after two years they realize staying in Denmark would mean a dead end for their career.
I think the mistake Danes make is that they still seem to think that foreigner is foreigner. They are used to foreigners that come to Denmark in order to ask for asylum or as economic refugee, people that in a way are solicitants. They don't understand that highly educated expads are no solicitants, but people who are incredibly flexible when it comes to job search and as quickly as expads come to Denmark as quickly do these people leave if they can't see any purpose to stay. And unfortunately Denmark doesn't give them much purpose.
#66 David_Madeira 2013-03-26 01:01
What is this? A forum for people who hate Danes and Denmark??
I joined the forum, cause I thought it could give me some usefull info. Instead I found a forum for bitter, self absorbed people, spitting out their venom.. I am really shocked! The funniest thing is how many accuse the Danes of being racists, while they themselves find it acceptable to judge and shitmouth the Danes.. Isn't that the definition of racism? Hating and judging people because of their origins or culture??

I'm Portuguese and I've been living in Denmark for now 6 years. I love Copenhagen, and I love Denmark. Being a foreigner has actually opened doors for me, in the sense that I've got a job, I would never be considered for at home.

I've been living in both France and the UK before, and I find Denmark to be the most welcoming, effeciant and flexible country for a foreigner... Most people speak English, and if I would, I actually could do without learning the language. That would never work in neither Portugal, France or the UK - as people in those countries only speak their own language - so if you don't speak it, you can piss off. That is not the case in Denmark...

Furthermore, I have to say that the accusations I read here, are exactly the same as the ones I heard from foreigners in the other countries I lived.. It IS tough to be a foreigner - and no matter where you go, you will always be a foreigner. That is NOT a typical Danish thing, nor the Dane's fault..

So stop playing the victim and go out and mingle.. It's NOT that hard - especially in Denmark where people are actually willing to meet you and a foreign language (as English IS a foreign language to them).
#65 Dane on the wrong train 2013-03-01 14:33
Wow.. I've been reading some of these comments and experienced the nature of a part of the Danish system towards foreigners for almost two years now and I have to say... It's repulsive.

My wife moved here to study and live with me and has been met with superiority and dismissive behaviour from the people who were suppose to welcome her expertise.

I'm a Dane myself and I made the move to Copenhagen with my wife when she came to the country and I have to make something clear: Sealand, and ESPECIALLY Copenhagen, has a general air of hostility, even towards other Danes! You don't have to be a foreigner to feel like the odd man out in Copenhagen, but seeing as they promote Copenhagen as a "foreign-friendly, multicultural city" they odd to change their attitude.

Now, as mentioned, my wife moved here 2 years ago, she's learned the language and she is doing well in school. Despite all of that she is still met with a "We prefer someone who "speaks" (read: Whose mothertounge is Danish)and understands the language.

And that's Copenhagen in a nuttshell: They don't mind you visiting on holiday, but you staying here without earning money from a company in your home country or somehow fend for yourself by other means is a terrible thing for them.

SO, my suggestion to anyone wanting to move here: Move to Århus, look up the student house "Studenterhuset" and go there as often as you can: Not only do they host both Danes and "foreigners" (it's a café-bar place) but you might also find someone who can help you get a job, learn the language or build a network.

If I could I would help everyone coming to this country, the best thing I can do is tell you to NOT move to Copenhagen but make the move to Århus (on the mainland, 2nd largest city with lots of opportunities) instead.

Know that you have both my thoughts and hopes if you're already here and suffering.

Best regards
Mark - A foreign native.
#64 Anders 2013-01-22 15:43
Hi Sun26,

Did you move home to the UK?

Sorry to hear your story. I know how it works here in Denmark. I've been staying in the US and in Germany, so I know how people can be.

You don't mention where in Denmark you live(d) - I know that some parts are worse than others (ex. Sealand).

Actually I hope that you pursuaded your husband and kids to move back to UK. Danes are very uncertain of themselves. Therefore they (we) can seem very rude etc. - not me in particular - I'm born SO curious that I just HAVE to ask 1000's of questions about anything! If I see a person who looks foreign, or I hear a foreign language being spoken, I automatically get drawn to the scene. I don't know why . I guess it's because I just love to explore other people, cultures etc.

Stop by Fyn next time - we're supposed to be the kindest people of Denmark.

- Anders
#63 Janny 2013-01-06 16:41
I read with a burden heart all the comments and they summed up pretty much my experience with Denmark and danes in the past 13 years. I can especially identify with Sun26 and the general attitudes of danes towards foreigners (wrt job opportunities, language, customs). I can finally summarized my experiences as a foreigner living in DK as a teenager, that has just moved to a new town and school called DK. You try and try but u are only met with turned backs. I am married to a dane, speak fluent danish, have an education from DK, working since I landed!
#62 Lars1 2012-12-20 17:19
The majority of danes have no idea what an expat is
Most of us only hear about forigners "leeching" the system.

I would love to help anybody if i can in any way.
I have no jobs to offer
But with questions or just to meet up and have a chat.
#61 Bleh 2012-11-14 13:33
My mom is from Finno-swede and she's lived in Denmark for about 20 years and says that she's only ever felt unwelcome when people thought that she was Swedish. I think the reason why she has been able to live her, mainly is because she has learnt the language, but also because she didn't expect to be welcomed with open arms and accepted that Denmark have certain customs and ways to do things that are different from where she comes from. Still she hasn't become Danish and still thinks and lives in a way thats very un-Danish sometimes. She came to Denmark to study at a university and later started her own business, thats doing pretty well. She has several Danish friends and doesn't have a harder time befriending Danes than other Danes do.

But I agree that Danmark has a problem with xenophobia, and I'm sure that in some communities racism as well and that Denmark can be a difficult country to be accepted into.

Danes are cold people as well, not just towards foreigners, but generally towards people we don't know. We usually don't say hello or make smalltalk with people we don't know. If you come from a friendlier country and don't know this you might find it weird or rude, or think that people in general don't like you.
#60 sun26 2012-11-03 11:08
I have been living in Denmark for 18 months with my danish partner and our 2 small children. I am from the UK and fell for the hype about the great "danish way of life" and so we moved here. I am learning danish and have a good education with the hope of working in that field in the future. In the first 6 months i smiled and was my ususal happy open friendly self towards the danish mothers at the børnehave and in the community. Still 18 months later not one has even smiled back let alone say hello.
My experience of Denmark is that it is the most cold, unfriendly, hideous country ever and despite endless efforts on my part to mix and be open to other danes, it is consistently met with total coldness, rejection and indifference. Even though i am white and educated (god help those that are from other ethnicities) i have experienced direct prejudice from doctors, kommune and so on. Now i am a shadow of the person i was in the UK. All i think about is how to get out of this country as the thought of spending the rest of my life here makes me cry. The thought that my sons will grow up to be like these people scares me to death, unfriendly and totally narrow minded amonsgt many other issues. When i met my danish partner in the Uk he was welcomed by my friends, he made loads of new friends, he loved the vibrant, interesting multinational culture and was welcomed as a foreigner. Sadly we made the terrible decision to move here and spend all our savings setting up home here. As we live here he has started to become more like his danish nationals, increasingly reserved, talking less and less etc. He was a different man living in my country, relaxed and happy, opening up that danish closed mentality. Please think very carefully about settling here. The hype is not true. And i dont care if danes comment back negatively to my post because all of what i say is true. I hate it here, it was the worst mistake of my life and i am saving up to move back to the UK. By all means stay if you want to live a life of lonliness, predjudice and racism, lack of decent employment even if your educated to the hilt because yes you will be bottom of the pile and by all means stay if you also have the wish to endure the most boring culture ever. Lets all stay in our danish homes for the rest of eternity and only meet up with the friends we have made since kindergarden because meeting and allowing new people into our closed circle is like signing their death warrent. No thanks, i may be 40 but im not dead and buried yet. Good luck!
#59 Jon 2012-08-05 20:49
Immigrants generally dont understand or appriciate the miracle of Denmark and you cant really fault them. There is a civil war here not by the use of literal weapons but between the major political coalitions of equal size called blue and red block and without knowing it, nothing makes sense here. The blue the liberal conservative side wants what Denmark doesnt provide very well; a strong western liberal market economy. The red representing various radical forms of socialism and internationalism has little focus on unworthy mammon but on free immigration, increasing support to development countries and political correct but bad profit green projects. Any favoritism of certain groups of immigrants considered more productive/contructive for Denmark it considers racism. This is financed by the highest tax level in the world and a worrying disdain for our senior citizens. It is true we dont take well care of our seniors. We are deceived into thinking they would benefit from the "velfærdsstaten", but in reality they are often treated as the lowest class, malnourished and humiliated because they can no longer pay tax to the prestige projects of the elite first and the overpriced benefits of the "velfærdsstaten" second.

So there is little room for immigrants not understanding us. Go to Sweden. Believe me, they got problems of their own.
#58 Janum 2012-08-02 11:58
I have been living in Denmark from last 15 months. I am from Asian origin still trying to get a job in my expertise..no success till date. Although I am always a good match for the position but rejected just because being a foreign national. I started feeling like an alien in this country.
#57 Rod B 2012-07-07 19:23
I came in Denmark in 1999, I am from France, originally from the Republic of the Congo. My parents were diplomats in South Africa for the Congolese embassy 17 years ago. My view of homogenous countries like Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland have always been that they're weary of newcomers and people from other countries. No country is perfect, but denying such matters is naive and destructive both for the Danes and the expats living in Denmark. In Denmark and other Scandinavian countries, Blacks are called "Negroes" or Neger in their languages and Danes come up with this arrogant attitude that they're not being racists, laughable. I also agree that Danes have a hard time opening up to newcomers and make friends because they are very prejudiced towards foreigners. My father struggled to find a decent job in this country for almost a decade and now he is working as a production assistant in the southern part of the country. Danes complain about immigrants in their country, yet they make a choice to allow immigrants from Middle Eastern countries to settle here without them knowing anything about their culture and their religion. I had been reading newspapers about how condescending Danes are towards all foreigners, both from Western and developing countries, I was so frustrated about it that I became myself prejudiced towards them. This also resulted in me being prejudiced towards other Scandinavians as well because they have the same mentality. The N-word has been used against me time after time and I've been told to go back to Africa and that I come from an anus. I have also struggle to some extend to make friends. It is true that Danes are cold and hostile to foreigners. When the Danes tell me to go back to the place where I come from, I tell them to tell the Danes who live abroad to come back to DK and stay isolated from the world,I know some people here are going to find my views really extreme, but they started. Any immigrant who denies these fact is either blind or a sellout. I am proud of who I am and I'm proud of where I come from, without making any apologies about it. I have the best I could to integrate in this country, yet I'm not accepted by the Danes, I will not let them walk over me and I'll stand up for myself.
#56 Andy J 2012-05-09 00:49
As a starting point, then studies will show that latent racism more or less exist in any country in the world. The problem with how latent racism is in Denmark is that the majority of danes are not really aware of the way they joke or meet with foreigners, that danes seem cold or unwelcoming towards foreigners. A typical danish joke can seem harsh to foreigners, and the language may seem that way also. From my opinion i do think there can often be misunderstandings where in mnany cases, jokes get mixed up as being labeled "racist" while it may not be the intention. I myself am born and raised in Denmark, danish father and thai mother, and while i do feel at home in Denmark, i have also lived abroad in several countries like Sweden, Thailand, Japan, and lately Slovenia.
The danes in generel can really be like a community of small friend circles which are not easy to perpetrate. I personally also treasure having close friends, but i regularly try to include new people i meet into my friend circles. And i really think it might say a lot that a good share of my newer friends in the last few years in Copenhagen are foreigners living in Copenhagen, or danes who are also showing great interest in foreigners. But it is definitely reality that many foreigners have trouble befriending typical danes, and that the service level in shops is not on a very high level compared to for example how it is in Japan.
Of course it also has to do with circumstances, that danes are slow in opening up, and that things does not get easier until one can socialize well in danish language, plus you have to be at the right time and the right place to meet the people who share your interests and may become good friends to you.
#55 Hannah 2012-04-25 13:16
Hello everyone.
I am Danish and I am very sorry to hear of your bad experiences and thoughts of us, however there are some things you must understand about us danes.
I, myself, am good at English. I have few of my fellow danes who are. However I have met a great number of danes who are unable to form even the simplest sentences in english correctly. The friends I have that do speak good english are like myself, very afraid to say something incorrectly, and therefor we do not speak much english to foreigners. Not when we fear what we say could be perceived as rude or otherwise hurtful. This might very well be why you find people who do not communicate with you. Also, some of you do arrive here with thick accents, and if every dane is as terrible at finding words in accents as I am, then they can't understand anything you say.
Also, Something else you must understand about danes is that we are very private people. We do not make eye contact with strangers outside, whether they are natives or not. It's simply not in our nature, and I am much too shy to do so.
When it comes to finding jobs and homes, you are not the only ones having issues with that. I'm sixteen and I live in a Ghetto. My mother works in a factory and my father is a bus driver. There are no better jobs for them to find - they are all taken. We cannot find a house because we cannot afford one. Our rent is high, much too high for us to save any money.
I don't know how much else there is to say about danes. All I can ask of you before you mark us all as racist bigots, try to do some research as to how the danish people think and function.
Might I remind you most of us are not racist. We are afraid and pressed in our economy and we worry as much as you do about jobs, friends, family and money.
We are all the same no matter where we're from.
Please keep that in mind.
#54 Nádia Rala 2012-03-18 20:43
Well, I´m experience that "racism" now... I´ve been here for almost two months, my husband has a job because he has family in here and after 2 months me and my son and my pregnant belly came too... we stay with his family for a month and now we are looking for a house to rent... We have money, he has job, my son is in school but becaouse we came from portugal it´s been real difficut to find a house to rent, no one wants us... I´m getting depressed and there´s only one month to go before I have my baby, we´re just trying to give a better life to our children but they don´t care... I was very excited with the idea of coming here, for what was considered the most happy country in the world but I guess they forgot to mentioned that those happy people have to be dane...
#53 Serena 2012-03-09 02:17
All of these things are true and more. I have never experienced such unpleasant people and I have lived in many countries. I FINALLY left after much trepidation as I got used to the safety net of the social system (even though I was employed). Leaving was the BEST decision I have ever made and I can assure you - I would NEVER go back. Even though I make slightly less now, my everyday life is so much more joyful, it is worth it. When you actually enjoy doing the simple things in life like going to the post office, grocery store etc. you know you belong!! PEOPLE SMILE OUTSIDE OF DK :)
#52 zoe 2012-02-29 23:55
I been here in denmark for 2 yrs now, i really love all their social system but not really its people. I have experience a lot of rudeness from danes. They hang up the phone whenever they hear that im speaking english, i dont know wether they can understand and speak english or they are just a bit afraid to speak because they are not used to.( it happened 3x from a customer service of a clothing line, fynbus customer service,doctor.. And i did also experienced from a fastfood chain,when im asking for the receipt..i was the one who feel embarrased coz i have to say receipt a lot of times,then one customer came and say it in dansk..i got boyfriend here and he sometimes introduce me to his friends,yeah. they say hello and thats all
#51 Kent kjarkent 2012-02-27 15:22
Move to Colorado, cheaper to live ,better scenery

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