You’re an expat living in Denmark, and you’re already considering how long you’re going to stay, before you repatriate, so should you even make the effort to integrate? Yes, the short answer is yes. As most of you know it is difficult to relocate to a new country, maybe not at first, but after a few months, maybe a year, you will hit a wall and start missing home. Especially if you haven’t spent the first time researching how you should integrate. You need to live, you need to thrive, when living in your new home away from home, and the best way to do this I would suggest, is to remember your roots, your culture, your home country, but at the same time making an effort to integrate in your new home. It can be quite difficult to figure out how to integrate in Denmark, so here are my suggestions on 7 ways to integrate in Denmark.
First of all, one of the most important ways to integrate is to learn the native language. Whether you’re fluent or simple able to make a few sentences and have a short conversation, you’re well on your way; all is applauded by Danes. Danish is hard, no doubt about that. Not only do you need to learn new vocabulary and new grammar (or lack thereof), but most importantly you need to master the art of Danish pronunciation. If you’ve ever heard about ‘the soft D’, ‘the high Y’, or ‘ÆØÅ’ you know what I mean. It is really difficult yes, but I promise you it is not impossible, not at all. For you to master the language you need will, patience, and a great teacher.
Christmas lunch, Easter lunch, dancing around the Christmas tree, and eating risalamande you might have heard of, but do you know Sankt Hans, Santa Lucia, and Fastelavn? In Denmark we have some wonderful traditions, all centred about our favourite word: Hygge. To integrate it is important that you don’t just know about these traditions, but that you participate. Only when you participate you experience the magic that happens in the relationships between Danes; the people who know each other and the people who don’t, because in these traditions we share a story, and we share a sense of belonging, and by participating you too will share this, and be part of our community. As a bonus you will probably also be able to participate in the talks around the lunch table at work with your Danish colleagues, and they will all praise you for participating. Maybe you’ll even get an invite to their house for the next traditional celebration?
Do yourself a favor: go to a Danish concert! Have you listened to some Danish music, but maybe not understood the lyrics? That doesn’t matter when you go see them in concert; it’s about the atmosphere, the audience and the musicians being at one, the ice cold draft beers in the sun, and of course the amazing sounds. During summer most of our musicians go on tour around Denmark, so if you keep your eyes open, you will most likely see a poster for a concert, or even a festival, and you should really grab that chance and go see the bands in concert – you will not regret it!
- Danish food
Have you tried Flæskesteg? Or Frikadeller? Or Tarteletter? Maybe you’ve had it at a restaurant, maybe you’ve just heard about it, but the real challenge is to cook it yourself. We have many different Danish dishes for you to try, and to be honest, there will probably be a few of them you won’t find to your liking, but maybe you’ll get to love one of them and even incorporate it into your weekly dinner schedule? A perfect way to integrate is to not only taste the local cuisine but also get it in between your hands, so to speak. From buying those ingredients, to cooking them for your family at home, truly is a Danish experience and definitely something you need to try when living in Denmark. If you need a recipe or tips on where to find what, send me a message, and I’ll help you.
- Invite a Dane in
Unfortunately Danes are not the best at inviting people who they don’t know that well to their house. However, if you invite them in, they will most likely accept your invitation. Inviting people to your house is a great way to grow those intercultural relationships, and to learn from each other. It is also a great opportunity for you to ask all the questions that have been left unanswered, about Danish culture (you can also ask me, of course). Most Danes love learning about other cultures than our own and will see the invitation as an opening for satisfying their cultural curiosity, and at the same time helping internationals feel more included. So it’s basically a win-win. If all goes well chances are that you will get an invitation to their house as well, and suddenly there’s a new flourishing friendship, which, to be honest, are not the easiest to get in Denmark.
A great place to meet Danes and to practice your Danish skills, is in the Danish sports clubs, the evening schools, or at the local cook-together. In Denmark we are very proud of our local associations, and kids as well as grown-ups take part in the different kinds of clubs that are offered in their local community. So if you have kids, sign them up for the local football club, the local musical school, or the local gymnastics, where they will meet new kids and find new friends. For the grown-ups there are also quite often a variety of activities where you can interact with the locals and exchange cultural experiences. Our associations are typically run by volunteers, so people really put their heart and soul into it, and help or interest from you will most likely be very appreciated.
Read more about the Danish associations here.
Danish politics do not just concern Danes, but also internationals in Denmark. It is important that you read up on the Danish political system, and what each party says about various subjects. You may not be allowed to vote, but the legislations also affect you and your family, so you should keep up with what is going on. In Denmark our politicians are down-to-earth kind of people, and you will see them participating in popular TV shows and radio programs, riding around on their bikes, sharing pictures of their life outside of Christiansborg (our parliament) on Instagram, and you can reach out and ask them questions about their politics.