Networking in Denmark: Not as scary as it seems?

Networking can feel like a daunting undertaking at the best of times, not least as a newcomer to Denmark's reserved culture. The Local's guest columnist and newly hatched Copenhagener Emma Firth shares her experiences and advice.

Networking in Denmark: Not as scary as it seems?
Photo: Iris/Scanpix

Networking. A word I used to shudder at. Alone in a crowded room, lurking on the periphery of a group deep in conversation, sipping cheap wine while smiling meaningfully at a conversation you can’t hear. All the while channelling that song from La La Land…

“Someone in the crowd,

Could be the one you need to know.

The one to finally lift you off the ground.”

As in the film; the reality is that you spend most of your time in the loo.

But since moving to Copenhagen three months ago, I have started to view networking differently. It doesn’t involve awkwardness, it doesn’t pin all hopes on one meeting but it does, slowly but surely start lifting you off the expat ground.


It started with asking our first landlords for a list of places we could take our one year-old daughter Lydia while we got settled.

They left us a four-page document, a cuddly toy present (for Lydia, not us) and their contact details, if we had any more questions. Two-weeks into moving, we knocked on our neighbour’s door introducing ourselves. This led to being left a lovely note on our gate, inviting us to their house, where we were treated to pastries, coffee and most of all a genuine friendship. They offered us a stop-gap place to stay when our two-month rent was up, they contacted friends to help us find work, they even translated our mail. When we moved, our new landlords were equally as welcoming; inviting us over for coffee (we end up drinking a lot of it over here), and recommending local nurseries.

Saying hello

Having a toddler who likes to wave and say hello to anyone passing, has been a gateway to many conversations. Now I’m not saying, we all need to wave at strangers in the street to find out information, tempted as I am to try it. But being present in the moment and open to smiling/helping someone off the bus/giving a little more information about yourself, can really lead to some fruitful conversations.

Lydia’s productive waving started on our flight out here, when we met a mum from England, who has lived in Copenhagen for seven years. As I write this, I’m about to go for an evening drink and catch up with her. A nanny looking after Danish children gave my husband a list of fun places to take Lydia, as well as money-saving tips and apps. A Danish family we met at a Fastelavn festival, offered their house for us to rent over the summer. And a Dad I met in our local park on a day I was feeling homesick, turned out to come from a place 30 minutes from our home in England. We swapped numbers in case we ever need adult conversation on the park run again.

Danes with young families are often good at multitasking. Photo: Iris/Scanpix


As a freelancer, meeting people for coffees to discuss potential projects is how I get work. I didn’t realise this was also the most successful technique for getting a permanent job in Copenhagen. Employers like to know people who know you, however tenuous it might be. As a result, I have been blown away by the number of people – Danes and expats – who have gone through their contacts list to try and think of people that my husband and I can approach for more work. When my husband joined his Danish language class, the first lesson was about what you did for a living. He was the only one who needed the translation for ‘job-seeker.’ As a result, people in his class came forward with advice and contacts. Through that, he now has a temporary full-time job. It’s not a dream job but it’s work and it’s the first concrete offer after six months of applications. The Power Job Seekers group is another form of networking that has been a big help to him. It’s a weekly group, run by job-seeking volunteers, who invite employers to give presentations and follow it up with a workshop. Here people can learn tips about making Danish CVs, practice interview techniques and most importantly, give each other the confidence to keep going.

READ ALSO: Why an afternoon at Starbucks shows the best of Danish multiculturalism

Social Media

Facebook and Meetup provide an abundance of groups where you can share information and meet new people. I never thought I’d be someone that used social media to make new friends. I’m that wave and say hello type of person. We also have some family in Copenhagen and Jutland so we are not completely alone. Yet social media has made moving to a new country so inclusive. Wondering where to buy new shoes for your toddler? Post it on a group and you’ll get a few replies within minutes. Struggling to work out how to send a parcel – someone there will have the answer instantly or recommend a useful blog. Want to meet up over the Easter weekend…wait, you’ve already been invited to an event. So there we were, on Easter Sunday afternoon, at someone’s house we had never met. A young family had put on an Easter egg hunt and picnic for other people, like us, to feel welcome on what’s traditionally a family day. Not only did it feel completely normal, it was enjoyable. We were inspired to hear why everyone ended up here in Denmark and we now have a new circle of friends.


So for me, this is what networking now means. It isn’t searching through a crowd for someone to present you with a golden ticket. It’s making an effort, each day, to meet someone new, learn something different and start building up a new network of information, of friends, of future colleagues. It’s a network to help build your new chapter of life in a different country. And if this type of networking has taught me anything, it’s to never underestimate your goodwill gestures. That smile, that tip about the best playground, that number of the prospective employer and that invitation; that is what ultimately lifts you off the ground. 

Emma Firth is a former BBC journalist and TV producer who freelances in Copenhagen. She moved from the UK to Denmark in February 2017 with her husband and one year-old daughter. Emma is half Danish and documents her experience of moving to Copenhagen in her blog Living The Danish Gene.

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OPINION: If you can’t go home for Christmas, Denmark is a good place to be

After missing out on seeing his family for Christmas 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, The Local Denmark editor Michael Barrett got to try out Danish Christmas for the first time.

A Danish dining table on Christmas Eve.
A Danish dining table on Christmas Eve. File photo: Vibeke Toft/Ritzau Scanpix

We’d always planned to spend last Christmas in the UK. My daughter was born in March 2020, coinciding with the outset of the global coronavirus pandemic but, as worrying and uncertain as everything was at the time, we were sure it would have all settled down in nine months’ time. We started planning for her to spend her first Christmas with her grandparents, cousin and the rest of our extended family in England.

As we all know, this was far from how things turned out. The autumn and winter of last year saw spiralling Covid-19 cases across Europe and countries responding by introducing more and more restrictions, including on travel.

I’m not sure exactly when we conceded we’d have to cancel our plans to go to the UK for Christmas in 2020, but I do remember the look of resignation on my parents’ faces when I let them know. The writing had already been on the wall for a while by then.

Visiting my partner’s mother in December, I looked out of the window at the greying skies over Jutland, the dim lights of a distant Føtex store and the limp red and white pendants on flag poles as bare as the trees, and nothing felt familiar.

This was because, despite having lived in Denmark for almost a decade and a half, I’d never spent Christmas in the country. Every year I’d head home by the 22nd or 23rd, usually returning just before New Year to enjoy the rowdy firework displays in Aarhus or Copenhagen after a week of putting my feet up and savouring the familiarity and comfort of Christmas at home.

Denmark famously has its own Christmas traditions, comparable but certainly different to the British ones. I knew about them – I’ve exchanged information about national Christmas customs with many Danes over the years – but never witnessed them first-hand.

The big day came around quickly, not least because it all happens on the 24th, not the 25th.

Festivities did take a while to get going, though. Not until 4pm in fact, when ancient Disney Christmas special From All of Us to All of You, known in Danish as Disneys juleshow began on main TV broadcaster DR. Usually I’d have been watching an early-1980s David Bowie introducing The Snowman around now. A cup of warm gløgg (spiced red wine with raisins and almonds) was thrust into my hand, and I missed Bowie a little bit less.

After a couple more glasses of gløgg and wine, we sat down for Christmas dinner: roast duck, brown potatoes, boiled potatoes, gravy and red cabbage. It was of course already dark and a prolific number of candles were lit on the table and around the room, adding to the festive feeling of the star-topped tree, paper hearts and other decorations.

For dessert, we had risalamande, the popular cold rice sweet mixed with whipped cream, vanilla and chopped almonds and served with cherry sauce. By tradition, one whole almond is left in the dessert and whoever finds it wins a present, which is customarily a julegris, a chocolate pig with marzipan filling. This game is often fixed so that a child (or children) wins the prize, but the only child present was a nine-month-old and I ended up finding the almond in my bowl.

Then it was time to dance around the tree and exchange presents. Most of us had too much dessert, so it was a more sedate affair than I expected. After the little one was fast asleep we sat back on the sofas and had a couple more glasses of wine or maybe a few snacks.

It was all over before Santa traditionally lands his sleigh on rooftops and hops down British chimneys in the small hours of Christmas morning.

Danish families with young children often assign someone to dress up as Father Christmas and come round to deliver the presents to excited youngsters before dinner on Christmas Eve.

Maybe I’ll get the chance to audition for the role next year because our Danish-British family will be in Denmark every other Christmas for the foreseeable future – by choice, not restriction. I’m looking forward to it, because my first Danish Christmas gave me a better understanding of why this time of year is loved by so many Danes.

READ ALSO: My five favourite Danish childhood Christmas memories