OPINION: Why would anyone leave the happiest country?

The Local
The Local - [email protected] • 14 Sep, 2017 Updated Thu 14 Sep 2017 13:00 CEST
OPINION: Why would anyone leave the happiest country?

There is a growing trend of young Europeans -- including Danes -- applying for jobs abroad to broaden their horizons, writes The Local guest columnist Fanni Barsi.


Gaining international experience, learning languages and exploring unknown places: this is a very popular career goal nowadays.

Traditionally, the migration flow within the EU brings people from the East to the West and from the South to the North, as people come looking for better opportunities and higher salaries. However, this trend seems to be changing a little. Citizens from West and Northern European countries are also starting to choose to leave their country for new adventures abroad. Is this true in the case of Denmark?

Danish citizens not only enjoy a high standard of living and good salaries, but their country is often cited as one of the happiest in the world, and has been for years

As stated by the World Happiness report in 2017, Denmark enjoys high rankings in all six of the key variables used to explain happiness: income, healthy life expectancy, having someone to count on in times of trouble, generosity, freedom and trust, the latter measured by the absence of corruption in government and business. 

Migration out of Denmark has been fluctuating over the past 10 years, but overall it has been declining slightly. Nevertheless, there are many Danish citizens who decide to live in a foreign country: in 2016, 21,544 Danish were living abroad. 

Europe Language Jobs, an international job board focusing on international candidates, has found the demand for multilingual talent on the European labour market to be growing year on year. The company counts more than 4,000 Danish jobseekers in its database. Most of them aspire to live in Nordic countries such as Sweden, Norway and Iceland.

They are, though, less likely to move to the South or East Europe, even though the economies of those countries are in need of multilingual workforce to plug the language skill gaps in many industries.

But what can motivate Danes to leave their home country? What are the reasons they are willing to leave 2016’s happiest country?

Photo: Iris/Scanpix

Nowadays it is easier to move to another country than ever. Anybody can reach all the essential information through the internet about their dream destination. People are less likely to be intimidated by the idea of moving to a new place after having seen countless pictures and videos of it prior to their arrival.

Thanks to the appearance of low cost airlines, flying within the EU is incredibly affordable. 

Mobile internet makes booking accommodation, translating words into your native language, and finding the way in an unknown city effortless. Even finding a job in a foreign country can be fairly simple.

Besides searching on the internet for local job boards and recruitment agencies, there are international job boards which directly specialise in multilingual candidates willing to relocate. It looks like technology gave us all the resources we need to start a new life abroad.

READ ALSO: My humbling journey into a surprising Scandinavian life

In addition to technological advancement, strong language skills have also made people more confident about moving abroad. In 2017, Danish citizens were ranked as the second best non-native English-speakers in the world. Fluent English knowledge doesn`t only give them confidence, but gives them a significant advantage while competing for jobs abroad. It shouldn’t surprise anybody to hear that the most demanded language of the European job market is English. It is followed by German, French and the Nordic languages.

Without a doubt one of the reasons why people nowadays tend to live and work abroad more than before, is the simple fact that it is actually feasible. Today we have more opportunities and resources than previous generations ever had.

There is a highly detectable trend that people between ages 20 and 35 -- the so-called generation Y -- are more likely to work in foreign countries than older generations did. Is there anything special about this generation that makes them different from others? 

Today`s technology-focused environment, twinned with changes in language education has created a profitable environment for millennials to travel abroad. Other generations probably would have done the same if they’d had the same opportunities. But would they have worked and lived in a different country? 

Generation Y has a totally different approach to work than their parents had. They are looking for fulfilment and a rewarding job that makes them happy. They are not content to settle simply for a decent salary. Money has slipped from its position at the top of employees’ priority list. However, gaining international experience, whilst also exploring the world, has earned a very prestigious place on that list. 

Working has become a new way of appeasing the travel bug that so many young people claim to have caught. This desire for exploring the world and getting to know new places can actually convince young Danes to live in a foreign country. But is it worth leaving one of the happiest places on Earth for some fleeting adventures abroad? If you are a millennial, you will probably say yes!

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

Fanni Barsi is responsible for Communication at Europe Language Jobs, a job board that specialises in multilingual candidates across Europe.


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