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RANKING

Copenhagen, Stockholm given dismal rankings in expat city survey

Distant locals and a difficult housing market are among the factors resulting in a poor ranking for Scandinavian capitals in a survey on life for internationals in major cities.

Copenhagen, Stockholm given dismal rankings in expat city survey
Copenhagen and Stockholm. Composite: TunedIn61, mdurinik/Depositphotos

Copenhagen was ranked 54th and Stockholm 69th overall in the Expat City Ranking, based on a survey conducted by InterNations, a worldwide community for expats.

The Danish and Swedish capitals both ranked in the bottom 10 for finance and housing in the list of 72 cities, placing 63rd and 71st respectively.

Although Copenhagen in particular fared far better in the work-life balance category, rating in 1st place while Stockholm was 24th, that was not enough to save the overall disappointing ranking for the two cities.

Difficulty in settling as a newcomer was a further element of the survey in which the two cities did poorly: Copenhagen was found to be 61st and Stockholm 69th most difficult city in which to settle.

The ranking, based on survey responses from 18,000 people living and working abroad, is “one of the most extensive expat studies in the world”, InterNations wrote in a press release issued with the publication of the results.


Graphic: InterNations

The survey ranks the 72 cities by a variety of factors including quality of urban living, getting settled, urban work life, and finance and housing.

The top ten cities on the 2018 ranking are Taipei, Singapore, Manama, Ho Chi Minh City, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Aachen, Prague, Madrid and Muscat.

With its 54th place overall, Copenhagen landed in the top ten in for urban work life and the bottom ten for finance and housing.

Quality of life and work-life balance were both rated highly by respondents: more than four in five respondents (84 percent) were satisfied with this aspect of life abroad (compared to 61 percent globally). Almost half (47 percent) said it could ‘not be any better’ (compared to 20 percent globally).

The same is true for working hours, with Copenhagen placing second worldwide, beaten only by German city Aachen. More than four in five expats in the Danish capital (83 percent) rate their working hours positively, compared to 62 percent worldwide.

READ ALSO: Denmark tops EU survey on work-life balance

Copenhagen boasts the highest job security out of the Nordic cities included in the ranking: 67 percent of expats are happy with this factor, followed by Stockholm (62 percent) and Helsinki (61 percent).

Copenhagen is the best Nordic city for income in relation to living expenses, although it ranks only 43rd out of 72 cities worldwide for this factor. In fact, more than three in five expats (62 percent) are unhappy with the local cost of living, compared to a global average of 37 percent.

Not a single respondent said that it was ‘very easy’ for expats to find housing in Copenhagen (18 percent globally), while more than two in five (41 percent) consider it extremely hard (11 percent globally).

Copenhagen ranks 68th worldwide for housing, only ahead of Geneva, Munich, Dublin and Stockholm.

The Swedish capital is the worst-rated of the three Nordic cities included in the survey and was placed 69th overall, ahead of only three other cities worldwide: Rome, Jeddah and Riyadh.

Stockholm shows a particularly poor performance for getting settled (69th) and finance and housing (71st). More than four in five respondents (81 percent) said that housing is not affordable in Stockholm, compared to 44 percent globally.

Continuing a trend for housing to impact the overall ranking, 79 percent said it was not easy to find housing in Stockholm (compared to 30 percent globally).

The majority of expats in Stockholm (65 percent) also rated the local cost of living negatively (compared to 37 percent globally).

READ ALSO: How much does it cost to rent in Sweden?

When it comes to urban work life, respondents in Stockholm are happy with their working hours: seven in ten (70 percent) rate this positively, compared to 62 percent globally. However, Stockholm is still the worst-rated Nordic city for this factor (15th), ranking behind Copenhagen (2nd) and Helsinki (5th).

While expats are happy with their working hours, they report a lack of socializing and leisure activities to pursue in their free time: more than two in five (41 percent) rate them negatively, compared to less than one in five globally (19 percent). In fact, just 32 percent of expats in Stockholm are happy with their social life, compared to 57 percent globally.

This might be due to the lack of friendliness perceived amongst Stockholmers: the Swedish capital ranks 71st for this aspect of life abroad, outperforming only Riyadh.

When it comes to the quality of urban living, expats are not only dissatisfied with the leisure options but also with the weather in Stockholm: less than one-quarter (24 percent) rate the local climate and weather positively, compared to more than half of internationals globally (55 percent). On the bright side, Stockholm comes in second place for the quality of its urban environment.

In total, the responses used for the city ranking represent 11,966 people living as foreign citizens living in 55 countries. For a city to be featured in the Expat City Ranking 2018, a sample size of at least 45 survey participants per city was required; 72 cities in 47 different countries made this threshold in 2018.

READ ALSO: Sweden's housing shortage an obstacle to integration: report

EXPATS

Meet the group building bridges between Danes and foreign residents

Moving to Denmark as an expat often turns out to be more difficult than you would expect. Snigdha Bansal, a student at Aarhus University's Mundus Journalism program, writes about the Facebook group trying to build bridges with Danes.

Meet the group building bridges between Danes and foreign residents
The group has six active admins, from both Denmark and elsewhere. Photo: Tine H. Jorgensen
Moving to Denmark as an expat, one looks forward to embracing Danish culture and getting integrated into one of the world’s happiest societies. However, it often turns out to be more difficult than you would expect. 
 
Established in 2019, ‘Beyond Stereotypes: Danes & Internationals’ seeks to facilitate interactions between expats and locals in Denmark
 
‘Difficult to integrate with the Danes’
 
Poulomi Deb Bose, 33, moved to Denmark from India with her husband in June 2019. She says Danes have been very helpful in everyday interactions – at supermarkets, or at bus stops, helping her find her way in English. However, it has been integrating with them that has proved difficult.
 
“My interaction with Danes is limited to my landlord or people at the local kommune. It’s even difficult to spot them around, unless at the gym, where it never goes beyond a smile. It is a lot easier to talk to other internationals”, she says.
 
A couple months ago, a friend told her about a Facebook group with not just internationals but also Danes. Up until then, she had only been part of the groups with Internationals and this was the first of its kind where both communities were encouraged to interact with each other.
 
 
‘Building bridges’
 
Beyond Stereotypes: Danes & Internationals is a Facebook group with over 2,400 members.
 
The group was formed by Tine H. Jorgensen, a 56-year old academic and practitioner. While it acts as a meeting point for expats in Denmark and Danes, members are also invited to share their own unique experiences of interactions within the community to inspire and help others.
 
The idea of the group was sparked in early 2019 by a conversation Jorgensen had after a radio show in Aarhus where she was performing clairvoyance on air. The host of the show, Houda Naji from Morocco, and Enas Elgarhy, another invitee from Egypt, told her of their experiences of getting married to Danes and settling in Denmark.
 
“They talked about how difficult it was to make Danish friends, how long it took to get a CPR number which was needed for basic things like going to the gym, and other issues that made me realise how ridiculous it was for internationals. I asked myself what I could do about this.”
 
She decided the least she could do was to start a Facebook group, and invited both Naji and Elgarhy to join her as admins.
 
As the group has grown, its “bridge-building” role has become clearer, says Jorgensen, as more International and Danish admins come on board. 
 
 
The group organises monthly meet-ups for members to interact. Photo: Tine H. Jorgensen
 
‘Challenging our own biases’
 
Marta Gabriela Rodriguez-Karpowicz is a 38-year old life coach from Poland who recently started her own practice after working at the Danish corporation Vestas for almost 10 years.
 
She recently became a Danish citizen after 12 years of living in the country and is also an admin of the group. She took on the role because she believed that it would be “a worthwhile effort to build bridges between Danes and Internationals, which doesn’t appear to be happening naturally.” She wanted to be a part of this initiative owing to her own struggles to integrate and her experience of having grown past that phase, using which she could help others. 
 
“I also wanted to identify which biases I still had myself, so I could challenge them and grow beyond stereotypes”, she says.
 
‘Overcoming challenges’
 
The group connects people across Denmark by organising hobby-based meet-ups, providing a platform to discuss travel stories around Denmark as well as social issues such as racism. Job postings and job-seeking posts are also welcome, which some would say is the biggest challenge. 
 
Both Bose and Rodriguez-Karpowicz accompanied their husbands who found jobs in Denmark, and did not expect the difficulties they would face while finding jobs for themselves.
 
Bose associates it with the trust factor that is deeply ingrained in Danes. “I have realised they can be quite rigid in trusting outsiders for jobs or with references”, she says. 
 
This is also an area Rodriguez-Karpowicz believes she can help members with, since she found it difficult to get a job despite being “highly educated and experienced”, but eventually managed.
 
Integration in a new country can be difficult, but expats shouldn’t give up, according to Jorgensen. 
 
She acknowledges that racism does exist in Denmark, but at the same time, there are a lot of Danes who are very welcoming, and that’s the Danish attitude she wanted to highlight.
 
“I wanted to do my little bit to bring that forward, and connect people in a practical way.” 
 
  
 
  
 

 
 
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