What’s it like to work in Denmark as a foreigner? Here's what you told us

The Local Denmark
The Local Denmark - [email protected]
What’s it like to work in Denmark as a foreigner? Here's what you told us
File photo: Mads Joakim Rimer Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix

We asked last week for your thoughts on working in Denmark.


We had a huge number of responses and a range of interesting, helpful insights and experiences. Thank you to everyone who took the time to get back to us.

“Almost all jobs require fluent Danish”

In our questionnaire, we asked what you felt was the hardest aspect of working in Denmark. One common theme that came through strongly in your responses was the importance of learning Danish.

“(The) hardest (thing) I can think of is you do seem to miss out a lot when you don't know the local language,” Siddharth Selvarajan wrote.

Cathy Chen, who lives in Copenhagen, offered similar sentiments.

“Almost all jobs require fluent Danish or one of the Scandinavian languages, and, of course English. Even if you are good enough for the job, the company will always consider the Danish-speaking candidates first,” Chen wrote.

Many readers simply noted “the Danish language” as being the most difficult aspect of working in Denmark.

Others commented on the social side of working with Danes.

“Just because you work well and closely with your colleagues does not mean you are friends. For example, they will not acknowledge you passing in the corridor,” commented Aliastair Gough, who lives on Zealand.

“To resolve this always say ‘hi’, and use their name. They will quickly learn to say ‘hi’ in future, often taking the initiative. They'll still ignore everyone else of course, but it is a little thing that will help make life familiar to you,” Gough added.

“Making acquaintances and colleagues is easy but crossing over to being a friend is extremely difficult,” agreed Anjali Manu, who lives in Copenhagen.

For others, pressure to be sociable in a working context with colleagues was a negative factor.

“Working in Denmark was not really hard, but all of the ‘social’ after work gatherings irritated me. Not one for group work, I typically gave the ‘tak, men nej tak’ [‘thanks, but no thanks’ – ed.] answer,” Brian Dibblee of Aarhus wrote.

Others cited the long, cold and grey Danish winters and their effect on morale as the hardest part of working in Denmark.

Browse thousands of English-language jobs in Denmark

Photo: Liselotte Sabroe/Ritzau Scanpix

For some, simply finding work at all was the toughest challenge, with months of persistence and dozens of applications often failing to bear fruit. Two readers also said they had lost their jobs suddenly and had been hit hard by the unexpected lack of job security.

A number of readers said they felt superiors had treated them differently to Danish colleagues.

“As a Romanian, my employers expected me to work harder than Danes,” Paul-Gabriel Andries wrote.

‘Life other than work’

We asked for the most positive thing about working in Denmark, and the country’s well-documented high standard of work-life balance was by far the most commonly-mentioned answer.

“The 37-hour working week gives you opportunities of finding life other than work as there is so much to do,” Faisal Hameed Khan of Søborg wrote, citing going out for a walk, going to the gym, and bicycling as parts of “the true Danish lifestyle”, as well as “spending quality time with your family.”

José Antonio García, who lives in Copenhagen, mentioned “flat hierarchy, good conditions and work-life balance” as the best things about working in Denmark.

“There is no staying in the office to impress the boss. This goes hand in hand with trust. In 12 years working here, I've never been aware of anybody ‘pulling a sicky’,” Gough wrote.

Other comments also noted high salaries, competent and likeable Danish colleagues and relaxed atmospheres at workplaces.

Work hard, learn the language and don’t give up

We asked for your best piece of advice for those working or hoping to work in Denmark.

Here, your answers were quite varied, but the difficulty of securing work was a theme touched upon by many.

Abdullah Shafique, who lives in Aalborg, recommended a short CV and calling personally on managers responsible for hiring.

Experience is also a major factor when trying to impress a Danish employer.

Photo: Dennis Lehmann/Scanpix 2013

“Simply getting the first job, especially if you don’t have experience” is the hardest part of working in Denmark according to Haderslev’s Ahmad Temsah, who said experience was “much more important than a degree. It's all about selling yourself on what you can do for the employer.”

Other readers said that it was important not to give up. “There is always an opportunity around,” Shyam Puri, who lives on the island of Bornholm, wrote encouragingly.

Once you’re in the job, down-to-earth Danes are unlikely to be swayed by showmanship.

“Be yourself. Colleagues will appreciate (you) more if you are truthful of who you are, (rather than) trying to be someone else just because you want to fit in,” Victor Dobrescu of Lejre wrote.

That is not to say it isn’t a good idea to make an effort to get along with others.

“Adopt and show interest in Danish things. If you ride a bike to work and assemble a culturally acceptable topping to your rye bread at lunch, your Danish language failings will be forgiven,” Gough said.

Networking, the importance of learning Danish, working hard and not accepting being treated differently to others were also pieces of advice that were stressed by our readers.

“Make sure to have a network. That works superbly, even if you don't know the language, (but) secondly, learn Danish. Don't delay it if you want to live in Denmark,” wrote Suneet Rastogi of Copenhagen.

READ ALSO: I quit Microsoft and moved to Denmark for love, but finding work was tough. Here's how I adapted

If you wrote back to us but don’t see any of your comments here – we read what you wrote and appreciate your thoughts just as much as the others. Rest assured, we will be asking for your views again in future, so please look out for, and keep replying to, more call-outs from us. Thank you for your input!


Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
Please keep comments civil, constructive and on topic – and make sure to read our terms of use before getting involved.

Please log in to leave a comment.

See Also