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

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

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 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!

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READER QUESTIONS

READER QUESTION: Do Denmark’s residency rules allow you to take a side job?

A reader asked about what the rules are for taking a second side job if you have a work permit or residency permit in Denmark. Here are the rules.

READER QUESTION: Do Denmark's residency rules allow you to take a side job?

READER QUESTION: If I came in pre-Brexit on the grounds of self sufficiency, and I’m on a temporary residency permit, am I allowed to do a bit of self employed work to top my funds up?

For this reader, the rules are quite clear.

“A temporary residence permit granted according to the Withdrawal Agreement (Brexit) also includes the right to work in Denmark – even though the person has resided in Denmark on grounds of sufficient resources or as an economically inactive person,” the Agency for International Recruitment and Integration (SIRI), told The Local via email. 

But for other non-EU citizens, here under one of Denmark’s many job schemes, such as the Fast-track scheme, Pay limit scheme, and the Positive lists, or under the various researcher schemes, the rules are more complicated. 

READ ALSO: How can you get a work permit in Denmark if you are not an EU national?

You are generally allowed to get a second job, but you may have to apply for a separate work permit for paid sideline employment, (find information from SIRI here), and also fulfil various conditions. 

If you are a researcher with a permit under the Researcher scheme or the Researcher track under the Fast-track scheme, a Guest researcher, a PhD student, a performing artist or a professional athlete or coach, you are allowed to take up unlimited sideline employment without needing to apply for an additional work permit for sideline employment. 

If, however, you are employed as a researcher under the Pay Limit Scheme, then you have to apply for a special work permit for sideline employment.

People who received their residency permits under the Jobseeker scheme are not eligible for a sideline employment permit. 

For the other job schemes, you need to apply for a separate work permit for paid sideline employment, find information from SIRI here.

“For sideline employment, the salary must be the standard one for the job, and within the same area of ​​work as the main occupation,” SIRI said. 

For example, a musician might want a permit for sideline employment as an instructor at an academy of music, or a doctor might want a permit for sideline employment to teach at a medical school. 

You can be granted a sideline permit for as long as as the duration of your main work permit. 

If you lose your sideline job, you must inform SIRI. If you lose the main job that is the basis for your main work permit, your sideline job permit is automatically invalidated. 

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