This is how coronavirus has changed life for foreigners in Denmark

This is how coronavirus has changed life for foreigners in Denmark
Amagertorvet on Copenhagen's Strøget shopping street on March 27. Photo: Liselotte Sabroe/Ritzau Scanpix
The readers of The Local who answered our questionnaire overwhelmingly approve of the government's response to the coronavirus crisis. But many have still found the last few months difficult socially and economically.
Fully 24 out of the 27 people who answered the survey felt that the restrictions imposed in Denmark were “appropriate and proportional to the threat” posed by coronavirus.
 
Only two disagreed. Of the respondents, 22 were happy to have been living here when the pandemic took place. 
 
One respondent, from Australia, said that the past three months had actually been one of the best periods of her time in Denmark. “I love how quiet the inner city is right now without tourists,” she said. “It's the perfect place to live – everything we need without the traffic.” 
 
Danish trust impresses
 
Many respondent, particularly those from non-European countries seemed impressed with the functioning of Danish society. 
 
“I am amazed at how decisive the government was in swiftly locking down and opening up the country,” said Jamie from the Philippines. “But I am more amazed how the citizens obliged and have full trust that their government's every move is for the good of the people.” 
 
He said that the experience had made him even more impressed with the Danes' rational approach. 
 
“I admire it even more. Even in crisis, the people are calmer compared to other nations,” he said. 
 
His compatriot Jenny agreed. “It's the same, pre-corona I could also see how disciplined people are.” 
 
One respondent, from South Africa, said the experience had underlined for her that Danes were “extremely trusting and obedient when it comes to government orders.” 
 
River Ghandour, from Dubai, said that living in Denmark through the pandemic had “amplified my belief that it is one of the most objective and actionable countries on the planet today”. 
 
“It's a society based on trust. The rules were clear and they were followed. Businesses in need were supported,” said one Columbian respondent, who didn't want to be named. “And yet, I never had de feeling of living under a “state police” or having my freedom curtailed.” 
 
 
Discriminatory Danes
 
Others, however, said they had realised over the course of the pandemic that Denmark was more discriminatory against foreigners than they had previously suspected. 
 
David Hidalgo, a design student from Spain, said he had been surprised to hear Denmark's prime minister descrive the 1918 flu epidemic as “Spanish flu”. 
 
“I did some research and found out that apparently the WHO doesn't approve this kind of naming. I find funny that she is allowed to say that but if someone says “Chinese virus” then that's offensive and racist.”
 
“I got to believe that it is actually much more discriminatory and unfair towards foreigners than I thought,” said one Romanian student .
 
“I always knew Denmark was racist but now it really came to the surface!” complained Bianca, also from Romania, who has been barred from entering the country to visit her Danish boyfriend. 
 
“It is clear from the politicians that they don't want any foreigners in Denmark, setting all these crazy rules about who can come in or not and for what reason.” 
 
Another Romanian respondent, who wished to remain anonymous, said they had been surprised by how entitled some Danes were. 
 
“I was shocked how much Danes value their 'rights'. The fact that they were not allowed to meet in groups larger than 10 people and that restaurants closed down seemed like such an assault to some of them,” they said. 
 
 
Career impact 
 
Twelve of the 22 respondents who answered a question on how their career had been affected, said they had been able to continue working more or less as normal throughout the crisis, some at home and some at a workplace. 
 
Three had lost their jobs, and several others who had not had fixed employment at the time the pandemic struck in March, said they now had even loss hope of obtaining it. 
 
A respondent from Australia who works at a gym said that they had not worked since March, but had been paid throughout the crisis. 
 
A self-employed business consultant from an unspecified EU country, said that they had been unable to access the financial support packages put in place by the Danish government. 
 
“My income became zero kroner. for three month,” they complained. “I didn't get any money from the government or anybody, so it was extremely hard to survive. However, I hope it will get better soon and we will get back to normal life. I travel a lot because of work but I could not travel abroad at all.” 
 
 
Social ife 
 
Most people said that they social life had been badly affected by the lockdown, although some said they had appreciated having time alone or with a spouse. 
 
“Lack of communication, lack of partying, lack of working under the same room,” said Ghandour. “Using services like Zoom is like giving candy to a sick person telling them to feel good. There is no replacement for social interaction.”
 
Hidalgo said the experience had actually bought him closer to his fellow students, but not the Danes among them. 
 
“Now I have stronger friendships with my mates, mostly international students and expats,” he said. “Most of the Danes that I live with at the Kollegium went back to their parents' houses, so it's been a time where we had contact with internationals like me and not with Danes.” 
 
What could the Danish government do more? 
 
Several expats complained that foreigners with low salaries had been put into difficult situations during the pandemic. 
 
“I working part-time six weeks before the coronavirus, and on top of losing my job I had to repay three months of SU [Statens Uddannelsesstøtte, State Education Support], just because I did not work ten weeks of 11-15 hours per week before the corona outbreak,” said one of the Romanians. 
 
A woman from Moldova said that she would like more support for foreigners with low-paid jobs. 
 
“It would be appreciated if the Danish government communicated more efficiently about the support they can provide for the internationals who work low-paying jobs,” she said. 
 
Another said the closure of the Danish Agency for International Recruitment and Integration (SIRI) had caused issues for many who needed help with visa and employment issues. 
 
“I suspect the closure of SIRI was very stressful for many who were waiting for a response, or needing their services,” said the Australian. 
 
And of course, the border controls jarred with many, particularly the decision to only allow girlfriends and boyfriends of Danish residents enter the country if they are from other Nordic countries or Germany.
 
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