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Why do foreigners in Denmark want to become Danish?

The path to Danish citizenship is famously complicated and difficult to achieve, but several factors motivate people to become nationalised Danes, writes Divya Rao.

Why do foreigners in Denmark want to become Danish?
Danish citizens. Clockwise from top left: Idyln St. Hilaire, Sondra Duckert, Damian Strudwick, Ekaterina Yaltykova. Photos: supplied

Recent years have seen an apparent decrease in the number of people who have been granted Danish citizenship, according to Statistics Denmark figures.

This makes for an interesting point to consider: why would foreign residents in Denmark go through the necessary hurdles to be granted a Danish passport? We asked some former expats who now hold Danish nationality.

“As someone who was born in Soviet Russia and lived in Estonia without having a country to call as my own, Denmark legally became my home in 2015,” says Ekaterina Yaltykova, who moved with her mother and stepfather from Estonia in 2002.

“I applied for citizenship as it was the natural next step. Having grown out of my teen years, I could see my future in Denmark. When I was already speaking the language, working and paying taxes, and wanted to have a voice in the political scenario, it became apparent that I needed to have a citizenship in Denmark,” says Yaltykova, who works in the finance and auditing sector in Copenhagen.

The reason was quite different for Sondra Duckert, who became a Danish citizen in August 2020. An American citizen, Duckert moved to Hørsholm with her Danish husband from The Netherlands via European Union freedom of movement provisions.

“The complexities involving getting a Danish citizenship never dawned on me. My friends from Danish language school were all applying for citizenship and I thought it was a good idea in 2018,” says Duckert, who works in marketing.

Denmark was one of the very last European countries to allow for dual citizenship. This came into effect in 2015.

“I didn’t want to give up my American passport and the change in the law in 2015 that allowed for dual citizenship made me want to give this a try. Plus, I can now travel to Cuba!” says Duckert, recounting how it has been difficult to do that with an American passport.

The Danish passport ranks as the third most powerful passport across the globe in 2020, according to the Passport Index. This is echoed by those who were driven by the strength of the Danish passport.

“I have a British passport but I believe that the Danish passport opens doors to more countries,” says Damian Strudwick, a British-born veterinary surgeon who lives in Odense.

Danish citizenship was not always in high demand, however.

Per Mouritsen, Associate Professor of Political Science at Aarhus University told The Local that “in the nineties, when guest workers (gæstearbejder) from Turkey and other countries came to work in Denmark, they were keen on going back to their home countries. I actually had a colleague who wrote an entire paper about how citizenship was not a strong motivator for people to come to Denmark in that time.”

In recent years, immigration and integration of expats and refugees into the Danish society has become a socio-political talking point, leaving many expats feeling insecure about their position in Denmark.

“I did not know how or when the changes in the political situation could affect my stay in Denmark. Despite having a strong connection to Denmark with family and a job, the changing political environment made me feel like I could be asked to go back to my country at any moment, if I did not have a Danish passport,” says Yaltykova.

Mouritsen says the statistics on who is granted citizenship speak for themselves.

“When we look at groups with specific shared interests — such as refugees or younger expats who foresee living in Denmark for a long time — there is a need for a sense of belonging and security that comes with it,” he says.

A Danish passport can also alter perceptions when crossing borders, according to the citizens we spoke to.

“I just wanted to travel without a hassle around Europe, which was not the case with a residence permit,” sys Duckert. This sentiment was echoed by Strudwick and Yaltykova.

While convenience in mobility is an important driver, Idyln St. Hilaire wanted a sense of equality that the Danish passport would bring with it.

“I moved here for a job in 2004 and did not plan on staying longer than my contract. But I ended up working, studying, learning the language and paying the taxes. After having lived here for over a decade, I believed that my voice and my vote should count too,” says St. Hilaire, who moved from Dominica and now lives in Gladsaxe.

Mouritsen adds: “There is also another way to look at the motivations to become a Danish citizen. The fact that getting a Danish passport is difficult makes it much like an ‘exclusive, members-only club’. In doing so, getting a Danish citizenship becomes much more attractive and can even seem like an acknowledgement of being good enough”.

Do you have a story about what motivated you to get a Danish citizenship? Write to us or leave a comment.

This is the first in a series of three articles around Danish citizenship. Keep an eye out for the next!

About the writer

Divya Rao is a marketing and communications specialist. She moved from her job at Microsoft to Næstved in 2018, to follow her heart. She now works as a freelance marketing and communications professional and is a contributing writer with The Local. She currently lives in Næstved and travels across the region for project implementations. You can find her on LinkedIn or via email.


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For members


Six useful products I discovered in Denmark

Denmark is well known for its tradition for high quality design, but which products make a difference to everyday life?

Six useful products I discovered in Denmark

Inbuilt bike locks 

There’s no need to carry around a heavy and impractical chain to lock up your bicycle in Denmark, as these all come fitted (or you can cheaply add) an inbuilt lock on the frame of the bike.

The lock is the form of a circular bar which is released by a key and goes between the spokes of the back wheel, meaning it can’t be turned when the lock is in the fixed position.

This way, bikes can be locked while still standing freely – which is just as well, since there are not enough railings and bike stands in the country to accommodate the many, many bicycles.

Of course, a locked bike can, in theory, be picked up and carried away even if the wheel doesn’t turn and unfortunately, this does happen sometimes. But not enough to undermine the public trust in bicycle wheel locks.

Photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix

Rain trousers

Rain trousers/pants (regnbukser) can be bought on their own or with a matching jacket as part of a regnsæt (“rain set”).

These waterproof pants are a novelty to those of us who don’t come from bicycle cultures, but after your first rainy day cycling commute leaves you at the office with drenched trousers, you’ll understand the appeal.

They are designed to fit over your regular trousers and can be stretched over the top of your shoes and held underneath them with a piece of elastic attached to the bottom hem.

While primarily designed for cycling, they also come in handy for walking around during Denmark’s regular spells of cold, damp weather.

Photo: Emil Helms/Ritzau Scanpix

READ ALSO: Essential rain gear for a wet Danish winter (and spring, summer, autumn)

The flatbed toaster

There’s something indefinably satisfying about putting two slices of bread in a toaster and waiting for the ‘ping’ as they pop up, warm and ready for spreading.

However, there’s no getting around the fact that toasters are a bit impractical when it comes to thick slices and rolls.

Of course, you can also warm bread in the oven, but it’s more hassle and not for quite the same result.

Enter the flatbed toaster. This device is much more popular in Denmark than the pop-up version and enables easy, simultaneous warming of several slices of bread of various shapes and sizes – including of course, the national favourite, rye bread.

Pro tip: turn the dial less for toasting the second side of the bread, because the element will already be warm. This way you avoid burning the second side.

Photo: Liselotte Sabroe/Ritzau Scanpix

The cheese slicer

Cheese products popular in Denmark include havarti and the Cheasy range from dairy Arla.

These are both soft cheeses and should be cut with an ostehøvl (cheese slicer), a quintessential Danish kitchen utensil.

There are two types of ostehøvl: a wire-based type and a version that looks a bit like a trowel, with a raised edge and a gap in the middle for the sliced cheese to pass through.

Cutting Danish soft cheese with a knife will turn the block into a crumbling mess, so in this setting you can’t really avoid using the specialised slicers. And while their usefulness is diminished for something like cheddar, there are plenty of softer cheeses in other countries that would surely benefit from being set about with an ostehøvl.

One thing to be aware of: injudicious use of the slicer can cause a “ski slope” cheese block, creating uneven slices and leaving one side of the block thicker than the other. Slice evenly.

READ ALSO: Why does Denmark produce so much cheese?

Foam washing cloths for babies

If you’re a parent and have found yourself struggling with a pile of dirty wet wipes or cotton pads after changing your baby, you may have found yourself wondering if there’s another way.

In Denmark, there is: the engangsvaskeklude (disposable washing cloth) comes in tightly-stuffed packets of 50-100 small, square foam cloths, around 20 square centimetres in size.

The cloths are made from thin slices of polyether foam, a type often used in sofa cushions. Manufacturers say it is better for the environment than other types, and the advantage against wet wipes is they are perfume-free.

They just need to be made damp with a splash of lukewarm water, then you’re ready to wipe – they tend to have a good success rate for picking up baby poo.

A sticker saying ‘no thanks’ to junk mail

We’re talking about physical junk mail here, not the type that goes into your email spam box although if there was a sticker for this, I’d be at the front of the queue.

The reklamer, nej tak (“advertisements, no thank you”) sticker can be ordered from FK Distribution, the company which operates Denmark’s tilbudsaviser (“special offer newspaper”) deliveries. These result in piles of paper leaflets, detailing offers at supermarkets, being pushed through letter boxes every day.

These leaflets are useful for bargain hunters, but many people take them out of their overfilled letter box and dump them straight into recycling containers. If you have a nej tak sticker on your letter box, you won’t receive any of the brochures in the first place.

You can also choose a sticker which says “no thanks” to adverts but excludes the offer leaflets, so you can cut down on the junk mail while still keeping abreast of good deals.

Have I missed any good ones? Let me know.