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What does gaining Danish citizenship mean to dual nationals?

Above and beyond the practical benefits of Danish citizenship, becoming a dual national can affect your sense of personal identity, writes Divya Rao.

What does gaining Danish citizenship mean to dual nationals?
Photo: Jason Leung on Unsplash

Danish citizenship grants expats, particularly those originally from non-EU countries, mobility without hassle, especially within Europe.

Besides having learnt the language and its culture, the change in the perception of national identity after becoming a dual citizen is perhaps the most profound change you can undergo after moving to a new country.

“Research shows that for most of the applicants from non-European countries, the change in nationality has a telling influence on how they feel about their own identity,” says Marie Andreasen, who conducted postgraduate research on the subject at Aarhus University’s Department of Political Science.

“They feel a lot more safe and finally have a feeling of belonging to the country, which they have always considered home. A lot of them always have the feeling that they have to prove that they are good enough,” Andreasen told The Local.

“Now you finally have a paper that tells you that you do belong here and are good enough. For applicants who primarily get the passport for practical reasons (mostly British/West European applicants because of Brexit, and the fact that they look a lot like Danes), the feeling is not as strong,” she added.

For people whose motivations are primarily practical, “they are glad that they finally have the passport, but most of them don’t feel different about their own identity,” Andreasen also said.

“Most of them often look like Danes, so they are not asked the question ‘Where are you from’, at every new meeting, which is often the case for minority ethnic applicants,” she said.

Carol Stief is an American who moved to Denmark in 1965 and received her citizenship in 2017.

“When I first came to Denmark, I did not see another person of colour. Even after 55 years of being in the country and speaking Danish almost as my first language, I would still not be considered a Dane as the image is of someone who is blonde-haired and blue-eyed, which I am not,” she says.

For Ekaterina Yaltykova, the approval of a Danish citizenship meant having a sense of belonging.

“While the practical benefits of holding a Danish passport are many, to me the emotional sense of being accepted was very strong. I consider Denmark to be my home, even if I get asked about my background based on my surname,” says Yaltykova, a Russian who moved to Denmark in 2002 and received her Danish passport in 2015.

Clockwise from top left: Ekaterina Yaltykova, Idyln St. Hilaire, Carol Stief and Sondra Duckert are all dual Danish citizens. Photos: supplied

The reactions from close family and friends in Denmark, on hearing the news of Danish citizenship approval, also infused enthusiasm among some of them.

“Everyone in Denmark that I meet is happy, enthusiastic about this (citizenship approval). Danish people also think of this as a major achievement,” shares Sondra Duckert, an American who got her citizenship in August 2020.

For Idlyn St. Hilaire, the experience after becoming a Danish citizen was rather unchanged.


“I am not really ‘more of a Dane’ now than I was before receiving my Danish passport. It just makes travel easier. When you look at me, I'm just another Black person. My Danish co-workers don't see me differently, either,” shares the Dominica native, who has lived in Denmark since 2004 and received her Danish passport in 2016.

Stief, who has lived in Denmark for over 55 years, says “there is ‘everyday racism’” in Denmark and cited citizenship as a means by which to tackle it.

“(‘Everyday’ racism) may be due to the ignorance about the racist undertones in Denmark, as I see this to be a comparatively ‘new’ problem, when compared to countries like the USA,” she said.

“Even if I give this a pass, I see that younger Danes of colour are not as forgiving of the racial discrimination. Therefore, I now use my right to vote for a political party that would represent my beliefs and target racism for me and our future generations,” she explained.

Representation also played an important role for Yaltykova, who says, “It was very cool to have the opportunity to vote. Immigration laws are made by political parties and the fact that I get to vote made a big difference to me.”

But St. Hilaire is ambivalent about the impact of representation.

“I'm not deeply invested in Danish politics. While it is good to have the chance to contribute in bringing about change, I am unsure about how much I am going to be heard,” she says.

Duckert believes that with the power of the Danish passport comes the responsibility to be represented.

“I've started following Danish politics more extensively now. I feel like it is my responsibility to know more and help shape Denmark,” she says.

What do you think about citizenship and national identity? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

This is the third and final in a series of three articles around Danish citizenship.


About the writer

Divya Rao is a marketing and communications specialist. She moved from her job at Microsoft in India 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.


Member comments

  1. Wherever there are blacks, they always are the first to bring up racism. SO you say well because they are subject to it, but the reality is that it is a perception that is fostered by the behavior of many in their ethnic group. As in the US, where the black population is only 13%, they commit over 50% of the crime. So the natural reaction to a black person, as I have spoken to many US citizens, is to assume, rightly or wrongly, that a young black male significantly may commit violence and that a large majority do not want to work. If one looks at the BLM movement in the US, they are not concerned about black lives, as they fraudulently claim that, because black-on-black crime is at epidemic proportions, and yet they say nothing. Only if a cop justifiably kills a black in the line of duty do they protest. However, last year eight unarmed blacks were killed by cops, and this gives them an excuse to riot, loot, and claim there is systematic racism in the US. By the way, every one of those, 8 were RESISTING arrest and would be alive today if they complied with police orders. The US has spent more money than all countries combined to enact laws, provide services, build affordable housing, even to the point of enacting reverse discrimination laws, like affirmative action. Yet, what has it gotten us, more unwed black mothers, more drug use, more gang violence, more angry black people saying it is not enough! A culture that idolizes the most degenerate like rap stars condemns successful conservative blacks, like a Clarence Thomas, etc.? One can go on, but I say to blacks, if you want to end racism, then clean your own house, stand up for successful blacks instead of calling them Uncle Toms, repudiate the drug dealers, those who would instead not work, and stop expecting society to provide for you. Asians and Hispanics have assimilated quite well in the US.
    Interestingly, neither of these groups ever play the race card. They work hard, support their families, and take the opportunities given to them. As a caucasian, I suspect I am like many who resent this constant claim we are racists!

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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.