The responses to our survey were very passionate (and some included words we can’t print here). A third of the respondents said they haven’t made a single Danish friend – some after living and working in Denmark for 5, 10 and even 30 years.
But not everyone was negative. Some of you have taken to Denmark’s social scene like en and til vand (a duck to water).
Reader Liliya Atanassova said she had expected to be a loner in Denmark after hearing tales of standoffish Danes from friends, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth in her experience. “I have never fitted in somewhere so well in my life before,” she wrote. “The key was to ask them if I could join, instead of waiting for them to invite me.”
Unfortunately, only 12 percent of our respondents agreed with Atanassova that finding Danish pals wasn’t that hard.
A common gripe was that Danes don’t seem to like speaking English, even if they’re fluent. It’s “very intimidating when you find yourself in a company where they all speak Danish even knowing that you cannot understand everything,” one reader from Odense said.
A reader from Copenhagen, alias ‘Bob Marley,’ agreed. “You don’t realize how awkward it can be to remind people (even the same people repeatedly) that you don’t speak Danish yet.”
But speaking Danish is neither necessary nor sufficient to make friends, others chime in: “After almost 7 years in DK, and speaking the language since year 2, I have only few Danish friends,” Emilie from Copenhagen said.
“Speaking the language is no guarantee of being included more,” said Timo Hilton-Jones of Valby.
Another shared frustration was that Danes keep work and leisure very separate.
“Even though you think you befriended some Dane at (for example) the Friday bar at work, when you call them the next day for a chat or invite them for a coffee, they act like you are complete strangers,” said Daniela of Copenhagen, who has lived in Denmark for five years.
Medha from Copenhagen said that Danes are lovely acquaintances – it’s just hard to convert that to a friendship. “I often find the Danish person I had had a great conversation with earlier absolutely ignore to even say hello the next day.”
More than 10 respondents said it’s clear that Danes make their friends in the cradle – or high school/gymnasium at the latest – and nurture those friendships for the rest of their lives. It doesn’t leave much room for new friends. “Danes are extremely reserved towards foreigners,” reader Karen said. “Reserved to the extent that they are hostile. They focus on this obsession with ‘hygge’ which is, in my opinion, a better way of calling themselves anti-social.”
Some of our readers are having, clearly, a more hyggeligt time – they say Danes aren’t aliens and are very easy to get along with. “Most of all stop emphasising that you are a foreigner, act weird or go on and on about things that are different in Denmark vs. your own country,” Mira of Aalborg said.
Others made it in by waging a slow war of friendship attrition. “After five years of living in Denmark my husband’s friends finally sorta accepted I’m not going anywhere,” admitted Yasmine Trudslev, who lives in Aalborg. Good job, Yasmine!
As part of our series on friends in Denmark, we’ll unpack your answers about readers’ advice on how to successfully make friends in future articles.