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What benefits does life in provincial Denmark offer foreign residents?

The Town Hall at Maribo in Lolland Municipality. Foreign residents of rural Denmark spoke to The Local about the benefits of living in lesser-known parts of the country.
The Town Hall at Maribo in Lolland Municipality. Foreign residents of rural Denmark spoke to The Local about the benefits of living in lesser-known parts of the country. Photo: Nils Meilvang/Ritzau Scanpix
Internationals who have moved to lesser-known regions share the benefits of life in provincial Denmark. 

Originally from Sofia, Bulgaria, Antoniya Petkov never anticipated when she moved to Denmark that she’d be living in a town of only 8,000 people. 

She’d been living in Aarhus for several months when she and her now-husband first visited the town of Ringkøbing in western Jutland. 

“It’s like a little fairytale city with 100-year-old houses, cosy cobblestone streets, and swans swimming in the fjord,” she told The Local. “It felt like a special place; we fell in love with it.”

In the four years since her move to Ringkøbing, Petkov has witnessed the benefits of living in provincial Denmark: community, cost of living, access to nature, and Danish charm, to name a few. But, she’s also witnessed its drawbacks: fewer job opportunities, difficulty developing a social network, and struggles with learning Danish.

READ ALSO: Is it easier for foreigners to find a job outside Denmark’s major cities?

Candice Progler-Thomsen has lived in Denmark on and off for three decades. During an earlier spell of residence in the country they lived in Copenhagen, where Progler-Thomsen worked in the international department of Copenhagen Business School.

When her family returned to Denmark in 2020, they began researching work opportunities and school possibilities for their children. After learning about Lolland International School in Maribo, the free bilingual international school piqued their interest. By June 2021, the family had moved to Maribo.

“We got used to having everything nearby,” she said. “If one of our kids had a fever at school, we could be there in 10 minutes and home in five. Those conveniences make family life more comfortable.”

Another benefit of living in Lolland was its affordability. “We didn’t have two full incomes at the time, so purchasing a home in Copenhagen again would have been difficult,” Progler-Thomsen said. 

More than 300 kilometres west, Petkov had a similar experience: “In Ringkøbing, you can afford to buy a house in a nice neighbourhood close to downtown and your children’s school with a lot more space than you could afford in the city,” she said.

Chris Wantia, also a resident of Ringkøbing-Skjern Municipality, estimated that it was possible to buy a home for just 20 percent of what one might pay for a similar amount of space in Copenhagen. He’s purchased and renovated two homes in Denmark in the past two years.

Prior to moving to the town of Bork Havn, population 300, Wantia and his wife, Janine, had lived in Hamburg, Germany, for 25 years. 

“We were tired of living in a city of 2 million people, with crowds, traffic jams, and noise,” Wantia said. Both in their 50s, the couple was looking to slow down. “The clock runs very fast in the city.”

“Time moves about three times slower here than in Hamburg,” Wantia said, adding that the couple’s goal is to both work part-time so they can have more time to enjoy life. 

READ ALSO: Why (and how) Danish provincial areas want to hire skilled foreign workers

Progler-Thomsen said the affordability of living in less costly parts of the country could enable these types of alternative work situations. 

“Because it’s more affordable, there may be flexibility to work part time, for only one parent to work full time, or to work independently,” Progler-Thomsen said. She herself runs her own consulting firm in Lolland. 

“The standard of living across Denmark is high,” she said, “but I think the quality of life [in Lolland] might be better because your money can go further.”

According to Vejle Municipality, the annual cost of living in Vejle is 24,000 euros less than in Aarhus and 49,000 euros less than in Copenhagen.

Before Mariola Kajkowska moved to Vejle in 2019, she participated in a task force in her previous town to figure out why so many internationals were moving to Vejle. 

“Then, I also ended up moving to Vejle,” she told The Local.

Her own decision to move to Vejle was difficult. She’d lived in her previous town for 11 years and had built a network there, but a 50-minute commute for seven months after accepting a job in Vejle was taking its toll.

Vejle quickly became her favorite of the four cities she’s lived in since moving to Denmark in 2003. 

“The people are so friendly,” Kajkowska said. “When you pass people on the street, most people make eye contact and smile. You don’t see that in big cities!”

Kajkowska said she’s felt very welcome in the town of 113,000 people since day one. She also praised the city’s policy of hiring a “settlement guide” to help foreign residents get a footing in their new surroundings. 

“Having that welcoming hand, that first connection, someone who can answer your questions is so important,” she said. “I think provincial municipalities are realising they need to do more if they want to attract internationals.”

Petkov has also experienced high levels of support from her municipality, Ringkøbing-Skjern. 

“The municipality was my greatest supporter when I started the international community Facebook page,” she said.

The municipality funded her first event and sent out a digital post invitation. When Petkov’s busy schedule as a working mother of two proved too much, the municipality stepped in to run the page.

“People here really care about each other,” Dorthe Frydendahl, Ringkøbing-Skjern Municipality’s settlement coordinator, told The Local. “And there’s a lot of drive to make our community better. There are a lot of possibilities to have an impact on your community in this area.”

Victor Balaban moved to Vejle three years ago. One major factor in Balaban’s decision to move to Vejle was its central location.

“It’s a good place from which to get to know Denmark as a whole,” Balaban said. 

For a frequent traveler, Vejle’s proximity to Billund Airport and reasonable distance to Copenhagen Airport were also appealing and made trips back to his native Moldova a bit easier.

READ ALSO: Are provincial parts of Denmark a good option for international families?

Access to nature is a recurring theme among internationals living in provincial Denmark. 

“The countryside is an essential part of the area’s identity, with everything from forests and fields to beaches, sea, islands, and large inland lakes,” Julia Böhmer, international consultant for Lolland Municipality, told The Local.

“It’s so precious to have this incredible nature, the fresh air, the space, the fresh produce that’s grown right here in Lolland,” Progler-Thomsen said. “There is so much value to living here.”


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