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What benefits does life in provincial Denmark offer foreign residents?

Internationals who have moved to lesser-known regions share the benefits of life in provincial Denmark. 

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

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.”

Member comments

  1. Great article, and I completely agree about the benefits of living in provincial Denmark. My partner and I are ‘Brefugees’ (Brits who escaped the UK because of Brexit) and chose Odder, 20km south of Aarhus for affordability of property; but the quality of life, access to nature and great local amenities has been a real bonus.
    As others have said in the article, we find people here super-welcoming, especially if you make the effort also.
    After the traumas of Brexit and an EU-wide search for an ideal location, we are so very happy and proud to call Odder home.

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For members


What are the hardest things about moving to provincial Denmark as a foreigner?

Foreign residents who have moved to lesser-known regions of the country share their experiences of life in provincial Denmark. 

Provincial regions of Denmark want to attract skilled foreign workers, but what are the biggest challenges faced by relocators?
Provincial regions of Denmark want to attract skilled foreign workers, but what are the biggest challenges faced by relocators? Photo: Signe Goldmann/Ritzau Scanpix

Editor’s note: there are of course also many positives about living in provincial Denmark, and people based in those areas were happy to share those too. Read what they said in this article.

When Lea Cesar moved from Slovenia to the town of Ringkøbing in 2011, she didn’t know much about the region of western Jutland. 

“In the beginning, I didn’t like how difficult it was to find a job as a foreigner in a smaller city,” Cesar told The Local. Back then she didn’t speak Danish, and that made it hard to find a job that matched her skills and qualifications. 

“I later took it as a challenge and started my own company,” Cesar said, opening a cafe and bakery called Baking Sins in central Ringkøbing. Once she’d taken things into her own hands, she thrived and came to love her town. 

“I love the small shops with handcrafted products,” she said, drawing a comparison to the big shops and chain stores of larger cities. “The culture here is totally different. Ringkøbing is a smaller town, but feels big enough for me.”

Considering the pros and cons of a life in lesser-known parts of Denmark has never been more relevant, as the Danish government amps up efforts to decentralise Denmark and municipalities look to internationals to balance out declining populations. 

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

There may be fewer job opportunities, depending on your industry and Danish language skills

Fewer job opportunities, Cesar said, is one of the primary differences between living in a town like Ringkøbing versus a larger city. 

“There aren’t as many companies here searching for employees that only speak English,” she said. “I think it’s important to speak at least basic Danish; otherwise it would be hard to come here.”

Antoniya Petkov, originally from Bulgaria, faced similar challenges finding work when she moved to Ringkøbing several years ago after her husband accepted a job at a wind energy company in the area. 

“Most of the job opportunities in my field in the area require a high level of Danish language, which I am still working toward,” Petkov told The Local. 

In the meantime, she continues to commute to Aarhus, where she works as a technical recruiter in systematics at a large Danish software firm. “However, there are a lot more opportunities for developers, engineers and people with a technical job profile where Danish isn’t required,” Petkov said.

Even in technical roles, Danish proficiency helps. 

Victor Balaban, originally from Moldova, moved to Vejle while working at Siemens Gamesa. Although he said there are plenty of job opportunities in the region, Balaban said his options would be significantly more limited if he didn’t speak Danish.

Candice Progler-Thomsen, an American living in Lolland, said Danish proficiency is “almost essential” to find a job in the municipality. “There will be greater job opportunities here for individuals who learn Danish,” she told The Local. 

And, because it’s a smaller area with fewer employers, Progler-Thomsen said people may need to be willing to commute or otherwise expand their job search.

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

On the other hand, there may also be less competition for jobs in lesser-known parts of Denmark, said Mariola Kajkowska. 

Originally from Poland, Kajkowska moved to Vejle in 2019, where she works as an employee retention consultant. “There are often fewer applicants for each job, which increases your chance to be selected for the position,” she said.

Speaking Danish is important, professionally and socially

When Petkov first moved to Ringkøbing, it was challenging that she didn’t speak Danish. It was hard to do daily tasks, like communicate with workers at her children’s daycare or chat with her neighbours.

“People were distant at first when we bought our house in a typical Danish neighbourhood,” she said. 

It was very different from Aarhus, where they had lived before moving to Ringkøbing. “Aarhus has a huge international community,” she said. “We were always able to find friends and it was easy to get by speaking English.”

Petkov also missed the variety of English events and activities available in Aarhus. “But, we compensate by going to international events in the municipality,” she said.

Balaban, who established baseball clubs in both Herning and Vejle, said being a part of the community and getting involved is integral to building a social network and making friends in Vejle. “You have to be an active part of society,” he said.

Although learning Danish was a challenge, Petkov also saw it as an opportunity. “I’m not sure I would have learned Danish if we were living in Copenhagen or Aarhus,” she said. “You just don’t need it much there.”

Now, she’s learned enough Danish to engage in small talk with her neighbours. “Once people got used to us, we felt very welcome,” Petkov said, “though I don’t think we will ever blend completely.”

Chris Wantia, also a resident of Ringkøbing-Skjern Municipality, has found Danish to be integral to life in rural Denmark. 

He lives in the village of Bork Havn, population 300. “When I walk out of my house, I don’t expect my 65-year-old Danish neighbour to speak to me in English,” Wantia told The Local.

“English may be fine in the big cities, but speaking Danish here is important,” he said, adding that it would have been very challenging to purchase and renovate the two homes he and his wife, Janine, own in the municipality if he didn’t speak Danish. 

A second silver lining Petkov has identified is that living in Ringkøbing has also enabled her family to engage more deeply with Danes and Danish culture, adding that most of her friends are Danish. 

“If you really want to dive into Danish culture, a place like Ringkøbing is amazing,” she said.

There’s less to do, depending on your interests (and you might need to drive)

“You can count on one hand the number of good restaurants within 50 kilometres of Bork Havn,” Wantia told The Local. Although that wasn’t a dealbreaker for him and his wife, Janine, it might be worth some consideration before moving to a village like Bork Havn. 

“If you want many restaurants, parties, or meeting new people all the time, this isn’t the place for you,” he said. “It’s quiet here. Some people might not like that, but it’s perfect for us.”

Vejle, though much larger than Bork Havn with a population of 113,000, also isn’t a very lively city in terms of nightlife, according to Balaban.

“I’d say it’s a mature city,” he said. “It’s a quiet city that attracts a lot of families and people who are more settled down.”

Ultimately, having ‘things to do’ nearby depends on which activities you prefer. 

In Lolland, Progler-Thomsen said it’s “a bit of a sacrifice” to not have easy access to the cultural activities the family had in Copenhagen. 

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

In exchange, her family has access to activities it enjoys that weren’t available in Copenhagen, including many outdoor activities and sports. “We love the Safari Park that’s only a 7-minute drive from our house,” Progler-Thomsen said. 

That’s something else to consider, though: driving. 

Kajkowska, in Vejle, said driving will play more of a role in one’s life, living in these parts of Denmark. “I was at a party the other night and two cars had driven one and a half hours from Sønderborg to come to the party,” she said.

READ ALSO: What benefits does life in provincial Denmark offer foreign residents?

For the most part, Petkov said she doesn’t feel like she’s missing out by living in Ringkøbing.

She enjoys several favorite cafes in town, an Italian restaurant where they are regulars and enjoy chatting with the owners, exploring the beaches and woods, and escaping to the wellness hotel near their house for mini-breaks. “In the summer, it feels like living at a resort,” Petkov said. 

“Ringkøbing is a great place for our family,” she said. “The benefits outweigh the drawbacks for us.”