Moving to Denmark For Members

Why do foreigners find Denmark such a difficult country to settle in?

Emma Firth
Emma Firth - [email protected]
Why do foreigners find Denmark such a difficult country to settle in?
Denmark was ranked lowest in a Finding Friends subcategory of a worldwide expat survey. Photo: Oleksandra Tsvihun, Unsplash

A recent survey ranked Denmark as the most difficult Nordic country for foreigners to settle in. Here are five reasons why life as an international resident in Denmark can be difficult and some tips on how to overcome them.


Denmark ranked 51 out of the 53 destinations surveyed as part of the InterNations Expat Insider survey when it came to the Ease of Settling In Index. It was placed in the bottom ten globally for every subcategory and factor in this index.

The survey findings shed light on the struggle some international residents face in adapting to the local culture in Denmark, with 35 percent expressing difficulty in acclimatising, compared to the global average of 18 percent.

Here are five reasons why life as an international in Denmark can be hard for some foreign residents.


It’s perhaps an obvious one to start with but there's no getting around the fact that learning to speak Danish is a challenge. The grammar and sentence structures are nothing out of the ordinary but pronouncing Danish words is where many internationals struggle.

There are a huge number of vowel sounds, including four variations of 'ø'; a ‘d’ that is formed somewhere in the back of your throat and an 'r' that requires some speech therapy sessions to master.

Get the pronunciation slightly wrong and you have no chance of being understood. This difficulty, coupled with the fact Danes speak excellent English, means attempts at speaking the language are often cut short with a sympathetic smile and switch to English. It can undermine an international's efforts of learning the language, which may have involved hours of dedication and studying, as well as knock their confidence.

Tip: The key is to not take it too personally. It unfortunately happens to most internationals on a daily basis. Keep starting the conversation in Danish, even if it ends up changing to English and persist as much as you can. If you can find a Danish person to practice speaking the language with, this can be a huge confidence booster and equip you with some key phrases.



Cost of housing 

Finding a place to make your home is fundamental to having a sense of belonging. 29 percent of foreign residents surveyed the InterNations Expat Insider report, stated they did not feel at home in Denmark, surpassing the global average of 20 percent.

The rental market in Denmark, particularly in Copenhagen is difficult to navigate. Landlords often ask for three months' rent as a deposit, plus three months' rent in advance, and a payment of rent for the first month. It is almost a house deposit to secure a rented home. Some properties require you to provide your own light fixtures and blinds; others want your deposit to cover repainting and re-sanding the floors when you leave; others have time-limited contracts. 

In the InterNations Expat Insider survey, Denmark was ranked 45 out of 53 countries in the Housing category, where 44 percent of people said they were discontent with affordable housing in the country, compared to 31 percent globally.

Tip: Network and tell people of your housing requirements. Sometimes people living in an apartment block will know of a property coming up for rent and you can make a deal privately. If you're in doubt about your contract, seek legal advice.


Take pictures or videos of your apartment/house when you move in, so you have documentation of its condition at the beginning of the lease. Under the Rent Act, tenants are not responsible for leaving the leased property in any better condition than it was when they moved in. Therefore the deposit may only cover repair costs that exceed the ordinary wear and tear that comes with living.

If you're worried about the amount of rent being charged, you can check on a website like and enter the relevant information.



The Danes love a rule. But when you don't know the rules, you can end up feeling like you're being constantly told off, which doesn't help the feeling of being settled.

From queuing at the pharmacy with a ticket; not being able to have more than two prams on a bus; cycling without causing offence; checking-in your Rejsekort on public transport; having a naked body wash before entering a public swimming pool; making an open sandwich with acceptable toppings (smørrebrød) - the list of "rules" can feel overwhelming. 


Tip: This doesn't last forever, thankfully. It can feel like you're being told off but Danish people are direct and are just telling you how it is. It's much better to be in the know than spend months or years unknowingly offending people or facing fines.

READ MORE: Five Danish rules foreign residents should try not to break

Making friends

Danes are famously private, with neighbours offering no more than a quick hej hej in the hallway. Small talk, known as småsnak is unusual. This can create an unwelcoming feeling and probably why Denmark was placed last in the Finding Friends subcategory of the InterNations Expat Insider survey when it came to the Ease of Settling In Index. 66 percent of those surveyed also found it challenging to make local friends, compared to the global average of 36 percent.

Tip: Danish people are reserved so make the first move or actively try and join some groups, such as a sports club or social dining initiatives.

One way to get to know your neighbours is helping out on arbejdsdag. This is a day during a weekend, usually twice a year, where residents of the apartment all come together to do some general tidying and upkeep of the apartment block and courtyard. Food and drink is usually involved and it will go down well if you turn up.

READ MORE: Five things about life in Denmark you’ll probably never get used to

Finding a job

This is often cited by our readers as a difficulty they face in Denmark and it can take from six to twelve months to secure a job as an international. However once inside the workplace, most internationals are satisfied with the the Danish work culture.

Those surveyed in Denmark by InterNations Expat Insider expressed high satisfaction with the state of the economy (89 percent reported satisfaction, compared to 62 percent globally) and their working hours (80 percent were satisfied, compared to 64 percent globally).

Tip: Networking and LinkedIn are your friends. Make sure your LinkedIn profile is complete, as this is where many employers look first. Also send off unsolicited applications (uopfordret ansøgning), as well as advertised ones, to see if a company you like know of any vacancies that match your profile.

READ MORE: Ten ways to improve your chances of finding a job in Denmark



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