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'Be patient': How to make Danish friends as a newcomer to Denmark

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'Be patient': How to make Danish friends as a newcomer to Denmark
There's no easy shortcut to making Danish friends as a foreigner in Denmark, but with patience and the right approach it can be done -- and is worth the wait. Photo by Joshua Sazon on Unsplash

Denmark was recently rated as one of the hardest countries for foreigners to settle, not least due to the difficulty of befriending locals. We asked our readers in Denmark for their advice on how to get over this obstacle.

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Denmark ranked 51st out of the 53 countries surveyed in the recent 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 – not least the Finding Friends subcategory, where Denmark was place 53rd and last.

Some 66 percent of those surveyed in Denmark found it challenging to make local friends, compared to the global average of 36 percent.

Various factors might explain why Denmark can be a difficult place to settle down as a foreign newcomer, but the difficulty of making friends has to be considered an important one among them.

So what can you do as a newcomer to Denmark to overcome this apparent cultural obstacle and become part of a local community?

Although it might seem difficult, it is possible to make Danish friends through workplaces and to cultivate friends with mutual friends, one reader said.

This might require more patience and setting different expectations to those you might have in different countries.

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“My only friend in Denmark is actually from work. Danes don’t socialise with new friends for a long time. I’ve been here for five years. We only meet for coffee,” Jeanette from England said.

“We haven’t been to each other’s homes,” she added.

But with different expectations for friendships you can make progress, some of our respondents said.

“First advice is to set expectations low, the bar to be ‘friends’ is much higher than cities like London, Amsterdam,” said Christian from Indonesia, who has lived in Copenhagen for the last two years and works for an international company.

“Second is to be patient and focus on your interests,” like joining a sports club, he said.

“Third is to make friends in the office and be reasonable, chances are if you're single, you'll make friends with other singles, and if you have kids or family, you'll make friends with others with kids or family,” he said.

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Another tip that requires patience is to learn Danish. This will be worth the effort in the long run according to AJ, a reader who has lived in Denmark for four years and also worked in the Nordic country prior to that.

“Be prepared to learn the language and understand the culture,” she said.

“Be prepared to make plans well in advance and cooking some nice food and chatting together works well,” she added.

READ ALSO: When can you talk to a stranger in Denmark without annoying them?

“With internationals, form interest groups and make the effort to meet informally as often as possible,” she said.

“Me and another friend set up a book club (which has a few Danes in it too) and that gives us an opportunity to go out together. I also play padel tennis with my work colleagues and many of those have become friends,” she said.

“Once you have some Danish friends they are the most loyal and generous people. Worth waiting for,” AJ added.

Making friends through clubs, and common interests was a tip that several readers shared, and fits well with the Danish custom of valuing fællesskaber or community.

“Join hobby groups such as in sports and entertainment,” Raymond from Ghana said along the same theme. Raymond has lived in Denmark for six years.

“Find a good legitimate excuse. I don't think Danes are difficult to get to know, but they need a valid utility-fueled excuse to ignite the social game,” another reader said.

If you are still struggling to find Danes with which to share an interest in a setting like a club or regular activity, another option is to seek out fellow internationals – who obviously also have the experience of relocation to Denmark.

One benefit of this is that it might be a faster process than befriending Danes.

“I used Facebook groups to find people of my same nationality, it is a struggle to deal with Danes since the cultural differences are so big,” said Sara from Mexico.

“I needed the warmth, humour sense and empathy from my own people. It took me two months to create my own network with persons from my own country,” Sara said.

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Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
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