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'Treat people as individuals': How Denmark could be more inclusive for foreigners

Michael Barrett
Michael Barrett - [email protected]
'Treat people as individuals': How Denmark could be more inclusive for foreigners
A number of respondents had suggestions for how to make the labour market more inclusive, particularly for non-Danish speakers.Photo by Elevate on Unsplash

There are plenty of things Denmark could do to help foreigners integrate, said The Local's readers when we asked for their suggestions as to how the country could become more inclusive.

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In a recent survey, we asked our readers one question: “What can Denmark do to make the country more inclusive?”

Answers were varied, with some focusing on the social aspect of inclusion, such as making more of an effort to include immigrants in conversations or social gatherings, while others discussed bureaucracy, politics or issues finding work.

Inclusion

“Celebrating holidays from different parts of the world would be great,” said Swati who lives in Copenhagen.

“Melting pot countries like Singapore celebrate Chinese, Malaysian, Christian and Indian holidays,” she noted, allowing people from the different communities to understand each others’ cultures. 

“I can’t believe that Denmark doesn’t celebrate Diwali,” she added.

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Language

Denmark should “have a TV channel and radio in English, so we can follow the news” said Marcela from Brazil.

Although we at The Local Denmark would like to think we do our bit towards providing such a service, we are nonetheless a written media.

“Language plays a pivotal role in creating closer social connections with Danes. While it is an expat responsibility to learn the language, it would also be nice to have easier access to free or discounted courses, without having a time limit,” said Silvia from Italy with regard to the use of Danish and English at workplaces.

“I couldn't take advantage of the free courses as I immediately had my kids and focused very much on them and my work, when I felt like I could take in to start studying again, it was too late, the free courses were gone for me,” she said.

Gergő from Hungary called for official documents and websites to be made more available in English, noting that people recruited from abroad by Danish companies might not need the Danish language for any other purposes.

“For example, if my job does not require me to speak Danish, I want to have an English work contract. Or insurance. Whenever I need to sign something, I want it to be in proper English,” he said.

READ ALSO: REVEALED: Danish banks’ policies on non-Danish speaking customers

A reader who asked to stay anonymous called for more English to be used by A-kasser, Denmark’s unemployment insurance providers.

A-kasser… providing their courses and communication in English instead of Danish,” would help inclusivity, she said.

She also suggested language courses be offered for longer.

“Start providing free Danish language courses for more than the first few years someone comes to the country,” she wrote.

Adults who move to Denmark have the right to free Danish lessons for a maximum of five years, depending on their circumstances.

Some readers recognised the importance of Danish for successful integration while also advocating for less pressure to learn it to promote inclusiveness.

“Require less knowledge of the Danish language for citizenship. I appreciate it is an integration tool but I have lived here for six years without any level of Danish. I love the country, the people, the society, I contribute to society and don’t plan to leave, I would be proud to be a Danish citizen but the level of Danish required for citizenship is unnecessary and excludes me from truly feeling like I belong,” an anonymous reader said.

He added that he fully supports all other citizenship requirements.

READ ALSO: 'It's a concern': How foreigners view Denmark's move to hike citizenship fee

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Discrimination

Suraiya Kasim, a dual national of Pakistan and Denmark, called for more acceptance of people from other cultures and for more openness about meeting strangers.

“Accept the difference, don’t try to assimilate, don’t generalise, treat people as individuals,” she wrote. 

“If I look or dress in a certain way doesn’t mean I’m lesser than you – give the benefit of doubt – be more open and don’t be scared to ask and to know the other,” she said.

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Hiring and the workplace

A number of the people who responded to our survey used it to raise concerns about the difficulties being recruited or hired as a foreign resident in Denmark.

“It's okay not to get along with foreigners as long as we are not discriminated [against], especially in job sectors,” an anonymous foreign contributor, who is studying at university in Denmark while also working part-time jobs in logistics wrote.

“I haven't seen racism in day-to-day life but getting a job seems impossible for a non-tech person like me,” he said. 

Ioana from Romania said “accessibility to good jobs” would help inclusiveness.

“Most nice jobs seemed reserved for the Danes while expats with Master’s degrees have to work in burger shops or something similar because finding a job suited to their skills feels impossible sometimes,” she said.

“Being included through work is one of the most important reasons why people stay or not in a foreign country. We need equal opportunities,” she added.

Ideals and culture

“Inclusion and inclusive culture starts in the folkeskole [elementary or primary school, ed.],” said Ada, a reader from the United States who lives in Denmark.

Ada was not the only person to suggest that school structure in Denmark introduces a habit of only accepting people within your immediate peer group.

“Let's start with no child to have the same teacher for more than three years. Very fixed socialization has lasting effects - find more ways to put flexibility into the school system,” she suggested.

A second reader – also from the US – said children at Danish schools should mix more often with other classes in their own school year, as well kids a grade above and below.

“My daughter is in Danish school, and I have noticed the ‘insulation’ starts young. She and her friends are almost exclusively friends with children in her particular classroom,” he wrote.

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“If Denmark maybe didn't have all the kids stay with each other, exclusively, from 0-6 years with no mixing, maybe Danes would grow up to be a little more inclusive? Just a thought from what I see in my tiny ‘data set’. There seems to be a huge weighting here to having already known a person for years to include them as a friend,” he explained.

We received other suggestions also related to education.

“Educate people about the benefits of being open, honest, with integrity and invest public money on integration and support, especially around employment of foreigners,” wrote Saar Karp Gershon from Israel, who lives in Copenhagen.

Nikita, a student and part time worker in Denmark’s energy sector said “it is not easy for expats to integrate into the society and culture, even though they always try”.

“The locals might wanna give them a chance, hear their stories and be more open,” she said.

Bureaucracy

Nana, a UN international civil servant, said Denmark should “invest in a more global mobile payment system.” 

“I can’t use MobilePay [payment app, ed.] here with an admin CPR number and it’s incredibly frustrating. More of us could contribute to the local economy with an inclusive mobile payment system,” she explained.

An admin or administrative CPR number, the type referred to by Nana, is issued to people who, for example, work in Denmark but don’t have a permanent residential address in the country.

Many readers cited Denmark’s strict rules and complex systems related to work and residency permits, permanent residency and other rights made it harder for them to feel included as part of society.

“Remove some of the hurdles for foreigners waiting for residency,” an anonymous reader wrote.

“I wasn’t even able to buy a Rejsekort [public transport pre-pay card, ed.] because I didn’t have a [digital] ID, bank account or CPR number. My Danish spouse had to purchase them for me,” she said.

“Give temporary work permissions and access while waiting for the extremely lengthy immigration process,” she urged. 

READ ALSO: Denmark scraps compulsory bank account work permit rule

These hurdles “played a big factor in us moving [back] to the US. I understand the conservative nature of immigration but for spouses, there should be concessions,” she added.

Many people responded to The Local's survey about how Denmark could become more inclusive. We weren't able to include every single comment, but we did our best to select a representative sample. We'd love to hear your thoughts too – please join the conversation in the comments below.

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Comments (1)

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Jane 2024/06/20 20:29
i would welcome a retirement visa (as other countries have) for those who can afford to support themselves and are still healthy enough to contribute in many ways to their community but don’t want or need full time employment.

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