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Danish cold shoulder has you packing your bags

Foreign academics leave Denmark before they expected. They point to an unfriendly social environment

Denmark should be one of the best places to work as a foreigner. In fact, many highly educated workers from abroad enjoy happy lives with their families and love their high-paying jobs in the relaxed Danish work environment.

But then they meet the Danes – or rather, they try to meet Danes – and suddenly living in Denmark is not as cosy as they thought it would be.

This could be one of the conclusions drawn from a new study on expatriates by the Oxford research group, the Copenhagen Post, Copenhagen Capacity and others. 71 per cent of the foreigners who believed they would stay more than three years, do not actually stay. And the study shows that Danes’ unfriendliness and lack of welcoming behaviour is a factor.

Read: ‘Danish students leave you out of the conversation’.

The cold shoulder

»Our biggest problem is Danes’ lack of openness and desire to meet others, and this will be a challenge for us if we want to attract a well-educated foreign workforce in the coming years,« says Steen Donner, managing director of Copenhagen Capacity (CC), one of the sponsors of the study, in a press release.

The 1,505 employees interviewed in the expat study said that they were most pleased with their personal safety, the environment and public transportation and infrastructure. Overall, expats are pleased with the quality of life in Denmark.

So long as they also feel integrated.

Of the foreign informants who do not feel integrated in Danish society, 27 percent define the quality of life as very bad.

Most candidates from existing networks

In addition to the cold social environment, another reason not to stay is the infamous high prices and taxation in Denmark. Though key employees and researchers staying in Denmark can receive a 33 per cent reduction in taxes in the first five years of their residency, the tax break ends at the five year mark. 70 per cent of the informants said that the reduction was important to them. So when the internationals are left to pay the regular taxes, keeping up with Danish living becomes difficult.

In addition, even if one expat obtains a job, his or her spouse may also have a difficult time finding a job: This discourages foreign nationals from staying in Denmark.

»Most jobs seem to be filled with candidates from existing networks, which by definition are native,« says a 40-year-old expat woman whose spouse is still unemployed.

Read article: Researchers will stay, but only on reduced tax

Bureaucratic babble

It’s not just the unwelcoming Danes that are driving foreign employees away. Government services are seriously lacking.

»I have been here for almost six months and I am still waiting to take a Danish class. First I was waiting for my CPR number, then for the letter from the job centre with the languages offered, and then for any information from the language school,« says one informant from Poland.

Read: ‘Immigration service is no service’.

In the Copenhagen Capacity press release, Donner says that it is extremely hard to locate help, and official forms in English or other languages, and the bureaucratic processes are often lengthy and confusing. Communication and extra integration services need to be better for expats if Denmark wants them to stay, he says.

Click here to read The Expat Study 2010.

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