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New friends in 48 hours? Not here in Denmark

The Danish slow-to-get-to-know-you culture is not good at attracting the best, says University of Copenhagen prorector

The Danish introverted, shy culture is preventing the best international researchers from feeling at home here, according to Prorector Thomas Bjørnholm.

Danes have a history as Viking seafarers, »internationally oriented«, as Thomas puts it, smiling. »But when they go home they want to lock the door,« he says to the University Post.

And this is precisely the problem. It is more difficult for outsiders to enter Danes’ social network than in the United States. Thomas Bjørnholm used to be visiting professor at the University of Texas in Austin.

Read: Copenhagen held back by Europe

Can’t get into the inner circle

»When I was in the US, we had the flat, the car, the television, and my wife was already involved in two maternity groups within 48 hours. That just doesn’t happen in Denmark, where we are more inward-looking.«

His reflections are backed up by a just released survey of Danish expatriate staff and researchers at the University of Copenhagen. Three out of every four staff say it is difficult to form friendships with Danes.

Read article Foreign staff: Danes are not very friendly

Mixed signals

Prorector Thomas Bjørnholm recounts a story going the rounds that he heard at a meeting in Copenhagen. An international staff member gave him, and the others at the meeting, the following anecdote.

»So we moved into a Copenhagen neighbourhood and invited all our neighbours over for a drink. They were all very happy to meet us, but the funny thing was, they were also happy to meet each other, because they hadn’t met before! So we were proud to bring these people together«.

»A few days passed, so we got a letter from our neighbour. We thought: That’s nice! They are inviting us! They got it!«

Attitude needs to change

»But then they opened the letter: ‘Friday next week, our daughter turns 18, and we are having a party. We apologise in advance for any inconvenience!’«

Prorector Bjørnholm hopes that Danes become more welcoming and extroverted, and better neighbours.

»This has to change! Foreigners don’t feel that they are not welcome, it’s just that they can’t get in to the inner circle,« he says.

Read more of the Thomas Bjørnholm interview here: Copenhagen held back by Europe and Prorector: Denmark’s tax system not fair .

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