For all the money that Denmark spends on higher education, it still needs to look abroad to recruit “highly educated” foreigners to keep the economy going. The trouble is, these immigrants are not staying as long as planned. A study or seminar or survey is launched every six months or so and the findings are always the same. “Luksus indvandrer” leave earlier than planned because of reasons as static and immeutable as the permitted toppings on smørbrød. Yet, incredibly, someone always needs to replicate the study just in case the findings change to something Denmark wants to do something about.
A major plank of the government’s strategy for retaining immigrants seems to be telling foreigners they have it all wrong. They may feel like their workmates ignore them, they may feel like they are not informed of the “unwritten rules”, they may feel like the Danish people they come in contact with have been rude but really, truly, everything has been because Danes are modest, kind and respectful!
My favourite type of disgruntled immigrant is the returned Dane. Their issues could be my issues and yet they can hand-on-heart say “The language barrier is NOT the reason for my problems.” There are serious issues with settling in modern Denmark not to do with cultural misunderstandings and linguistic problems.
What are these reasons? Reportedly:- happiness of the spouse, communication problems at work, poor minimum standards of public decency and high taxes.
Job finding in Denmark without a network (or Danish skills), is almost impossible. Spouses may have been able to get English-speaking jobs on their own merits in other countries but they will struggle in Denmark until they know someone who knows someone who can get them in. If the spouse cannot find work: they they move country.
My first year or so in my job were spent being intermittently told off for not having done something and when I said I had no idea what they were talking about: “If you didn’t know, why didn’t you ask?” My workmates and employers were neither being respectful nor disrespectful of me, they just could not empathise with my situation. Having this lack of social ability dressed up as politeness or even shyness means that no progress can be made. Which means people move country rather than deal with it.
Movements like “Fucking Flink”, illustrate that many Danes have poor social skills and need to be trained in the use of random acts of kindness, casual civility and friendliness towards strangers. If the only Danes they interacted with on a regular basis were rude or unfriendly, they might get the idea Danes are all like that. And then they move country.
As for taxation: it is a scandy socialist paradise, right? You pay into the system and you get great services in return. Except the problem is, the Danish state is expecting luksus immigrants to pay the same as everyone else. Even though they will never qualify for a state pension, use nursing homes, draw benefits. Pay the same and receive much less? If the other services like the police, health and schools were world-class, perhaps the immigrants could rationalise paying their 50-60% tax bill. Honestly though, these services are patchy at best. If they feel ripped off, they will move country.
What seems to be the biggest problem is that for all the times these questions are posed, they only invite Danes to talk about it in Danish. The survey goes out in English and then Danes stroke their beards and explain what the foreigners really meant.
None of these problems can be solved, though. Rude Danes will not get social skills overnight, colleagues cannot suddenly develop a theory of mind, employers will not stop nepotistic recruitment, the taxation situation is not going to change. At best, they can hope that employers have more international-friendly recruitment. So, it makes sense to keep foreigners at arm’s length during this lip service. Otherwise, things could get nasty.
Why else hasn’t the rhetoric moved on from “cold Danes” as opposed to the less friendly to the Danish ear “racist, xenophobic, rude, boorish, peasant Danes” that you hear from disgruntled foreigners on the way out of the country? There has to be a reason that none of the criticisms the foreigners come up with in the surveys match what I am hearing on the ground. (Remember the people reportedly citing “cold Danes” as a negative are the ones who want to leave, not the happy ones who are satisfied and want to stay.) There has to be a reason that the criticisms reported by organisations trying to explain to Danes why foreigners don’t like it here are toothless and gentle. And I suggest the reason is SHENANIGANS.
What these organisations and the government are missing is that they do not need to recruit foreign talent from abroad. They do not need to go to all this effort. Much of this talent is already here. Married to a Dane or highly skilled “expat”. If they recruited from this captive market, they would halve their problems overnight.
And they could stop putting out these stupid surveys.