When I first got here in 2008, there was many an initiative to keep highly-trained “expats” in the country. Not that I benefited from any of them, I worked in a state school in a town which had not really thought to attract international talent at that time. I was only on the periphery of it but I observed several attempts to recruit and retain foreign workers.
I am not sure what they were saying to the employers, it was not information I was looking for. But I remember what they were saying to me: if you don’t like it, it is because you are a dick.
There was a blog run by the government which seemed to be telling me everything was cupcakes and unicorn rainbows. And that anything I had to say on the contrary was because I was a bloody bastard. There were events, which I think are still going, about how to adapt to Danish culture. I have never been to one but I think the take-home message is supposed to be “lower your expectations”. Occasionally, they would ask Freshies to make presentations about how to integrate, for other foreigners or to Danish companies. They only asked people who had a proven track record for only addressing the issue in the most “positive” way. Note: not “constructive”, I do not mean someone who notes challenges and explains how to overcome them but people who reject critical thought entirely in order to promote the idea that only bloody bastards have problems getting along in Denmark.
And hey, it did not work. The issue with recruiting and retaining international workers remained. There was a huge problem with staff turn-over, people come and then leave before their contract is up. Maybe they say things like “high taxes” or “not much choice in the shops” but they were never going to tell you other reasons so long as they have been primed with “if you have other criticisms it is because you have not tried hard enough”.
I remember a really good blog entry by a psychologist about how to make your staff leave early, tongue in cheek, about the shitty things companies inadvertently do that make their workers unhappy. I cannot find it anymore but it was really good, you guys!
Stuff like:- Always speak Danish. Let them sink or swim. Forget about their spouse.
I move in different circles now and I saw a magazine bearing a cover girl that I sort of know. So I picked it up and imagine my surprise at the content!
The magazine is aimed not at The Internationals but their employers. It is written in English. It has interviews with expats. And it has guidelines for recruiting and retaining!
Guidelines such as “be honest about challenges before they get there”, “get your other employees to speak English at lunch and in meetings”, “change all your signs/information into English”, “make sure the spouse is happy”, “help them with bureaucracy” etc etc
You know, the shit that got me called “negative” when I talk about it… That stuff.
What seems to be happening now is that foreigners in Denmark who arrived after me are a lot happier. They are socialising, they are happier in their jobs, their children are being educated, their spouses are finding things to do, it is all good times.
Sure, they do not want to stay longer than the three or five years they promised their company. But they do not want to leave early. That is good. It is also gratifying that every survey I filled in, where I outlined the issues as I saw them, has been addressed.
I really want to move up to Aarhus, it looks like a much better situation for me up there. I do not want to stay in Denmark forever but at least life is actively being made more bearable. Maybe I do not need to warn people about here quite as strenuously.