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Expat Insider - The World Through Expat Eyes

Denmark Offers the Best Working Life but Also Some Unfriendly Residents

The country’s great results for working abroad and the quality of life are canceled out by the high living expenses and the difficulties with settling in.

Denmark performs best among the Nordic countries. Placing 30th out of 52, it ranks slightly ahead of Finland (32nd), Norway (34th), and Sweden (39th). Despite its mediocre overall ranking, Denmark is number one in the Working Abroad Index, which is mainly due to the Work & Leisure (1st) and Work Culture & Satisfaction (2nd) Subcategories.

Expats in Denmark are very happy with their working hours (76% vs. 63% globally) and their work-life balance (77% vs. 62% globally). “The work-life balance is one of the best things about Denmark,” a French respondent even says. Moreover, they rate the local business culture positively when it comes to flat hierarchies (81% happy vs. 45% globally), creativity (69% happy vs. 51% globally), and flexibility (85% happy vs. 60% globally).

However, expats see their own working life in slightly less positive terms. On the one hand, 69% state they get paid fairly (vs. 62% globally), and an impressive 95% rate the local economy favorably (vs. 64% globally). On the other hand, only 54% are satisfied with their career prospects (vs. 58% globally).

A Stable Country with a Green Lifestyle

Denmark also makes it into the top 10 in the Quality of Life Index (8th) and even places first in the Safety & Security Subcategory. Expats appreciate the political stability (90% happy vs. 64% globally), feel safe (94% vs. 81% globally), and 77% believe they can freely express themselves and their opinions (vs. 64% globally).

There is just one reason why Denmark misses out on another top 10 rank in the Environment & Climate Subcategory (12th): 52% of expats are unhappy with the climate and weather (vs. 19% globally). Aside from that, it earns another first place for the availability of green goods and services (85% happy vs. 64% globally). More than four in five (84%) rate the urban environment positively (vs. 67% globally), and 88% agree that the government supports environmentally friendly policies (vs. 61% globally). “Denmark is a political trendsetter in environmental politics,” a German expat comments.

Affordable Healthcare vs. Expensive Transportation

In the Health & Well-Being Subcategory, Denmark ranks twelfth. This is mostly due to the affordable healthcare (83% happy vs. 61% globally). For other factors, such as the quality of healthcare, the results are about average (73% happy vs. 72% globally).

In the Travel & Transit Subcategory (17th), it seems to be the other way round. Expats are happy with the infrastructure for cars (92% happy vs. 75% globally) and even happier with how easy it is to get around on foot or by bicycle (98% happy vs. 77% globally). However, the affordability of public transportation is an issue (54% happy vs. 70% globally).

Mixed Opinions on Expat Essentials

In the Expat Essentials Index, Denmark ranks slightly below average (29th). The country places third in the Digital Life Subcategory, with expats particularly satisfied with the cashless payment options (94% happy vs. 84% globally) and the availability of digital government services (87% happy vs. 61% globally). They also find the local bureaucracy generally easy to deal with (63% happy vs. 40% globally).

But Denmark performs badly in the Language Subcategory (33rd). While 66% find it easy to live in Denmark without speaking the local language (vs. 51% globally), expats find Danish very hard to learn (70% unhappy vs. 38% globally). “I love learning it, but it is hard to grasp even the basics,” a British expat explains. In fact, close to one-quarter of expats (24%) do not speak Danish at all, compared to 10% of expats worldwide who do not speak the local language of their host country.

Life in Denmark Is Expensive

Expats are really unhappy with the housing market in Denmark: 42% consider housing hard to find (vs. 27% globally), and 59% say it is hard to afford (vs. 43% happy). But housing is not the only thing expats in Denmark find unaffordable: 59% rate the general cost of living negatively (vs. 35% globally).

Despite that, 72% feel that their disposable household income is enough or more than enough to lead a comfortable life, and 60% are satisfied with their financial situation — both shares are the exact same as the global average.

Danish Friends Are Priceless

In the Ease of Settling In Index, Denmark does even worse. Ranking 47th out of 52, it ends up among the bottom 10. About one in four expats (23%) describe the local population as generally unfriendly (vs. 17% globally), and 28% perceive it as unfriendly towards foreign residents (vs. 18%).

This might be why 63% find it hard to make local friends, compared to a global average of 37%. About one in three do not have a personal support network (32% vs. 24% globally) and are unhappy with their social life (34% vs. 26% globally). "It is difficult to make local friends and feel integrated," a French respondent points out.

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