Making friends in Denmark
Kay Xander Mellish is an American who has worked for several large Danish companies and has collected her insights on working culture in Denmark into books, podcasts, and lectures. Here are a few of her tips on making friends in Denmark.
In Denmark, you can’t just go up to people and say, let’s be friends. Danes like to meet each other in a structured situation. It helps to be part of a group where you’re all working in the same direction.
The classic group is a sports association: a running, bicycling, or kayak club. But if you’re not the sports type, consider a chorus. Danish people love to sing. Gospel choruses are very big here, and they’re not very religious – just people who love music.
Another option for people who love music is salsa dancing. Most salsa clubs welcome internationals, and because salsa is all about partner dancing, you’ll meet plenty of people. A big mistake some newcomers make is not staying for the beer and chat session after the
dancing, perhaps because they’re uncomfortable with alcohol. Grab a soda or iced tea instead, and stay for the conversation!
Evening classes are big too, and many are offered in English. Baking classes, cooking classes, theater classes or language classes. Just make sure to choose a class where there is group work – not, for example, a Photoshop class where everyone will be staring at individual screens. Most classes list the teacher’s phone number, and it is OK to call up in advance to confirm that there will be group work, and that you will be welcome if your Danish skills are limited.
Board game cafés are another good place to meet people. Most cities have board game cafés, and it’s a natural way to start up a conversation – after all, nobody wants to play Monopoly with just two people! Some bars – or “bodegas”, the name for old-fashioned working class Brown Bars – also have quiz nights. But keep in mind that friendships formed over alcohol aren’t always lasting.
Volunteering is a great way to find people to hang out with, and organizations like Copenhagen Volunteers allow you to make short-term commitments – for example, serving as a volunteer for the Copenhagen Marathon or Copenhagen Film Festival. This is often a good fit for professionals who worry about making a long-term commitment due to busy careers. Usually there is a party at the end of the event where you can meet other volunteers.
And if you’re an animal lover, get a dog, and hang out at dog parks. Dogs are a great way to start a conversation with other dog walkers, whom you’ll see day after day, in all types of weather. Just make sure to get pet health insurance, since dogs aren’t covered by the Danish health system and treatment for them can be very expensive.