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Category 2

Making Friends: 2

April 29, 2021

Practical advice on making friends with Danes

Despite the difficulty it is possible to make new friends in Denmark! We offer practical tips on how

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In the previous episode of What the Denmark, we covered the theory on making friends in Denmark and why it can be more challenging than elsewhere. In this episode, we leave behind the theory and dig deeper into the practical advice. Our guests this week are Ana Sofia, a student from Portugal, and Emilie Møllenbach and Camila Vicenci who are a successful Dane/Expat friendship.

The Strength of Weak Ties

How to Connect 

Ana Sophia moved from Portugal to become a student in Denmark. Her strategy to creating a network abroad boils down to this simple rule: Attend everything you can.  

Go to as many networking events as possible - If your fellow students or coworkers meet at a social event, make sure that you attend. 

Never actually say goodbye - Ana Sophia never considers a friendship or a connection as over. She tries her best to react to people's online activity, wishes people a happy birthday and sends a: "Hello, how are you?" every once in a while. She finds that people often return the gesture. 

And finally, Being an Acquaintance is okay - Stay open-minded. Not everyone will be your new closest friend, and you can find a lot of value in having a wide net of looser ties of acquaintances. 

"Just be very open-minded when you network, regardless of whether you're going to be friends with that person, or if you just want to have their contact in case you need it."

It can be hard to break through and gain Danish friendships, but it is not impossible, as we see later in the episode.


A Rope of Many Threads 

In our previous episode, we discussed the importance of having close and intimate friendships. But according to sociologist Mark Granovetter, there is a strength to having a lot of "weaker" acquaintances. His paper "The Strength of Weak Ties" significantly impacted the way we think about the relationships in our lives. 

Think of yourself as a rope. It consists of many separate strands of threads that are all easy to break if they are separated. But the collective of strands together makes the rope sturdy. So those weak ties of acquaintances might not feel fulfilling by themselves, but by having a more expansive network, you can get a broader perspective of ideas and experiences and relations.   

"People who are in your network but aren't close friends or a great source of new information and ideas compared to strong tie friendships."

Having a wider net of acquaintances can "casual friends" is shown to help broaden your perspective, get new ideas and share different experiences and ways of life. 
This article Ian Leslie discusses this theory specifically in the context of the corona crisis, and it is a read that we will highly recommend.

The Success Story 

Emilie Møllenbach and Camila Vicenci met each other through their financing job. The short conversations around the coffee machine turned opened up for a deep and meaningful friendship to bloom. 

Those Small interactions 

The way the two of them bonded was through their walks. They would take short 15 minute walks during their lunch or walk home together after work. These walks did not have to be more than that while they were building their friendship.

"One of the things that I think Danish people sometimes are not good at is those small interactions. They often have to go all in, and it becomes a full dinner and with all your friends, and it's just a big production." 

Friendships do not have to be a massive commitment and huge dinner parties every time. If they are, you are quickly going to become burned out and feel overwhelmed. 

See the Person Not the Nationality 

The two friends shared their best advice: See People as People, not their nationality. 

The thing is that we all meet each other with all kinds of assumptions and preconceived perceptions. And if you're meeting the world that way, you're probably going to get your reality validated. But if you dare to go out in the world and wonder, "who is this? What kind of person are you?" I think that kind of curiosity opens up the door for a real friendship.

Even with her Danish boyfriend and her job, Camila never actually felt at home in Denmark. Meeting Emilie and gaining that precious friendship made the final puzzle piece settle in. 

Top tips

There are a few things that you can do to help with making friends with Danes, which include: 

  • Find Danes who did not grow up in the city they currently live in - These people will be in a similar situation as you. Further away from family and childhood friends, and they might be looking for acquaintances in their area. This is the main advice from Kay Xander Mellish, author of How To Live in Denmark
  • Social Hobbies - this can help you find people with similar interests as you
  • Volunteering - like the social hobby, it adds a sense of purpose and the feeling of making a difference
  • Someone who can vouch for you - if you already have a friend or partner who has a network in the area you move to, try to ask them if they know someone you might hit it off with. Get a recommendation. Note that this is a great example of the strength of weak ties - you can ask anyone in your network for a recommendation (e.g. writing a LinkedIn/ Facebook post). This has worked well for Sam - some of his best friends in Denmark are the former colleagues of a friend of a friend (of a friend)
  • Look for other Expats - a language school could be a great place to find some solidarity among other expats
  • Danes who have lived abroad - these people know what it is like to move to an entirely new place and are more aware of what it is like for you. They would likely want to make you feel at home

Main takeaways

Summing up the episode:

For the Non-Danes: 

  • Danes are busy bees and they like an organised calendar. If they fit you in two months in advance, this is not an offence; they are genuinely trying to make space for you.
  • A compromise can be found. You can invite the Danes in to engage with your culture in a way they can relate to, maybe with that big dinner around the table.
  • If you have been burned before, try to keep an open mind, not all Danes will be the same; try and try again. 

For the Danes :

  • Be more spontaneous. We know it is hard, but your friends and family would appreciate just a short walk and a cup of coffee once in a while. Taking a short break from the schedule will do you good.
  • Try to be more open-minded - Think about how you can help people feel more welcome and at home. How would you like to be received if you moved across the world?

General 

  • Being "just" acquaintances is okay. Not every single relationship has to be deep and meaningful. Having and maintaining a broader web of connections is healthy, and they do not all need to have the same weight.

What do you think?

If you haven't already, then you might enjoy listening to the show which you can do (for free) by subscribing to What The Denmark on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and other podcast platforms. 

We would love to hear about your experience with making international friendships. Head over to this post in our Facebook group where you can read the experiences of others and let us know what you think.


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