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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
There are a few things that you can do to help with making friends with Danes, which include:
Summing up the episode:
For the Non-Danes:
For the Danes :
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.