Living in an expat world | Challenges of expats

It has been an interesting few weeks for anyone interested in research into attracting and retaining expats in Denmark. Granted, it doesn’t change the immediate daily life of The Copenhagen Post reader, but it certainly gives food for thought for the new government as we wait to see what new measures they will put in place.

The second of the two reports, which was covered by the Post in issue 1447, showed that the mean expat contribution to the Danish economy was approximately a quarter of a million kroner per annum. A collective “I told you so” swiftly passed many an expat’s lips.  Any fool knows that expats are significantly less likely to avail themselves of the many state-financed benefits of Danish society (schools, pensions, health etc), but collective groaning rather misses the point: policy makers require such empirical evidence to make good policy, even if the evidence seems blindingly obvious to many.

So a welcome report from CBS, but especially welcome was a report published the week before by the National Centre for Social Research (SFI). Its report made a comparative analysis of how five countries – Norway, Canada, Netherlands, UK and Denmark – recruit and retain foreign talent.  I had been looking forward to this report, as I’ve long felt that the expat debate in Denmark focuses too much on what Denmark and Danes do and don’t do, and less on what other countries, and more so other expats, do and don’t  do.

Some fascinating parallels are drawn up, not least between those countries that are perceived to be traditionally more open and tolerant toward expats; notwithstanding easier cultural and language barriers, expats in other countries experience exactly the same barriers and problems which the comments  sections of this paper attests to being common in Denmark. So what to say to the Brits (like me) who assume that being an expat in the UK is easier than in Denmark? Or the Canadian, or the Dutch? Remarkably similar challenges are faced by expats everywhere, so what is the common theme?

Just as ‘The Xenophobe’s Guide to <insert country of residence>’ provides a giggle at the expense of one’s host country, at which point does the fact that there are 31 books in the series start to tell you the books are really about expat life. Expats are not recruited to Denmark for their ability to fit in with the social norms, they’re here because they possess a certain set of skills that are of great value to an employer. Whilst every country – Denmark included – has its anomalies, idiosyncrasies and plain bizarre quirks, it doesn’t change the fact that it’s not necessarily easy being an expat wherever you live. And there’s not a great deal that rules and regulations can do about that.

Should interest or insomnia strike, all 247 pages of the aforementioned report is available online.