Hard to make Danish friends

DTU’s overseas contingent describe their host country’s students as “very reserved”

International students at the Danish Technical University (DTU) find it difficult to connect with their Danish classmates, according to the university.

The 2014 International Student Barometer shows most international students at DTU are generally satisfied with their studies, but not so much with their relationship with local students.

In fact, DTU ranks 183rd in a global comparison of 209 universities in which foreigners rated their satisfaction with their relationship with the host country’s students.

Highly reserved
“The Danes are very reserved. They stay close to those they already know and are not looking for new friends,” said Rachel Meyer, a 23-year-old student from the US, who is in her second year of a wind energy master’s at DTU.

“That’s why it’s always me who has to take the initiative to start a conversation. Once I get their attention, they are always very friendly, but I won’t become their friend.”

A closed tribe
Katinka Hyllested, a sociologist from the Living Institute in Copenhagen, says such experiences are not unique to DTU, but are very similar to what other foreigners encounter when they move to Denmark.

“The Danes are very strange people and differ from most others on several parameters, including being very confident, not as hierarchical and quite individualistic,” Hyllested told DTU.

“At the same time we are almost like a tribe and rather closed. We keep at arm’s length from new people. On the other hand, once you’re in, you’re really in.”