3023

Opinion

Expat, where is your political voice?
Sune Steffen Hansen

January 24th, 2024


There are many expats in Denmark, but in the political realm, no one talks about them. If expats want to have their voice heard in the public debate and influence the rules they live under, they need a political voice.

Photo: Sune Steffen Hansen

When I was a boy and walked the streets of Copenhagen in the nineties, I rarely came across anyone speaking English in public. Obviously, this situation has changed significantly during the last three decades. 

Today, Denmark is a popular work-destination for many people around the world, and Copenhagen especially has turned into an international hub for highly-educated people. Some stay for a short time, boosting their work credentials before leaving for another destination. Others come here with the intention of studying, but are still here a decade later. 

Statistics Denmark just published new data for the population. According to this, there are currently close to 650,000 people with a foreign nationality, out of a population of almost 6 million. About half of these people come from Western societies. Others comes from countries like India, China, and such.

Despite many cultural differences among these expats, they all have at least two things in common. They were not born into the Danish society, and English is the main language during their stay in Denmark. These circumstances put many in a position where they have other focus areas than Danes.

For instance, rigid Danish rules for foreigners, or a general lack of information in English, or challenges with authorities if you don’t speak the language, and so on. 

This leads me to the following point: Rules are rarely written in stone. They can almost always be changed if enough people work for it. And with more than half a million people, the expat community has potential to influence decision makers. 

But the community will have to unite to make their voice being heard.

To unite among a common cause is not a strange approach for Danes. On the contrary, for hundreds of years, people in this country have united on different grounds and with great success. Just think about ‘’andelsbevægelsen’’ that the farmers created. From this, we have successful global companies such as Arla and Danish Crown. Then there’s the workers movement that frankly built the welfare state we are so proud of. And think of the way people in local communities created member-owned retail chains such as Brugsen. 

The expat community could do the same. 

Imagine the political voice of half a million people if they unite and speak with one voice on issues that matter for the members of the community. 

This would have an impact. Take it from someone who has worked in Danish politics for 25 years. 

About

Sune Steffen Hansen

Partner, Rud Pedersen Public Affairs Denmark Voter analyst and commentator in Danish media Former advisor for Socialdemokratiet, with a Master’s in Political Science (University of Copenhagen)


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