People interested in coming to Denmark for work often ask, “Do you have to learn Danish to work in Denmark?”
The answer is no – in some cases. If you are an IT specialist or an engineer, finding an all-English speaking environment in Denmark won’t be difficult. Danish companies that specialize in technology or building generally have customers and employees from all over the world, and they do business in English.
In addition, many of Denmark’s largest employers, like Maersk and Novo Nordisk, have English as their corporate language. All internal communication is supposed to be conducted in English, although this is easier said than done. Nevertheless, you’ll be able to pursue your career in these companies with relatively few roadblocks, in particular if you have special expertise the company needs.
Service jobs and other entry-level work
If you’re arriving in Denmark as a student or are otherwise interested in entry-level work, it’s possible to find work in small shops, bars, or restaurants without speaking Danish, as long as your English is very good.
Cleaning jobs, in particular in the hospitality industry, and agricultural jobs don’t require you to speak Danish either.
Jobs where you do have to learn Danish
However, there are some jobs in Denmark that require not just basic Danish but competent and flexible Danish. Any job in the Danish health services, from nurse to doctor and beyond, requires you to be able to speak with patients in Danish and understand their concerns when they speak Danish to you. You can expect that this will take a minimum of two years to learn.
(Many internationals in Denmark become “SOSU”, which is a job role in which state employees visit sick or elderly people in their homes and assist them with cleaning and cooking. You don’t have to be a Danish scholar to do this job, but you do need to be able to communicate with the clientele.)
In fact, most Danish government jobs require a good knowledge of Danish – and in a social welfare state like Denmark, a great percentage of jobs involve some level of government.
Teaching in Denmark
Teachers of young children will need to speak Danish well, although many sports coaches for older kids speak no Danish at all. (There is a cottage industry of US basketball coaches who work with Danish teenage athletes.)
University professors do not need to learn Danish to work in Denmark.
In general, however, doing business in Denmark will be much easier if you know some basic Danish, at least enough to follow a business meeting or chat with your Danish colleagues during the daily team lunch.
You can learn more about working in Denmark in our book “How to Work in Denmark: Tips for Finding a Job, Succeeding at Work, and Understanding Your Danish Boss.”