Diversity in Denmark: Youth, Culture and Identity

By Ashanté J. Ford & Isabell Gielisch

Multiculturalism in Denmark, is in a constant state of evolution. The controversies that surround this topic, revolve around the political discourse that often denies the existence of Danish multiculturalism. The colorful youth population in Denmark choose to defy this notion by embracing dual identities despite facing racism, and being met with avoidance when the topic is brought to light 

When you walk the streets of Copenhagen, Denmark – expect to keep your head on a swivel. The city carries a multitude of colors and embodies a specific flavor pouring out directly from the youth.

With that being said, the topic of Multiculturalism in Denmark continues to reflect political debates surrounding ethnicity, integration, religion and culture within the Danish society. 

In a historical DIIS brief provided by The Danish Institute for International Studies, Ulf Hedetoft states that:

 “In a very real sense, ‘Danish multiculturalism’ is an oxymoron. Over the last decade, leading Danish politicians, from all agenda-setting parties, not just the present government, have repeatedly stressed that Denmark is not and does not intend to be a multicultural society.” 

However, despite previous political discourse surrounding the existence or nonexistence of multiculturalism in Denmark, the seemingly homogenous country is in fact, a multicultural country

Infographic created by Isabell G.

Each year a specific number of immigrants are placed in a certain municipality. There are 98 municipalities and each has a responsibility to integrate them, teach them Danish, and get them to work,” 

said Jonas Rasmussen, a Press Officer for the immigration office in Copenhagen. 

Growing up part-Danish

Yeah, I have friends that are of colour like myself and when we’re driving in the car it’s always a problem if you hear loud music and the police pull up. But when I’m with my white friends there is never a problem,” 

said Emilie Luz, who is Bolivian, Columbian, and Danish.

Emilie Luz captured in the Nørrebro district of Copenhagen. 

Emilie was raised in Denmark by her two full-blooded Danish parents who adopted her. Growing up was difficult considering that single fact alone. She now chooses to identify  as a global citizen – above all else.

I will say that I have gaslighted myself for a lot of years with feeling safe here in Denmark. I feel kind of safe because of the community of people I choose to surround myself with, but I don’t feel safe knowing how ignorant Danish people are in the media when they describe people of different ethnic backgrounds speaking against injustices,”  

said Azita Tadayoni, who is half-Iranian and half-Danish. 

Azita talks more about growing up in Denmark here. 

Bella Neergaard, a model for Fiiri Agency also shares her perspective as a Nigerian, Irish, and Danish woman. 

Hyggeracisme 

Growing up in a predominately homogenous welfare state, proves to be a battle for a sense of identity among the multicultural youth.

Now in second place as one of the happiest countries in the world, it is not surprising that political issues such as racism, are rarely discussed among the citizens in Denmark.

The term “hyggeracisme” stems from the well known Danish concept of “hygge.” This concept embodies cosiness, mindfulness and positive thinking. Hyggeracisme on the other hand, becomes an oxymoron when placed next to this word. 

“For a lot of Danish people in general, everything is humor to them. So within hyggeracisme, everything is said with a smile or a laugh – like it was a joke. I really think that people don’t see this as an issue but it’s because they don’t really go deep into why they say it. Like, why is it a stereotype? A lot of people say there is no racism here but really they just don’t want to talk about it,” 

said Kaddi Sawaneh, a Senegalese, Gambian, and Danish woman born in the district of Frederiksberg in Copenhagen, Denmark – she is also the creator of a collective called Girl Cult

Audio story about Kaddi Sawaneh’s first-hand experience with racism growing up in Denmark.

Denmark is home to a plethora of colors.

Whether that be large graffiti murals, people of different ethnicities or even Danish fashion sense – there is a common understanding that the culture here is multicultural.  

The youth prove this fact by embracing who they are and speaking their truth. 

Photos, video and audio taken by Ashanté J. Ford

The target audience for this article is Vice media and anyone across the globe interested in culture. Read more of our stories here and here.