The integration of expatriates: How expatriates living in Denmark define integration

Andrea Kloss

Student thesis: Master thesis


Although the number of well educated foreigners coming to Denmark for a job or to live with their Danish partner exceeds the number of more vulnerable immigrants by far, these expatriates lack attention and support, which is why this thesis contributed in giving them a voice. Research on cross-cultural contact and expatriation was studied intensively and was found to have a tendency to focus on the problems and processes that occur when adapting to a foreign culture, assuming that a general willingness to do so exists. This Master’s thesis studied expatriates currently living in Denmark in order to investigate how they define integration. Hence, the influence of Denmark and its distinct characteristics were included in the understanding of whether and how expatriates want to integrate into Danish society. For this study, applying a qualitative, explorative approach, ten semistructured interviews were conducted. The interviewed expatriates were between 24 and 51 years old, coming from nine different countries. The transcribed interviews were structured and analysed through qualitative content analysis. The findings point towards the following main conclusions: Firstly, integration seems to be a combination of several aspects, which are connected to both individual satisfaction and attitude as well as to interaction with the environment. Assimilating does neither seem to be perceived as necessary nor could a willingness be found. Superficial aspects, concerning the public domain or aspects perceived as enrichment for the individual might be open for change. However, change should be balanced and never imposed. Secondly, a general desire to integrate seems to exist. Most expatriates are eager to establish contacts to the Danish society and to learn the local language. However, Danes are perceived as a rather closed and homogeneous group, difficult to establish closer friendships with. As a result, some expatriates seem to shift towards integrating into an existent expatriate society instead. Nevertheless, the majority of the interviewed expatriates seem psychologically and socioculturally well adjusted. Finally, the current political and media debate on integration seems to colour the expatriates’ understanding of the Danish definition of integration. Although society and institutions outside this discussion do not seem to demand assimilation, some expatriates reported a felt pressure to ‘become Danish’. For ongoing research in this field it seems highly recommendable to conduct similar studies in different cultural settings; to develop an understanding of how the expatriates’ spouse and family might influence the definition of integration and how the gained knowledge on the integration of expatriates could contribute to a successful attraction and retention of highly skilled expatriates.

EducationsMSc in Business, Language and Culture, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2010
Number of pages135