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Commuters across Øresund: We feel both Danish and Swedish
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Commuters across Øresund: We feel both Danish and Swedish

| Text: Marie Preisler, Photo: Tomas Bertelsen

Swedish Per Andreasson and his wife have spent the past five years commuting from their home in Sweden to jobs in Denmark. The couple feel they’re getting the best of both worlds.

Every morning Swedish Per Andreasson and his wife get into their respective cars from their home in a cluster of newly built detached houses on the outskirts of Malmö. They head across the Øresund bridge. He to get to work as Chief Pricing & Underwriting Denmark at insurance company Codan’s headquarters in downtown Copenhagen. She drives to Smørum north of Copenhagen, where she works as an audiologist at hearing aid producer Oticon.

“We’ve been doing this for many years now, and we love it. We feel we get the best of both Denmark and Sweden this way,” says Per Andreasson.

The couple have been working in Denmark for 12 years. Per Andreasson’s Danish working life began with the 1999 merger of the Danish insurance company Codan and Swedish Trygg-Hansa. At the time he was working in Stockholm, while his wife had got a job with Danish Oticon - which meant they would only see each other at weekends. So Per Andreasson suggested to his boss to move him to Copenhagen, and that’s what happened. The couple became Danish - nearly:

“We bought a lovely house in Søborg, a sweet Copenhagen suburb, and put a lot of effort into becoming integrated. We had Danish friends, read Danish newspapers and celebrated Shrove Tuesday with our children just like everyone else in our street. Those were good years,” he remembers.

Home to Sweden

But when the children approached school age and the Øresund bridge had been built, it became tempting for the family to start looking to Sweden.

“We were leading an ordinary Danish life and did not think for one minute to move back to Sweden before it was time for our children to go to school. Even though I speak Danish well and know Danish society intimately, it always felt like a handicap when helping them do homework in a foreign language. By moving back to Sweden our parents could also help out.” 

With the Øresund bridge it suddenly became realistic to live in Sweden while working in Copenhagen. So the couple did an about turn and bought a brand new house in Sweden, just 500 metres from the bridge. And as Swedish housing and car prices were considerably lower than Danish ones, the couple could afford two cars. That meant Per Andreasson could get from the house to his Copenhagen office in just 40 minutes. 

“Having one foot in each country works well. We have Copenhagen’s cultural offerings close by and at the same time we can give our children the chance of growing up in a smaller city.”

Around one in four of the families who live in the same neighbourhood as the Andreasson’s are cross border commuters. And nearly half of the family’s friends are Swedes who work in Denmark or Danes who have moved to Sweden and who work in Copenhagen.

Per Andreasson’s youngest daughter was so small when the family moved from Denmark that she had still not learned to speak Danish. But she has learned it in Sweden, because her best friend who live in the neighbourhood has Danish parents.

More alike than different

Today Per Andreasson rarely thinks about the fact that he is Swedish while he’s at work. Partly because some 50 Swedes are working at the Codan headquarters, partly because he speaks Danish and knows the cultural differences very well. But the first month was difficult, he recalls:

“When I came home each night I pretty much collapsed from being so tired.”

The cultural and not least linguistic differences were in fact greater than he had expected.

“It’s a pretty big challenge to penetrate deep into a foreign language, and this came as a bit of a surprise to me. It took a long time before I could understand conversations during breakfast in the canteen for instance. I really had to concentrate. And even after all these years I still come across new Danish words every week which I did not know before.”

He would also come to realise that Danes are far more direct when talking to each other compared to Swedes. Danes will tell it to your face exactly what they think. In Sweden you tend to skirt around the issue rather than being direct or critical, thinks Per Andreasson, who set up a website about being Swedish in Denmark. 

The site is no longer running and to him the similarities, not the differences, are now what seems the most striking:

“These days I often think how much we have in common and how similar are our ways of thinking and talking - even though we have the water and a national border between us.”

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