I feel like I’ve been running out of things to post over here in Denmark. Perhaps you’ve noticed by my lack of posts recently. I feel like I’ve gotten to the point where I’ve learned and experienced most of the big differences between my culture and Danish culture (and those differences aren’t really that big to begin with). And I guess I haven’t been able to make the jump to more personal topics yet. So, until I can figure out what I’m going to write about next, I thought I’d bring you the first in a few interesting statistical differences between Denmark and the US that I’ve run into lately.
Today’s statistic is about young people living with their parents. If you’re American, you’ve no doubt heard of the boomerang generation, those 20 somethings that are graduating college, having trouble finding a job, and moving back in with mom and dad. Maybe you’re part of that generation. I know I am. I lived with my parents for a few months after college while we figured out if Brian was going to get a job outside of St. Louis and just what exactly was going to happen next. We also moved back – at the ripe old age of 28 – right before moving overseas. We had to live somewhere after our house sold!
I ran across a story in metroxpress, the free daily newspaper here in Aarhus, that was talking about this phenomenon. I was quite intrigued that this trend may also be happening in Denmark. Until, that is, I looked at the table included with the article. I’ve reproduced it here, so you can get the full experience:
Yep. Denmark’s experiencing a huge wave of young people moving home… (May I also just mention that that is 1.8% of a population of 5.59 million.) So, yeah, the difference between Denmark and the US is HUGE.
I find this statistic so interesting because it points to big cultural differences between the countries listed in the table. Some of those with high percentages are going through serious economic trouble right now, but some of them are countries where it’s culturally acceptable and indeed normal to live with your parents well into adulthood.
In Denmark, the very low percentage points to two things. One, their economy has remained relatively stable throughout this recent global recession. However, it’s widely accepted that it’s difficult right now to find a job and that it’s something that may take a few months. So what else could account for this low percentage? I think it’s probably the importance of independence in Danish culture.
In Denmark, children often go to daycare as young as 6 months. A stay-at-home mom isn’t really a thing here, at least not past her one year of maternity leave. So from an early age, kids are learning independence from their parents. By the time they’re 10 (or maybe even younger), kids are getting themselves home from school, taking the bus all around town by themselves. And it is not unusual in Denmark for young people to move out on their own as young as 16, though probably a more common age is 17 or 18 when they are starting university. And we’ve been told that once one does move out one doesn’t expect much help from the parents. You’re basically on your own. (However, this is belied a little bit by the fact that many parents purchase city apartments for their children to live in while they attend university. Since they don’t have to pay tuition for the education, they buy the apartment instead.)
The US does have that whole “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps” thing, but it also is lacking many of the social systems that Denmark has to help these kids after they graduate from college and can’t find a job, or to help you and your family if the main breadwinner looses their job, etc. In the US, many times people have no options but to move back home.
Ah statistics. So illuminating. So nerdy.
(By the way, is anyone else surprised by Germany’s relatively high stat of 17.3%? I wonder what’s going on there…)