A Little Statistic for You, or, Danish Independence

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:

Young People Living with Their Parents

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…)

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10 thoughts on “A Little Statistic for You, or, Danish Independence

  1. In Germany you also have to pay a lot yourself, social services are fare less than here, wages are often way too low, in the southern part quite a lot of mums still stay at home with their children for years. And in some parts of Germany, it is still a tradition to live with and help family members, more than up here in Denmark.

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    • Thanks for elucidating why Germany got that statistic, Christa! It’s very interesting to hear. I didn’t know that it’s still a tradition there to live with family members. In some ways, Denmark and Germany are so similar, but in many other ways they’re quite different.

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  2. Don’t worry about not writing so much – I only write about once month myself. I have lots to say actually, but I never seem to get around to writing. I interact a lot with other bloggers, though (I like to comment). Don’t stress yourself out blogging otherwise you’ll just feel pressured and want to quit. Just write when you feel like writing and it will come naturally.

    After having lived in Italy, Spain and France, I can tell you that when I went to Denmark to me it felt like all young people lived on their own. It was surprising for me to see many of them leaving home at 17 and striking out on their own. Sure the figures may seem high when you calculate that percentage into actual numbers, but if you try doing if for the countries on that list, it is more striking. I was surprised at the US figure, but then again, I have noticed that a lot of Americans move home after finishing college.

    See, you do have things to talk about!

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    • Thanks for the encouragement! 🙂 I sometimes feel like I’m failing as a blogger if I don’t post three times a week and do blog link ups and all that stuff. But I don’t really worry about it. I do wish I had more time to read all the blogs I follow, though. They always pile up!

      It’s become really common in the last few years for students to move back home with their parents after university. It’s part of the whole prolonged adolescence thing, and it’s been really difficult for new college graduates to find jobs. They have one of the highest rates of unemployment in the US.

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  3. Yes I also think it has a lot to do with the old german tradition of being “barefoot and pregnant” and in the kitchen when it comes to Germany woman. I was recently told to be accepted in Austrian society you had to do the three C’s – cooking cleaning and children. or K’s in their own language. Stay at home mums would lend more to children staying at home or returning home.

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    • Interesting. I had no idea that was such a strong current in German culture, though I guess it makes sense. It was a pretty universal message everywhere until recently.

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  4. Hi I just stumbled on your blog. I am starting to read it in hopes to find some insight in how Aarhus and Denmark in general provides for it’s citizens. I have heard there’s a huge tax rate in exchange for daycare, healthcare and schooling? Do they provide housing as well? I’m just curious how most people afford a home with such big taxes?

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    • Hi! Glad you found my blog. There is a big tax on income, usually anywhere between 30-50% depending on what you earn and if you qualify for any deduction type things. In exchange for that, you get free health insurance (although of course there are always caveats to that – you pay for the dentist and eye doctor, though those are subsidized a bit by the state). Child care is subsidized, I believe, so it’s not free but very cheap. Schooling, though, I think is free for children, though the university level depends on if you’re a Danish or EU citizen or not. They do not provide anything for housing unless you earn below a certain amount, then you may qualify for a bit of a subsidy.

      See this website for more detailed information: https://www.workindenmark.dk/Find_information/Information_for_job_seekers/Life_in_Denmark

      Essentially, you pay large taxes but you pay less in other areas. When talking about this, my expat friends and I have decided that there are not a lot of reasons to save large amounts of money here – since college and healthcare costs are paid for – so people have more cash to spend on other things like houses and vacations. It really does balance out. We pay Danish taxes, and we don’t feel at all constrained by them in terms of our take home pay.

      Are you thinking of coming here to work?

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