The History of Danes Worldwide

Experience the world with danes worldwide

Global Danes since 1919

The Danes Worldwide association acts as a connection between Denmark and Danes abroad. We have carried out that role since 1919. At the time, the name was “Dansk Samvirke” (pointing to collaboration among Danes the world over); in 1998, the name was changed.

The origins were in place as early as 1902 when the “Danish Islands in the Atlantic” association was established. Its objective was to strengthen the relationship between Denmark and its overseas regions – the Faroe Islands, Iceland, Greenland, and the Danish West Indies.

When the islands of the West Indies were sold in 1916 and when Iceland in 1918 loosened its ties to Denmark, the association’s purpose was no longer clearly defined. Membership numbers dropped dramatically. However, association leaders decided not to dissolve the association and instead to expand its scope to all countries in which Danes lived and worked. In short, the objective was to facilitate cooperation between Denmark and Danes abroad.

The new association was chartered 30 April 1919 “to collectively address the interests of Danes everywhere, in the homeland and internationally, and to foster communication about Denmark” (per the founding document).

The business community takes part in supporting Danes Worldwide

Many Danes Worldwide members have been posted abroad by their employers. That’s the way it was in 1919, and to this day, Danes Worldwide maintains strong ties to the business community.

Companies such as Carlsberg, F. L. Smidth, and the East Asiatic Company were among the “Founding Supporters” each donating DKK 500 toward the association’s initial budget.

Throughout the years, Danes Worldwide has contributed to establishing relationships between export enterprises in Denmark and Danes working internationally. Danes in other countries wishing to sell products made in Denmark have been introduced to relevant business partners in Denmark.

Danmarks Posten became DANES

From the very beginning, it was a priority to publish a member magazine in order to communicate relevant information to Danes abroad and to support their communication with each other. The 32-page first issue of “Danmarks Posten” (the Denmark Post) was published in January 1920. In it, Georg Brandes wrote about Denmark and the Danes, Knud Rasmussen mused about Greenland then and now, and a portion of Emil Bönnelycke’s poem “Songs of the Road” was printed. It begins, “I am the wind bringing news to you out there in the world who long to return.” The news included a story about the world’s largest engine driven ship being built in Copenhagen.

The magazine was relaunched several times with an updated look and more contemporary content. Its name was DANES. Published four times per year, it contained information and interesting reading relevant for Danes living outside Denmark. Due to digital reasons, the magazine has now been replaced by an online newsletter.

Annual Member Meeting at Kronborg Castle

Based on an initiative in 1931 to provide an opportunity for returnees to meet, an annual member meeting was previously held at Kronborg Castle in Elsinore. Members met to exchange information and experience. In addition, several other meetings were held in the early years to discuss topics of interest to Danes abroad such as exports and education.

Today, events and meetings are held in various formats. As 2019 marks the centenary of Danes Worldwide, several celebratory events are taking place.

The 1940s

During World War 2, many Danes living in the Orient lost their livelihoods, and it became more difficult to communicate with Danes in the area. The association focused on supporting those who returned to Denmark. The number of members rose dramatically and peaked in 1947.

For those Danes who lost everything, then Chair Jørgen Saxild initiated a 10-year aid project ranging from financial support to networking. In 1949, the association acquired offices in Østerbro, Copenhagen’s embassy area. The offices housed the secretariat and became a focal point for Danes who had returned to Denmark.

The Fredensborg Residences

In 1962 and 1963, the association had renowned architect Jørn Utzon design and build 30 town houses and 47 garden terrace homes. The complex was named the Fredensborg Residences after the nearby town.

Members of Danes Worldwide may sign up on a waiting list to rent one of the homes (it is a requirement that the applicant has lived and worked abroad for a minimum of two years).

The homes feature a number of common facilities for the residents’ use. Among these facilities is Saxild Hall, a venue used for cultural events.

Summer School

In 1981, Summer School saw the light of day as a result of a letter to the editor in the newspaper Berlingske Aftenavis. The writer expressed a desire for a facility where children of Danish parents living abroad could meet and learn Danish. A private foundation was established, and by March that year, all 31 seats were taken for three weeks of instruction held at Bagsværd Residential School during the summer.

The following year, the number of seats was expanded to 42. Since then, Summer School has grown to accommodate 500 students. Since 2013, Summer School participants have had the opportunity to take special instruction leading to a confirmation ceremony in the state church.

Online Language Instruction

In 1990, Danes Worldwide began collaborating with the Department of Foreign Affairs to make online language instruction possible. Danes Worldwide offers instruction in the Danish language at levels from kindergarten to grade 9.

The instruction takes place online and is designed to fit into the students’ day to day school schedule. It involves approximately one and a half to two hours of work per week. The instruction is geared to the school system in Denmark so that students who come to Denmark to study may have an age appropriate level of skill in Danish.

Students participating in the online program and attending Summer School may take the exam to earn the official Graduation Certificate from Denmark’s school system.

Language play kits are available for children aged 3-5. The kits contain guidance for parents wishing to help their children learn Danish through play.

Global Dane of the Year

In 2008, Danes Worldwide established the annual Global Dane of the Year award. The award honors a Dane who has made a special and visible effort to promote Denmark and Danish values and who has served as a role model for other Danes abroad.

The Board of Directors selects the Global Dane of the Year from among nominations provided by Danes Worldwide’s representatives. The award comes with a life membership in Danes Worldwide and with a glass sculpture designed by the highly respected Danish artist Stig Persson. The sculpture is a blue glass globe bearing the contours of Denmark.