Welcoming Immigrants to Denmark

Relocating to a new country can be a disorienting experience. Immigrants often find themselves in a completely new world, where the rules have changed, the surroundings are unfamiliar, and inhabitants speak in a different tongue. Keeping this in mind, we embarked on a month long collaboration with International House to understand the problems, unmet needs and opportunities around the immigration process.

The team was excited to get to know the complete journey of immigrants starting from their home country until they fully integrated themselves into Danish society. The whole month of the Data Driven Service Design class was divided into two different modules. The initial two weeks were focused on speculative design phase – mainly as a tool to create space discussions and debate and to think about alternative ways of how the future could be designed.

We conducted 4 interviews with the staff from International House and 10 newcomers to Copenhagen. After detailed analysis we found out that International House does not have the time and the resources to officially welcome and connect immigrants when they arrive and this issue resonates with almost all newcomers.

How might we… give a natural, structured and automated welcome to newcomers so they feel moving to Copenhagen is a really special occasion?

Driven by this question, we aimed to create an artifact which condensed and distilled culture into a stereotypical but accurate artifact. Our brainstorming sessions led to prototyping and testing a Starter Kit which consisted of items that could immediately be identified as Danish. Furthermore we designed a yellow card (CPR) tracking service to help immigrants track the status of their application real-time and also provide them with cultural and personal information of the person processing their application.

We got 3 main insights from testing our initial prototypes. First, you cannot boil culture down into a box, although stereotypical items are quick and easy conversation starters between locals and newcomers. Second, one’s experience of immigration actually starts in their home country when departure becomes definite (i.e., visa is approved or flight ticket is confirmed). Finally, further interviews with the International House staff revealed that a lot of immigrants were leaving before they were due because they do not find what they are looking for or that their expectations are not met.

We started speculating why and how Danish culture propagates happiness to citizens. Happiness is a big part of being Danish – two-thirds of Danes report being “very satisfied with their lives” and Denmark tops the UN’s World Happiness Index year after year. We wondered what makes Danes so happy and how we can replicate this experience for newcomers.

How might we… take the same level of happiness that our natural born citizens enjoy and provide it to those moving to Denmark?