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Chinese people in Denmark

Chinese people in Denmark
Total population
c. 12,000[1] (2018)
Regions with significant populations
Related ethnic groups
Overseas Chinese

Chinese people in Denmark form one of the smaller and less-studied Chinese diaspora communities of Europe.[2]

Migration history

The earliest Chinese migrants in Denmark are believed to have been 34 men from Guangdong who came to the famous Tivoli Gardens amusement park in 1902 as travelling performers on contracts for the summer. Though the initial understanding was that they would return to China after their work had ended, half found other employment at the end of their contracts, or had entered into relationships with Danish women, and thus chose to settle down in Denmark.[3] Similar forms of "coincidental arrival" would continue over the next few decades: some sailors jumped ship in Denmark or became stranded there during the 1904-05 Russo-Japanese War and later World War I, a few itinerant soapstone traders arrived from Qingtian, Zhejiang and ended up staying in the country, and other similar cases. By 1949, a total of 43 Chinese are believed to have become immigrants in Denmark; most of these were male, and among them were just four women married to Danish men.[4] Early immigrants maintained few community links to each other or to their ancestral land, and thus were quickly assimilated into Danish society.[4] After the 1949 establishment of the People's Republic of China, many deliberately cut off their contacts with relatives in China in fear that those relatives might suffer persecution for having foreign contacts.[5]

Up until the 1970s, immigration from China remained almost non-existent, even as growth in the Danish economy created labour shortages and immigrants from other parts of the world flowed into the country. Police statistics showed 113 people from mainland China living in Denmark as of 1969, and one researcher estimates perhaps 60 more from Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Singapore.[5] The numbers of migrants did not reach a significant level until the 1980s and 1990s, just as Danish immigration laws were becoming more strict.[6] By 1996, there were 3,467 migrants/descendants of migrants from mainland China, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Taiwan.[7] These years were also marked by a shift in the gender balance of migrants, with increasing numbers of women.[2]

Asylum seekers from the People's Republic of China are not prevalent among Chinese migrants to Denmark, despite the fact that Denmark has one of Europe's lowest rejection rates for asylum claims; such migrants prefer other countries in Southern, Central, or Eastern Europe, due to the better opportunities for work there. This contradicts claims that Chinese migrants are attracted by Denmark's generous social welfare benefits.[8]

Statistics Denmark showed 9,799 people born in mainland China and 448 born in Taiwan living in Denmark as of October 2009.[1]

Statistics Denmark showed in the first quarter of 2018 that 11,710 people with origins in mainland China are living in Denmark legally.

Business and employment

Though early Chinese migrants consisted largely of travelling artists and merchants, after World War II, migrants concentrated increasingly in the Chinese restaurant business.[5] Copenhagen's first Chinese restaurant, the China House, was opened by a Chinese migrant from the Netherlands who had remigrated to Denmark; four more restaurants opened up in the 1950s, and five more in the 1960s.[9] The format of restaurants changed in the 1970s, with more grill bars. Other Chinese, even if not directly involved in the restaurant trade, were somehow involved with food in the ethnic economy; for example, the first ethnic Chinese graduate of a Danish university opened a soy sauce factory in 1957.[10] However, the restaurant sector began to reach saturation in the 1980s; new migrants thus set up businesses in other sectors, including travel agencies, traditional Chinese medicine clinics, and import-export firms.[11]


In 2004, 60,000 Chinese tourists visited Denmark; this number is at least projected to quadruple by 2020.[12] The 200th anniversary of the birth of Hans Christian Andersen was a major draw for Chinese tourists to come to Denmark, as he is a major icon of Danish culture in China; however, tourists who came at that time were disappointed to find little attention devoted to him in Copenhagen. As a result of feedback from Chinese tourists, a new museum devoted to him was opened at the town hall square.[13]

The desire by tourism authorities to attract Chinese tourists conflicts with the fears from some other government bureaux that tourism from China will become an inlet for increasing numbers of illegal immigrants. But, many Chinese travel agencies require a RMB50,000 deposit from prospective tourists to Denmark, in order to protect themselves against the penalties which may be assessed against them by the Danish government if tourists they bring to the country do not depart on time.[14] The influx of Chinese tourists has also caused some more discussions, especially with regards to sex tourism; many male Chinese tourists seek out strip clubs, but are usually disappointed with the amount of Asian women found in these clubs instead of the expected Danish women. [15]

Chinese blood in the Danish Royal Family

Alexandra, Countess of Frederiksborg, was born in Hong Kong, of mixed European and Chinese ancestry. In 1995 she married Prince Joachim of Denmark. They had two children, Prince Nikolai (born 1999) and Prince Felix (born 2002), they are the first members of the Danish Royal Family who have Chinese blood.



  1. ^ a b Statistics Denmark 2009
  2. ^ a b Thunø 1998, p. 154
  3. ^ Thunø 1998, p. 143
  4. ^ a b Thunø 1998, p. 144
  5. ^ a b c Thunø 1998, p. 146
  6. ^ Thunø 1998, p. 151
  7. ^ Thunø 1998, p. 152
  8. ^ Thunø 2003, p. 99
  9. ^ Thunø 1998, p. 147
  10. ^ Thunø 1998, p. 148
  11. ^ Thunø 1998, pp. 156–157
  12. ^ Ooi 2007, p. 7
  13. ^ Ooi 2007, p. 8
  14. ^ Ooi 2007, p. 11
  15. ^ Ooi 2007, p. 10


  • Thunø, Mette (1998), "Chinese immigrants in Denmark after 1949: immigration patterns and development", in Sinn, Elizabeth (ed.), The last half century of Chinese overseas, Aberdeen, Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, pp. 141–166, ISBN 962-209-446-5
  • Thunø, Mette (September 2003), "Channels of Entry and Preferred Destinations: The Circumvention of Denmark by Chinese Immigrants", International Migration, 41 (3): 99–133, doi:10.1111/1468-2435.00243
  • Ooi, Can-Seng (October 2007), Chinese Tourists in Denmark (PDF), Creative Encounters Working Papers, 5, Copenhagen Business School, retrieved 2009-05-07 (Mirror)
  • Population by region, sex, age, marital status, ancestry, country of origin and citizenship, Statistics Denmark, 2009-10-01, retrieved 2010-01-04

Further reading

  • Thunø, Mette (1998), "Chinese in Denmark", in Benton, Gregor; Pieke, Frank N. (eds.), The Chinese in Europe, Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire: Macmillan, pp. 168–196, ISBN 0-312-17526-4
  • Thunø, Mette (2000), "The Chinese Family and Economic Achievement: the Case of Chinese Migrants in Denmark", in Ang See, Teresita (ed.), Intercultural Relations, Cultural Transformation, and Identity: The Ethnic Chinese, Manila: Kaisa Heritage Center, pp. 67–88, ISBN 971-8857-21-4