One foot in Sweden, another in Denmark: Living life on both sides of the bridge

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One foot in Sweden, another in Denmark: Living life on both sides of the bridge
The Öresund Bridge connects Malmö with Copenhagen. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

Divya Sharma moved from India to Sweden in 2013, but like many in the south of the country, her work takes place in Denmark. She describes how it feels living life on both sides of the bridge.


Sitting comfortably in the 'tyst avdelning' (quiet section) of the Öresundståg, I began my daily commute to work. Fleeting thoughts made me marvel at the plethora of job opportunities that we have today. I live in Sweden but commute to Denmark every day for work. And much like me, everyday there are thousands of people who cross the border from both countries.

For those who are not aware, The Öresund Bridge is an approximately 16 km long road and rail link between Sweden and Denmark. But it is much more than that. The Öresund Bridge has created a region with a population of 3.7 million inhabitants. The Bridge officially opened to the public on June 2000.

Coming back to the topic of discussion, I am usually asked by my friends and family how it feels living in one country and working in another. So this daily 'bridge-crosser' with one foot in Denmark, one in Sweden has this to say:

1) Practically, hardly anything:

I live about 40 miles away from my workplace. So for me crossing the bridge hardly makes a difference. Moreover, the two countries are alike in many ways, whether it is the language (admittedly, Danish pronunciation is tougher for foreigners) or the Nordic culture.

Swedes and Danes share a common love of buns. Photo: Leon Brocard/Flickr Creative Commons

2) Feel fortunate:

Feeling lucky is at the top of my list. Being Indian, living in Sweden and working in Denmark, I couldn’t have asked for better international exposure. Working in both countries makes it even better, and adds even more to your Nordic work experience.

3) Money, Oh Honey!

Apparently, my friends who live in Sweden think I am on a financial high as I earn in Danish kroner, the value of which varies between 1.25 to 1.3 Swedish kronor these days. But my taxes are considerably higher in Denmark now, and the 'A-kasse' or unemployment insurance in Denmark is also more expensive than Sweden. Also, I can't cycle to work unlike people who live in Copenhagen, so I pay a large chunk of my salary in travel. And God, travelling has its own price.

Danish coins. Photo: Howard Lake/Flickr Creative Commons

4) Travelling blues:

The travel time is short with the fast trains between Malmö and Copenhagen. However, any kind of daily commute cuts into your schedule and reduces your time for leisure. Not to mention the incessant train delays at times, infamous border checks, stuffy trains etc.

A train from Copenhagen on its way to Hyllie station in Malmö. Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT

5) Odd woman out:

This is about educating yourself and fitting in. Some holidays, summer festivals, and events in Sweden are different from Denmark. Not to mention the differences between politics (understandably), social systems, benefits, health care, and work culture. You have to integrate without knowing what it is like living there.

6) A global citizen:

I have found my reduced leisure time due to travel has made me socialize less, but it’s possible to make the best of both worlds. I speak with friends and colleagues both in Sweden and Denmark which has increased my appetite for knowledge and seeking out knowledge from both the Nordic nations. It has brushed my language skills up and enabled me to think more clearly and logically. In a nutshell, my horizons have widened.

A Danish-Swedish dictionary. Photo: Erik Mårtensson/TT

Lastly, my opportunities have made me wonder about infrastructure and the employment that comes with it. Science and technology has enabled us to cross borders, work freely and yet be able to come back home irrespective of where you work. At the same time, travel is undoubtedly stressful, especially if you have your foot in both countries and constantly need to keep up the dual lives you live.

However, being rational, and prioritizing both your professional and personal needs should steer you towards more happiness and fulfillment. So I trudge on happily and keep my chin up, being one of the “privileged” ones.

Divya Sharma is an HR professional from India, working in Denmark, living in Sweden. Globe-trotter, blogger, reader, runner, dreamer and living life on both sides of the Öresund Bridge every day. Read her Wiseberries blog here.


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