Want to immerse yourself in Danish culture and enjoy some of the country’s best events for free? Try volunteering. It’ll give you the chance to meet new people, learn new skills and get a feel for everyday life, while putting something back in the process.
In Denmark more than a third of the population has tried volunteer work at some point, so whether you’re helping out at a music festival or doing your bit for an NGO, you certainly won’t be alone.
Copenhagen is the obvious place to start, thanks to its rich cultural scene, but you can find volunteering opportunities right around the country – in fact, there are thousands of volunteer organizations to choose from, and the list keeps growing all the time.
Another great thing about volunteering in Denmark is that most of locals speak near-perfect English. So, if your Danish is limited to “ja tak,” that shouldn’t really stop you. Here are some of the country’s best places to volunteer at.
Cultural events and music festivals
Ask a Dane about Roskilde festival and the chances are they won’t stop blabbering about how good it is. But with tickets costing upwards of 2000 DKK (around 285 USD) it sure can be a pricey place to enjoy music.
However, the festival recruits around 30,000 volunteers each year, and all of them get a free entrance ticket. Volunteer at the festival and you’ll also get to stay in a special campsite. As this campsite is populated by (mostly) considerate volunteers, it’s probably the only area of the festival site where you can actually get some sleep at night. Volunteers at Roskilde also get drink and meal tickets, and can access special volunteer lounges with free coffee and cheaper beers.
The tasks for a volunteer at Roskilde are very diverse, so you can end up doing everything from bar work to sorting out the recycling. You could even end up selling merchandise or setting up tents for other festivalgoers. When you apply you’ll have the chance to indicate what you’d like to work with (and your availability for the event). Whatever happens, apply in advance through the official website – you can’t just turn up and help out.
If you’re successful you’ll get given three or four shifts throughout the festival, with each one lasting around five hours. With the rest of the time that’s left, you’re free to enjoy the music. The whole experience for a volunteer lasts 10 days, and there’s music on five of those days.
The city of Roskilde is about 30min by train away from Copenhagen and there are bus shuttles going to and from the festival site. Bring your own tent.
Other music festivals around Denmark
If 10 days of sharing communal showers seems too long (there are no individual cubicles at Roskilde, so everyone is naked together), you can volunteer at Northside festival in Aarhus (which lasts three days) or at Heartland festival near Egeskov Castle on Fyn (two days). Copenhagen’s Jazz Festival and Distortion both require volunteers each year.
Cultural festivals in Copenhagen
Copenhagen loves festivals, and during the course of a year you can find everything from book fairs and documentary film festivals to architecture and cooking events. There’s even a crime festival you can volunteer at.
Most of these events rely on volunteers, and it’s possible to help with setting up events, carrying equipment, checking tickets, picking up famous guests from the airport, taking photos or – less glamorously – showing people where the toilets are. Not sure where to start? Try the CPH Pix film festival, the CPH Dox documentary festival, or the Copenhagen Cooking and Food Festival, all of which recruit volunteers.
In exchange for your hard work and dedication you may get free tickets to a screening or a show, or perhaps some free beers and the chance to mingle with local culture vultures. A lot of the big cultural organisations in Copenhagen have a good reputation abroad, so even if you don’t get paid, it’s something to tack onto your CV when you get back home.
If you’d rather not volunteer among boozed-up music fans, try one of Denmark’s big sporting events. There are loads to choose from, including the Copenhagen half marathon, the Color Run and the Ironman challenge.
You might end up doing something quite monotonous like handing out water to runners, but you’ll almost always get a front-row seat. If you’re training for a big physical challenge yourself, volunteering at a sporting event in Denmark could be a good opportunity to see what you’re in for.
Away from the big cities, Denmark has a lot of green areas – and an awful lot of pigs (there are 5.2 pigs for each human being).
It goes without saying that Danish farmers often need help with taking care of their piggies, but there are other opportunities for ‘WWOOFing‘ (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms), too.
You can help with growing produce, constructing farm buildings, or coming up with sustainable agricultural solutions. In return for the help, you not only get to breathe the fresh air of the Danish countryside and enjoy homegrown food, but are also given lodging and can usually pick up some nifty farming skills as well. You’ll usually need to be free for at least a week, but the rewards from this kind of volunteering are seriously worth the effort.
Humanitarian organisations and NGOs
Some of the biggest humanitarian organisations in Denmark include Røde Kors (the Red Cross), Unicef, Red Barnet (Save the Children) and Doctors Without Borders. You’ll have to dedicate a few hours a week for several months in order to work with these organisations, and ideally have a background in medicine, social work or another related discipline.
In Copenhagen, Trampoline House provides a safe place for refugees and asylum seekers. They’re always looking for volunteers to do all kinds of tasks, from running craft workshops and yoga classes to translating documents.
Volunteering with these organisations could see you providing vital help at an asylum centre, either by cooking or cleaning, or by playing sports, helping people improve their language skills, or simply dedicating time and company to people who have been through very difficult times.
If you’re planning to stay in Denmark for a long time you’ll need to be aware of the visa rules.
A website that lists volunteering opportunities in different sectors in Copenhagen. There’s a handy English version.
The International House offers a comprehensive guide in English of where to volunteer in Denmark and a list of organisations that need volunteers.
International Cultural Youth Exchange
The International Cultural Youth Exchange website gives an overview of medium- to long-term volunteer programmes in Denmark.
This site lets you browse some of the current volunteering opportunities in Denmark, city by city.
An international organisation that lists all kinds of volunteer jobs in Denmark, including WWOOFing opportunities.