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The Trailing Spouse in Denmark

By Kay Xander Mellish

A generation ago, expat spouses in Denmark were mostly “cookie pushers” – stay-at-home-wives who supported their husbands’ careers with chic little cocktail parties for his business associates. They ran the house and the family while he ran the world. Spouses today are different. Most come to Denmark after finishing their advanced educations, and they are sometimes mid-career. A good portion are men. A lot of contemporary spouses don’t want to stay at home, and even if they did, that’s rarely affordable in Denmark. The Danish tax structure makes single-earner households a rarity. Even if the person working has a generous salary, a big chunk of that income will go to taxes. And prices are high in Denmark for rent, food, and other daily necessities. Besides, stay-at-home spouses don’t really have a role in Danish society, as they do in many other cultures. There’s no need to stay home and care for small children: Danish kids start full-time day care when they are about a year old. (Not sending your child to day care is considered very poor parenting in Denmark, since day care is where the kids learn Danish and learn the social rules so important to Danish culture. Even the children of the Danish Royal Family go to day care.) And because there are so few other stay-at-home spouses, people who choose to stay at home can find themselves very lonely.  

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