By Maria Jose Villanueva, photos by International Community Aarhus
As a foreigner, moving to Aarhus to start a new job used to be a complicated task, especially if you were joined by your family. However, this situation is improving thanks to the help and resources that International Community provides to newcomer employees from all over the world.
The organisation was founded in 2007 with a specific purpose: ensure that companies can attract, welcome and retain their international employees and also the families that come along with them in the best possible way here in Aarhus. Therefore, continuous internationalization of the city is at the heart of the organization in order to make Aarhus internationally recognized as a great place to live and have a career.
Tiny Maerschalk, Development and Networking Consultant at International Community, explains that before the organisation was created, companies in Aarhus had problems retaining their international workers.
“Their employees left very soon after they had arrived in Aarhus, they were very happy with their workplace but they just felt it wasn’t really like home because as soon as they left their offices, they didn’t know what to do and they didn’t have a network”, recalls Maerschalk.
She points out that before the foundation of International Community, large companies had a short retention rate, an international employee would leave the workplace after nine months. “A data survey from 2013 showed that the retention rate has risen to 3.2 years”, proudly reveals Maerschalk, “this shows how important it is to have a networking organisation where you can get the information you need”.
The International Community organises more than one hundred events every year which are open to all international citizens. “We have informative events about for example taxes, banking, buying property and the Danish health care and education systems”, says Tiny Maerschalk.
They also host networking and social events such as a monthly game night where international and Danish citizens meet in a downtown cafe to play board games. For the sport lovers, they have a sport club program where they can sign up online and the organisation will match them with the clubs that best suit their interests. “The events are always based on trying to either network, give information and to make sure you feel at home also outside of your workplace”, says Tiny.
The organisation also created Spouse Community Aarhus, which is focused on the accompanying partners of the employees and is a new group that has their own network and their own events.
International Community also helps the newcomer employees with paperwork and practical questions in the International Citizen Service (ICS), a place that aims to make the process as easy as possible by gathering the most important authorities under one roof.
The ICS offers help with residence permits and registration certificates, tax cards, social security number as well as with personal guidance on job seeking, Danish courses, the Danish tax system and more.
International Community is part of “Erhverv Aarhus”, an independent business network with more than 600 member companies and a strong political voice on behalf of them. Because it is not part of the municipality or any other authority, “it makes it easier for us to take care of the internationals and also to point out some of the issues that might exist with authorities or other organisations”, says Maerschalk.
The Development and Networking Consultant explains that “Erhverv Aarhus” is a member-financed organisation with a board with representatives from cultural institutions, educational institutions and businesses.
They also have an Executive Committee integrated by larger companies like Vestas, Arla, DuPont, Grundfos, Aarhus University, City of Aarhus and Erhverv Aarhus. These companies have decided that the services provided by International Community are a public good and are available to every international employee instead of making it a “company members only” community.
International Community Aarhus works with more than 600 enterprises, from one-person companies to large companies, and is in contact with more than 4000 members who receive their weekly newsletter; all with one intention: to open the city up to internationals.
For a detailed list of the all the events and services offered by the International Community, consult their website at https://internationalcommunity.dk/en-US/Forside