Issue 30 | Winter 2021
DENMARK AND SWEDEN ARE WELL KNOWN FOR BEING FIRST MOVERS WHEN IT COMES TO LGBTQIA+ EQUALITY. SAME-SEX SEXUAL ACTIVITY WAS LEGALISED AS EARLY AS 1933 IN DENMARK. SWEDEN FOLLOWED SUIT IN 1944 AND WAS THE FIRST COUNTRY IN 1972 TO LEGALISE GENDER CHANGE
It’s this kind of inclusive heritage that has made Copenhagen and Malmö – the two largest cities in Greater Copenhagen – popular for queer individuals around the world looking for a new challenge, or simply a fresh start. We interviewed two LGBTQIA+ people to find out how Malmö and Copenhagen helped them move forward both personally and professionally.
Live Your Best Life in Greater Copenhagen
Wito Sypniewski, now 42, visited Malmö for the first time together with his Swedish boyfriend in 2013 and immediately fell in love in the city, and in December 2018 they moved there permanently.Originally from Poland via France and the UK, he clearly identifies as a modern European.
On arrival from London, he kept his job and worked remotely for a time but soon realised that working in Malmö was a personal goal. He set about diving into free Swedish language lessons and networking among both expats and Swedes. When asked if Malmö is welcoming of LGBTQIA+ people Wito doesn’t hesitate:
“Absolutely, I found Malmö welcoming but at the same time being gay is not an issue here.”
It’s very clear that the Swedish inclination to life outdoors suits Wito down to the ground. If he’s not on the volleyball court he’s winter bathing or leading a yoga session in the meet up group he founded: Good Life Project Malmö. Set up for members to embrace health and wellbeing, the project now has over 900 members. This is Wito’s way of bringing people together. He believes that Malmö helped him do it,
“What I like about Malmö is that you can have an idea, and you can execute that idea,” he says.
Wito’s “hybrid” European identity has found a permanent home in Sweden. His work with WorldPride in Copenhagen and Malmö over the summer of 2021 has led to further career opportunities popping up and an irrepressible enthusiasm to use his skills and advantages to help others.
A place to get personal and professional
When Laurence Paquette arrived in Denmark from Montreal, Canada, 14 years ago, it was to start a new life in a country known for accepting queer people.
“As long as I’ve lived in Denmark, I’ve never hidden my identity. I’ve always said it immediately to people,” she says.
Laurence is comfortable being open about her sexuality both at work in Vestas (one of the world’s largest wind turbine manufacturers) and in her daily life as the mother of two children and as a co-parent with her Danish wife. Having started work for Vestas in Aarhus, Laurence was moved to the Copenhagen office.
“Copenhagen is the perfect size – not too big, not too small – I can go everywhere and there are lots of opportunities for English speakers,” she says.
Copenhagen as home to both large corporations like Vestas and a thriving tech startup scene, an education in business, science, engineering or tech can take you a long way in the Danish capital, and there is a drive among employers to recruit diverse professional talents
“We need expats with expertise from diverse backgrounds to spur innovation.”
It’s the combination of a challenging, international work environment balanced with family life that Laurence is a big fan of here in Denmark. With her children now at two and four she is happy that they will be growing up in a country where having two mums isn’t an issue, and they too will be encouraged to develop their own unique voice.
“Copenhagen is the perfect size – not too big, not too small – I can go everywhere and there are lots of opportunities for English speakers,”