The Immigrant Project

In the 1950s and 1960s there was a small but steady trickle of immigrants from Denmark settling in New Zealand. They had heard of the good standard of living in New Zealand and above all there was no unemployment. There was work for all and a future to be developed.

Many of the Danes that settled in the 1950s and 60s had experienced the restrictions of the depression in the 1930s followed by the Nazi occupation of Denmark 1940 to 1945. Life after the war had settled back in the old folds. There was a hopefulness that life would improve but for many it could not come fast enough. Economic change in Denmark was still to come.

It was the desire for a better life and adventure that drove many Danes to leave their country and search for a different lifestyle in New Zealand.

The New Zealand our immigrants came to was a large country, to the Danes, but with a small population of about 2.17 million. A country of warmth and sunshine with a derived English based culture and language.

Culturally and socially it was very different. The 50s and 60s was the time of “6 o’clock closing” of the pubs which was a very strange phenomenon to these immigrants and even worse, there were very few restaurants. The majority of families owned their own house and a car. There was emphasis on the family, the garden and a vegetable growing plot outdoors, while indoors the NZ housewife could proudly show off her preserves in the pantry.

Farmers were esteemed and the high price for wool overseas gave NZ the financial support it needed to be able to build the infrastructure of roads, dams and other projects. If you were young and willing to work there was money to be made.

Danish kids at Scandinavian Christmas party 1949. Who and where?

Immigration increased the New Zealand population and with that came new houses, schools, shopping centres, health services and entertainment.

There was also an openness by New Zealanders to people from overseas and things “Continental”. They too wanted to have new experiences at home.

Danish Students

24 Danish pupils at Panmure School in 1951. Missing names?

These are the stories of a few migrants who came to New Zealand and made excellent citizens. They lived content lives and bought up their families who to this day have contributed well to New Zealand. They are but a few examples of how the Danish community in New Zealand has helped to make this country what it is today.

Thanks and Acknowledgements

The Danish Immigrant Stories Project has had a long gestation to bring it to this stage. Many people have been involved, each assisting the project to move on.

The project began with a group consisting of Helle Gilderdale, Visse Hopley, Christina Jensen and Pam Logan. They believed in the Danish Immigrant Stories Project and provided encouragement and support. Visse and Pam edited the work.

Professor, Dr Linda Bryder quietly supported the group’s work over the years and guided the project towards publishing on the web.

Marianne Kraack joined the team when technical assistance was required, provided further editorial processing and continues to be involved whole-heartedly.

Esther Barrett sadly passed away before she could see her story on the web, many thanks to her family for giving permission to publish her story. Oluf Basse, Kirsten Bøjsen-Møller, Paul Jørgensen, Lilly Sørensen and Bente Winter, you gave of your time and experience freely, you are thanked for being the foundation of the project. Your lives are testimonies of the Danish contribution to New Zealand.

Lastly, thanks go to The Danish Society in Auckland for accepting the project as part of its website. Special mention and thanks must go to Kurt Marquart, webmaster, who not only made a very special presentation on the web but enthusiastically embraced the project.

Each person mentioned has made a valuable contribution, for which I am deeply grateful.

Karen Andersen Yates

Danish Immigration Stories Project Co-ordinator

April 2017

Recollections of Paula Langkilde Christie early days in New Zealand.

Paula came to New Zealand as a baby in 1907. She became the first secretary of the Danish Association, later Danish Society in Auckland in 1942. Paula's recollections were recorded by Danish Radio in 1991.  Hear her story, in Danish, here...

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4