Looking for the Nepali Dream

The Nepali Dream is taking many Nepalis outside the country in search of a better life. Most young people on the streets of Kathmandu, in cafés or teashops are either waiting for their flights out, or for their visas. Nearly four million Nepalis live and work abroad, most of them in India, West Asia, Australia, Malaysia, Japan, Korea, the US and across Europe. More than 6,000 are in Denmark alone. These are their dreams.

Rojina Syangbo, 29

Nepalis in Denmark NT 1

“I want to find a proper job here,” says Rojina, who has been working part-time at a restaurant in Aarhus for the past six months. But this is not where she wants to end up.

After getting her Master’s in Soil and Global Change from Aarhus University last year, she has been living in this western Danish town in a rented room near Den Gamle By. Rojina is working on her job application, goes to Danish language tutorial and is taking a Data Analytics class. In her late 20s, she is determined to find a job in her field so she can make her parents proud.

There is pressure from her parents to get married and settle down, so her life will be easier. But she does not want to get married, at least not yet.

Rojina believes a proper job will give her freedom and a better life, and she hopes to find that within the next six months. Stay tuned.

Kritika Pokhrel, 27

Nepalis in Denmark

“I like to go for walks these days, it helps me feel alive,” says Kritika, who lives in Aarhus and is on a strict deadline to finish her Master’s thesis by this month. She used to be a good undergrad student in Nepal before coming to Belgium, where she finished the first year of her Master’s.

She then moved to Denmark last year, but it has been hard for her in Europe. The education system based on software and technology is much more advanced here. She could not navigate the lectures and assignments, and slowly her grades dropped.

“If I don’t get settled in Denmark, I will go back to Nepal,” says Kritika, and is now convinced life will be better in her own country where she once worked for a British volunteer agency as a Learning and Capacity Development Adviser.

Ruza Chauhan and Hemanta Thapa, 22

Nepalis in Denmark

“We will fulfill our dreams together,” says Ruza Chauhan, who married Hemanta last year after knowing him for five years.

Ruza’s application for an Australian visa was rejected, but they found out it was easy for a married couple to move to Denmark and came here last September. Hemanta is studying Climate and Supply Engineering at VIA University Campus Horsens, and to support his studies and overhead costs, Ruza is working full time at a cleaning company.

That is still not enough to make a living, though. “I had to ask for my last semester fee from my parents,” confides Hemanta, who also works part-time in the town of Vejle.

The couple is adjusting to the new country, and Ruza discontinued her studies to support her husband. They cannot both afford to be studying at the same time.

Once her husband finishes university, Ruza plans to get training in hairdressing. They are confident they can take on any challenge life throws at them. They want to stay on in Denmark before they decide on their next move.

Surya Prajapati, 35

Nepalis in Denmark

Surya Prajapati came to Denmark eight years ago to study Structural Engineering. After the 2015 earthquake in Nepal, he worked on reconstruction of houses and the Darbar Squares of Kathmandu Valley. While with a Danish organisation in Nepal, he saw the faults in Nepal's construction sector. Surya realised that he needed to upgrade his knowledge and practice.

The streets and architecture of Aarhus fascinate him, and he is amazed by how Danes adapt modern elements with traditional architecture. Surya works at Envidan, a Danish consulting engineering company, as a project engineer.

He was born in Bhaktapur and wants to eventually go back and revive the rich architectural heritage of his hometown. He says, “The least I can do is give back to the community where I was born.”

Soni Sah, 29

Nepalis in Denmark

“It’s hard to integrate into the Danish society and family life here,” says Sony, who has been married to a Danish man for the past four years.

She speaks fluent Danish and is familiar with the culture and society here, but still feels left out.

Sony is studying Molecular Biology at Aarhus University but says she does not have many close friends in class. It is lonely despite having a supportive husband. But she likes the degree of personal freedom in Denmark, which was not possible back home.

She and her husband want to go back to Nepal at some point and work in the research field. Her elderly mother is alone at home. Her husband likes Nepal and its rich culture, and is familiar with the country after having worked there.

Prajent Shahi, 30

Nepalis in Denmark

Prajent burned his hand while making breakfast in the morning and is in pain. He is studying Business Development at Aarhus University in Herning and has been living and working in Denmark for over two years with his wife Leena Rai. Prajent worked as a data specialist in Nepal for four years, but he did not see much of a future.

He chose Denmark as it is easier for married couples to get a dependent visa compared to Australia, a major destination for Nepalis who want to study and work abroad. Since he arrived, Shahi has worked in restaurants, cleaning companies, catering firms, and hotels. His wife works as a chef at a Danish restaurant. Like other Nepali students here, Prajent is struggling with the cost of living and saving enough for school fees.

Prajent has to pay 54,000 Danish Kroner ($7,800) every semester. He is concerned about his parents back in Nepal since he is the only child.“Sometimes I feel guilty about leaving them alone and not being there when they need me the most,” Prajent admits. He dreams of starting an IT company in Nepal some day.

Aashish Ghimire, 24

Nepalis in Denmark

Aashish’s rented room in the basement of a house close to the Botanical Garden in Aarhus has one bed, one table, two suitcases. It feels like a room of someone in transit.

Aashish moved to Denmark last September and is studying Economics and Business Administration at Aarhus University. As he gazes outside his window with a faraway look, he says, “I have to pay the loan that my parents took up to send me to Denmark.”

For an average Nepali middle-class person, it is hard to afford education at a foreign university without borrowing money from family or a bank. Most Nepali students work as cleaners or in cafés and bars to support their studies and living.

Aashish also works in a Rema 1000 warehouse, and sometimes as a food delivery courier. It has been difficult for him to manage paying school fees, and meet living costs. After finishing his studies next summer, he hopes to get a skilled job. Aashish is convinced that his life will improve by then, “It can’t be hard forever,” he says.