Sports clubs and associations play a large role in Danish society and thus many internationals are interested in participating in their activities.
However, cultural differences and language barriers can be frustrating for both the internationals and the club. If these challenges are met the club or assocation can gain more members, voluntary hands and a more international environment.
1. Come to a consensus: Would the club like to take in international members?
2. Translate information on the website to English
3. Give a warm welcome and a thorough introduction - consider allocating a mentor / buddy
4. Harmonize expectations between the club and the international member
5. Explain the ‘unwritten rules’ and traditions of the club
6. Remember to communicate changes, cancellations and invitations in English.
7. Utilize the full potential of the international member
8. Ask internationals which language they prefer to communicate in
9. Follow up on the membership – how is everything going?
10. Use a previous members experience constructively
Talk openly about whether your club would like to have international members. It is important for both the club’s board of directors, trainers and members to support the idea. It is also important to involve (volunteer) trainers and decision-makers. Find out how many are willing to train foreigner members whom have little or no knowledge of Danish.
Many internationals find it difficult to find information online about clubs because almost everything is written in Danish. It is recommended that you make a short description of your activities in English for your website. Important information to include in English includes an e-mail and a telephone number of a person that will answer in English. Also remember to write how long it may take to respond and when is the best time to call.
If you are interested in translating your web page to English with an automatic translator, you can read more here.
It is important that the new international member receives a thorough introduction to the club and an overview of the different activities and options available. Remember also to introduce the trainers and team members to the international member, so they can meet and know about language preferences.
A good introduction includes preparing a schedule of all relevant information and courses the new member needs as part of their introduction. Consider pairing the new international member with a Danish member from the same team. This Danish person can assume the role of translating important details of the training to English, ask about the new member’s participation in activities outside of training such as, parties, get togethers or competitions and motivate the new member into showing up for trainings.
Inform the new international member about what is expected of club members.
It is also a good idea to ask which expectations your new member has. Apart from achieving a mutual understanding of expectations this is also a good way of gaining new ideas that can potentially benefit the development of the club’s activities.
Remember to inform your international members of the unwritten rules of the club. For Danes, who have grown up being members of various clubs, there are many things that may seem obvious. However, these are not necessarily obvious for foreign members. To avoid misunderstandings, it is important to inform about how things function in the club.
Here is an example of some relevant questions about clubs’ unwritten rules:
Is it expected that you volunteer in the club apart from training hours?
When there is an event with food should each member bring food to share or only food for themselves?
After training is it traditional to socialize with a beer/soda or coffee/cake? If yes, is there a drink or cake bringing schedule?
Is it allowed to bring your family with you to training or events?
Does the team have an information channel, such as an SMS chain, in case of last minute changes or cancellations?
Clarify how the club will communicate invitations to events, cancellations and changes in the normal program to international members that do not speak Danish. If this information is distributed by e-mail or on the website, remember to translate the information and let international members know how they can find this information.
Many international members have skills and experience they have acquired from being a member of a club in their home country. They will happily share and contribute this knowledge. Thus, clubs can draw on this new resource by identifying and utilizing these skills. Actively involve international members and enable them to use their competences. Being asked and getting a place to actively participate in club life also gives international members a stronger connection to their club and increases the chance of a successful membership.
Many international members attend Danish lessons and would like to practice their Danish. Be aware of this and ask them if they prefer that you communicate in Danish together. If this is the case, remember that it can take a little bit longer to communicate things. Talk together and find out what is best for everyone with regards to language and effective communication.
After one to two months of membership it can be a good idea to follow up and ask how everything is going. This follow up can be via telephone, e-mail or personally. Relevant questions to ask may be:
How are you doing in our club?
Is the membership living up to your expectations?
Do you have any suggestions to how the club can do things differently?
If there is something the member is not satisfied with, remember to follow up on that.
Also remember to ask the trainer and the Danish members about the experience they have had with international members. This will give a quick overview of any problems that might have occurred, so that they can be addressed before developing into larger problems.
There can be many reasons why people end their membership (both social and practical). If one of your international members leaves the club, it can be a good idea to contact them for feedback on their time as a member. A former member can give good insight into what works well in the club and what can be better so that future members are satisfied and the club can positively develop. The dialogue may also have the affect that the former member becomes a good ambassador for the club and thus become a good channel for recruiting new club members.