Health promotion at a community level has gained popularity in recent decades within and outside academic environments. The health promotion discourse is part of a wider political discourse, aimed at empowering individuals to take control of their own lives and enabling them to be engaged, responsible and active citizens in their own communities. Key values of the discourse, deriving from a democratic and individualistic culture, are evident in how local authorities develop and implement policies aimed at promoting population health and wellbeing. In this article, we draw on data from a relatively poor multicultural Danish community incorporated in the WHO Healthy Cities Programme. We explore how key terms of the health promoting discourse are constructed, operationalized and resisted by different subgroups. The contradictions that emerge challenge how we comprehend communities in relation to safety and harmony, and how people within defined communities are involved in common community life.