EXPAT IN DENMARK: The Ultimate Guide
If I get a penny every time I get to asked why Denmark? I would definitely be able to sustain my everyday expenses through it! It’s crazy how many travellers even Danish themselves, couldn’t stop asking me why in all countries in the world, would I choose to live in Denmark.
My spontaneous decision of moving to Denmark ended with two years of amazing experience I will always look back into and will be proud of. Denmark is by far the easiest country to live in as an expat especially for me who came from a very different cultural background. This guide should prepare you before you pack all your bags to move and be an expat in Denmark. You can also read books about Denmark to give you a good feel about the life and culture.
RELATED ARTICLE: Apply for Schengen Visa through Danish Embassy
DANISH LANGUAGE AS AN EXPAT IN DENMARK
What does in “Speciallægepraksisplanlægningsstabiliseringsperiode” you don’t understand?! This was the everyday struggle for me in the beginning. Deciphering Danish words is a full-time job. If you happen to be German, Dutch, or two other Scandinavian countries, you will get ahold of the Danish language in no time.
The moment you step in Denmark, apply yourself to a language centre right away. It took me six months to be able to understand basic sentences whilst after a year, I was able to make small conversations. I personally wouldn’t say Danish is hard, the biggest challenge is to find a local who will have the whole day to wait you finish completing a sentence. As you see, Danish speaks very good English, some of them would prefer to talk in Danish to make life between you and them a little easier.
"Hvorfor taler Mary ikke Dansk? Er hun dum?" This translates to "Why Mary don't speak Danish? Is she stupid? This is exactly what the 3-year-old Danish kid asked his parents. At the time he said time, I tried to pretend that I didn't understand it. Of course, I did. Don't we all try to learn the bad words first all the time? Instead of feel insulted by what the boy said, I took it as a challenge to work harder in learning the language.
Get out there, talk to the bus driver, clerks in the grocery shops to practice you Danish. Watch children’s shows or read kid’s book to get through the reading and listening level. I even talk to myself in Danish, it was effective.
RENTING A FLAT AS AN EXPAT IN DENMARK
As you know, Denmark is one of the most expensive countries in the whole world to live in. Housing is one of the most costly bills you have to pay, the competition rate for finding your own apartment is also quite a challenge. There are crazy numbers of local and foreign students trying to live in the city where the Universities are located. To beat the hassle, allow yourself to sign up for online websites in advance and start finding a place. Six months prior to your arrival should give you enough time.
Make sure to get all the documents you will be needing to be able to rent an apartment first and foremost. Such as NEM ID, yellow card (hospitalisation & medical), resident permit, etc. If these are not available yet or you, unfortunately, didn't find a place, check out Airbnb, it's safe to use. Here are some housing websites for you to check out.
To beat the hassle, allow yourself to sign up for online websites in advance and start looking for a place. Nestpick, for example, is a meta-search engine for apartment rentals all over the world. It pulls offers for flats and shared apartments from lots of different partner sites, allowing you to browse hundreds of ads for mid-to-long term rentals in Copenhagen: you may be able to line up a house viewing or even to book your place online, even before your arrival!
Make sure to get all the documents you will be needing to be able to rent an apartment first and foremost.
TRANSPORTATION AS AN EXPAT IN DENMARK
Surely you need to get from point A to B. Denmark has quite good public transportation. Tax for private cars are high so is the gas. The government encourages the locals to use the public transportation rather than driving their private cars. There are mobile apps to help you understand the schedule and prices for buses, trains, and metros. Denmark has a massive culture in cycling, the bike lanes are incredible and bike traffic lights are provided. Due to its flat surface, it should not be an issue to cycle in the city or even as your hobby for the weekend. Brand new and second-hand bicycles are easy to purchase in Denmark.
Check this out for public transportations in Copenhagen and Aarhus. Whilst this one is for the trains. Bus and trains schedules can be checked online or through an app. Ticket can be bought in 7eleven, train and bus station, mobile apps - Copenhagen and Aarhus.
FOOD AS AN EXPAT IN DENMARK
I lost count how many expats didn’t find the Danish food that appealing, however, for me it’s a different story. I loved the food in Denmark, Danish mad love for their rugbrød (rye bread) is understandable so is their high appetite for traditional meat dishes. Indeed, a born Viking will always be a Viking.
Normally, Danish eat cereals or bread for breakfast plus a hot coffee, whilst for lunch, the rugbrød is the king of the table, one of the cheapest food you can buy and the healthiest too. For the dinner, boiled potatoes, meat, and salad are the theme for the average Danish set up. Danes are well-known for their addiction to baking, thus, don’t be surprised if you leave Denmark without learning how to bake at least one or two Danish cakes.
If you are only travelling around, check out these Copenhagen food tours.
I was completely in shock when I moved to Denmark, well, the fact that I came from the tropical country of the Philippines and decided to move to the north at the beginning of November wasn’t the smartest decisions in my life, is it? I had this great image where I will be able to make friends with my neighbours or smile to a person next to me on a bus, none of these worked.
They said Danes or the Scandinavians have such cold culture – surprise surprise! I slowly learnt how to adjust to this all-new set up for me. I list up rules on how to be Danish in Denmark:
- Never ever says hi nor smile to the person/stranger you come across as you walk in the park, shopping in the grocery, neither to the person who’s finding his way to the pizza shop whilst bearing a hangover.
- Don’t you dare to sit next to someone on a public bus if there are still empty seats somewhere else?
- It’s a dumb move to bother someone who’s walking on the street – don’t invade their personal space in the public areas.
- Wear only black, grey, and white unless it’s summer.
*This is actually true but it's listed just to lighten up the mood. Danes are friendly but maybe a little bit shy to start a conversation with a stranger.
To be fair, there are great hits about Danish culture as well. It’s not easy to be friends with the Danes but when you get to make one, you’ll never lose them. Danish also loves drinking, parties, and outdoor events– who doesn’t? Although they get a little bit beyond what normal. Running around naked in the University Park? One cycling race ages 3 to 100 are in one category! Beer at six in the morning? No one will bat an eye about it.
There are also a handful of things I love about Danish Culture. The independence of everyone is exceptional, their value with education is impressive. I cannot express enough how much I adore their equality. It's not perfect per se, but I have to say they have come far and way ahead compared to the rest of the world.
The Danes are also known for being open minded and pro LGBTQ+, if you are part of this community and worried if your sexual orientation can affect the way you live in Denmark, let me assure you that there is nothing to worry about. Either you are moving here or just travelling , Denmark will welcome you with open arms, this travel guide for gay travelling to Copenhagen will prove you that.
HOW TO LIVE CHEAP IN DENMARK
- Dumpster Diving is now getting more and more popular with the locals and even foreigners. From furniture, clothes, shoes, and even food. Some establishments, like grocery stores, forbid people to take food from their bins some allows it. My friend has done it herself, she was able to bring home vegetables, fruits, bicycle, television, sofa, you name it. Every residential building has an area where tenants can leave the things they don't need anymore so other can pick it up.
- Buy and Sell is a common practice for Danish and expats in Denmark. Since everything is expensive in Denmark, people find a way to make money or spend less. DBA is popular in Denmark for buying and selling used things, whilst there are also Facebook groups like this one. I, myself have bought a second-hand bicycle and sold it before I leave.
- Work part-time is a great way to earn extra money especially for someone planning to study in Denmark and live there for a while. It is challenging to find a part-time job, to be honest, therefore, prepare some patience and be resourceful. You can check out this website, mostly babysitting and cleaning jobs can be found there.
- Modern technology in Denmark is well practised, which you can take advantage of to make your life not only easier but can help to put down your daily cost too. There are a lot of top apps for expatriates you can download on your phone, from mobile paying apps, shopping apps, networking so you can meet locals easier, and a lot more!
PRICES FOR BASIC NEEDS IN DENMARK
Prices are in DKK (Danish Krones) & US Dollars
Apartment (own bedroom, common kitchen, dining, and living room)
Copenhagen: 7.000 dkk / $1000
Aarhus: 3.500 dkk / $500
Odense: 3.500 dkk / $500
1 loaf of bread
12 dkk / $1.80
1 bottle of beer
4 dkk (grocery store) / $.70
beer (tap in a pub)
50 dkk / $8
20 dkk / $3
burger (fast food)
10 dkk / $1.50
bicycle (second hand)
600-800 dkk / $90-130
I lived in Denmark for two years, it was the first country I lived abroad. As an expat in Denmark, I've learnt a lot from their culture and the society, I'm not going to lie that Denmark plays a massive part of who I am today. There are surely some ups and down as you try to adjust to your new environment but I really hope that you will find a thing or two to love about this country. I honestly see myself settling down there at some point in my life. If you have questions about being an expat in Denmark, don't hesitate in dropping me a line.