Everything You Need to Know About Moving to Denmark
Even if you have no clear picture of modern Denmark, you’ll most probably have visited its landscapes in your imagination as a child, thanks to Hans Christian Anderson’s fairy tales. The gabled rooftops, romantic castles and wild coastal wastes so central to his story-telling are also quintessentially Danish – like the author himself. Modern Denmark successfully combines the old-fashioned charm of the folk tale with the innovative technologies of the 21st century.
Given its place in our imagination, it seems completely fitting that Denmark achieved the top spot in the UN’s World Happiness Report in 2017. Since then it has played runner-up to Finland. It also ranks Number 1 on the environmental performance index. Copenhagen is considered one of the greenest European capital cities, and it was ranked as the 2nd most liveable city for European expats in 2022.
Other Danish characters that populate our imaginations are the Vikings. Denmark has always been a sea-faring nation, and no wonder; the country has 7000km of coastline, incorporating hundreds of islands. In Denmark it is impossible to be more than 50km from the sea. You won’t find the glacial splendour of Norway, or the wild forests of Sweden here. What you will discover though, is a 360º sky and a luminosity in the light that’s known as ‘Blue September’.
The Schepens Guide – Moving to Denmark From UK – is based on our experience of working in this beautiful country. We have been providing removals to Denmark for families, solo professionals and students across many decades. With each move we’ve learnt more about how to prepare for relocating to Denmark, and how to cope once you arrive. In a recent survey movers were asked to list the things they wish they’d known more about before moving.
The top 10 resources movers would value prior to moving were:
- Making friends and creating a support network
- Cultural differences
- Calculating a rough budget for life in Sweden
- Removals to Sweden
- Local knowledge
- Finding somewhere to live
- Work culture in Sweden
- Laws that may affect me
- Transport locally and across the country
Our Guide incorporates these areas, and is organised it into two sections: ‘Before You Leave the UK’ and ‘When You Arrive in Denmark’. No matter whether you’re a seasoned expat, or this is your first move, the time you spend in a new country is an adventure. It will change you; it must because you’re being offered a different perspective on the world. We hope that this resource will enhance your pleasure of living and working in Denmark.
Before You Leave The UK
- Budgeting for Life in Denmark
- Doctor’s Appointments and Prescriptions
- Documentation for Denmark
- Driving in Denmark
- Emergency Funds
- Finding Somewhere to Live
- Language – Do You Need to Speak Danish?
- Removals to Denmark
- Local Knowledge – Where Will You Eat?
- Danish Weather/Climate
When You Arrive in Denmark
- Bank Account
- CPR Card
- Culture Shock
- Digital by Default
- Environmental Sustainability
- Hygge (pronounced hoo-ga)
- Making Friends and Creating a Support Network
- Places to Live in Denmark
- Public Transport and Commuting
- 5 Things About Working in Denmark
- Are You Moving to Denmark From the UK?
BEFORE YOU LEAVE
Budgeting for Life in Denmark
Day-to-day living in Denmark is expensive, though you’ll find that costs vary dependent on your lifestyle and where you live. Copenhagen is the most expensive city in Denmark – no surprises there – it also features in Mercer’s Cost of Living Index (2022) as the 11th most expensive city in the world.
The Numbeo website is a useful resource if you’re wanting to estimate your cost of living in Denmark. It allows you to drill down into consumer essentials, restaurants, rent and utilities. Then to get a larger picture, you can compare one city with another, so you can see what costs more, what costs less, and whether your spending power is up or down in your new home.
Cost of Living Comparison Between London and Copenhagen
- Consumer Prices in Copenhagen are 9.7% higher than in London (without rent)
- Consumer Prices Including Rent in Copenhagen are 9.5% lower than in London
- Rent Prices in Copenhagen are 32.9% lower than in London
- Restaurant Prices in Copenhagen are 26.9% higher than in London
- Groceries Prices in Copenhagen are 19.3% higher than in London
- Local Purchasing Power in Copenhagen is 8.3% higher than in London
Once you’ve got the raw data from Numbeo, it’s worth taking a look at Quora and Reddit for stories from Danes, or expats who’ve made the move before you. Both sites rely on questions to drive them, so if you can’t find what you’re looking for, post your own. Not only can you get fascinating insights managing your budget in Denmark, you may also make some useful contacts.
Whilst the cost of living may look high, remember that salaries in Denmark are also higher than in the UK. Here’s a list of typical salaries:
- Mobile Developer – £76,920
- Office Manager – £57,505
- Admin Assistant – £52,579
If you’re not currently a cyclist, chances are that living in Denmark will turn you into one. There are more bicycles in Denmark than there are people – which gives a pretty clear idea of how seriously Danes take their cycling. The bicycle is used for commuting, getting to school, travelling across the city, and 9 out of 10 people in Denmark own a bike.
The Danish love of cycling is matched and facilitated by the urban infrastructure. There are broad, well-maintained cycle lanes, with their own signals, criss-crossing all of Denmark’s cities. Urban planners are currently working to extend the cycle superhighway infrastructure across the whole country. The vision is for 45 routes, each providing commuters with a direct, safe and comfortable alternative to trains, buses or cars.
Another reason why cycling is so popular is that Denmark a largely flat country – so if you’re new to cycling, you couldn’t find a gentler introduction!
Doctor’s Appointments and Prescriptions
Denmark has an excellent healthcare system, but you will wait at least a month to be assigned a local GP. It’s a good idea, therefore, to make an appointment with your GP before leaving the UK, especially if you’re on any prescription drugs. GPs deal with this situation all the time so they’ll be able to allocate you a larger batch of your medication to help bridge the gap.
If you don’t already have a digital copy of your medical records, you should request this. It makes the transition smoother between countries if you’re able to pass on digitalised records at your first appointment in Denmark.
Documentation for Denmark
It’s far better to have too much documentation when you’re moving abroad, rather than finding there’s a missing piece once you get there.
- Passport (must have 6 months left on it)
- Residence Permit for Work
- Birth Certificate
- Medical Records
- Insurance documents
- School Records (for children of school age)
- National Insurance Number
- Marriage Certificate (if appropriate)
- Driver’s License
- Tax Records
- Divorce/Child Custody Papers (if appropriate)
- Adoption Papers (if appropriate)
- Pet Vaccination Records (if appropriate)
We would also recommend having a hard copy of each document – just in case!
Driving in Denmark
UK residents in Denmark require a Danish, or European license in order to drive a car there. If your UK license was issued prior to January 1st 2021 you can exchange it for a Danish one. This needs to be done no later than 6 months after you move to Denmark1. If the deadline is missed, you’ll be required to take the Danish driving test in order to acquire a license.
It’s worth checking out the rules of driving in Denmark. Key differences include:
- Failing to signal when changing lanes could land you with a £100 fine
- Headlights are required to be on at all times
- Speed limits: 50km/h in cities. 80km/h outside cities. 130km/h on highways.
- Tyres should be switched for summer and winter use
If you have plans to explore Denmark by car, the Marguerite Road is a must. It takes in the most stunning natural landscapes in the country, and over 200 sights, cities and attractions. It’s well signposted, in fact there’s even a free app created by the Danish Nature Agency to help you navigate the route.
There’s all kinds of reasons why you might find yourself out of pocket in your first month of living in Denmark. It could be that you need to access medical treatment prior to your insurance kicking in, or unexpected costs related to moving into a new house or apartment. Creating an emergency fund provides you with a ‘cushion’ for any unexpected events, and reduces the potential for stress.
Finding Somewhere to Live
Whether you start looking for property to rent in Denmark before you move, or you decide to look once you arrive, don’t expect your search to be simple. Rental properties are hard to come by in Copenhagen or Aarhus, and much easier elsewhere. If you’re headed for a major city you’ll need to commit a good deal of time – and patience – before you find something suitable.
Apartments of all shapes and sizes come furnished or unfurnished in Demark, and are referred to as lejebolig. Even if you opt for an unfurnished apartment, you’re likely to find the kitchen ready for use with – at least – an oven and a fridge. Your landlord will ask for documentation to prove you are legally resident, and you’ll need to produce an employment contract.
The amount required for a deposit and prepaid rent is pretty steep in Denmark. Your landlord can request up to 3 months of each. This is the equivalent of 6 months’ rent plus your first month in advance. This is the maximum though, not the standard amount requested. Here’s a list of average monthly rentals for Copenhagen:
- Single room £460 – £675
- Small 1 bedroom studios or apartments £950 – £1,150
- 2 Bedroom apartments £1,500 – £1,700
There are a number of useful sites where you can start your search:
Language – Do You Need to Speak Danish?
It is perfectly possible to live and work in Denmark without being able to speak Danish. You may find yourself working for an English-speaking company; you may even get to work in an English-speaking office. Having said that, there are a number of reasons why learning Danish is an excellent idea.
- Make Social Events Easier. Sounds trite but imagine having a drink with some work colleagues all of whom are speaking English to accommodate you. It’ll get wearing after a while, no-one wants to keep translating their jokes for your benefit!
- Let Danes Help. Learning a foreign language makes you vulnerable; you’ll make gaffes along the way. This can be an excellent way to laugh at yourself, break down defences and show you appreciate help.
- Grow Your Understanding of Denmark. Once you start to learn the language, you’ll start to understand where you’re living better. No longer a tourist, you’ll begin to find out what people you work around care about and laugh at.
Removals to Denmark
Want your move from the UK to Denmark to feel effortless? Then spend some time researching the right company for you. It’s a worthwhile investment, as choosing the wrong company can make removals an uphill struggle from start to finish. Schepens has been providing removals to Denmark for over a century now; based on our experience, we’ve created a checklist to help you find the right removals to Denmark for your requirements.
Questions to Ask When Choosing a Removals Company for Moving to Norway
Removals to Denmark requires specialist knowledge to do it well, so you want to be sure that your removals company has a track record for European removals. Small moving companies appear and disappear overnight; you want to be sure that you have a reliable, experienced team supporting you.
Every removals company has its specialist area and ideally you want one that specialises in removals to Scandinavia, or northern Europe. Doing so means that the information they give you about customs will be reliable, and that the drivers they use will have extensive experience of Danish roads – summer and winter.
Why does this matter? A removals company that makes regular runs to Denmark (once a week for example) will be able to offer you more affordable pricing. Movers regularly shipping to Denmark will be able to accommodate flexible scheduling, and offer you a full or part load option.
Most removals companies say they offer this, but you should press to find out whether they’re offering a ‘ball park figure’ or a detailed quotation based on your specific requirements. They’ll be two very different figures.
Beware of removals companies that don’t have reviews relating to the route you’re interested in. Take a look at their social media, their website, their Google My Business page, Trustpilot, Reviews.co.uk. Look specifically for reviews to your chosen country. If you can’t find any, ask them directly.
Your removal company should, as a matter of course, provide insurance covering your goods whilst they are in transit from one location to another.
If you’re moving to Denmark for work, you may decide to put goods in storage whilst you’re abroad. If your chosen removals company also offers self-storage you can get both jobs done at the same time. Once you arrive in Denmark you may require storage whilst you look for somewhere to live.
A removals company with a fleet of vehicles, making regular runs to Scandinavia, should need no more than a month’s notice to schedule in your move.
If you simply don’t have the time to pack up the house yourself, you’ll need a professional packing service to do the job for you. Check that this is part of the offering, and that sturdy, professional packing materials are used.
A move co-ordinator with experience of managing moves to locations across Denmark and Scandinavia is a major asset for your move. They will guide you through each stage of the process and offer detailed information on customs and logistics.
If you’re planning to take a pet with you to your new home in Denmark you will need the following: An up-to-date pet passport; a microchip for your pet, and a rabies vaccination administered more than 21 days before your departure date but less than 1 year ago.
Certain dog breeds are forbidden entry to Denmark because they are considered a danger. The list includes the Pitbull Terrier and the American Staffordshire Terrier. A complete list can be found here.
Local Knowledge – Where Will You Eat?
It’s inevitable that you’ll spend a few days with you head buried in admin as you prepare for your move. It’s easy, under such circumstances, to forget the more exciting aspects of moving to a new country. One of these has to be trying out the speciality food on offer in your new home. Spend a happy hour or two taking a look at local restaurants and planning which one you’ll try first.
The climate in Denmark tends to remain temperate throughout the year, thanks to the prevalence of south-westerly winds. The coldest month tends to be February when temperatures regularly hit 0°C, and the warmest month is July when the temperatures get up to around 21°C. Expect rain at any time of the year, although September through to November is usually the wettest period.
WHEN YOU ARRIVE IN DENMARK
Anyone with a Residence Permit can open a bank account in Denmark, and the process is refreshingly easy. All banks are open from 10-4 on weekdays, with extended opening hours to 5.00pm on Thursdays. Most banks charge banking fees.
3 of the most high profile banks in Demark are:
In order to open your bank account you’ll need a CPR number and your passport. Once your account’s up and running you’ll be able to get a NemID which is used for secure logins and your digital signature. You’ll also be able to link to NemKonto (Easy Account) which allows you to receive public sector payments (child benefit, tax rebate etc.).
Once you get your Residence Permit, you’ll receive the all powerful CPR card (Det Centrale Personregister), otherwise known as the ‘yellow card’. This means that you’re a Danish citizen and the 10 digits on your card are both your personal registration number and your health insurance number. The number is also needed for:
- Opening a bank account
- Joining a public library
- Tax returns
- Signing a property rental agreement
- Mobile phone contract
- Gym membership
Culture shock is inevitable when you move abroad, it’s just the degree to which you experience it that’s in question. What is it? Simply put, it’s the feeling you get when everyone seems to know what they’re doing except you. Like starting secondary school all over again. Some people love the challenge of a new culture, others find it uncomfortable and unsettling. Nobody really knows how it will hit them, until it does.
One thing’s certain; you’ll get through culture shock. It can help to think of it as a journey from incomprehension to adaptation. There are four stages that most people experience:
This is where you still feel like you’re on an extended holiday. Everything is fresh and you’re intoxicated by the new sights, smells and tastes you’re experiencing. You’re SO happy that you made the decision to move to Denmark and every day is exciting.
It’s impossible to sustain holiday energy forever, but the come down leaves you feeling dull and tired. It starts to feel exhausting to have to do everything differently. Trying to order a takeaway leaves you weepy. Being excluded from after-work drinks makes your feel desperately lonely. Suddenly Denmark feel unfriendly and closed off; you wonder if it would be OK to go home.
We adapt, we can’t help it – it’s what human beings do. As days go by you’ll find out how to do more things and you won’t feel so isolated. Buying a stamp will become possible, people at work will start including you, and you’ll get to know your bit of the city. Gradually you’ll start feeling like you belong.
You’re nearly there. A foreign city will never feel like home, but you can accept that it’s different and still enjoy it. Adaptation is all about accepting things are different rather than trying to make them the same. It’s only when we let our guard down that we’re able to relax. There will always be things you don’t like about your new home, but hopefully you’ll also having a growing list of things you love about it, too.
Digital by Default
The phrase ‘Digital by Default’ is used to describe an infrastructure which makes digital interactions so simple that anyone able to use them would do so unhesitatingly. Many governments sign up to the concept, but lag on the practice. Denmark is proud of the fact that they really do lead the world in this area.
Almost all financial and official transactions can now be done digitally. All documents can now be signed digitally, and Danish healthcare relies on an online booking system. The aim is to remove paper waste, make people’s lives easier, and create a sustainable infrastructure. Seems to be working!
Formal education in Denmark starts at the age of 6, but many children are placed in daycare from the age of 9 months. 98% of 3 years olds attend kindergarten. Throughout the education system, the emphasis is placed on social collaboration. Children work in groups, they are taught to problem-solve, and they’re encouraged to challenge established ways of doing things.
Education is free in Denmark and residents can choose the school their child attends so long as there are places available. Not speaking Danish isn’t a barrier to entry. English speakers are either given extra support, or they’re taught in a group with other English speakers. If you’re only staying in Denmark for a year or so, you may wish to enrol your child in an International school. Normally their first language is English, and they teach the International Baccalaureate.
The first thing many Danes do after work on a summer’s evening in Copenhagen is to dive into the crystal clear waters of the harbour in the centre of the city. Demark isn’t ‘green’ because it has to be; it’s green because it’s cool and hip to be so. This attitude comes from the top down, environmental and human factors have to take priority in town and city planning.
Copenhagen aims to be carbon-neutral by 2025. A milestone along the way is the amazing Copenhill project. The primary function of Copenhill is to turn waste into energy for the city. What makes it an iconic building though, is the all year round ski slope on the roof, surrounded by trees, and a running trail with its own micro-climate. Not only that, the walls of the building form the highest artificial climbing wall in the world.
The healthcare in Denmark is of an exceptionally high standard, and it’s universally free to all residents. The quality of care means that the private sector is small, and the majority of issues can be covered by the primary care sector (GPs, dentists), whilst specialist medical procedures are covered by the secondary care sector at hospitals and clinics.
Call (+45) 112 for life threatening medical emergencies and ask for the ambulance service. Call (+45) 1813 for injuries or sudden illness requiring that you speak to a nurse or doctor, or you an go to a hospital emergency department.
Hygge (pronounced hoo-ga)
Danish winters are long and rainy, hygge is a way of coping with them. It’s original meaning was to break up the monotony of a deary day by making an act the simple celebration. It could be lighting a candle, or taking time to make the perfect cup of coffee and drink it by the fire. In this way, simple, personal actions become an art form.
A hygge moment is one in which you’re fully present (you might also call it mindfulness). Taking the moment for what it is, without desiring anything else, brings calm, contentment and happiness with friends. The Danes revere these simple pleasures and look for ways to bring them into the home, and the workplace.
Maybe Denmark’s reputation be happiness has something to do with its consumption of sweets (not including chocolate). It has the highest consumption per capita in the world at 7.81kg.
Much of that consumption will take the form of liquorice, which comes in a bewildering array of options. You can buy salty liquorice (most popular), sweet liquorice, liquorice gummies, liquorice toffee, liquorice chewing gum, liquorice mints and liquorice allsorts.
Making Friends and Creating a Support Network
A support network can make all the difference in your first few weeks living in Denmark. Just knowing that you can go out for a drink, see people, and have a meltdown if you need to is terrifically important. It can be hard knowing where to start with meeting people and making friends, so we’ve come up with 5 suggestions to get you started:
- Start With Expats. This is the easiest place to begin; expats will already have gone through what you’re going through now, and they’ll show you the ropes. All major cities have expat groups on Facebook. Look in Groups for your city or area.
- Get Chatting, in Danish. If you’re serious about learning the language, you could also make friends at the same time. Danish cities have Language Exchange meet-ups and you can tailor your exchange to your skill level.
- Get Singing. Choral groups are extremely popular in Denmark, as are crafting and cookery groups. Find one that you’d enjoy, and give it a go. The social pressure’s off because the focus is on ‘doing’, so you’ll get to meet people gradually, over time.
- Join a Sports Group. Running is a really popular sport in Denmark, as is handball, swimming, tennis and cycling – in fact there are sports clubs for just about everything you can imagine.
- Volunteer. If you’ve had any experience of volunteering you’ll know it’s a brilliant way to meet new people. Find a local volunteer group that appeals to you and ask to get involved. It’ll give you a different kind of introduction to your new home.
Aalborg has a young population because it’s the location of Denmark’s top university. I like the energy you get from a new influx of students each year, and it guarantees a great nightlife! The city is also a great jumping-off spot for exploring the rest of Scandinavia. The international airport has daily flights to Oslo, Copenhagen, Gothenburg, Stockholm. We also have the prestigious Nordkraft sports centre where all the major sporting events happen.
Aarhus is Denmark’s second largest city, but it feels more like a town. It’s the place to be if you’re into arts and culture as it has a lively and dynamic art scene. On Sunday mornings everyone hangs out with friends in the cafes beside the canal that runs through the centre and that sums up the city. Very laid back, warm and friendly – a really welcoming place.
Most of the expats who arrive in Copenhagen with a 12 month contract, don’t want to leave at the end of it. It’s a large city, but what makes it feel different are the values that run through it. It’s a safe place to walk at night. Cycling is how you get around. Restaurants sell sustainable food. It’s massively expensive, but salaries are high and most people seem happy with the life they lead here.
Public Transport and Commuting
In Copenhagen you can travel by bus, metro, harbour bus, electric scooter, bike or electric bike. The city is divided into zones and you can get travel passes that give unlimited travel in the area you want covered. You can also pay in-person at the start of your journey.
DSB Trains run between Copenhagen and Aarhus (3 hours), Copenhagen and Aalborg (4 hours) and there’s an extensive network across the country. There’s also the option to travel by coach, with a number of routes serving smaller towns as well as large cities. Ferries are a popular way to travel in Denmark, and trips to the hundreds of small islands are provided by a range of passenger ferry lines.
Football is by far the most popular sport in Denmark and there’s a domestic league made up of 12 teams. European and international football is watched as eagerly in Denmark as anywhere else in the world and there’s lots of sports bars streaming major matches. After that comes ice hockey, cycling and handball. Denmark has taken handball to its heart. There are 150,000 registered players in the country, and the national women’s team have picked up 3 Olympic gold medals.
5 Things About Working in Denmark
Workplaces may look pretty standard the world over, but the way people behave in them differs quite a bit from one country to another. Not knowing how Danish work culture is different from UK work culture could leave you feeling bewildered in your first week. We’ve picked out 5 key differences to watch out for:
- Don’t Try to Impress the Boss. You might have a hard time working out who the boss is! Danes favour a flat management structure where teamwork is prioritised over traditional hierarchies. The aim is to eliminate competition and encourage everyone to work together.
- Shortest Working Week in Europe. 37 hours is the standard length of a working week in Denmark. And Danes tend to make sure they stick to it. The idea is that you should be able to get your work done in the time allotted, so there’s no need to work extra. If you’re doing longer hours, you need to make adjustments to what’s expected of you.
- Toms Skildpaddle Treats. If you’re looking for a treat for the office, these won’t go amiss. They’re one of the most popular chocolates in Denmark, beloved by all. Shaped like a turtle, they’re filled with cream, rum and caramel. An acquired taste you think? Just wait, you’ll be filling your suitcase with them when you come back to the UK.
- Healthy Work/Life Balance. The need to spend time away from work relaxing and with family is wholeheartedly respected in Finland. No-one is expected to put work before home. The responsibility lies with everyone to ensure that a healthy balance is achieved. Sheer altruism? Partly. The Danes rank amongst the most productive and hard-working in Europe.
- Flexicurity. The Danish government recognises that businesses need to be able to reconfigure their workforce in response to market demands. If, however, you are an employee that suffers because of this, you will be compensated by a generous unemployment benefit of up to 90% of your salary for 2 years.
Are You Moving to Denmark From the UK?
Schepens is a family-run business (now in our 4th generation) that’s been providing removals to Denmark for over a century. We’re proud of the reputation we’ve built over that time for being the leading UK removals company for people moving to Scandinavia.
Over the decades we’ve moved students, solo professionals and families to Copenhagen, Aarhus, Aalborg and locations across the country. We make weekly runs runs to Denmark which means our European teams know the country well, understand the custom clearance procedure, and are regular users of the road systems. Best of all, it means we’re able to offer affordable pricing, flexible scheduling and full or part load shipping to our movers,
Our goal is to provide movers with ‘stress-free removals’. For us it’s all about paying careful attention to every single aspect of the moving process, from you first call to arriving in your new home. Nothing is left to chance, and nothing is too much trouble for us.
“Just a quick email to say a huge thanks to Schepens for such a great service in getting my furniture to Røskilde – you have made my move to Denmark so much easier than I had expected. You can be very proud of your service and your staff, and from my perspective it was refreshing to be treated and respected as a customer, and not just treated as a number on an invoice. Very well done indeed.”