Copenhagen, Denmark Report of what it's like to live there - 08/07/11

Personal Experiences from Copenhagen, Denmark

Copenhagen, Denmark 08/07/11

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No. Lived in New Delhi and Luxembourg.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Texas, 17-20 hours average travel time.

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3. How long have you lived here?

3 years.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

US Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Mostly apartments in the city for singles, couples and even couples with small children. Others live in houses out near the school. Be prepared for noise in the city. You will hear your neighbors and they can hear you. The summer especially, since no A/C's are needed and everyone leaves their windows open. This also means you hear everything on the streets and in the summer people like to party late with sunset not until midnight.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

They are all expensive but everything is available. One thing to note is US products are not always available (perhaps due to import protection laws) and you will need to find substitutes. Unfortunately, you will not find English on many of the products for description, ingredients, or instructions. You will need to ask people to assist you in the stores which they are happy to do.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Just specialty items/brands that I like to use.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Many, but they are all expensive. A typical lunch for two at a restaurant will cost around US$40-$50. You can get a hot dog or burger from a street vendor for about US$6-$7, not including a drink or any sides.

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5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?

All is available.

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6. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

None really. Harmless spiders in the summer and sometimes mosquitoes.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

DPO.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Forget about it.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Yes.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

ATMs/banks are everywhere. However, credit/debit cards that do not have a "chip" and PIN will not be accepted at most businesses. Be sure to bring one or you will be frustrated.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Yes, all.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Yes, but older programs on TV and the English newspaper some people call a "rag". Our cable came with the apartment rent.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

It helps to read a little since not much is written in English except in the tourist paths.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

It is a walking/bike riding city with some apartments that still have no elevator. Be sure to ask if this is a concern.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Absolutely safe. You can get monthly passes or clip cards to reduce the price. A 10 clip card costs about US$31, but that doesn't last long. There are also "zones" which means you may have to clip more than once or buy a clip card for the number of zones you'll be traveling. It's a little confusing at first but you'll get the hang of it. Taxis can be expensive as well but are used regularly by locals when public transport just doesn't match the occasion.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Small for getting into parking spaces. If you live in the city you do not need a car. Public transportation is faster, not so expensive if you get a monthly pass, and easier. Better yet, do as the locals do and bring your bikes. Car repair is very expensive.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes, about $40.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

I didn't use mine much, so I had an old one just for basic stuff, but everything is available for a price.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

There are jobs for highly qualified, although they do prefer to hire Danes.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Depends on the job, just like in the US.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

None.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Medical care can be expedited if you are paying for it, otherwise you can sometimes have a wait for services.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Excellent!!

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Winters are dark and cold. The temp in the morning when you go out is the same all day in the winter, as there is not much sunlight. Since it is on an island it can be breezy/windy most days with rain, which can make it biting at times. Summers have gloriously sunny days, but the temps stay in the 70's most of mid-day. As they say there is no bad weather, just bad attire :-) Be prepared for rain and cold in the winter and carry a sweater for the shade in the summer.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Yes.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Large but dispersed.

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2. Morale among expats:

Most have negative comments about being accepted in the Danish culture beyond greetings.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Among expats mostly, but occassionally you will make a Danish acquaintance.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Yes, but you must make the effort to get involved. Danes are very club-oriented so join one that matches your interests and you will do fine.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Absolutely. Denmark was the first country to legally recognize gay marraige.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Danes typically no longer practice a faith and you will even see/hear some derogatory comments about "mythology". Despite their touted "tolerance" of other races, you will still hear or see some practice of discrimination against immigrants. However, this has more to do with "being Danish" or not, as the case may be, than it has to do with race.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Traveling and enjoying friends.

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Too many to list, but it is a great city for people with kids as well as for people who like night life.

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Lanterns, nissers, Royal Copenhagen china, George Jensen designs or other Danish design items.

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Great place to recoup from a hardship tour as everyone speaks English and everything is available, albeit opening hours are not like in the US.

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11. Can you save money?

Forget about it.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

I would have visited, but I think I prefer continental Europe.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Garden supplies/furniture unless you are fortunate enough to get a house. There are not even balconies on most of the apartments.

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3. But don't forget your:

Picnic basket and blanket! Danes love to picnic in the parks and it's a fun afternoon/evening. They will have concerts/events/movies in the parks in the summer too. Get the game Kub (or King's Game) when you get there too.

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4. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

If you want to understand the culture read about the vikings. Also read about Danish Design and Karen Blixen (Author of Out of Africa)

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6. Do you have any other comments?

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