Copenhagen, Denmark Report of what it's like to live there - 02/08/14
Personal Experiences from Copenhagen, Denmark
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
No. I've also lived in the Middle East and Europe.
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?
Washington. There is a direct, but the contract fare for the embassy connects in either London or Amsterdam.
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Good size apartments in the city, near the Embassy. And decent houses in the northern suburbs. 10-20 minutes commute time.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
You can get almost everything here. Again, prices are high. Anything you specifically need and can't find can be delivered via Amazon.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
With amazon/Walmart and a DPO, almost everything is possible.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Yes, cost is high compare to the U.S., but that is true for everything here. In comparison to sit-down dinners, the fast food prices are cheap.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
I think I saw a bee last week. Seriously though, no bug issues at all.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
DPO. Good service, typically less than a week from the U.S.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Limited and expensive.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Yes. The gym at the Embassy is small, but if you need more, there are plenty around.
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?
Everyone uses them, everywhere. Danes hardly use cash at all. They use the pin and chip card, but most will take a U.S. debit card as long as you have a 4 digit pin. A signature-based credit card will be accepted at most places, but many aren't as used to dealing with them.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
All of them can be found somewhere in the city.
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
None. Almost everyone in town speaks English very well.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Yes, yes, and yes. Public transport is safe and runs mostly on time. Copenhagen residents use bikes and trains to get anywhere in less than 30 minutes.
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?
You don't need one, but they are nice to have for IKEA trips or going to the supermarket (rather than the small corner market). Bring something small if you plan to live in the city (due to parking), but in the suburbs most people have a driveway, so bring whatever you want. If you live in the city, you will likely find that you need to go start your car once a week just to make sure all is well as you haven't driven it at all.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes. Streaming speeds are normal with almost no outage issues. I don't recall the cost being too high.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Getting a SIM card is easy through the embassy. Bring a GSM phone or you can get one here. If you want a smart phone, bring an unlocked version and you will be fine.
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?
Not sure. Quality pet care is available.
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?
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
No. Safer than any U.S. city I have ever lived in.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
No concerns. Quality is high. The Danes take a more hands-off approach to things than some Americans are comfortable with. In addition, as it is a single payer, government run system, some Americans find the impersonal feel to things a bit different.
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?
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Dark and wet for 8 months a year, very bright and slightly less wet in the summer. Summer can be absolutely wonderful, but the darkness in the winter can be a challenge.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
No personal experience. There are three in town. Most embassy kids go to CIS, but there are two other English speaking school in the city as well as a French school.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
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?
Yes, through the local government if they are over a year old.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Small compared to the major EU cities. Morale is lower than one would think. It is a combination of things really. The weather in the winter leads to a feeling of hibernation in the city. In addition, this place loses the battle with extremely high expectations. People expect it to be a Scandinavian fairy tale, and while it is a great city, modern European life is not as convenient as most Americans desire.
2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
This is a modern, first world city, most things are available, but everything is more expensive than it is back home.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
All of the above.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
Possibly the best one in the world.
5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Gender, not at all. Race, some, but nothing significant. Danes aren't really religious anymore, though traditional Protestant themes and holidays are the basis of official Denmark.
6. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Lots of history to see, the Danish royals built some amazing castles over the last 500 years and unlike a lot of Europe, Denmark was all but untouched by the war, so they are all in great shape.
7. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Jewelry and design items, furniture.
8. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
The weather! Okay, that was a joke. First world -- everything works, everyone speaks English, and the city is quite nice.
9. Can you save money?
Hahahahaha....not if you want to have a social life. If you are a home body, than maybe a little bit.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
If you haven't been on a bike since elementary school, get some practice prior to arrival. Morning rush hour is not the time to figure out that you aren't very good at going through a crowd.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
It has been a solid experience, but I don't think we will come back to Europe.
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Car (if you are going to be in an apartment).
4. But don't forget your:
Waterproof clothing and other assorted rain gear.
5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
Do a wiki search on Jante law. It has both positive and negative effects on Danish society, but the undercurrent of social conformity is ever present.
6. Do you have any other comments?
Denmark is a high functioning, cohesive society. However, it promotes the average rather than incentivize excellence. This comes out in many ways, big and small. The people are friendly, despite what expats say, but they tend to be less superficially friendly than Americans. The city is small by big city standards and can even feel quiet many nights a week. Keep your expectations realistic and you will have a nice, quiet couple of years.