Copenhagen, Denmark Report of what it's like to live there - 05/01/14

Personal Experiences from Copenhagen, Denmark

Copenhagen, Denmark 05/01/14

Background:

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

No, I have lived in many other cities around the world.

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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?

DC - easy direct flight or connection in Europe.

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3. How long have you lived here?

2 years.

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

U.S. Government.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

People without kids live in the city it what are generally very nice two or three-bedroom apartments within minutes from the Embassy. Families live out in the suburbs if they want to be close to the school, though there are large apartments in the city if they want to live there. The biggest downside to the houses are that Danish houses rarely have more than two bathrooms even if the house has five bedrooms. Some of the houses only have 1.5 bathrooms for multiple bedrooms!

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

You probably won't find American brands but you can get anything you want. Anything else you can order on Amazon since this is a DPO post.

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

Nothing. You may not have any storage so think carefully about stocking up before you arrive.

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

Available but expensive. Save your fast food money and try some of the great restaurants in Copenhagen. "New Nordic Cuisine" is based on fresh, locally sourced ingredients and is artfully prepared.

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

Literally none.

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Daily Life:

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

DPO. Most things arrive in one week.

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

Ha ha ha ha. This is one of the ten most expensive cities in the world and minimum wage is about US$21/hour.

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

The Embassy has a sufficient gym and there are regular gyms you can join just like in the U.S. - more expensive, of course.

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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?

You will probably open an account in Denmark and use their local "chip" card (Dankort); that is what everyone does. If you want to use a U.S. credit card, request one with a chip from your card company and then you can use it all over Denmark and Europe.

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

Absoutely none.

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

Probably - there are many historical buildings and apartments that are only walk-ups.

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Transportation:

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

Yes. All are affordable except taxis which can get pricey.

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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?

You really don't need one unless you have kids and are dead set on driving them around instead of using public transport. Many people would park their cars for so long their batteries would go dead or they would forget where they had parked.

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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?

I had the most speedy package for about US$100/month.

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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?

We brought unlocked phones from the U.S. and bought scratch cards to reload them.

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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?

No quarantine; good pet care though prices in line with everything else.

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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?

No. Though all Danes know English (well), Danish is spoken in virtually all work places. In my time here there was only one spouse who worked on the local economy.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Not really a ton since this is a social welfare state but I'm sure with a little work you could find some.

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

Business casual. Danes rarely wear ties even at the highest level of government.

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Health & Safety:

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

None. A recent security notice from the Embassy warned of a demonstration held by something like 50 public school teachers protesting some issue - the teachers were on bikes, with children holding balloons, probably handing out free licorice while they went down the street. Ah, life in Denmark.

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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?

No, sufficient medical care plus a nurse in the med unit.

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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?

Almost flawless.

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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?

This is the Achilles heel of Denmark - the weather. Winter is long and dark and summer is short but very light. You have to take advantage of both nice days of weather each year.

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Expat Life:

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

Pretty big community although it's sometimes hard to meet other people unless you put a little effort into it. Morale can be surprisingly low for some. People think this is their magical fairy-land post but it is still a forgein country with rules and traditions that are not like the U.S. I've met people that seemed not to have even googled Copenhagen before they bid on it and didn't make the connection between a 65% COLA and the fact that it means that things cost 65% more than in DC, which is not a cheap city. The other unhappy group of people here can't deal with the weather. If you love summer and/or hate winter, you need to think twice or three times before you bid on Denmark or any other Northern European country. The temperature rarely goes above 70F even in the middle of the summer and it is cold and dark during the very long winters. If you can get beyond the cost and the weather, you will probably love it here.

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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?

Anything and everything. Go out, stay in, movies, theatre, opera, parks, lakes, beaches, amusement parks, museums, castles, etc.

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

Yes to all of the above but a little quiet for singles who want a really active nightlife.

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

Absolutely! Possibly the most tolerant city in the world, literally.

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

Danes can be a little unwelcoming for immigrants, but definitely no problems with religious or gender prejudices.

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

The unbelievable system of bike paths around the country, the ability to live without a car, the appreciation of such a serene country where people appreciate family and have a real work/life balance. The hours are the Embassy are 8:30 - 5 and few people work late.

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

Getting out of Copenhagen and exploring all the little islands of Denmark. Enjoying a simple picnic on the pristine beaches watching Danes swim in the frigid water (even in the winter). Visiting one of the many museums in Copenhagen and having a fabulous meal at a cafe on a blustery winter day.

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

Some Danish handicrafts but the beautiful Danish design pieces don't work with the State Department furniture so I wasn't even tempted!

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

This is a beautiful, peaceful country and Copenhagen is a very manageable city with tons of attractions. The travel around Denmark and Scandinavia is amazing.

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10. Can you save money?

The COLA is a significant amount of money but once you go out to eat and do some travelling, there won't be much left.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

It is hard to grasp what a Nordic winter really is like. It didn't bother me but it was still a shock. It really doesn't get super cold like I thought it would (rarely gets below 20F) but it officially rains 175 days a year and there's only five or six hours of gloomy "sunlight" during the winter.

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

Absolutely.

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

Bikes so that you can buy really cute bikes in Denmark.

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4. But don't forget your:

Good quality winter-wear and rain gear.

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5. Do you have any other comments?

The Danes are very hard to get to know. You will probably spend the vast majority of your time with Americans and other expats. If you can avoid the people who spend their days complaining about the costs and the weather, you have the potential of exploring a hidden gem of a country.

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