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Moving to Denmark

Expats moving to Denmark will find that despite being a small country – with a population of just over 5.7 million people – it has a complex underlying character.

Denmark comprises more than 400 islands, and while the Jutland Peninsula shares a land border with Germany, most of the population live on islands. Only 70 of the islands are populated, and the largest, Zealand, is where Denmark's capital, Copenhagen, is located, and where around ten percent of the country's population lives.

Denmark is an increasingly popular expat destination, as the Danish government, industry and higher education institutions are all keen on greater internationalisation.

Generally, Denmark is a high wage, tax and welfare economy. The labour market is governed by the concept of 'flexicurity', which means that government policy and labour market legislation are guided by a high degree of market flexibility while providing substantial security through the welfare system.

Denmark has one of the lowest low-income inequality measures among OECD countries – that is, the gap between senior executives and factory floor workers is smaller than most other places. It must be said, however, that the cost of living in Denmark is high.

The Danish language is closely related to Swedish and Norwegian. It is not unusual to find a Dane and a Swede conversing together quite happily, each in their own language, each understanding the other but neither wanting to adopt the other’s tongue. English is compulsory in secondary schools and most people, particularly in urban areas, can speak it well. This makes it is quite easy for expats to be lazy about learning Danish, even though local authorities provide free or subsidised language courses to a high level. Danish hosts will nevertheless appreciate at least some effort being made to get to grips with their language. Furthermore, despite many larger companies adopting English as their company language, it remains difficult to do as well career-wise without at least some Danish.

Despite its small size, Denmark has much to offer expats in terms of culture, sport and outdoor life. Visitors are often surprised at how unpopulated some parts of the country are. Being a peninsula and a series of islands, there is no shortage of coastline and water-based activities are very popular. Denmark is also in a fantastic position for regional travel, with land and sea links to countries such as Germany, Sweden, Norway, Poland and the UK. 

Essential Info for Denmark

Population: About 5.7 million

Capital city: Copenhagen

Neighbouring countries: Most of the country is bordered by the North Sea. Denmark's only land border is Germany in the south.

Geography: Denmark is made up of a large land mass surrounded by nearly 500 islands. The geography of Denmark is primarily made up of flat plains and sandy coastline.

Political system: Unitary parliamentary constitutional monarchy

Major religions: Christianity

Main languages: Danish, but most of the population can also speak English.

Money: The Danish krone (DKK) is divided into 100 øre. The banking system is efficient and easy to use. ATMs are widely available.

Tipping: By law, all service charges (including gratuity) are included in the price billed, but additional tips can be given for good service.

Time: GMT+2 (+1 from the last Sunday in March to the last Sunday in October)

Electricity: 230V, 50Hz. Plugs have two round pins and some have an additional grounding pin.

Internet domain: .dk

International dialling code: +45

Emergency contacts: 112

Transport and driving: Cars drive on the right-hand side of the road. Denmark is well served by public transport systems including trains, buses and ferries.

Weather in Denmark

Denmark has a mild, temperate climate with short summers and long winters when temperatures can drop below freezing.

The summer months are between June and August with the warmest month being July. Temperatures are usually mild with the average being around 20°C (68°F).

Winter runs from December to March with temperatures hovering around 0°C (32°F). Frost and snow are common during winter, so it's best to bundle up with warm clothes to avoid a chill. 

Strong winds blow throughout Denmark on a near-constant basis; these winds are utilised in Denmark's wind power industry amd produce nearly half of the country's electricity.

Weather in Denmark

Public Holidays in Denmark

 

2019

2020

New Years Day

1 January

1 January

Maundy Thursday

18 April

9 April

Good Friday

19 April

10 April

Easter Monday

22 April

13 April

General Prayer Day

17 May

8 May

Ascension Day

30 May

21 May

Whit Sunday

9 June

31 May

Whit Monday

21 May

1 June

Constitution Day

5 June

5 June

Christmas Eve

24 December

24 December

Christmas Day

25 December

25 December

Boxing Day

26 December

26 December

Working in Denmark

Denmark's strong economy makes it a desirable place to work, and while the country has much to offer, expats looking for employment in Denmark will find that it comes with its fair set of challenges. However, once they have overcome the hurdle of finding a job, expats should be able to get into the swing of things with relative ease.


Job market in Denmark

Most expats moving to Denmark do so with a job in hand, whether as the result of an intra-company transfer or after having been headhunted. These expats often take up positions in science, technology, research and higher education. Other strong sectors in Denmark that may be a source of employment for expats include agriculture, tourism and transport.

Many large companies in Denmark have put measures in place to recruit and retain highly skilled expats. Some have also adopted English as their company language, which makes life easier for expats.


Finding a job in Denmark

Networks are an established and necessary part of finding a job in Denmark. There is a high level of mobility in the job market, which is often facilitated through networking. LinkedIn is a good way for expats to tap into a network and get to know local companies. 

Online job portals and recruitment agencies are also good resources, though expats will have to find a way to stand out from hordes of other applicants.


Work culture in Denmark

Most Danish businesses are characterised by a relatively flat structure and relations between different levels within an organisation are usually quite informal. The downside of this is that decision lines are less obvious and it might be difficult for expats to know who to talk to about particular issues.

Considerable importance is placed on discussion and reaching consensus; expats will be expected to make a positive contribution to discussions and decisions. Teamwork and co-operation are valued in all sorts of businesses, and employees are expected to be motivated and committed to doing their best.

Doing Business in Denmark

Denmark has an open and robust economy driven by technology and innovation. This, along with world-class infrastructure, a highly educated workforce and a standard of living among the highest in the world, means that doing business in Denmark is an attractive prospect. 

As the southernmost Scandinavian country, Denmark occupies a strategic position as a gateway into the rest of the region. As such, many international corporations have regional offices in Denmark. The country is also home to a number of internationally recognised Danish companies such as Maersk, LEGO and Carlsberg.

Denmark’s appeal as a business destination is demonstrated by its excellent ranking in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Survey for 2018; the country was ranked third out of 190 countries surveyed. The country scored particularly highly for trading across borders (1st), dealing with construction permits (1st), resolving insolvency (7th) and paying taxes (8th).


Fast facts

Business hours

The business week typically runs from Monday to Friday from 8am or 9am to 4pm or 5pm.

Business language

Danish is the official language, although English is widely spoken and understood in business circles.

Greetings

A firm handshake with direct eye contact is the appropriate greeting in most business contexts.

Business dress

Business attire tends to be smart casual, although suits and ties may make an appearance in the financial, corporate arena. Nevertheless, being well-groomed and neatly dressed is important.

Gifts

Gift-giving is not common in business circles, but if invited to a Dane’s home, flowers, chocolate or wine are a good choice. Gifts are opened right away.

Gender equality

Gender equality is important in Danish culture and women have equal work opportunities and equal salaries. Many women hold senior positions in Denmark.


Business culture in Denmark

Denmark is an egalitarian society, which is evident in its business culture. The country has one of the world's lowest levels of income inequality, gender equality is promoted, and the welfare of the team is seen as more important than the individual.

Hierarchy

Most Danish businesses are characterised by a relatively flat structure and relations between different levels within an organisation are usually informal. This means that decision lines are sometimes less obvious. Great importance is placed on discussion and reaching consensus; team members are expected to make a positive contribution to discussions and decisions. In line with this, Danes generally avoid conflict and confrontation. It’s best to remain even-tempered and not display anger in meetings or public settings.

Family

Danes are generally open-minded and tolerant. Family is at the heart of Danish social structures and this extends to the working environment; Denmark has generous allowances for both maternity and paternity leave, and working hours are often flexible to fit in with family time.

Personal relationships

Danes prefer to get down to business immediately, leaving little time for small talk in meetings. Danes are also generally reserved and are honest in such a way that may seem overly blunt to outsiders. These traits, accompanied by the fact that there are fewer words in the Danish language compared to English, and no specific word in Danish for ‘please’, means that Danes can sometimes come across as unfriendly and rude. However, this is not necessarily the case, and they do in fact have a good sense of humour, which is usually quite dry and sarcastic. 

Punctuality is essential if expats are to maintain a good impression. Danes are hard-working and expect employees to be motivated and committed to doing their best. Danes generally do not mix business with pleasure, so work and personal relationships are kept strictly separate. It is therefore unusual to be invited to a Danish colleague’s home or to socialise with colleagues outside of working hours.


Dos and don’ts of business in Denmark

  • Do be punctual for meetings

  • Don't expect business relationships to be personal or to extend beyond the office as Danes prefer to keep business and personal relationships separate

  • Do expect to work hard and make a positive contribution to the team

  • Don't be boastful of personal achievements; Danes are reserved and modest people who believe in the team rather than the individual

  • Do expect equality in the workplace and a relatively flat management structure

  • Don't raise your voice and always remain respectful of colleagues in meetings; confrontation should be avoided at all costs

Visas for Denmark

Denmark is part of the Schengen Area, so those wishing to enter Denmark will need to either be citizens of certain countries or they may enter if they've already been granted a valid and current visa to enter another Schengen country. EU citizens and holders of USA, Australian and New Zealand passports are included in those that may freely enter Denmark without a visa for up to 90 days.

Coming to Denmark as an employee, intern, student, au pair or on a working holiday cannot be done on a visa alone, and will usually require residence and work permits.


Registration, residence and work permits for Denmark

Many foreigners are free to live and work in Denmark and do not need to apply for work or residence permits, including citizens of EU/EEA states, Nordic citizens and citizens of Switzerland.

However, everyone intending to stay in Denmark for more than three months needs to register with the authorities and obtain an identification number (CPR number). Without a CPR number, normal life in Denmark is impossible – one cannot open a bank account, register with a doctor, get help from public authorities or even buy a registered mobile phone.

Expats who aren’t from one of the aforementioned countries will need to apply for a residence and work permit. Granting of residence and work permits is not automatic and will depend on specific labour market conditions. To apply, expats will need to have a specific written job offer that specifies salary and employment conditions. Even if expats have this, they may not be granted a residence and work permit if their prospective job can be filled by available labour in Denmark.

In addition to general work and residence permits, there are a number of special schemes that make it possible for expats in particular sectors to live and work in Denmark, such as those with specialised skills or those who have a Masters degree or PhD from a Danish university.

*Visa regulations are subject to change at short notice and expats are advised to contact their respective embassy or consulate for the latest details.

Cost of Living in Denmark

Denmark is an expensive expat destination and the cost of living is high, even by European standards. Eating out, utilities and petrol are especially pricey. Luckily, salaries are relatively high to somewhat balance out the high cost of goods and services in Denmark.

Copenhagen, Denmark’s capital, is one of the most expensive cities in the world and was ranked 14th out of 209 cities in the Mercer 2018 Cost of Living Survey. Life outside of Copenhagen is not quite as expensive but is far from cheap.

The good news for expats in Denmark is that they can expect a very high quality of life, especially for those with children, which might make up for the high cost of living.


Cost of accommodation in Denmark

Accommodation will be responsible for a large percentage of expats’ monthly expenses in Denmark. Expats should consider the location of their housing carefully, as this can often affect the price. In particular, Copenhagen's small size along with its popularity means that accommodation is scarce and expensive.

The cost of utilities is not usually included in the rental price so it's important to budget for this additional expense. When searching for somewhere to live, the cost of the initial deposit will be up to three months' worth of rent.


Cost of transport in Denmark

Transport in Denmark can be reasonable if using the trains and buses, but can also be very expensive if using taxis on a regular basis. Petrol is also notoriously pricey, as is the cost of buying a car. On the other hand, cycling and walking are popular and are both cost-effective ways of travelling.


Cost of food in Denmark

Groceries tend to be on the expensive side in Denmark and expats may experience 'sticker shock' the first time they venture into a Danish grocery store. However, with careful budgeting it's possible to minimise costs. Buying locally produced, seasonal goods and avoiding imports as much as possible can also bring down expenses.


Cost of schooling in Denmark

The cost of education for EU citizens in Denmark is very low, as tuition is completely free, though expats may have to pay for learning materials such as textbooks and other miscellaneous items. For children who are not EU citizens, schooling in Denmark can be very expensive with international schools being particularly expensive.  


Cost of living in Denmark chart

Prices may vary depending on product and service provider. The list below shows average prices in Copenhagen for August 2018.

Accommodation (monthly rent)

One-bedroom apartment in city centre

9,500 DKK

One-bedroom apartment outside city centre

7,000 DKK

Three-bedroom apartment in city centre

16,000 DKK

Three-bedroom apartment outside city centre

12,000 DKK

Shopping

Dozen eggs

27 DKK

Milk (1 litre)

8 DKK

Rice (1kg)

14 DKK

Loaf of white bread

17 DKK

Chicken breasts (1kg)

74 DKK

Pack of cigarettes (Marlboro)

44 DKK

Eating out

Big Mac meal

72 DKK

Coca-Cola (330ml)

23 DKK

Cappuccino 

38 DKK

Bottle of beer (local)

45 DKK

Three-course meal at a mid-range restaurant

300 DKK

Utilities/household (monthly)

Mobile call rate (per minute – mobile to mobile)

0.90 DKK

Internet (uncapped ADSL)

220 DKK

Utilities (average per month for small apartment)

1,400 DKK

Transportation

Taxi rate/km

16 DKK

City centre bus fare/train fare 

25 DKK

Petrol/gasoline (per litre)

11 DKK

Culture Shock in Denmark

Culture in Denmark faces both south towards the rest of Europe and north towards Scandinavia, with many Danes considering themselves both European and Nordic. Despite this, most have a strong sense of their own identity and while 'Danishness' might be difficult to define, it affects how Danes relate to each other and to foreign visitors.

As a result, expats may experience culture shock in Denmark – despite the ostensible similarities between Danes, other Europeans and Americans, the particulars of Danish culture are easily misunderstood.


Language in Denmark

English proficiency in Denmark is very high, and some large companies even adopt English as their company language. Public policy in Denmark is very much geared towards making expats feel as welcome as possible and many services are, at least in part, available in English.

It is perfectly possible to get by in Denmark without learning Danish, but there are several good arguments for learning the language. 

All foreign residents are entitled to free or subsidised Danish language teaching provided by their local municipality. Expats can connect and integrate with their hosts more easily if they make at least some effort with the language. Furthermore, it can be stressful for expats to not understand what is going on around them – some familiarity with the language can alleviate this.


Food in Denmark

From the ubiquitous hot dog stands to the New Nordic food of Noma, food and drink play a big part in Danish life. One of the most characteristic dishes is the Danish open sandwich, smørrebrød. Usually made with rye bread and topped with meat or fish and accompaniments. These are usually eaten with a knife and fork.

Service charges are included in restaurant bills and tipping is the exception rather than the rule.


Hygge in Denmark

A key part of culture in Denmark is the concept of hygge (pronounced “hooger”). While there is no direct translation of the word into English, it involves being warm, cozy and relaxed, for example with good food and friends in front of the fireplace. Although difficult to define, hygge is important because its pursuit is considered by many to be a fundamental part of Danish culture.

Accommodation in Denmark

Accommodation in Denmark comes in a variety of forms and is generally of a very high standard. From city apartments to suburban houses, expats are sure to find something to suit their lifestyle. Most expats in Denmark rent their accommodation rather than buy. 


Types of accommodation in Denmark

Expats in Denmark can choose from apartments or suburban houses. Most accommodation in Danish cities comprises apartment blocks, and is best suited for single professional expats. Houses are more common in the suburbs, most of which have gardens. Suburban houses are usually the best option for expats with children. 

Expats who want to live in the city should look out for apartments in beautiful, historical buildings. These can be a real find for those lucky enough, as the apartments are generally of a very high standard. 


Finding accommodation in Denmark

Expats looking for accommodation in Denmark should read the listings in local newspapers and online property postings. A more convenient, but also more expensive, option is to enlist the help of a real estate agent. Estate agents will have the most extensive list of available housing and can also arrange viewings for prospective tenants. 

It is also a good idea to speak to other expats already living in Denmark to find out how they went about finding accommodation. It’s common for expats to take over the lease of other expats leaving the country.


Renting accommodation in Denmark

Once expats have found accommodation to rent, they will need to sign a tenancy agreement. Expats should ensure that they read their lease carefully before signing and should negotiate any terms they are unhappy with.

Expats should look out for the word “nyistandsat” in their lease, which means that they will be obligated to return the property to brand new condition before leaving. It is best not to sign a lease containing this word. 

Once the lease is signed, expats will need to pay a deposit of up to three months’ rent. They should ensure that the lease allows them to terminate the contract within the lease period with three months’ notice.  Leases can be renewed after they expire. 

Healthcare in Denmark

Healthcare in Denmark is of a very high standard with numerous medical facilities to choose from throughout the country. 

Denmark operates under a universal healthcare scheme and all residents have equal access to it. Most use public healthcare facilities because they are of such a high standard, but private hospitals do exist for expats who prefer private care. 

Most of the Danish population speaks English, so expats should have no problem finding an English-speaking doctor.


Public healthcare in Denmark

There are plenty of excellent public healthcare facilities to choose from in Denmark. In order to access healthcare at these facilities, a public health insurance card (also known as a yellow card) must be produced.

If using public healthcare, expats will have to select a general practitioner to oversee all their non-emergency medical needs. Patients that wish to see a specialist must first get a referral from their GP. 


Private healthcare in Denmark

Because of the high standard of public healthcare, there are only a small number of private healthcare facilities in Denmark. However, their popularity has increased in recent years and the number is growing.

Private hospitals are growing in popularity because an increasing number of employers are offering their employees private health insurance, which enables use of private healthcare facilities and avoiding the waiting periods often associated with public healthcare systems. Expats should enquire with their Danish employer about their health insurance policy. 


Health insurance in Denmark

EU expats in Denmark for more than six months, or non-EU expats in Denmark for more than three months, are entitled to apply for a public health insurance card, known as a yellow card. To do so, expats will need a CPR number, which is obtained by registering at one's local International Citizen Service centre. The CPR number and yellow card can be applied for concurrently.


Pharmacies in Denmark

Throughout Denmark, it's easy to find pharmacies, some of which are open 24 hours a day. 

Denmark’s regulations regarding medicines are strict, so expats may need a prescription for certain medicine they could get over-the-counter at home.


Emergency services in Denmark

The emergency number in Denmark is 112. This service has operators who speak English, so expats can call an ambulance without having to speak Danish. 

Education and Schools in Denmark

Education in Denmark is of an exceptionally high standard. Schools across the country are subsidised by the government and, as a result, have modern facilities and highly qualified staff. There are also a number of excellent private and international schools in Denmark. 


Public education in Denmark

All municipalities in Denmark provide free education for all children legally residing in the country, without any admission requirements. 

Parents can enrol their child at any municipal school that has places, which can be either in their own neighbourhood or another school in their municipality or a neighbouring municipality.

Not many expat children speak Danish when they arrive in Denmark, but this is not a barrier to enrolment in a municipal school. Non-Danish-speaking children are either placed in a reception class with other non-Danish-speaking pupils or are placed in a regular Danish-speaking class but are given extra support in the language. 


Private and international schools in Denmark

Most parents choose to send their children to their local municipal school, but some choose a private school. Private schools in Denmark are self-governing institutions required to provide education to the standards of the municipal schools. There are many different types of private schools and some are based on a specific philosophy, pedagogical line or religious belief. 

There is a growing number of international schools in Denmark. International education is recognised as a key factor in attracting and retaining expats. Most international schools in Denmark are in and around Copenhagen, but the rest of the country also has good coverage. Many of these schools have English as their primary language, while others teach primarily in German or French.

Transport and Driving in Denmark

Transport and driving in Denmark is convenient and efficient. Denmark’s roads are in very good condition and congestion is not a major problem. There is a comprehensive public transport system in Denmark comprising trains, buses and ferries, so expats who choose not to drive will have plenty of ways to get around.

Denmark is also known as one of the world's cycling capitals and expats will find that cycling is indeed a popular way to get around. Copenhagen in particular is very cycle-friendly and the government is constantly extending the existing cycling infrastructure.


Public transport in Denmark

Public transport in Denmark is an efficient and inexpensive way for expats to reach almost any part of the country. Many Danes use public transport every day and the Danish government encourages citizens to use it rather than drive their cars. 

Trains

The national rail network in Denmark is operated by Danske Statsbaner (DSB). It also operates the S-tog commuter rail network in Copenhagen. Expats can use the train to travel between the major cities on all of Denmark’s islands. 

Smaller towns and rural areas in Denmark are serviced by regional trains. Long-distance trains run frequently throughout the day and are a relaxing and safe way to travel between cities in Denmark. Denmark also has international railway links to Sweden and Germany.

Metro

Copenhagen is home to Denmark's only metro system, which is well-integrated with other public transport links throughout the city.

Buses

Denmark has a good system of long-distance buses that makes travelling between Danish cities easy. Express coaches are also available. 

Travellers can purchase bus tickets on the bus itself using exact change or they can purchase them in advance.

Ferries

Denmark is an archipelago, so ferries are one of the best ways to get around. This is especially the case for expats who want to explore some of the smaller islands. 

There are also international ferry connections to destinations such as Sweden, Norway, Germany and the UK.


Taxis in Denmark

Large cities in Denmark will have an abundance of taxis run by many different companies. Smaller cities, however, might only have one or two local operators. Taxis can be hailed on the street, or can be booked online or via phone.

All taxis in Denmark have meters and the fares are regulated. Fares increase during rush hour and at night.


Driving in Denmark

Expats driving in Denmark can expect an easy, stress-free experience. The roads are in excellent condition and traffic jams are not a major issue. The Danish government has invested in extending the country’s road network and expats will find that, due to the building of bridges, more and more areas and islands of the country are accessible by car. Expats can also use ferries to transport their cars between Denmark’s islands.


Cycling in Denmark 

Cycling is an extremely popular mode of transport among the Danish population. The country has a huge network of bicycle routes that extends for over 7,000km (more than 4,000 miles), making cycling an easy and safe way to get around Denmark. 


Air travel in Denmark

Denmark’s cities are situated very close together, so it's rarely necessary to travel by plane within the country. That said, there are numerous domestic airports around the country, with the main hub being Copenhagen Airport. The national carrier, together with Sweden and Norway, is Scandinavian Airlines (SAS).

Banking, Money and Taxes in Denmark

Expats will find that managing banking, money and taxes in Denmark is an easy and convenient process.

However, although the country's highly developed financial infrastructure is a definite plus, expats will need to budget their money carefully as Denmark has one of the highest tax rates in the world, not to mention a notoriously high cost of living


Money in Denmark

The official currency of Denmark is the Danish krone or crown, abbreviated as DKK. The krone is divided into 100 øre. 

  • Notes: 50, 100, 200, 500 and 1,000 DKK

  • Coins: 50 øre and 1, 2, 5, 10 and 20 DKK


Banking in Denmark

Banking in Denmark is sophisticated and efficient. Most banks offer online banking, which makes paying bills and making transfers easy and convenient. The main banks in Denmark are Danske Bank, Nykredit and Nordea.

Opening a bank account 

To open a bank account in Denmark, expats must first apply for and obtain a Civil Registration Number (CPR) and head to the bank to open their account. Expats will need to open a NemKonto, which is used for salary and government payments such as tax refunds. It is compulsory for all residents in Denmark to have a NemKonto.

ATMs and credit cards

ATMs can be found outside all banks in Denmark, as well as in most supermarkets and shopping centres. Expats can use their credit cards to withdraw cash from ATMs.

Credit cards can be used throughout the country, but most small payments are made in cash. The Danish also have a card payment system called Dankort, but expats must have a Danish bank account to use this system. It is useful to have Dankort because it is accepted across the country and some small businesses may not accept international credit cards. 


Taxes in Denmark

Expats who are tax residents of Denmark will be taxed on their worldwide income. Expats qualify for tax residency simply by living in Denmark. Those who are not Danish residents but who live in Denmark for six consecutive months also qualify for Danish tax residency. 

The tax system in Denmark is automatic, which means that tax will be deducted from an expat’s salary before they are paid. Expats should register with the Central Tax Administration (SKAT) before they receive their first paycheck. Expats will receive a tax card that is sent directly to their employer, which will ensure that they are taxed correctly.

Expat Experiences in Denmark

When considering a move to a new city, there is nothing more useful than hearing real-life stories and experiences from other expats who have lived there. We'd love to hear about your expat experiences. Please contact us if you live or have lived in Denmark and would like to share your story.


denmark.jpgSpanish expat Astrid moved to Copenhagen, Denmark in 2015, for an internship for her studies. She shares her experiences of life in the capital, how it compares to home and everything in between. Read her interview about her internship in Copenhagen