Tag: Living in Denmark

5 Things No One Tells You Before You Move To Denmark

If moving abroad was easy, everyone would do it, right? Yet looking at the statistics it seems that only around 232 million migrants live abroad worldwide. Knowing the fact that there are over 7 billion people on Earth, the fraction of 232 million looks incredibly small… So if you have decided to move abroad and are currently residing outside of your home country (or have done that for a while) – congratulations! You are a part of a small amount of people, who can proudly call themselves risk-takers. 

1. Leaving home takes courage

Every year students leave the comforts of their homes to experience living abroad, culture shock, learn a new language, travel, meet new people and open a new chapter in their lives which usually is quite demanding. It takes time to do your research, it takes time to prepare mentally for changes and, once you arrive, it is hard to cope with homesickness. Sometimes you may find yourself thinking that you would just like to pack your luggage and go home right now. However, such moments do pass and usually become the situations that change you most. All in all, travel changes you. Not only does the fact that you have lived abroad changes you – the new culture, new friends and new environment impacts you, so you have to be flexible and adaptable. Does it surprise you that the great majority of employers prefer to employ candidates who have lived abroad for a while, believing that they adapt to changes faster?

time to travel

2. Learning Danish is not easy

Before moving to Denmark you might have heard of the Little Mermaid, vikings or the fact that Danes are a biking nation. You might have also heard that Danish is similar to Swedish, which is similar to Norwegian, which makes it easy for Scandinavians to understand each other without any problems. Wrong! There are a number of Danes who speak English to their friends from other Scandinavian countries as they might have different dialects, especially if they lived in smaller cities further away from capitals. It takes time to adjust. And for internationals, it definitely takes time to learn the language since, unfortunately, none of Scandinavian languages are easy to learn. If you happen to speak German it will probably go a lot easier and if you have a good command of English language (particularly grammar), Danish grammar will seem to be easy to understand. Unfortunately, a lot of internationals struggle with pronunciation.

As Danish is said to be a hard language to learn, Danes really appreciate if you speak at least basic Danish and show an effort in learning it. Even though nearly everyone in Denmark speaks perfect English, people are still thrilled and happy hearing foreigners speaking Danish. Besides, if you speak at least OK Danish your chances of getting a job in Denmark increase at least twice.


3. It takes effort to find Danish friends

If you happen to be in US, you notice that people have no problems talking and chit-chatting with strangers. In Denmark, people usually try to keep distance and do not chit-chat without a specific goal. Danish keep their childhood or school friends for a really long time and barely make new friends when they start working. However, if you do show an effort in communicating with Danes it does pay off probably a lot more than anywhere else in the world – you can be sure that you have “earned” a friend for life.


4. Simple things = best things

Internationals are usually surprised how simple Danish cuisine is. Traditional meal of Denmark is… sandwich! Yes, you got it right, sandwich. Danish are proud of their traditional open sandwich, made out of a dark, buttered rye bread (called rugbrød) and the topping (called pålæg) which is usually meat, fish, cheese or spreads. Danes try to “layer” bread with additional things on top, such as vegetables and greens and so on making the sandwich, one of the easiest and simplest dishes existing, actually look nice and appetizing. If you want to make a Dane happy, give him a couple of good-looking open sandwiches, a jug of beer and initiate a discussion. By doing so a couple of times, you might find a friend (re-read nr.3).

Danish sandwiches

5. The less, the better

Before you come to Denmark, you probably have taken more than 2 big luggage bags with you full of clothes, shoes and toiletries. Maybe even some food. Ask yourself whether you really need to pack everything you own? Do you need to bring bed bedding or a toothpaste – can’t you buy it in Denmark? After all, Denmark is all about second-hand purchases. It is very easy (and nearly every single student) buys second-hand furniture, clothes, accessories, kitchenware and so forth. Remind yourself, that you will most likely purchase some things in Denmark and will not be able to bring all of it home, if you ever intend to. Remember, that Copenhagen has IKEA (cheap furniture) and a number of great second-hand stores where you can get probably everything you need.


What Is YOUR Denmark Like?

Denmark indeed is one of the happiest countries on Earth. The country has a number of reasons to be proud of: economy, focus on healthy lifestyle, great work-life balance, safety and security, to name a few. A number of internationals, including Princess Marie of Denmark, share their opinions and experiences of living in Denmark, a country that all of them started calling home not too long ago.

Arbejdsglæde: The Joy Of Working in Denmark

Arbejdsglæde is an interesting Danish word, meaning “the joy of working” or otherwise “happiness at work”. Unlike in many languages, it an often used word referring to the level of happiness a person feels regarding the job. That’s why you should not be surprised if your boss in Denmark asks whether you are happy – just like that out of nowhere – hoping to get an enthusiastic “yes”.

The word “arbejde” refers to “work” and “glæde” to “happiness”. So the word refers to happiness at work and your inner feelings about the job, not thoughts about it. Actually, “arbejdsglæde” is not that often used in other languages unlike it is in Denmark. The word exists basically mainly in Scandinavian countries. In Denmark colleagues may actually wish you job satisfaction if you are going to settle on your task for a while using a similar word combination – e.g. “god arbejdslyst” = “good luck”, whereas “lyst” refers to “pleasure”, so the direct translation would be “have a good working pleasure”.

It might not be a coincidence that “arbejdsglæde” exists only in Scandinavian languages: Scandinavians have trandition on focusing on work-related happiness. That is also the reason why they do not push their children to jump straightly into universities as soon as they are done with the school since it is believed that children have to find what they are passionate about – and it is believed that passion and drive always leads for the best result. That it leads to the better, fuller future where they know what they want to do and have a drive for it. In this case, it leads to happiness at work.

Job Satisfaction = Finding Your Passion

Studies show that there is a direct link between happiness and work; besides, companies with happy employees perform up to twice as much compared to the ones where workers are not satisfied. Happiness at work is not equal to your salary, bonuses, benefits or tasks. Job satisfaction is: job satisfaction deals about you “feeling good” at work due to external causes, such as free fruits at work, tasty coffee or nice office. But happiness at work comes from your own feelings and not comfort you have around you. I remember once having stumbled upon an American peer who described me his part-time job very negatively so that I just asked – “do you even like your job?”. “Of course not, he answered, that’s why I get paid”. However,  job satisfaction is actually a derivative coming from two things – the results - i.e. what makes you proud and relationships - whether you feel good about the people you work with.

job needed

Job satisfaction is not a complicated thing: it’s all about going to work and feeling good about it. It’s about contribution and positive difference that you create in your own and others’ lives. In Denmark, employers employ people who are passionate about the company and some certain tasks. Here, employers want to find perfect employees who would be ambassadors of a company instead of workers. Well, after all, we spend around 37 hours a week working – don’t we intend to change these hours into something pleasant rather than unpleasant? Job satisfaction is actually one of the three main sources of happines and the best cure for stress. Therefore, if your boss in Denmark asks whether you are happy – just like that, out of nowhere – you should think about changing the workplace if you cannot tell him an enthusiastic “yes” to the question he asked.


If you are interested in the topic, you might be interested in reading a book on Job Satisfaction: “Happy hour 9 to 5“.

The Smell Of Christmas

Gingerbread cookie smell, fresh tangerines, baked apples and cinnamon. My Christmas always smells like that. It doesn’t mean that I cook gingerbread cookies for the whole month of December in order to have the festive mood. I know how to cheat.



Pleasantly smelling house is probably the quickest way to create a special festive mood. If you happen to be going down the street and you smell gingerbread cookies accompanied by the laughter of kids, you can be sure that they are having a good time while creating the festive mood in the house. To me, certain smells are an experience which is inseparable from Christmas and, since this December is way too busy for me to cook gingerbread cookies and make stuffed oranges with cloves, I decided to create olfactory Christmas experience… cheating.

Knowing that our sense of smell is a unique sense “storing” memories and creating the new ones, I decided to “grow” my festive mood throughout the December by matching unique olfactory experiences together with experiences of taste and vision. If you catch yourself questioning why would other experiences add value to the olfactory one, I would ask you whether you can imagine eating a tasty apple cake without actually smelling an apple? I don’t think so. Olfactory sense (smell) is one of our five senses, and senses are usually complementing each other in majority of situations in our lives, i.e. the pleasant feeling of eating an apple cake is usually a mixture of three senses – vision (seeing how the cake actually looks like, whether it’s appetizing or not), smell (smelling freshly baked cake and evaluating the smell) and taste (trying it).  Therefore, to me Christmas, like a cake, has to be experienced through various senses – smelling Christmas decorations and foods, seeing them and tasting them. But this time I am digging deeper into the world of odors.

For the light and pleasant smell

During the darkest and coldest days we naturally are looking for some light, therefore cozy candles can serve a great dual purpose: light and home fragrance. To be honest, I have always been slightly bit stingy and have not tried expensive fragrant candles (can students in Denmark actually afford that?), but I have recently found amazing H&M home candles to serve the same purpose for someone with the tight budget as me. Even though the range of candles that H&M offers is relative small, but they have the best orange candle that makes your room smell like fresh Christmas oranges with cloves. I swear!

If you happen to have a little bit more than tight student budget, you might consider buying Yankee candle. Danish Company called Bella Lys sells such candles online (and many more) plus they offer a month’s candle which is generally much cheaper. Another good option is visiting a store L’occitane (Copenhagen only), L’occitane showrooms sell extremely festive candles called “Winter Forest”, which smells like forest cones. If you get a Christmas candle (cinnamon, apple, orange, cone smells) I bet your festive mood will go up.


Home sprays is another option to make your home smell fresh, pleasant and Christmas-y. Feel free to spray curtains, pillows and/or towels or basically all fabrics that you touch or come close nearby. I usually buy them online (Ebay) or when I am travelling, since, to be honest, I haven’t really found anything festive and pleasant in Denmark so far, and H&M home sprays smell somehow “fake” to my nose. The Body Shop has some fruity and vanilla home sprays but nothing mystical, and that is what I am looking for in a home spray. The best one I have tried so far was Claire Burke home spray “Applejack and Peel”. They unfortunately do not ship their products to Europe, but you can find them on Ebay. A little bit pricey, but absolutely worth the price.

If you happen to be bored on December evening and realize that it’s dark, cold and unpleasant though feel like changing it, you could consider making some home decorations - aromatic toys yourself. Take a piece of a soft material and spray a generous amount of your favorite perfume on it. Then, take another piece of material and cut two pieces of forms (e.g. oval or square would be easiest, so it would make it a small and aromatic pillow) and sew the edges together, leaving a space to put the aromatic sheet inside. When you do so, sew it all together. You can decorate your home with such aromatic toys or hold one in your closet or a bag – it would definitely make your clothes and your bag smell pleasantly!

My Christmas, obviously, start with small aromatic joys. Pleasantly smelling house, laughter and warmth brings us to celebrate the best celebration ever. Even though I am not religious, but Christmas to me means a big fat hygge –  being together with my beloved ones and enjoying the moment. To me Christmas is like a fairy-tale where I live in. A fairy-tale, which smells like caramelized apples, sold in Strøget. Or sweet almonds, packaged in dazzling paper. Or small ginger cookies. Or simply the warmth of my beloved ones, when I hug them.

Danish Christmas: Traditions & More

Eating white rice pudding and desperately searching for a full almond inside, enjoying sweetened caramelized potatoes, and dancing and singing around the Christmas tree might seem absolutely normal amongst Danes. Only Danes.



Denmark, the country described as a mixture of Lego bricks, beer and bacon, is, after all, a charming country with slightly quirky Christmas traditions. Christmas in Denmark is based on relatively old and well-preserved traditions that have never really changed. It’s still rough, and still very Viking-like. While other parts of the world might be looking for their lost “roots” of Christmas traditions, Denmark is one of the few countries celebrating Christmas almost like their ancestors did.

 Fights for an almond

Reality in Denmark is hard: everyone stands out for themselves. Same rules apply during Christmas, where you eat much ‘Risalamande’, i.e. white, weird looking rice dish with small pieces of almonds. Your goal is to fight for a single full almond, which is put in there. If you find the almond, you’ll win a small prize, such as a chocolate heart or a marzipan pig (as if Danes didn’t have enough pork…).



Besides, they leave a portion of ‘Risalamande’ for the ‘Julenisse’ (read further). As if imaginary elves would starve (?).

 Nisse The Elf

During the years I’ve lived in Denmark, I’ve realized that Danes believe in humanoid mythical creatures from Scandinavian folklore, called ‘nisser’. Danes believe that those little creatures protect them from misfortune, and therefore, they decorate their homes with little elf-figures during Christmas time.



Some Danes even get really obsessed about collecting small Nisse-figurines and small ceramic houses and, right before Christmas, they decorate the biggest table with more or less a whole-plegged Nisse-society, called ‘Nisseby’ (city of Nisser).

Christmas cookies

Baking and decorating traditional gingerbread cookies is another old-fashioned tradition. The dough for the cookies is usually made some weeks beforehand. Sometimes, families will put Christmas cookies on the tree (as if bought decorations would not be enough), and afterwards destroy and consume them quickly.



The holy Christmas tree

In Denmark, Christmas trees mean everything. Therefore, it should be treated in a very special way. It’s usually decorated with the star on top (not an angel, like everywhere else) and, on Christmas Eve, both adults and children will hold each other’s hands and dance around the Christmas tree with no special intention, singing happy songs.



Talking to animals

In the old days, people believed that they should treat animals in a special way during Christmas Eve: Talk to them, give them nice food, and pet them. Today, Danes do the same. They take walks in the gardens, where they talk and pet their furry friends, expecting that animals are happy about their lives and that they don’t gossip about their landlords.



Christmas last for about six months

For most people (except Danes), Christmas itself is a family event. But in addition to that, Danes enjoy having as many Christmas dinners, so-called ‘Julefrokoster’, with friends, workmates and other people.



Knowing that Christmas dinners start from around mid-October and might continue up to the beginning of February, it might seem that Danes value Christmas more than anyone.

Therefore, if you happen to forget about the 23th or 24th – the two most important dinners of all Christmas dinners – you shouldn’t be too sad about it. You’ll still have about 10-15 more options to attend various Christmas lunches, even though Christmas might’ve passed.

  Ho ho ho! 

Are You Going To Vote?

Today, November 19th, 2013 should definitely be marked in our calendars with a pen of an intense red color. If you haven’t marked it yet, do so – that is the day residents can vote in Danish Municipal and Regional elections.

(Photo: Colourbox)

(Photo: Colourbox)


If you are attentive enough, you must have already noticed a number of flyers hanging all around the city. Such banners exposing candidates remind residents about Danish local elections of 2013, which will be held in 98 municipality councils as well as five regional councils.

Internationals are encouraged to vote

The rules for voting of temporary and permanent movers vary highly across countries. Denmark allowed foreigners to vote in the early 1980, and now, besides Danish citizens who are over 18, international residents will also have an option to vote in local municipalities. Foreign nationals of the Scandinavian countries and EU Member States are allowed to vote if they hold a Central Personal Registration card (CPR) as well as currently reside in the country. Otherwise, international residents are also allowed to vote if they have continuously lived in a municipality for at least three years and hold a yellow card. In total, around 1,8 million residents in Northern and Central Jutland have the right to vote.

If you have the right to vote, you must have already receivee a polling card in your mailbox, which you should bring along with your ID to the voting station indicated, where you will be given a list of parties together with candidate names. If you happen to damage the given paper you are free to ask for a new one as long as you have not put it into the ballot box. In such case it will be counted as if you have voted, even though the paper might be damaged and in this case the vote itself will not be counted (i.e. voted incorrectly, left empty or crossed out).

We need your voice!

Voters are encouraged to vote and choose their representatives, which will serve a purpose of their voice within national matters. When it comes to public services and taxes, local elections are said to be the most important elections. Your vote can impact you directly and your voice can be relatively influential knowing that Danish municipalities have their own tax collection and decide where their tax money will be spent, i.e. municipalities have a great influence on public services – schools, retirement homes and childcare institutions.

Some info on the parties

Denmark is a country having multi-party system, where there are two-three strong parties. The four most influential are Social Democrats, Venstre, Danish Social Liberal Party (or Radikale Venstre) and Folkeparti (conservative people’s party).

Socialdemokraterne: as the party’s name itself suggests, Social Democrats are committed to the political ideology of social democracy. Key issues of Danish Social Democrats are economy and welfare state. The party, founded in 1871, is being consistent with their focus on solidarity with the poorest and social welfare to those who need it. The can be called as “architect” of the modern Danish welfare state.

Venstre: Venstre, or “the left” in English, was founded in 1870, and traditionally it was a party advocating free trade. Since 2001, the party has mainly been working with taxes, where the initiative is supposed to encourage people to go off welfare and rather take the jobs (e.g. people with jobs would get 3% of tax reduction). The party  is rooted in the liberal tradition emphasizing individual freedom, free markets and liberalization of business.

Radikale Venstre: also called as Danish Social Liberal Party (“The Radical left), is a social liberal political party in Denmark. In 1905, after the Venstre Reform Party split, Radikale Venstre were formed. The main goal of Radikale venstre is to reduce social inequality, reconsider 24 year rule (the party is highly against 24 year rule, that forbids to get married in Denmark until the age of 24) and taxes; they wish to simplify the tax system. Det Radikale Venstre is situated at the centre of the Danish political spectrum.

Det Konservative Folkeparti: or in English, the Conservative People’s party, was created in 1915. Having the slogan “Strong values – healthy  economy”, party, as expected, mainly focuses on family values, taxes and justice. Conservatives wish to ensure healthy business environment without forgetting family values.

Socialistik Folkeparti (SF): founded in 1959, SF set a goal to work with the ideological base of Popular Socialism. SF supports human rights as well as rights of minorities and democracy. The main issues, that SF deals with, are healthcare, job creation and emphasis on schools. Besides, SF was highly Eurosceptic, though after seeing the outcomes, SF became more positive about the EU. SF supports environmental protection and feminism.

Dansk Folkeparti (DF): Otherwise also called “Danish peoples party”, is probably the most controversial political party, also often accused of racism. Not too long ago, Holger Gorm Petersen, a mayoral candidate for DF, expressed his opinion that internationals should not vote at all (article here); and a couple international candidates in Denmark were approached by DF, saying that “Denmark should be for Danes”. Usually described as right-wing populist by political scientists, party was founded in 1995. Since then, members of DF expressed goals to protect the freedom as well as culture heritage of Denmark and Danish people, especially Monarchy and Church.  DF is against Denmark becoming a multi-ethnic society and believe that immigration should be highly regulated. DF also aims to strenghten education and encourage people to work as well as put emphasis on environment and natural resources.

Liberal Alliance: with the promising goal “fewer laws – more liberty”, party focuses on economy and wish to lower the taxes. Liberal Alliance, founded in 2007 as the New Aliance, supports “realistic and human” immigration policies.

Kristendemokraterne: the party was founded in 1970 to oppose the liberalization of restrictions on pornography and the legalization of abortion. The key issues of K are family and healthcare. Besides, they are against the centralisation of local government and healthcare in recent years.  

 Enhedslisten: in English called Red-Green Alliance promotes created only 24 years ago, in 1989 as an electoral alliance by three left-wing parties. Party’s program described party as an internationalist and revolutionary socialist. Party also wants to dissolve the military and police. The ky issues, that party focuses on are immigration, welface and climate change. The party could be described having communist ideals: they hope for no exploitation of labour and fair distribution of wealth.

Seniorpartiet: Senior Party is a non-party list in Aarhus, which focuses on the welfare of older residents in Aarhus municipality. They want to focus on establishing dignified aging policy and address the issues that would ensure older residents with better treatment for their own individual needs. The list has only 7 candidates.

Picture from The Copenhagen Post 2011 September 16-22, article by Peter Stanners

Picture from The Copenhagen Post 2011 September 16-22, article by Peter Stanners


Not sure what to do? Check out the video, made by Aarhus Kommune (in English) explaining how to vote. You can find video here.