Deciding to leave home and move abroad is not easy, but it can bring you a fantastic life experience. It is always good to be prepared. If your choice is Denmark, you should know these facts.
Photograph: Visit Denmark - Visit Aarhus - Photopop / Visit Copenhagen - Verena Frei
Text: Natália Šepitková
The culture shock is bigger for non-Europeans than Europeans, but Denmark can surprise anybody. The smallest and happiest Scandinavian country is the favourite destination for a high-income, welfare state and high level of equality. Not to mention the tuition-free access to high-quality education, no-fee public health care or the relative lack of crime and corruption. For these reasons, people worldwide come to Denmark and settle here. But what is life actually like in this Nordic country?
No language barrier
To start a new life in Denmark, let's start with the practicalities. First, it means finding a job and accommodation before moving to Denmark. Danish law states that you should apply for a residence permit to work, study, seek family reunification, or stay in Denmark longer than 90 days. If you are not an EU citizen, you must apply for a visa too. Most visa types in Denmark require a work contract or a promise of one. EU citizens don't need a visa to enter the country. So for Nordic citizens (Icelandic, Danish, Norwegian, Swedish, or Finnish), relocating to Denmark, it's even easier.
The good news is that there is no language barrier in Denmark. Most Danes speak fluent English, which is also the language of communication in many international companies. Of course, at least a basic knowledge of Danish will help you integrate quicker into Danish society and give you more opportunities to find a job, but it's not a necessity. However, you will need Danish if you decide to study in Denmark. Many universities and schools for higher education require a certain level of Danish. But don't worry! After getting a residence permit, you can apply for free Danish courses in language centres nationwide.
"Denmark is a child-friendly country, as seen by the creative playgrounds and children's corners in public spaces."
Cold weather blues
Life in Denmark can be disappointing - the weather, for one. The Danish weather is sometimes terrible, and it can be depressing – especially for our southern internationals. Winter can be challenging when there are short days in Denmark due to darkness. Hygge appears to ease this, but the combination of rain, wind, cold and dark can make it difficult. On the other hand, Danish summers are amazing! Although the temperatures aren't as warm as in other countries, there's something magical about the sun setting at midnight.
Unfortunately, Denmark is a challenging country if you want to make new friends. Danes are pretty reserved, and it takes time for them to accept you in their friendship circle immediately. Of course, they are always polite and kind but don't expect a deep friendship after the first meeting. Many newcomer families worry about feeling isolated without the social networks they relied on back home - but everything is just a matter of time. You need a little more time in Denmark to become part of the community. For example, leisure activities where you can find like-minded people, meet parents of school-aged children, or even Danish courses can help you. Local or church communities are also suitable for getting to know your new neighbourhood.
The future looks good
If you are still interested in living in Denmark, you can look forward to a future in a modern and sustainable country where most of the population cycles, uses public transportation and takes care of their environment. You're unlikely to find trash on the streets (this usually happens after city festivals but is cleaned up the next day) or empty plastic bottles in a forest. Danes recycle, so if you're not used to that, expect to have many different rubbish bins in your home. Plastic and glass bottles and beverage cans are collected at home and taken into supermarkets, where you get money back for recycling – this is called pant.
Denmark is a child-friendly country, as seen by the creative playgrounds and children's corners in public spaces. The well-being of the child is always first and foremost. Danes care about children's safety and support them to grow into independent adults. Raising your voice or hitting a child is unimaginable and inadmissible in Denmark. As a mother, I appreciate that.
Will Denmark be your new home? I'm curious to see what impression this small Scandinavian country will have on you.