Living in Denmark
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A practical guide to the way of life in Denmark
Denmark has a lot in store for expats from all over the world, and with just over 5.6 million inhabitants, it is the most densely populated country in Scandinavia. Our Relocation Guide on living in Denmark offers advice on healthcare, housing, and all else you need to know about life in Denmark.
Life in Denmark
Life in Denmark is characterized by people who do not only embrace personal freedom but are also incredibly proud of their cultural heritage. As small as the country may be, Denmark can look back on a long history, which is often celebrated at various occasions.
For instance, Denmark has not only one but two national anthems. Der er et yndigt land (There is a lovely country) is the civil national anthem and was first adopted in 1844. Kong Christian stod ved højen mast (King Christian stood by the lofty mast), meanwhile, was adopted in 1780, but is now mainly used on royal or military occasions.
Meet the Danes
While living in Denmark, you may encounter some challenges in communicating with the Danes. These difficulties are usually not exclusively language-related, mind you. Even if you speak a bit of Danish, it can be hard to understand people, as most Danes take life with a lot of irony, and often self-irony.
Still, communication is usually quite relaxed. The majority of Danes address each other with the informal “du” (you). The formal address, “De,” has all but made its exit from everyday speech and is only used to address royalty, the elderly, or, rarely, in business contexts.
Aside from the laidback style of communication, life in Denmark is very much marked by the freedom of worship and the freedom of speech, as well as other such inalienable rights.
A Proud Danish Heritage
Even though — or perhaps because — Denmark is a relatively small country, its citizens are very proud of their culture and heritage. The Royal Family, for instance, is very popular among a lot of people living in Denmark, and the country’s monarchy is one of the oldest in the world. The monarch, currently Queen Margrethe II, signs all Acts of Parliament and functions as the official head of state in the Danish constitutional monarchy.
But it is not just the monarchy that has a long history in this country. While living in Denmark, you will no doubt often see the Danish flag (Dannebrog), which is red with a white cross. The Dannebrog is allegedly the oldest flag in the world, and legend has it that the flag fell from the sky during a battle in Estonia in 1219, spurring the Danes to victory. Today, the Danes use Dannebrog on many occasions, especially on birthdays.
Choosing the Right Housing Option
Most people in Denmark have settled in terraced or detached houses. In fact, in 2016, 53% of the population, particularly couples with children, live in single-family houses. Most own the house themselves, including the adjacent land. In larger cities, however, buying a house can be a very expensive endeavor, and detached houses are hard to find.
Apartment blocks, on the other hand, are quite common in major cities, and most apartments are rented as opposed to bought. As living in Denmark can be rather costly, young, single people and students often opt for an apartment share.
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Denmark: Where to Live and What about Your Kids’ Education?
How to Find Housing in Denmark
When looking for an apartment or house, hiring the help of a real estate agency is probably your best bet. They can arrange viewings for you and will pick out the best offers. In addition, they are experts when it comes to the average cost of living in your new Danish home and might give you advice on the most attractive locations in a city.
Many real estate agencies offer both furnished and unfurnished apartments and houses. Ask yourself what your housing needs are and which option you would prefer, but keep in mind that unfurnished long-term rentals are usually the cheapest.
Expats who are not yet proficient in Danish can refer to one of the following agencies and websites.
If you are unsure which real estate agency to use, you could always ask around among friends, co-workers, and other expats. Referring to your expat network in particular can be a good idea since someone may be about to leave Denmark and is looking for another expat to take over their lease.
How Education in Denmark Works
The year 2014 marked the 200th anniversary of the first law that made schooling obligatory in Denmark. Today, children receive nine years of compulsory education, usually from the age of seven onwards. However, most kids also attend pre-school at the age of six. Except for private institutions, primary and lower secondary education is completely free of charge. In the years after, children are generally free to choose how they would like to proceed.
The vast majority pursues some kind of upper secondary education, which includes both general and vocational programs, most of which take three years. Upon the conclusion of upper secondary education, students can decide whether they would like to pursue higher education or rather take up full-time employment.
If You Opt for International Schooling
Expats who prefer to send their children to an international school instead of a Danish one have no shortage of choice in Denmark. For some expat children, international schools may be the better choice, since they avoid having to deal with the language barrier on top of culture shock.
For instance, there are 17 schools in Denmark that offer the International Baccalaureate curriculum (IB). The advantage of such schools is twofold. First, it allows children to easily connect with other expat kids. Second, it also makes for a fairly easy transfer to another school abroad should their parents be assigned elsewhere.
As for international primary education, the Danish Ministry of Education offers a list of international basic schools in Denmark.
Another option for expat children are private and boarding schools. Private schools are, generally speaking, organized very similarly to municipal schools but enjoy more freedom in terms of curriculum. Boarding schools are available as well, at for instance Sorø Akademi (website in Danish only), Herlufsholm Skole, Struer Statsgymnasium, Grenå Gymnasium, Nyborg Gymnasium, as well as Viborg Katedralskole (Danish only).
Options for Young Children in Denmark
In Denmark, childcare is widely available for all children up to the age of six. There is a variety of options, and the goals and programs of childcare institutions vary from municipality to municipality.
From the age of six months to three years, kids can be looked after at a day care center or a day nursery. Day nurseries are very similar to day care centers, except that each employee is responsible for only a handful of kids. At ages three to six, most children attend kindergartens. The staff is well-trained and offers both lots of playtime and simple educational programs.
Costs vary and are strongly dependent on your municipality, usually around 3,900 DKK (600 USD) per month for day care, including meals. Kindergartens a usually cheaper. However, regardless of municipality, all children in Denmark are guaranteed a spot in a childcare institution.
Taking Care of Your Health in Denmark
What to Know about Denmark’s Healthcare System
Denmark has a comprehensive healthcare system with a vast selection of medical services and facilities. All citizens have equal access to medical care, which includes doctors, hospitals, specialists, and more.
The individual municipalities handle specific services themselves, issue health insurance cards, and administer health insurance schemes. Denmark’s five regions, meanwhile, operate hospitals, handle psychiatric treatment, and manage citizens’ choice of general practitioner.
The Public Health Insurance Cover
Once you register in Denmark and receive your CPR number (your personal ID number) as well as your yellow health insurance card, you are automatically granted access to public health services, hospital treatment, and medical help.
For some patients, however, public health insurance does not cover all they need. Therefore, you could consider taking out private health insurance in addition to your public insurance coverage. Although, for many expats and Danes, public insurance is more than enough.
You need to bring your yellow insurance card whenever you see your general practitioner or a dentist, and whenever you go to the hospital or an emergency ward. Your municipality automatically sends you the card, and it carries your name, address, and CPR number, as well as the contact information of your general practitioner.
Doctors and Hospitals in Denmark
When you register in Denmark, you can freely choose your general practitioner. For instance, you can indicate if you want a male or female doctor, or one your friends, colleagues, or fellow expats have recommended.
As mentioned, the name and address of your general practitioner will appear on your yellow insurance card as well. He or she is then the first person you should approach if you have any medical problems you would like their opinion on. They will then either treat it right away or refer you to a specialist or a hospital for further treatment. You can visit the Danish National e-Health Portal, Sundhed, to search for a general practitioner, a specialist, or a hospital (website in Danish only).
Freedom of choice also applies to hospital care. Keep in mind, however, that not all hospitals in Denmark offer the same specialized departments. This means that you may have to travel a while to find the help you need. Consult your doctor for more information on hospital care.
No Need to Panic in Case of Emergency
Of course, medical emergencies can occur anytime and anywhere. In such cases, 112 is the number to call to reach an emergency call center. You will first hear the message, “De har kaldt alarmcentralen 112. Brandvæsen, politi og ambulance. Vent roligt her.” (“You have called the emergency call center 112. Fire service, police, and ambulance. Please wait.”) Shortly after, you will be redirected to an employee who will give you further directions or send an ambulance to your location. All emergency call center employees speak English.
If you simply need to see a doctor outside regular opening hours or on the weekend, you need to call the emergency doctor service. The number to call is different for each of the Denmark’s five regions, and you can find yours on Vagtlaegen.dk (Danish only). You will be asked about your well-being and be given a recommendation on whether to visit your own doctor the next day or if you should visit the emergency doctor service or a hospital.
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