How different is living in Denmark?

I have met a number of new expats since moving back to Copenhagen and our conversations got me thinking about some of the things that can catch you out or surprise you when first moving here.

I wrote about the nude communal changing area in pools but there is also something that you need to know about swimming in a Danish pool which can cause embarrassment if you get hauled up about it. It is obligatory that you shower before entering the pool which is made clear by the signs but it also means that your hair must be obviously wet when you enter the pool. Otherwise the lifeguard will come up to you and send you with your tail between your legs to shower again or make you wear a scratchy single use swim hat   – which immediately singles you out as the swimming pool dunce.

Most people moving here from the UK miss Indian and Chinese takeaway food. This type of food is not big here in Denmark but it is available. It won’t be the same as your local one back in the UK but is good enough to sate a craving but the big thing to remember is that you don’t need to order rice as all dishes automatically come with it. I remember a friend just moved here from the UK ordering what she considered to be a normal takeaway and was bemused by the number of boxes in the bag. There was enough rice to feed at least two families!

Large beers are big! Usually in restaurants and bars beers come in three sizes. During my first visit here I ordered two Christmas beers in the hotel bar and thought  ‘it’s been a long day so I will get big ones’. I felt like a Hobbit sitting with my enormous one litre of beer and certainly didn’t need another one.

There is cake or bun for every occasion and usually a beer too. For a generally skinny city, there seems to be a treat for every occasion – fastelavn = cream buns; St Bedesdag = cardamom buns (see below); Easter and Christmas = seasonal beers; Christmas = æbleskiver, the list goes on. I love it.

Now this year has been especially cold up to (and beyond) the 1st of April but the funny thing I have noticed is that Danish people continue to wear winter clothes and boots up to this date even if the weather is warm and then suddenly swap to their sneakers and spring coats. I noticed this year there was a divide but still a lot of people seemed to make the shift.

You don’t need to carry cash in Denmark. The Dankort issued by the banks here means you can buy something as cheap as a packet of chewing gum with a card. The banks here got together some years ago and invented the Dankort as the charges for Visa etc were too expensive for a small country. Life in Germany is the reverse.

The second most used card is the yellow card or CPR card, which connects every area of your life from bank accounts to prescriptions. Once you are the lucky owner of  this magical card you can get your prescriptions from the chemist on the production of the card without having to carry around a piece of paper from your doctor (which I often lose), get a mobile phone account, and about a million other things. Once your child gets his CPR number soon after birth, you automatically start receiving your child benefit directly into your bank account. Life is tough without one though.

Women’s magazines in Denmark actually like women unlike ones in the UK. They start with the premise you already look good but want to look better; you already eat healthily but need inspiration; you exercise because you like it, not as some kind of punishment. The popular weekly magazine,  Femina, does not concentrate on how to please your man and umpteen ways to make women feel bad about themselves. It is accessible fashion, great genuine make overs, tasty food, positive reviews and great interviews with Danish personalities.

Finally cleaning your floors. You need a special cleaning fluid depending on what type of wooden floor you have. We have three different types of flooring in our apartment and when we moved in we were given a bottle of each appropriate cleaner, placed in each room so there was not mistake. And don’t get me started on the stress of the fancy wooden oiled work surface we had in our first rental apartment here.

One comment

  1. This is a good end of the year post. I learned new things. It was exciting to hear about the magazine Femina. The idea that women are okay to begin with not something flawed.

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