How I made friends in a new city

I am something of an introvert and enjoy my own company but like everyone I do need friends. As it is often said Danes are hard to make friends with and if I am honest I have a mixture of friends from Danes to other expats. But how and where to make friends?Neighbours

I still see my first Danish next door neighbour and whilst neither of us still live in that apartment building and many things have changed for both of us over the last ten years, I still love to have a chat with her. We are connected on social media and delight in the good things that happen to each other and commiserate the less good. We became friends simply because we are both friendly people. I recall, apprehensively asking her in for coffee and cakes one afternoon because I liked her and wanted to get to know her better. It was quite an unDanish thing to do in the early stages of acquaintance but we ended up really talking until it started to get dark (so probably 3pm as it was winter) and our husbands came home. After that I had a friend in the building and we had our children a year apart which helped cement the friendship. My son thinks she is lovely but has no recollection of the times she stood in our kitchen giving him big cuddles when he was a little baby whilst I did other things around them. We helped each other out especially in regard to the shared washing machines when one of our kids had a nappy blow out or was sick on their favourite soft toy. Shared experiences and making the first move resulted in friendship.

Making the first move

Just like above another good friend was made through being brave and making the first move.

One afternoon during our first week living in Denmark I was in our local supermarket I heard a very clear English voice and I bravely walked up to a very statuesque woman and introduced myself. This was my first friend. She had also just moved to Copenhagen. We met for coffee later in the week and I noticed she carried a little leather-bound notebook into which she wrote down recommendations and information she discovered. I liked this and her. We parted without making another date and I wasn’t sure we would meet again.

Fast forward a few weeks and guess who was in my first Danish class? We became good friends and even ended up having our sons within a few weeks of each other a few years later. I was glad I made the bold step of speaking to her in the supermarket.

Although we both moved away from Denmark for a year or so, now we are both back, have our kids in the same class at school and that easy friendship has continued.Language School

This was the place where I made the most friends in the early days, again through shared experiences. I have lost touch with almost all the people I sat in that classroom at VUF three hours a day, four days a week. But although I rarely see the people I am in touch with due to work, children or location, when I do it is lovely. Situational friends have an important place in our lives for that time but do take an effort to maintain when you are no longer in that situation.

School parents

This one is an obvious one if you have children. When your child starts school or daycare they have a new group of people to befriend and so do you. I have a great friend I made through my son’s school (sadly she has moved back to Australia). I can’t even remember how we started our friendship  it just seemed to evolve naturally into a wonderful honest friendship. I also know that there are other people who share experiences with our kids and who will help each other out, whether that is sharing books, lending tools or picking up children from school if someone is sick.Hobbies

A big piece of advice for making friends in Denmark is to join a club and that theme running through this whole post is about shared experiences. I am the least sporty person so any kind of active club would be a big no no for me. When I moved back to Denmark from Germany many of my old friends had moved out of the city or left the country. Through a blogger I knew I spotted a crafting group hosted a someone’s home. I love craft so I went along. I then went to every single one after, even when I could use my hand after my accident I still went for the social aspect. Through this group I made about five great friends as well as loads more casual friends. I now run the group as the lady who hosted it when I started going has moved back to the US and it has such meaning for me (and I hope) others. Incidentally the lady became an amazing friend, who gave me masses of support after my accident, inspired me through her work ethic, parenting and just general kick ass approach to life.

Through this blog

This one of course isn’t an opportunity for everyone but social media can offer the same chances. Back in 2013 when I first started writing this blog, I got a really sweet email from nervous British lady who had just moved to Copenhagen with her Danish partner and their daughter. She was feeling daunted by the move and just kept seeing negativity in the expat forums and her partner had found my blog and said she should contact me. She just wanted some tips via email but I suggested a coffee. Fast forward four years and we are great friends. She is another person who inspires with her approach to life here and all she has achieved.

So if you are struggling to make friends don’t give up hope!

Also don’t forget to get your hands on my guide to Christmas in Copenhagen – just click here for your free copy

7 Quirks of Danish life

Moving to a new country means there are plenty of unexpected quirks to discover. I thought I’d share a few that surprised me when I moved here.

Half loavesDanes love their bakeries and there are a number of different breads you can buy, however they are all pretty big. For ages I didn’t know (and speaking to a friend who has lived here a long time who just discovered this) you can ask for a half loaf. So goodbye to food waste and also arguments about which bread to get.

Animal noisesIn Denmark even the animals speak differently as you may discover of you have a younger child in a Danish daycare or school. Dogs don’t go woof but vov vow, pigs don’t oink but øf-øf. No cock a doodle dos here but kykyliky (good luck with that one). Rap rap goes the duck. Of course this isn’t unusual (see this fun article here) but still comes as a surprise.

Chocolate pålæg

These are the thin chocolate slices you find in the jam and spreads section of the supermarkets. They are laid on the top of a piece of bread in the same way you would use jam and not just a treat for kids. In France and other countries it is usual to find chocolate and bread combined such as for French children as an after school snack (see here)  but still not something you would see in the UK or US.

Address layout

This one isn’t unusual if you come from many other mainland European countries but the number of our houses or buildings comes at the end after the street name and the postcode (which is simply four numbers) comes before the city or town. And then there is the other funny addition for people at home, the 1tv. or 1th. (for example) after the house number. People are never quite sure if they come after the house number with a comma between or gets its own line in the address. So an example – Bulowsvej 38, 1th, 1870 Frederiksberg.

In case you are reading this and don’t live here that designates the floor number and which side of the hall (left or right). In many cases there are only two apartments on each floor.

Comma and not a dot in numbers

This one scares me still when I am transferring money online. In Denmark we would write 75,00dkk not 75.00dkk. I’m still terrified that the number will default so it thinks I mean seven thousand five hundred not just 75. I am something of a number dunce but I doubt I am alone in this one.

Sanitary bags in public toilets

In the UK you will see big bins with strange one way trays to dispose of your feminine hygiene products. First time in a Danish public loo I was surprised to see a plastic bag positioned on a giant hairclip type thing attached the wall. This is where they go. A practical solution as the cleaners just take the bag off and put it in with other rubbish for incineration. No need to a big smelly, overflowing bin to stick around whilst they wait for the truck to take it away and replace it.

Light fittings

When you move to a Danish home you will not have lights already fitted in as the previous owner/tenant will have taken them away. You may find a small plug type socket in the ceiling with a round hole in it. This is where you connect your own lights with their own fittings. Danes often use very long cables and position their lights for optimum hygge. It looks hazardous but isn’t. There is no need to get an electrician to fit them either although you may need a tall step ladder.

I am sure there are tons more….post below if you have one to share.

Also don’t forget to get your hands on my guide to Christmas in Copenhagen – just click here for your free copy

Buying a home in Denmark

Many expats find the price of renting a home here too expensive and look at the possibility of buying their own place as the mortgage repayments are less than renting.We first bought an apartment in Østerbro back in 2014. We had returned from Germany at the beginning of 2013 and took a beautiful rental apartment in Frederiksberg. The rent was more than we could afford in the long-term and the rental contract was only for 18 months. As we knew we’d like to live in Denmark for good, the obvious thing was to buy somewhere. Moving from a rental to your own apartment is much simpler than both buying and selling as we found out in 2016 when we decided to move from Østerbro to Amager.

I have gathered some online resources here to help first time expat buyers. Robinhus, a Danish estate agent, has a really useful guide to buying property here as an expat. International House also has a useful page. 

Unless you have lived in Denmark for a period of at least 5 years, you must obtain permission from the Danish Ministry of Justice (Justitsministeriet) to buy property. However, this restriction does not apply if you are an EU-citizen, and if the property is to be used as a permanent residence.

In regard to getting a mortgage, the larger the deposit you have the more appealing you will be to lenders. First try your own bank and see what they think about the amount you would like to borrow and the deposit you have. If they don’t offer you what you would like then try other banks. We moved all our banking from Nordea to Nykredit to secure the mortgage we needed. The process, like more bureaucracy in Denmark, is pretty straightforward once you have found a bank to lend you the money. Don’t feel downhearted if the first bank can’t help you.

If you already own a property here and you plan to sell it and buy another place, we found that unless we had sold our place or took out a bridging loan, most sellers were not interested in taking an offer from us. We found an amazing house but as we were yet to sell our place they didn’t even entertain our offer.

It is normal for there to be open houses at properties for sale and these usually take place on a Sunday. If you plan your day well you can see a number of places in one day. You can, of course make a private viewing appointment. We found boliga.dk was the best portal for looking for a new place.

It is normal for your never to see the owner of the properties for sale. You will be shown around by an estate agent. I think this is because Danes are very proud of their homes and would not want to see someone have a negative reaction to their lovely hyggeligt home.

When you are buying property you need to be aware of extra taxes you may need to pay. Sales materials put together by estate agents will have tables explaining these costs etc and it is a good idea to ask the estate agent to go over one of these with you so you understand how it all work. The tables are the same on all documents so once you understand one you can understand them all. This guide can help understand property tax and other tax issues.

I hope this helps out.

Quick lowdown on lost property

I regularly see posts on expat forums where people have lost something and want to know how to find out where it might be or people have found something belonging to someone else and wonder what to do with it. I thought I’d gather some links and information here to help with those questions. I spent some time with a Copenhagen Police Officer at the main station police station finding out exactly what they recommend.

So if you find something you think is lost such as a wallet or keys what should you do?

The obvious one is to simply hand it in to a police station (you can find your local one here) and they then deal with it. If you find something in a public institution, Tivoli, shop or on public transport, you should hand it in there as they will have a place where they put lost things and often the owner may be retracing their steps to find the lost item.

If there is a name and address on the item you may wish to return it directly but this must be done straightaway.

Post CPR cards and keys can be put into post boxes and they, in theory, should find their way back to their owner or an official lost and found.

If you find a named Rejsekort, hand it into any DSB office or a 7 Eleven with a DSB counter and they will return the card.

How about if you have lost something?

You can call 114 (non emergency police number) and it will be logged and you receive a note about it via your E-boks.

You can also visit the Police lost and found office (you can find your local one or the one local to where you lost the item here.) They keep items for three months (one month if it is a bike). You can email them in advance if you are looking for something very specific. They will ask for serial number or unique identifiers where relevant.

If you have lost something on DSB they have a helpful page of FAQs about that here.

I hope this helps!

Guide to having a baby in Denmark

Having a baby is one of the most exciting and scary things we do in life and that is when we are in our own countries. Having a baby in a new country can be even more daunting as you are navigating a different languages, process and culture. This was one of the reasons I decided to write a ebook guide to having a baby in Denmark (and it covers the first year too).


For many expat parents to be in Denmark this may be your first baby and you need a lot of help, advice and support in the journey through pregnancy and into that first year. Equally you may have other children but had them in your home country or somewhere else completely.
Almost eight years ago I had my son Frederiksberg Hospital. He was one of the last babies born there before they closed the maternity unit. As he was my first child I had no idea about anything really, not having been a particularly  maternal young woman and being one of the last of my friends to have a baby. I muddled through in some parts of my pregnancy and in others I was led by the medical team around me and the rest of advice from books, the internet and friends and family. I enjoyed my pregnancy and despite a difficult birth, my experience in the hospital here was also excellent. I found the first year a little tough but then who doesn’t?

Things have moved on a lot from those days all those years ago, both in the consumer landscape of Denmark to the services that are offered to pregnant women and young families. In some ways this makes things a lot easier but in others there is more information to find and to know where to look.

In preparation for this guide I thought about all the things I learned when I was pregnant and a new mum but I also had a great focus group of expat mums and mums to be who really helped me out, both endorsing the information I was including but also sharing with me the things they had found tough or information they had wished they’d had. So a big thank you to those women.

If you are expecting a child here in Denmark or have just had a baby then this guide will be an enormous help to you, I wish I’d had something similar myself all those years ago. If you would like to get hold of the guide you can visit my secure shop here.

 

Refuse services in Copenhagen

So this may not be the most exciting title but believe me this information is gold, especially if you are new to the city or have moved from an apartment to a house, like we did.

How does it work?

First of all how does the refuse and recycling system work here and what can you put where? The kommune has produced this useful set of signs, which should technically be put on the bins, but these are so useful to have a quick guide to recycling. Here is the link to the one  in Danish and the one in English.

Where are my bins?

So now you have an idea of what you can put in what bins but the next question is where are these bins located. Copenhagen Kommune has a nifty site called Easy Refuse (www.nemaffaldsservice.kk.dk). You enter your address and in the summary page (overblik) you can see all the different bins associated with your address and their locations.

When will they be emptied?

You can also see how frequently they are emptied. In the calendar area you can find the schedule of collections to either print out or download to your own electronic diary. This is a godsend if you live in a house where you have the responsibility to put out your own bins. In our first week in our new house we forgot to put out our household bin until we heard the bin trucks at 6am.

In you live in a house (villa) you can see the bins you are obliged to have and the ones you can order if you need them, such as green waste, cardboard (strange this one is a request bin and not obligatory) and a compost bin.

But what about bigger items you need to take to the tip?

There is a web page dedicated to this (www.kk.dk/genbrugsstationer) where you can see the ones closest to you and their opening hours. There are guides to how the tips work and what can be taken there. There are also swap centres where you can take decent things you want to get rid of and also go and see what there is you might need. This website helps a lot with more detailed information about using the tips.

You can apply to have access to the tips 24 hours a day using your phone  – you can apply here.

This information is also on the Dejlige Days Welcome website along with a ton of other free resources and guides about life in Denmark and Copenhagen. Did you know you can also buy my book – My Guide to a Successful Relocation – directly from me on that website to. In many cases it will be cheaper this way than via Amazon.

Take a ticket – how to queue in Denmark

Whilst Danes do enjoy a good queue as much as the British, there is a very civilised way of approaching the stress of queueing in places like bakeries, chemists, banks, official offices and post offices (amongst others) and a method that is often missed by people new to Copenhagen. The ubiquitous ticket machines. Sometimes they can be discreetly tucked away but without a ticket you will never reach the front of the queue.  IMG_3753Sometimes a kindly person will see someone standing ticketless and point them in the right direction. I recall a group of twenty something Englishmen in the Lagekagehuset at the main station starting to get rather desperate as they never seemed to be at the front of the queue to order one of the delicious pastries in front of them. I pointed to the ticket machine and waved my ticket and there was great relief on their faces – I wonder how long they would have waited before giving up.

It does mean that if your Danish number skills are not a hundred percent that you need to keep your eyes glued to the number screen as they will shout out the number once or twice and then move onto the next one. In some shops there will be a second number that indicates how many people are ahead of you in the queue, which is helpful if you want to browse and take your eye off the number ball.

If its busy make sure you shout out when your number is called as you make your way to the counter, especially in a busy bakery, otherwise you may miss your chance. I make it sound more cutthroat than it is but it can be frustrating to have to explain you have missed your number and have them huff about the system being messed up.

The Kommune and International House, for example, will have a variety of buttons to push to get into the right number queue so take time to look at them before you make your selection as you don’t want to end up in the wrong number queue and wait longer than you need to.

Be warned if you miss your number in a busy post office because you wandered off to do some shopping and you swan back six numbers later and expect to be served, you will be on the receiving end of some venomous looks, loud rumblings noises and potentially an old angry lady shouting at you in barely understandable Danish – so just stick it out like the rest of us. (This scenario happens regularly in the glacier slow post office in Føtex on Lyngbyvej and I can barely stop myself from inflicting grievous bodily harm to the person who does this after I have stood there sweating for half an hour and my number is next!)

 

Wild Kiwi Pies – the answer to your {meat and veg} pie prayers

About a week or so ago an interesting thing popped up on my Facebook feed. There was a new pie shop opening in Valby. Now when I say pies I don’t mean American pies full of fruit, I mean proper meat pies – a very British and it seems an Antipodean thing. I will be up front and say that although I am pretty much integrated into Danish life I really miss a good hot meat pie. So last Friday I made my way to Valby to find out of this new place, Wild Kiwi Pies, would be the answer to my pie cravings.

Wild Kiwi Pies has only been open for a couple of weeks. The interior looked great but they are still waiting for their new fancy signage outside. As you know I am a big fan of raw brick walls so I already felt good about this place but did the pies match up to the interior? I looked the menu and I wasn’t quite sure where to start in choosing (you can see the full menu here). There were some interesting combinations but I wanted to go a bit old school beef pie. Stuart, the owner of Wild Kiwi Pies and the creator of the pies was happy to come out from the kitchen in his floury apron to talk me through the pies and also a bit about the shop.DSC01601After years of corporate life he decided to give his own business making and selling pies a go and the motto on the website is “Slowly changing Danish food habits one pie at a time.” It’s not enough to attract the expat market, Stuart wants to get Danes on the pie train and become converted to pies. I love it when there is a real person with passion behind a business and it is great to meet them too.  A pie shop like this is a unique thing here but in New Zealand there would be as many pie shops in an area  as we have pizza takeaways – this was something new that I learnt as I had always thought of meat pies as being a very British thing. A culture lesson as well as a lovely lunch.

But back to the pies – in the end I went for the NZ beef, red pepper and caramelised onion pie. The pastry has the right amount of puff to it but was perfectly structured. I was a little apprehensive about cutting into the pie, especially as Stuart was still chatting to me and I didn’t want to offend him. I feared that the meat filling would be too dense and the gravy wouldn’t ooze out a little – for me the ooze is very important.

DSC01599Thankfully this pie has the right amount of ooze for me as you can see. The filling was delicious – sweet from the onions and red pepper but with a kick of black pepper and Worcestershire sauce. The beef was tender and there were no chewy or suspicious bits (another pet pie hate of mine). All in all I would say from my pie expert’s point of view this was the perfect pie. Good pastry structure, oozy filling, delicious gravy and tender meat. It was also very filling.

DSC01600

If you are already a meat pie lover get your pieface down to Valby as soon as possible and try one of Stuart’s delicious pies (or sausage rolls). If you haven’t tried this kind of pie before then this is the perfect place to have your pie initiation. DSC01605

Some practical details – you can buy hot pies in the store to take away or eat there and there are a number of price combos making it the perfect stop for lunch. A single pie is 49dkk which is a pretty good deal if you ask me. You can also buy some of the pies chilled or frozen to cook at home. Wild Kiwi Pies also offers wholesale catering options. The shop is located minutes from Valby Station.

Also a note on the menu on the website. each pie has a little profile about it including all the ingredients and also a spice index to aid you in choosing and is especially helpful if you need to avoid certain ingredients such as gluten and lactose. There is also a vegan pie. You can, of course, check these details by asking in store.DSC01606

Address: Toftegårds Allé 43, 2500 Valby

Website

NB this is not a sponsored post I just genuinely loved the pie and want try them.

Apartment noise and how to be a good neighbour

For many people moving to Copenhagen it may be the first time living in an apartment building or at least for a long while. Generally people in the UK live in houses and for many a family home will be significantly larger than a family apartment in a European capital city, especially in Copenhagen. Most apartments in the central parts of the city will be at least a hundred years old and with that comes the inevitability of noise.IMG_0227

A standard turn of the century apartments buildings will have eight apartments, two on each floor coming off a main stairway with a second back staircase to the yard. This narrow stairway was generally used by domestic staff in more affluent apartments and as an access to the outside privy (which thank goodness in most buildings is a thing of the past).

In the first building we lived in I can honestly say that we heard very little noise from our neighbours. Sometimes the little children downstairs crying in the morning, the lady upstairs doing her exercise DVD (infrequently) and some noise on the stairs. As our bathrooms were separated by a wall there was the feeling that a personal boundary was being crossed if your neighbour was using their bathroom at the same time. Once we had our son I was conscious that we were contributing a little more, less social, noise but our neighbours, then as now, were very relaxed about what they termed ‘family noise’. As one said children are not noisy forever plus children are generally in bed early and the noise ceases but if you are the kind of people who have loud obnoxious parties that is a lifestyle choice you are unlikely to grow out of.DSC00971

In the second apartment we were equally lucky to have quiet people around us but now in our third Copenhagen apartment (and now one we have a commitment to as we own it) we are much less lucky.

I believe that there is an element of managing your expectations about how much noise you will hear from your neighbours – moderate footfall, children scampering around, the rumble of a TV or music, children’s voices and playing sounds, the occasional raised voices, water noises and the occasional intimate acts would be norm but all should be generally bearable. You will be undoubtedly be contributing a similar level of noise yourself.  One friend had her downstairs neighbour complain in the daytime that he could hear her two-year old running about – to me that is the downside of apartment living that you need to get on with and some slack needs to be given, after all she won’t be two forever.

The place we now live in, from our floor downwards, has normal considerate neighbours – families with children of varying ages, an old man, a middle-aged lady and some slightly geeky male Master’s students. But hit the top floors and it is more like a frat house at time. Loud parties well after the agreed house rules times and when asked to turn down the music at 5am our immediate neighbours upstairs felt they could negotiate how loud it could be! One neighbour had a habit of coming home at 6am and blasting music with his door open for two hours on a Sunday morning and even worse on Christmas morning.

It is a hard thing to tackle. There are house rules that the owners of the apartments see  when buying the property but there are no real sanctions if these rules are broken. In general in Denmark these rules are not excessive – simply don’t make noise after a reasonable hour. In Berlin our house rules were very strict and a little excessive such as no noise of power tools and machines on a Sunday so not playing music when the rest of the world is sleeping seems pretty fair to me.

You have to assume the rules are passed onto tenants. If tenants are causing the problems you can contact the owners if you can and complain and it is up to them to deal with it. Sometimes just pointing out the noise is unacceptable can work as people may genuinely not realise how loud they are. Although the guy with the early morning parties denied it was him when I challenged him about it, they seem to have stopped. Perhaps my veiled threat to call the police next time worked.

Being a good neighbour. To me there are obvious things you can do to remain a good neighbour – if you have wooden floors don’t wear heavy shoes indoors; don’t run your washing machine late in the evening especially if you use a fast cycle; don’t put your speakers on the floor as the sound reverberates; move your bed away from the wall so any bedroom activities is not too intrusive to others; try to instill into kids that too much stamping about it not good but remember they are still just kids; if you think your TV or music seem loud in your room, it probably can be heard by your neighbours; if you plan to have a party let your neighbours know in plenty of time, let then know when you plan to finish and turn down the volume at the time specified in your house rules. None of these things will really impact on your daily life but make you a much better neighbour.

In a culture where people expect to be told if their actions are causing a problem but there is a trust that people will live in a considerate way to others, tackling anti social noise is a troubling issue. Throw into that the slight influence of Jante Law it becomes even more problematic. I have a whole arsenal of less than pleasant things I can do to get back at my noisy neighbours (all of which my husband has banned me from doing so we retain the higher ground) but in the meantime I can simply ask for music to be switched off or turned down and hope that our neighbours will do the right thing.

I would love to hear from others how you have tackled this issue.

 

Dejlige Days Welcome and Ebook

This week I launched the website for my settling-in and pre relocation service called Dejlige Days Welcome. You can read more about what is on offer on the website but here is a little summary.

Dejlige Days Welcome is a settling-in service aimed at English speaking expat couples, accompanying spouses and families.
It bridges the gap between the first stages of relocation and the real settling-in period and is personal and unique, offering much more than a traditional relocation service.
I have relocated three times and have a wealth of experience and information to share. I have experienced both the good and the bad sides of relocation and really want to help you.

ddw front pageThere are a number of packages available from pre relocation and personal written guides to practical help once you have moved. If you are just planning to visit the city for a holiday or city break, I have that covered too with tailored travel guides.

dd ebook

The other big thing on the site is my forthcoming ebook ‘Dejlige Days – A Guide to Relocation’. This is not specific to relocating to Copenhagen but anywhere in the world and I share valuable lessons I have learnt from three very different relocation experiences and also advice from other expats. It is both personal and practical. If you sign up before 18th December you can get three free chapters of the book before it is published in the new year.

Please take a few moments to visit the new website, get in touch if you are interested in any of the packages and please share with friends who may be interested.