Skoleklar – Check list for the new school year

Three years ago my son was going into the 0 Klasse and starting school for the first time. I recall at the time being surprised that there were so many things we needed that the school had assumed we simply knew about. In many cases people did know but there were a lot of people who didn’t so today as we are just a few weeks off the new school year starting I thought I’d pull together a list here. Now some schools may ask for other things and maybe not all of these but this is a good, basic starting point. There will be a lot of promotions in shops I have mentioned over the coming weekend and week so it’s a good time to get a bargain and also to ensure the shops don’t sell out before you have kitted out your child.

1 A rucksack

This needs to be size appropriate for your child and be large enough to carry a homework folder (if you school gives homework), a pencil case, a packed lunch (if your child isn’t having school lunch or it isn’t available in your school) and a water bottle. Good places to find rucksacks include Bog og Ide, Neye and perhaps Bilka. Popular brands here are Ergobag, Jeva, Satch, Lego themed bags, Eastpak and of course Fjällräven. You don’t need to buy these brands but they are the ones you will see around, also at the start of school they don’t need a huge, expensive bag. You can expect a good quality rucksack to last them a few years.

2 Sports bag

Your child will probably need a basic sports kit including shorts/track bottoms, T-shirt, sock and non marking trainers for inside use (this last one came as a surprise to me so you many want to double-check this is what is expected at your child’s school, it is dependent on the type of gym floor they have). Also a small bag for the kit. H&M is a great place for inexpensive sports kit.

3 Water bottle (and lunch box)

You can see these in any supermarket at the moment and there are various promotions around.

4 Pencil case

This is not necessarily a necessity but you will find that most children in the class will have them at the start or begin to get them. You don’t need to spend a fortune on these but again a good quality one such as one from Ergobag will last. Many come already kitted out. However both Flying Tiger and Søstrene Grene have both pencil cases and all the pencils etc sold separately and this is a cost-effective way of getting a good set together. Bilka also has a great ‘back to school’ section. In general lead pencils, a set of basic colour pencils, an eraser, ruler and pencil sharpener is all you need at the start of their school career.

5 Waterproof clothes and boots

If your child is moving up from børnehaven you will know this already but kids here are sent out at break times whatever the weather so need to have a waterproof suit and rubber boots at school to wear when needed.

6 Indoor shoes

Likewise school like to keep the wet outside so may ask your child to have a pair of indoor shoes to wear inside, certainly our school does. You can find these in shoe shops – Superfit is a popular type (you can find them on Zalando.dk as well as shoe shops) but there are other brands.

7 Change of clothes

Your child will be expected to have a complete change of clothes at school in a small bag.

8 Name tags

There will be loads of new kids in the school as well as the existing students and clothes can get lost very easily so make sure you have put your child’s name and class in all their clothes. You can buy stick on labels or just buy a fabric pen (from Panduro or Bog og Ide) and write it yourself. Remember these fade or fall off with repeated washing so keep an eye on them to make sure they are still identifiable.

I would recommend that you go out this weekend or during the coming week to make sure that you aren’t (like I was three years ago) running around frantically only to find a lot of things sold out.

Good Luck!

 

 

Take the stress out of Danish bureaucracy with this newly updated guide

Danish bureaucracy can seem confusing at times but it is a lot simpler than in some countries (Germany I’m looking at you!). Nevertheless there are many ways you can fall foul of various elements of bureaucracy when you are settling here.

I have written a useful guide to all aspects of bureaucracy with loads more details about how to get your CPR number, opening a bank account, digital services such as NemID and E Boks as well as how to pay bills, the media licence (and yes you do have to pay this!), insurances and much more. The guide is concise, easy to use and has all the check lists you need. You can get the guide here

If you want a quick introduction I’ve prepared an easy to understand infographic about some of the key elements which you can get hold of here  for free and you get to be on my mailing list. I promise to protect your data and you won’t get spam from me, just information you need. It goes without saying you can unsubscribe at any time but I hope you find it a useful list to be on!

Moving to Denmark with a dog

Many expats plan to move to Copenhagen with their beloved dog but there are some things to understand about owning a dog in Denmark.

Firstly many landlords are reluctant to rent to people with dogs so it can narrow an already limited number of places to rent.

Banned breeds

There is also a list of banned breeds in Denmark. Check this link to make sure your dog is not on the list and how the legislation works.

There are basic rules for dogs in public

  • They should be on leads unless it is an area where they can run free.
  • You must have control over your dog and be able to call him to you.
  • You must pick up poo even in dog areas.

Here is a map showing dog playgrounds and also areas where your dog can run free. Blue means they can run free and grey they must be on a lead. This site is in Danish but you can use Google Chrome to translate it.

Dog walking/sitters etc

There are a number of dog sitting and dog walking companies/individuals, a quick search found these two but I am sure there are many other private individuals who offer this service too. (www.dogwalker.dk), (www.dogley.dk)

Using public transport

If you plan to travel on public transport you must pay a dog ticket (same as a child ticket) if your dog walks onto the transport, if you carry him in a dog carrying bag  (or one he is comfortable in) he travels free. The bag must not be larger than 100 x 60 x 30 cm. The bag is placed under or above your seat, on your lap or in luggage areas. Here are the guidelines for DSB (trains)and general ones for all public transport . Only dogs in bags can go on A and C bus routes.

Chipping etc

There are rules about immunisations and also chipping and insurance. This link is a good one for this information. 

This is a useful link about insurance.

Vets and kennels

This link has some useful contacts for vets (dyreklink), kennels and tons of other useful information.

 

 

Apps to help you in Denmark – Part 2

Using a multitude of different apps on your phone opens up many opportunities in Denmark. I thought today and next week I would share some of the apps I use and also ones I think would be useful to new expats. I’ve not listed international ones but more ones  that are specific to Denmark. Where I can I have linked to the website of the provider so you can choose the app appropriate for your device. Where that wasn’t possible I have linked to the iPhone app (if you use Android or other you can search in your own app store). (see part one here)Shopping

Reshopper- you can use this app to buy and sell used children’s items, easily and safely. An excellent way to save money.

COOP member app- You collect a bonus in kroner and use it when you shop in a Coop supermarket. You can choose to pay with your bonus when you are at checkout. You can also choose to save your bonus and instead pay with your payment card.

Nemlig.com Online grocery shopping either via their website or the app.

Your Local (food waste app)– get delicious food offers from your favourite neighbourhood shops. Save money every time they offer food that would otherwise have gone to waste.

Pricerunner– compare prices for many items to make sure you get the best deal.

Food Delivery Service

Apps to order take away food to your door.

Hungry.dk

Just Eat

Foodhub

Wolt

Recreation

Dog Parks in DK– the official “Dog Parks in Denmark” app from Hundeskove.dk gives you an overview of Dog Parks and other dog friendly areas in Denmark.

Spotted by Locals-crowd sourced recommendations from a selection of local insiders in Copenhagen.

My City Highlights – another app with insider recommendations and resources.

Apps to help you in Denmark – part 1

Using a multitude of different apps on your phone opens up many opportunities in Denmark. I thought today and next week I would share some of the apps I use and also ones I think would be useful to new expats. I’ve not listed international ones but more ones  that are specific to Denmark. Where I can I have linked to the website of the provider so you can choose the app appropriate for your device. Where that wasn’t possible I have linked to the iPhone app (if you use Android or other you can search in your own app store).

Travelling about

Rejseplanen  – with this app you can plan your journeys on all public transport. You can switch to English in the app.

Mobilbilletter buy your public transport tickets on this app.

Taxa– If you are concerned about saying your street name when booking a taxi this is the perfect app. You can order a taxi and also pay using the app.

TrafikInfo – For drivers this app tells you all the traffic information you need.

 

EasyPark – another one for drivers, you can pay for your parking using this app and it also lets you know when you need to return to your car. You can also add extra time to your parking from the app so no need to return to your car.

Practical 

MobilePay – you can use this to pay for goods etc in some shops and also to pay other people directly from a secure app. All you need is a Danish bank account and a mobile phone number. You need a CPR number to use this app.

Dankort App – the Dankort app to be able to pay using your Dankort via an app. Some supermarkets now accept this rather than MobilePay.

PostNord Mobilporto– You can use this app to buy postage online and you get a code to write on your letter. No need to find a post office and buy stamps. The price of postage on this app is the same as in the post office.

DMI Weather– This weather app is specific to Denmark so should be accurate, or as accurate as weather forecasts ever are!

Eboks– Check your Eboks on the go with this app.

112 app – with Denmark’s official 112 app, you can start a call to the alarm center and simultaneously send the mobile’s GPS coordinates so the emergency services can find you quicker.

Personal banking app – most banks have an app for your banking. Rather than list them all here just pop over to your bank’s website and find the app there.

Language

All the apps below are great starting points for learning and practicing Danish and/or help you communicate better in Danish.

HelloTalk

Læsesjov

Babbel

Duolingo

Simply Learn Danish (with an expat in app purchase)

Part Two next week…

 

 

 

Differences between Danish schools and UK ones

Recently I asked some UK based mums about aspects of their primary age children’s schools. I had noticed what I saw as some fundamental differences between the two countries’ approach to schooling and my research backed up my thoughts. I have only been a parent in Denmark and Germany and my experience of UK schools is from my own childhood.

The overriding theme in Danish schools is giving freedom and choice to the children even from a young age. For many parents coming from countries such as the UK and the US this can be alien and a bit of a struggle to come to terms with. Although we all remember the freedoms we had as children growing up in 70s and 80s Britain, there is a fear of this for children now. High profile child abductions have bred a culture of fear, however it can be argued that these cases are the exception rather than the rule.

So here are my observations. I would love to hear your thoughts and observations as well. Have it got it right or not? What are your experiences?

Open school buildings – I have not seen many school buildings here with key pad entrances (daycare places do have them). My son’ school has been housed in a couple of state school buildings here in Copenhagen and none of them had secure keypad entrances. I know the private International schools do have higher security but it is rare in state schools. When I asked about UK schools 76% of those who responded said their schools had secured key pad entrances.

Open Playgrounds – a lot of schools here have completely open playgrounds, that is without fences and gates. Some are even have public footpaths or cycle ways running through them. After hours facilities in schools such as playgrounds and sports halls are often open for the local community to use them. When we lived in Østerbro we regularly spent the evenings in our local school playground on their play equipment and we would often see other local families doing the same. In my survey 100% of the school playgrounds were fenced in and only 11% were available after hours for the local community.

Mobile Phones – in most schools here children as young as seven will arrive at school with their own mobile phone (usually to do with personal safety, more later) but will hand it in to the school office for the school day. 88% of my survey said that mobile phones were not allowed in primary school in the UK at all.

Travelling to school alone – following on from the point above, it is not uncommon to see children from the age of nine travelling to and from school alone on foot, by bike or on public transport, for this reason mobile phone are essential if parents and children to be able to keep in contact. This level of freedom is unusual in the UK with 70% of my survey saying this would not happen in their area.

School Uniform – I didn’t have to survey this one as it is rare for state school in the UK to not have a school uniform. in Denmark the reverse is true. There are no rules about clothing, hair styles or make up  but generally children are appropriately attired. I have written about this before here.

School start age – like many Northern European countries the legal school start age in Denmark is 6 and it is compulsory from the age of 7. Before that there is no formal education and the first year in a Danish school (0 klasse) is still very play based. Danes believe that it is important for children to be children and by the age of 11 they have caught up educationally with their peers in the UK.

School hours – the time primary age children spent in the classroom is around the same as in the UK but school days start at 8am in Denmark in many schools and finish a little earlier. This is for practical reasons – parents need to get to work, the daylight hours are short in the winter so children have some hope of seeing daylight after school finishes. Likewise the summer holidays are timed for the months when there should, in theory, be longer sunnier days in July.

School trips – school day trips in Danish schools usually involve long walks to the destination or a trip on public transport. 70% of my survey said trips would never be on public transport in the UK (the other 30% living in metropolitan areas). School trips in Danish schools tend to be funded by the school and parents are not asked for financial contributions as opposed to 80% of my UK survey members having to pay something towards the trips.

There are flaws in the Danish school system, of course nowhere is perfect, but the freedoms given to children to make their own decisions and exercise their freedom within a trusting society is an important element of making children ready to take on life as teenagers and adults.

 

Lactose Free products in Denmark

I have written before about gluten-free products and today I thought I’d write a quick guide to lactose free (laktosefri) products here in Denmark. This is a subject close to home for us as my husband needs to follow a lactose free diet.

One thing which has surprised me is how many products contain lactose, many of which you wouldn’t immediately assume would. Many sausages here contain lactose as well as frikadeller (meat ones), pates including leverpostej. Crisps and pre made soups also can contain lactose.  If you shop carefully you can find some of these free of lactose. It is a positive move by food producers in Denmark to highlight in bold type any potential allergens in their ingredients lists, which makes this process a little easier. Another thing which surprised me is that some blue cheeses are naturally lactose free!

So onto the products. Arla has a wide range of lactose free dairy products (it is important if you are following a lactose free diet not to cut out all dairy products as you can be missing out on health benefits – this page by the UK NHS is very useful). Arla is a brand name UK readers will have seen offering lactose free products in the UK. Here you can buy almost all products that usually contain lactose in a free from variety including milks, cream, yoghurt, cheese and butter. These seem to be available in almost all supermarkets. There are also some supermarket own brands as well.

Alpro  is a plant-based alternative to dairy and they have a number of products available again in most supermarkets. Of course there are lots of nut milks available.

Recently I have spotted that Galbaninow produces a lactose free mozzarella, a relief for pizza lovers! I also bought some lactose free parmesan (not seen it many places) – in my opinion it had zero resemblance to real parmesan but did the job.

Matilde now offer their ubiquitous chocolate milk in a lactose free variety. Hansens Is have lactose free ice creams.

Philadelphia have a lactose free incarnation perfect for cheesecake fans. Another surprising one is Wasa crackers have lactose free ones – I had no idea their regular ones contained it at all!

There are other products offering lactose free alternatives. I use Nemlig.com as a good guide for these, even if you choose to shop elsewhere. A quick search simply for ‘laktosefri’ in Nemlig with show you many alternatives.

If you are not all exclusively lactose free in your household you may find my guide to dairy products useful!

Photo credi

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.