How using the public library system saves me 4000 Kroner a month

I have always been a fan of libraries from my first experience of the mobile library which stopped at the end of my road in a little village in Kent to the smell of old books in a university library. I experienced libraries in a very different way when my son was little and we hung out in the fabulous children’s sections in Copenhagen libraries. But to me they are certainly more than books. Earlier in the summer there was a very controversial op-ed about libraries (now deleted) which rightfully got the library community raging.Over the last year whilst my son’s school has been located in a building an hour’s journey from my home I have started to use the library even more as a place to work on my laptop using the free wifi and the quiet but cosy environment. I get almost all my books I read from the library and apart from some very new releases, I have been able to find all of them , in English, in the central library catalogue.

It got me thinking about how much in the average month using the library saves me so I thought I’d share it here and may, if you are not a regular library user this may make you use them more.

I used to have a membership for a co working space and then changed it to a pay as you go use. It would be around 150dkk each time to use the space and wifi for the morning to early afternoon. I used the library for this now so I save 1800dkk per month. I can also use the printer at an affordable rate if I wish to.

I love to read and I used to spend a fortune on novels for my Kindle. As I have started getting these books from the library I am saving around 600dkk per month by borrowing instead of buying. It also means I can try books out without the pressure of having to like them as I spent money.

I bought a basic loom from Tiger ages ago and decided to give it a go over the holidays. I needed a bit of inspiration so looked the recommended books on Amazon and then got them from the library. Immediately I looked through them I decided this hobby wasn’t for me. So saved myself another 600dkk on books I don’t need.

My son saw a book in the bookshop of a museum he wanted to look at about Danish architecture. 400dkk was an eye watering amount for a book he would probably only read once but it was sitting there on the shelf of the main library so we booked it out. He had a happy couple of hours looking at it and he know where it is if he ever wants to borrow it again.

I love magazines especially interiors ones but at around 40dkk each it can amount up but I can spend my lunch time in the library reading the latest issues (you can’t borrow them in the issue month) so another 240dkk saved.

I had a meeting with a client and instead of booking a meeting room somewhere or spending a lot of money on coffees etc in a coffee shop whilst not overstaying our welcome I had it in a central library thus saving at least 150dkk.

So a sum total of 3,760dkk was saved. Now in many cases I was able to access things that I would make a choice about spending money on. I can’t afford to buy all those books every month so I would probably only by one and thus read less. Same with the magazines, I would make a choice of which one or two to buy. The book for my son would have been a no and he would have missed out.

Apart from the work aspect of using the library I think all the other ways I use the library and save money would be relevant to most people. Add in that there is access to the library after hours too you don’t need to be confined to using it at time difficult for you.

The final thing I love about the library I use in Folehaven is the wonderfully friendly staff who work there and the little community of other regular users like myself.

Want to see more about how the library system works here? I have two videos (Part one and part two) to give you a great introduction.

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!

Help in understanding customs duties

Many of us have been stung with a bill for VAT and customs charges for gifts or purchases from outside the EU. It is frustrating (and costly) if you are not expecting this and also there is a carrier charge applied in addition to the costs from SKAT (the tax office) which can exceed the cost of the VAT and duty charges. You need to pay the entire bill to get your parcel released from customs.I don’t want to repeat the information from SKAT as I want it to be as accurate as possible for you so this is the link to look at so you understand the implications of buying from outside the EU and also receiving gifts. Here is the link to the SKAT webpage in English.

It is important to note that if you buy from a website based inside the EU these charges do not apply and you will be subject to appropriate VAT when you make your purchase – whether that is with Amazon or any other business in the EU which will deliver here.

When you receive the notice from the mail carrier i.e. PostNord or DHL, you can pay via a website and then the parcel will be released for collection at a local post office drop off for you to collect.

It is important to take these costs in to considering, especially around Christmas when people do a lot of online shopping. One particular place to be aware of these charges is Etsy, as many of the small producers on this website are based outside the EU so make sure you check where the item will be sent from before you order.

You may also find this post about using postal services useful.

How to clean your floors

Moving from a house with carpets to a rental with wooden floors is a daunting prospect. You want to keep it clean, make sure you don’t damage the floors. There are a number of floor cleaning products you need to know about and honestly its not as stressful as it seems at first.

Universal Rengøring (universal cleaner) is exactly what it says however there are special ones for different uses i.e. bathroom, kitchen, windows etc but the picture on the front helps with this. Some need to be diluted and others can be used straight from the spray bottle.

Floor cleaners are something that can cause some angst especially if you have no experience of looking after a wood floor and like many people renting apartments here will be all you will have.

Brun Sæbe – literally this means brown soap. It can be used on tiles, slate, marble, untreated and lacquered wood.

Probat Hvid – this is a brand name white soap but you can find other makes. It can be used on tiles and wood. It creates a protective soap layer which repells dirt.

Træsæbe and Træsæbe hvid – there are a basic soap and a white soap to be used on wood floors.

Natursæbe – this can be used on tiles, bricks, marble and lino floors.

All the above should be used regularly to clean your floor with a mop and bucket after you have hoovered or swept the floor.

From DIY shops such as Silvan, Bauhaus and Harald Nyborg you can buy special fast drying oils to treat your floors to keep them protected. It might be worth checking with your landlord about what they prefer you use.

Gulvolie (below) is an oil treatment for wooden floors and is fast drying. It comes in white, clear, matt and gloss.

Oliefrisker is an alternative to the natursæbe mentioned above, and adds a protective coat on the floor and into the wood. It is to be used on oiled and wax treated floors.

All the above is general guidance to cleaning products but do check with your landlord if you are still concerned about the correct ones to use.

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.

Moving out etiquette

There has been something of an unintentional break here due to sickness (mine and my son’s) and then moving into our new house on Amager. I like to get the boxes unpacked as soon as I can and this time we are lucky enough to have a carport to store the empties in rather than simply moving them from one space to another. We are seeing the end of boxes now and I had a lovely surprise of opening one to find that it was only half full of things and the rest was packing paper.

When we moved in we discovered a lot of stuff left behind by the previous owners, some of which is useful and other stuff not so much. It made me think about the etiquette of moving out of somewhere. I may be a bit too nice to people who move in after me but here goes.

One – do a general clean and tidy For example wipe out all your cupboards. You don’t need to go mad but a quick swipe with a damp cloth is enough. Give the bathroom a clean. Mow the grass. If you have a pet make sure there are now hairy mats for people to discover.

Two – clean your white goods  A lot like above it doesn’t need to be a deep clean but people appreciate a clean washing machine drawer, if nothing else. It is amazing how many people think that something that cleans other things cleans itself – they do not and there is often a lot of scum left around dishwasher doors and in the washing machine. In our last place the washing machine had such a build up of dirty soap and goodness knows what else throughout the whole machine that it, and all clothes washed in it, stank of ponds (needless to say we needed to replace it).

Three – leaving stuff behind Now in fairness some of the things the previous owners of our place left were great and we were delighted. Some we could make use of but wouldn’t necessarily chose and other stuff should simply have been taken to the dump, which is less than ten minutes away. It is polite to give the buyers of your place the choice to take things but lazy and cheeky to simply leave it. The toilet brush full of brown water was not something I was not pleased to discover.

Four – empty your wheelie bins I think this speaks for itself as no one want to move in to find all their bins full and no clue as it when bin day is.

Five – refuse info  Now this is one where people have to be really nice but when we moved in to discover the aforementioned full bins it would have been super to know the bins days. A quick note on a piece of paper on the fridge would have enough. Interestingly you can find your bins days on the kommune website (I have a post about waste and refuse coming up soon – should be useful to many people) but I missed one before I had time to find it and then had nowhere to put our rubbish.

Six – stuff you should leave Paint pots so people can touch up any marks with the same colour. All manuals for appliances. Takeaway menus for local places.

Seven – a bottle of wine I’ve never done this one but wouldn’t it be nice to have a bottle of fizz waiting there for you to toast your new home with?

Thankfully I didn’t have the experience my parents had when we moved into a new place when I was about three. There were brown smears on the walls, which my mum was convinced were poo, fleas in the carpets (which promptly were ripped up and thrown out of the windows) and the power disconnected and all the wires for the cooker ripped out. All on one of the coldest days of the winter.

What do you think? Any horror stories or things to do to add to the list?

 

Guide to using the post in Denmark

How to use a post office varies from country to country so I thought I’d write a quick guide to using the post office here in Denmark. This is also useful to people who have been living here a while as when PostNord took over the postal service here there were some changes to how it works. There are also very few (if any) separate post offices and they tend to be in supermarkets etc, which gives longer open hours. For that reason I have referred to them as post houses rather than post offices.Sending a letter 

You can send a letter up to 50g within Denmark for 8dkk but it can take up to five working days.

There is something called Quickbreve which is 27dkk for up to 100g within Denmark and they go everyday but you need to go to the post office i.e. in the supermarket etc to do post this.  There is more about the mobile apps below but if you want to use this on the app you need to swipe up to select it. Don’t post in a normal letter box though!

Sending parcels

It is very expensive to post parcels here. One way you can save a little is to print your own label using your home printer or to use the system at one of the Pakkeboksen (Parcel Boxes). These are red box systems located in various places such as stations and smaller supermarkets. You can sent parcels up to 20kg outside Denmark and 35kg inside the country. Link here

Other option for posting parcels are pakke.dk (you again need to print out your label) or DHL.dk

PostNord App and website

Once you have downloaded the PostNord App (Mobilporto) you can do a lot of things without having to go to the post office.

  • You can buy postage for letter up to 2kg (so this covers smaller parcels), you get a code to write on your letter in the place of a postage stamp.
  • You can buy package labels

By clicking through to Postnord (at the top righthand side of the app)

  • You can follow your package
  • Arrange Modtagerflex, which allows you to register with the post an agreed place where they can leave your parcel. It is in English.
  • You can sign up to Pakkeboksen (more later)

On the Postnord website you can

  • Find postcodes, post houses, Pakkeboksen and post boxes.
  • You can register a change of address
  • You can register Nej tak to having junk mail in your letter box i.e. brochures from the supermarkets etc.
  • And buy postage.

Pakkeboksen

I have mentioned these above. They are red boxes where parcels can be securely sent and received once you have registered in the website or app. You select the location best for you (this can be changed). There is a search section to help you with this. You then use a unique number and the address of the pakkeboksen when you are shopping online. You then receive a text or email telling you when it is ready to collect.

Collecting parcels at the post house

When you have a parcel to collect you need the slip of paper from the postman or your text/email with the parcel details. Take care to check which post house it has been taken to as sometimes they can send to a different one (there have been time when I have assumed it is the usual location and it is somewhere else). You will need some ID to collect it – usually your CPR card is enough but its a good idea to take some photo ID just in case.

You can have someone else collect it on your behalf but you must complete and sign to Engangsfuldmagt on the back of the slip. Usually I write that I have given my husband (and name him) to collect my parcel.

Tips to make your post house experience better

You will need to pay by cash or Dankort. They do not accept foreign cards.

You can pay bills at the post office if you don’t want to do it online.

Taking the correct ticket to queue can be tricky and usually they are kind if you have made a mistake and are clearly not Danish. If there is an option that says afhentning this is for collecting parcels etc, the other option (which seems to vary) is for other services. Like most places here you take you number and wait for it to come up.

Getting hold of ‘food from home’ in Copenhagen

It is important to accept that food in a new country will be different to your own and that adaptation is essential to really settle in however it would be silly to deny that we all sometimes miss food from our home countries. When I was pregnant I suddenly really wanted certain British food that were impossible to get here so my lovely husband slaved away in the kitchen and produce things such as Cornish Pasties for me. You may also have loads of cook books which require ingredients that are impossible to find easily, for example self-raising flour. I can tell you that the version here produced by Amo is really not up to much!

As time goes on you miss things less but in the early days the comfort of finding your favourite food can really help in adjustment. I thought today I would pull together a list of places where you can find ‘food from home’.For the Brits and Americans it is a little easier. Meny has a reasonable selection of produce although some of the choices they make baffle me but I guess they know their customers. There is also online places such as Abigails (which used to have a bricks and mortar shop but is now online) and The British Corner Shop (which I personally use).

If you happen to be heading over the Bridge, The English Shop in Malmo stocks English, Australian and South African food and they also offer mail order.

If you are looking for Kosher food then Copenhagen Kosher in Østerbro is the place for you.Polish food can be found in a couple of places I know of. Den Polske Købmand in Christianshavn and Delikatesy Polskie at  Aboulevarden 32. For online shopping there is also Polski Koszyk which I think delivers here. Eurodeli  also has food from Bulgaria. Russia, Lithuania, Romania, Latvia, Hungary, Ukraine and Poland.

Indian groceries can be found in a few places but I hear the best are Golden Foods (also known as Double Diamond) in Valby (although from their website it is a little confusing as to the location) and Spice Mart on Vesterbrogade.

Asian fresh food can be found in the small selection of grocers behind the main station, mainly on Colbjørnsensgade, as well as in other shops on Istedgade. There is a small Asian supermarket in Østerbro called Asien Supermarket.For Italian food then the huge supermarket, Supermarco is the place to go. And for French food with a price tag then Ma Poule in Torvehallerne is a great place to go.

I think I have covered all the place I know but do leave a comment if you can recommend another international grocers you would like me to add.

Feeling unsettled in temporary housing

I was reminded of the chapter in my book about living in temporary accommodation as I realised that I had not followed all my own advice. We have been living in a temporary apartment since the beginning of December and will probably be here until March. It is a lovely apartment and we are very lucky to be able to stay here whilst the owners are in Asia backpacking. However it takes time to find your groove in someone else’s home. Simple routine things such as where you leave your handbag and keys when you come in, without your usual spot, means that brain power is needed to remember in the morning as you rush out the door. Usually routine activities don’t use a lot of brain power but living in a strange place they do.img_7418We also have to use the communal tumble dryer, which has been a great way to meet people, but also adds an element of extra planning to the day especially as the washing machine in the apartment uses the shower water taps so needs to be put on by the last person out and if forgotten adds even more rush to the day.

Also finding that you didn’t bring all the things you actually needed. We tried not to bring too much stuff here but there were little things we forgot as we didn’t really think too far ahead. I travelled to the UK last weekend and we have another trip planned in the school break but I forgot to pack our adapter plugs. I hate to use the world’s resources to buy things I already own so I was lucky that a Facebook appeal to the parents in my son’s class meant I had some to borrow. I also didn’t think that I would need any smart ‘work’ clothes in the few months we are here and a work trip plus a variety of meetings coming up means that was a mistake and a trip to H&M and wearing the same smart outfit – perhaps it will become my signature look.

But we do have most of my crafting supplies, Christmas decorations, winter boots (but no smart shoes), a ton of Lego and my one cup cafetière and milk frother. All useful but not essentials things.

Whilst my husband is more situational, both my son and I are ready to resume normal life as neither of us enjoys too much change, and by that we mean one with all the Lego, more than three cookbooks, a wider selection than just a very basic wardrobe, pretty books like this and this and cheese knives! I am certainly not a minimalist!

On a serious note, whilst all these things seem a little trivial and we are in a familiar place so there is a lot less stress living in a temporary place in a new city, it is obvious to see how living in a transitional home whilst house hunting in a new city can be stressful. Yes, you have all the things you need but not your own.

There was a great piece of advice in my book from another Brit who moved here last year and spent some months in an AirBNB whilst they searched for permanent home.

Make sure you take a few small boxes of things that make you feel like this new home is your home. Not just the clothes and the essentials, but a couple of items which connect your present to your past, and make you feel like you’re not standing still in somebody else’s house. My husband and I packed our adored bed linen, a few choice books, and the hearty casserole dish we use every Sunday which was a wedding present. When everything is overwhelming, foreign and confusing, it can make a world of difference to slip into your own sheets at the end of the day.

Scientists often talk about two types of thinking. There is the type in which we very actively think and this uses up a ton of energy and then there is the automatic thinking we do, which is about 90 percent of all our thinking, and take very little energy. Usually activities such as food shopping, driving and repetitious everyday activities fall into the latter category. But when we move to a new place, everyday things can start to fall into active thinking and drain our energy reserves. Which explains how stressful life can become when you move to a new place full of the unknown.