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.

Got milk? – Quick guide to main dairy products in Denmark

Ok, so today I am going to write about milk. Ever since I moved here (and probably a long time before) milk, milk products and yoghurt have been baffling newly arrived (and not so new) expats. Everyone has a tale of either themselves or someone they know who inadvertently bought a litre of yoghurt thinking it was milk and ruined a very decent cup of tea! 

So this is the quick and dirty on milk etc

Milk (available as organic (økologisk) and non organic)

Sødmælk – this is one of the highest fat milk sold here at 3.5% fat. You may find variations of this made with Jersey milk or especially formulated for coffee.

Letmælk – next one down in fat content at 1.5% fat.

Minimælk – milk with 0.4% fat

Skummetmælk – the lowest fat one at 0.1%

Gårdmælk – this is literally translated at farm milk. It is high in fat, between 3 and 4.5%. The fat levels vary as this milk is not regulated for fat content and it fluctuates depending on calving times, weather, season and the cows’ diet.

A38

This is a milk with acidophilus added along with another milk acids, which are reportedly good for your stomach. This comes in various fat percentages are well. It is usually used for breakfast with muesli and porridge.

Ymer

Another baffling one which I have stayed away from. It is a milk with concentrated milk proteins and is therefore very protein rich. It takes a little acidic and is used at breakfast.

Tykmælk

Another breakfast milk, this time with a high fat content as it is made from 3.5% sødmælk. It is creamy and also contains added milk acids (lactic acid).

Kærnemælk

Buttermilk, this is high in protein, low in fat and has a sharp taste. It is used as the basis for koldskål (sweet thick milk dessert served in the summer with little biscuits, which can be bought everywhere over the summer months). If you need buttermilk in recipes this is the product to buy.

Yoghurt

This is called yoghurt and comes in various fat percentages again. It can be plain but also with fruit flavours (but not that many to choose from – pear and banana being a popular one). These kinds of yoghurt come in litre cartons a lot like milk and not very often in single serve pots, hence the confusion with milk.

Skyr

This is a thick, sharp tasting yoghurt from Iceland. Generally high in protein and low in fat. Use as you would greek yoghurt.

Cream

There are around three main varieties of cream. Kaffefløde, which is coffee cream; piskefløde, with is whipping cream but not double cream (for UK readers); and madlavnings fløde, which is cooking cream and has a thickener added.

Other milk products should be familiar to expats such as fromage frais, græsk (greek) yoghurt, creme fraiche (best substitute you will get for sour cream), and Kvark (quark).

This guide in Danish is helpful too.

 

 

DOKK1 in Århus

I have been over to Århus a few times this year as I am supporting Copenhagen Housing‘s Århus arm in offering packages to people relocating to this city. One morning there I stopped by the public library/space DOKK1.

It is hard to define this fabulous places as just a library as it offers so much more. It is a library in the traditional sense with books etc to loan and it also houses a borgerservice section, but the rest of the library is dedicated to places for people to meet and have fun. All the spaces connect so the children’s section is not hidden away from the rest of the space. There is a feeling of flow and connection within the building and this makes it a very flexible space. One day a section could be a play area, another day an auditorium.The part that really blew me away was the children’s section, with games, places to play, dressing up boxes, a puppet theatre and a section where they can play with things we forty somethings remember from our childhood like a typewriter, something completely alien to our kids in the smartphone generation. There are also sections for study, relax, enjoy a coffee and also places where events take place. DOKK1 has an extensive list of monthly events.

A lovely little quirk is that this huge gong sounds every time a baby is born in Århus Hospital.And the best thing is all this is free as it is a publicly funded place, through taxes and business support. If you are in Århus, I would definitely recommend a visit to here. The architecture inside and out is amazing and if you are with kids of any ages it is a wonderful to spend an hour or two.

Whilst we have great library facilities in Copenhagen, I think the city could really benefit from a place like this, aimed at the community and used by them.

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.

Tons of free resources

Over the last four years of writing this blog (I had to work that out and it shocked me) I have written a number of useful practical guides to life here so I thought that I would gather them all together as downloadable PDFs over on my Dejlige Days Welcome website. I will be writing some longer guides to aspects of life here which I will be selling but it is important to me the still offer a lot for free. I will be adding to the free guides in the same way – the information will appear here on my blog first and then be available as a free download. So please do pop over and download any that seem useful to you. I would also really appreciate it if you could add a comment here telling me of any other guides that may be useful to you.

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Yoga and Exercise Classes in English

As we start a new year, many people are looking for ways to exercise more. There was a post recently in one of the expat forums here about finding exercise classes in English. It is possible to join the main gyms here (Fitness DK and Fitness World) and ask if there is the possibility that the instructor can speak in English. They are not obliged to but I have heard in many cases they are happy to. It is probably best to check first before taking out a monthly membership. yogaYoga is an area where there are a number of studios offering classes in English and I have gathered some here. Do add in the comments any I may have missed and I will add them here.

Yoga Centralen in Frederiksberg is a super cosy yoga studio which also offers vegan meals.They have a number of classes in English including antenatal yoga and mother and baby sessions. Website

Yogamudra has two studios – one in Christianshavn and one in Østerbro. They offer a wide variety of classes in English Your membership is valid in both locations. Website

Yoga Factory in Hellerup offers some alternative yoga classes such as aerial yoga and most classes are taught in English. Website

Hot Yoga CPH offers hot yoga in various types. They are centrally located and claim to have the most relaxing yoga hall in town. Website

Astanga Yoga Studio in Østerbro offers a variety of classes but also an unique open studio concept. Website

There are many, many yoga studios in the city. If this interests you, why not simply pop in to your local one and ask about lessons in English or at least partly taught in English is there is demand.


Other exercise classes, as mentioned above, it is worth asking about English classes. You may find if they are a niche type of class, the instructors will be less willing as there is less demand. However the more inquiries they get the more they are likely to consider it. Maybe you have a group of other friends interested, if you mention this they again may see the benefit of offering it. Of course Danish is the language here so there is no obligation for them to accommodate you but asking nicely and showing what is in it for them may tip the balance.

Charlottehaven close to Nordhavn is know as a good place to get instructors willing to teach in English as the residents in the complex are often international. Website Also Powerhouse CPH offers a variety of less common classes including TRX. They have extensive information on their website in English. Website

 

Five Co-working spaces in Copenhagen

Increasingly I am finding that I am working out and about in coffee shops and whilst this is cosy and adds variation to my day, it has its downsides. The biggest one in the cost of having a coffee and the feeling that I can only sit there for a finite amount of time. Having said that I have never been asked to move but perhaps I am a considerate table hogger. If you are looking for cafes that are great for freelancers this post will help.

Co-working spaces offer more than just an office outside the home but the chance to connect with other lone workers and entrepreneurs, something that people who work alone miss. As well as meeting spaces and events.

I thought today I would share five of the co working spaces in the city at caught my eye.

Republikken, Vesterbrogade 26, CPH V 1620screen-shot-2016-09-09-at-12-58-33

This place is the one that is the best fit for me as I can pay 376dkk (plus MOMS) a month to use their members’ space in the cafe area, there are great free benefits such as tea and coffee and printing. You also get access, at a reduced cost, to meeting spaces as well as networking opportunities. There are other memberships that offer flexible or fixed spaces with more benefits and start from 1875dkk a month. The location is very central and easy to get to. This one gets a definite thumbs up from me. Check out their website for all the details, prices and benefits.

Greencubator, Nørrebrogade 20, 1 Sal, 2200 CPH Nscreen-shot-2016-09-09-at-12-57-30

If you are looking for a space in Nørrebro then the Rreencubator is worth looking at. They don’t offer a casual membership like Republikken but flex and fixed rates which they define as part or full time. Part time is two days a week and full time you get your own desk and storage space. Prices start at 1200dkk for the flex space. Besides a desk you become part of a sustainable community with social activities, community lunches, lectures and workshops. Additionally, they offer meeting rooms with technical equipment, printer/scan / copy facilities, and the opportunity to rent Greencubator for your own event. Check out their website for all the details, prices and benefits.

The Rabbit Hole, Frederiksberg Allé 25, 1820 Frederiksberg C

Heading over to Frederiksberg is The Rabbit Hole, a small co working space. They have a flex three day a week membership for 1000dkk per month as well as full time and fixed memberships depending on the stage of your business. Check out their website for all the details, prices and benefits.

Rainmaking Loft, Danneskiold-Samsøes Allé 4, 1434 CPH Kscreen-shot-2016-09-09-at-13-06-56This place is aimed at tech start ups and they have a very open door policy so you can check them out first. Of course, like all the others they offer flex and fixed packages but also a day pass for 150dkk and non residents can pop into the coffee shop. Check out their website for all the details, prices and benefits.

Dare2Mansions, Vermundsgade 13-15, 2100 CPH Øscreen-shot-2016-09-09-at-13-13-37

This dynamic space over on the edge of Nordvest is aimed at entrepreneurs who want to make a difference and it is a very creative and bohemian environment. In their event space they run Lego Serious Play Workshops – what’s not to love? There are flex spaces for solo entrepreneurs and fixed spaces for teams. They run tons of events and there are great networking opportunities. Check out their website for all the details, prices and benefits.

 

Things to do with children under three in Copenhagen

Living in Copenhagen with under school age children can pose a problem if you decide not to send them to daycare or if you are waiting for a place in one. I wrote about things to do with preschool age children here but I notice that there are a lot of parents with under three year olds looking of ideas to keep them entertained, especially when the weather isn’t very playground friendly. So here are my ideas of places to go (all of these are things I did with my son when he was this age).Blegdamsremisen, 681x426px

Blegdamsremisen at Trianglen, Østerbro

If you are looking for a soft play place then this is the place for you. It is housed in a huge, old tram garage and run by the Kommune. There is a large room with climbing structures suitable for babies and toddlers plus open space to run about in. Outside the main room there is a cosy area to eat snacks, warm up food and refresh yourselves (no food is provided) plus a large Lego room (which is separated so littles can’t get in), a room with a few pets such as fish and gerbils and other toys such as Brio train sets and dolls’ houses. It is open throughout the week and manned by specialist staff. Tuesdays and Thursdays between 8.30 and 12 noon it is open for only 0-3 year olds. It is always free entry. For more information visit their webpage here (in Danish).

Capella Play, Fields Shopping Centre

This is another soft play centre but this one you need to pay entry for. It is located on the top floor of the large Fields Shopping Centre and has areas for younger children. It can get busy. For more information visit their Facebook page.

Libraries

All libraries in Copenhagen and Frederiksberg offer children’s play areas, some are larger than others. The best ones are in the main Copenhagen library on Kristalgade, Frederiksberg Main Library located close to Frederiksberg Centre and the one in Ørestad Library. You can expect to find toys such as wooden forts, galleons, dolls’ houses, soft bean bags and of course access to books and other toys for loan. The libraries offer a programme for children of all ages (usually in Danish) so it’s worth looking at their websites for this and getting on mailing lists. Østerbro Main Library has a programme specifically through Copenhagen Cultural Network for English speaking children (and adults).

Music classes in churches

Many churches offer music classes for under threes where they can sing, bash instruments and socialise with other babies and toddlers. If you have a church nearby check out their notice boards for forthcoming classes. You usually need to book a place quickly and you need to commit to a block of sessions. These classes are usually relatively inexpensive and even if you don’t speak Danish they can be stimulating for babies and toddlers.

LINK playgroup

LINK ( Ladies International Network København) run a weekly English playgroup in Hellerup which is open to anyone not just LINK members and you pay for each session. It is on every Wednesday morning 9.45-11.30. They also have a Music and Movement class also open to non members every Friday 10am – 10.45am. There is no need to book, just turn up. Latest information on both these can be found here.

Rygårds Playgroup

Rygårds International School in Hellerup also run a playgroup in their canteen every Monday from 9.15 until 11.15. For more information email rygaardsplaygroup@gmail.com

Sweet Surrender, Vesterbro and Laundromat, various locations

This is probably the only cafe specifically set up to directly welcome young families. It is cosy with nice food and run by volunteers. There is a lovely little play area for babies and toddlers and the perfect place to meet up with other mums.  The Laundromat Cafe (three locations in the city) is also very gear up for younger children with a dedicated play area with big chunky toys and a child-friendly menu.

Museums

Don’t avoid museums with babies and toddlers. Many of the museums here have specific sections dedicated to small children and it is a great way to stimulate babies and toddler plus helping them get used to how to behave in different environments. You can read my thoughts on museums and kids here.

Swimming Pools

Most swimming pools have baby pools here – some you need to book slots in specific baby session and others you can just turn up. Although one of the more expensive pools in the city, DGI has a huge, shallow pool for babies and toddlers and excellent changing rooms. Here is the programme of classes to book. Full list of the city’s pools here and the one in Frederiksberg.

Cinemas

Cinemas in Copenhagen offer what is called Baby Bio where you can take your baby into the cinema with you whilst you watch a movie. The cinema is kept a little lighter and the film less loud so you can bring your baby into the theatre with you. But if your baby needs to sleep you can leave them outside in the lobby in their pram and the cinema staff will keep an eye on them and alert you if your baby starts to cry. Check your local cinema for listings.

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