The lowdown on Fastelavn

Moving to a new country means the introduction to new traditions. Fastelavn is another Scandinavian tradition that was new to me when we came here and the first year I was very curious about why supermarkets were suddenly selling small wooden barrels. In England we traditionally eat pancakes on Shrove Tuesday before Lent begins but here the Danes celebrate Fastelavn. It is a real ‘go big, or go home’ kind of celebration. Fastelavn is celebrated on the Sunday or Monday before Ash Wednesday (seven weeks before Easter Sunday) and is a real carnival for children.fastelavnChildren dress up in costumes or cat masks, and a big wooden barrel with a black cat on the outside is suspended, which they can bash with impunity until the bottom falls out scattering the sweets inside. Being Denmark everyone is a winner! The child who administers the final bash before the bottom comes out is crowned the cat king or queen but everyone takes a share of the booty.

This is known as slå katten af tønden (hit the cat out of the barrel) and in olden days the barrel actually contained a cat, which would then be chased away signifying the banishment of evil.

Great fun nowadays for everyone, including cats!

But my favourite thing about this celebration is Fastelavn Boller. Imagine a huge choux bun filled with a custard cream with chocolate and more whipped cream for good measure on top? You are? Well that is what is eaten as a Fastelavn bun here in Denmark before Lent begins. There are variations with raspberry cream and icing too.CIMG5552Generally I don’t like to see seasonal items in the shops too early but I make an exception for something like this and am delighted when they first start appearing in bakeries during the run up to Fastelavn. Now I understand there is a more old fashioned version which is much more moderate but I have never tried one (and why would you when there is a cream bun on offer?).  So there is something for children and of course, something for everyone at Fastelavn!CIMG5553

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…

 

 

 

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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