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.

Halloween at Tivoli

We had a quick visit into Tivoli on Friday on its first official day of its Halloween opening. As usual the park looked fabulous and we’ll be back for more later in the week. Here are a few pictures to whet your appetite.

There are few things happening in the park which you might be interested in. There is a children’s craft workshop, which costs 95kr, aimed at kids up to the age of 8 accompanied by an adult. It looks great fun and lasts about 45 minutes. This is the link to the event

There will also be a trick or treat event on October the 30th and you can find more information here

Innovative way to make the city safer

Following a number of attacks by terrorists using vehicles as a weapon, more and more cities are placing solid concrete blocks in popular city centre areas to prevent further attacks of these kinds. After the attack on a Christmas market in Berlin last year, the authorities in Copenhagen were rightly quick to place protective blocks in the city in places which may be considered targets. Whilst these blocks serve as very practical purpose, the look of them is not very pleasing and can create a feeling of fear. Cities still need to be functional and useful for everyone especially those people on foot or using bikes.

TagTomat, an organisation behind a number of urban gardening projects which has been in operation since 2011, has worked with Sharing Copenhagen to develop a prototype concept to make the barriers more attractive and useful in everyday life. The idea is to take a wooden framework which is placed over the functional concrete blocks. The framework can then have benches, bike racks and planters added to it. The idea also offers value for money as the barriers then become multi use and it makes spaces greener and more friendly but also safe.

TagTomat has chosen a variety of robust plants with long flowering times. The project was covered by DR’s P4 programme and the presenter, Kamilla Mærsk, summed the barriers up perfectly:

“If I just walked past them I would not think of terrorism immediately but rather a new initiative from the City of Copenhagen to make the city a little nicer.”

There are two locations currently in the city where the prototypes can be seen: the Rådhuspladsen and Nyhavn.

You can read more (in Danish) about the project and watch some videos here

This is an interesting news piece about the project

Photo credit: Tag Tomat

 

Skolernes Motionsdag – Denmark wide school sports day

Those of you who have children in Danish schools will no doubt have been told that next Friday (13th Oct) is the Skolernes Motionsdag. For those without kids you may be surprised to see hordes of children running around parks, the lakes and other open spaces on the day. But what is it all about?

The day start with a mass warm up session before the entire school goes and runs circuits around a local open space.

98 percent of Denmark’s primary schools participate in the Schools’ Day of Activity with about 355,000 active students. It is estimated that 700,000 children are participating annually. Together they run what corresponds to around the earth around 35 times.

The School’s Day of Activity is part of the Sunde Children Movement School program , which is a collaboration between TrygFonden and Dansk Skoleidræt. The overall goal of the program is that more children and young people move more and establish healthy habits early in life.

The School’s Day of Motivation was first held in 1982. The idea was fostered by a group of sports teachers who wanted to create a joint exercise event in Funen. Initially, the students only ran , but over the years the event developed to include other activities.

This year schools have been given frisbees a couple of weeks before and there is an associated leaflet encouraging healthy habits in children around eating, exercise and screen time.

It seems odd to have the day when its is a bit cold but all the kids seem to love it. You can watch 2015’s warm up video here – still a big hit in our house!

Read more about the day here

Photo credit

Autumn holiday activities

With the efterårsferie (autumn school holiday) starting at end of school on Friday 13th (spooky) there is plenty to keep the kids entertained over the break. Tivoli opens for Halloween that day and the park will no doubt be festooned with spookiness and pumpkins. 

Culture Night  kicks of the autumn school holiday and shouldn’t be missed.

Lego building at the Danish Architecture Centre (remember to book yourself a place if you want to come in with your child).

Louisiana has events for children in the Children’s Wing

Frilands Museum is a great autumn trip and they have stuff going on during the week

Renaissance Fair is taking place at Kronborg Castle in Helsingør if you fancy a trip further afield

Viking for a day at the Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde sounds like fun Workers’ Museum http://www.arbejdermuseet.dk/arrangement/efteraarsferie-skaeg-stauning/

Climate Planet is the huge planet installation in the Rådhuspladsen and sounds amazing.

Looking for a pumpkin patch then this post from another local blogger helps. Anya also mentions places for apple picking, which is more of an Autumn tradition in Denmark.

Enjoy the holiday!

Should adverts always be in Danish in Denmark?

First up I’d like to say that I think the actual content on the Oatly marketing campaign popping up all over Copenhagen (and other European cities) is inspired, eye-catching and disruptive. However my beef is that the adverts are all written in English regardless of which country they are in.Every time I see them (and it is every day at the moment) I feel slightly irritated by the in your face nature of the English language in a country where it is not the first language. I asked on Instagram what people thought about this and the comments were interesting. One person agreed that the blanket use of English in the adverts was lazy but as someone who doesn’t speak a lot of Danish she appreciated being able to understand an advert. It is comforting to see something you understand in a sea of things you don’t but surely the target audience isn’t a minority of people who can’t speak the local language. Others weren’t that bothered and others felt it was incongruous.

I suppose I am playing devil’s advocate somewhat as I’m not Danish. However as someone who moved here almost ten years ago when there was hardly anything written in English  (for example now many websites have the choice of English or Danish this simply didn’t happen then) it forced me (although I was a willing participant) to learn Danish to be able to understand most things. With the move towards more English language materials and also the spoken word, the perceived need to understand Danish as a foreigner is diminishing.

There is a question mark about what this means in the long-term for the Danish language. With freedom of movement in Europe, more and more companies are operating in English to attract talent, which economically is understandable. But at the same time when the choice comes between a Danish speaker (but not necessarily a Dane) and a non Danish speaker the former often gets the job in some companies.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this especially if you are from Germany or France where these adverts also appear in English. Is it a worrying precedence or doesn’t it matter? Should it be considered inevitable that the languages of smaller countries will become second to a more widely spoken language such as English? Tell me what you think.

 

 

Valby and Sydhavn coffee shops

Since the start of this school year my son’s school is now located in Valby. It is an area I know from when he was at preschool here but a lot has changes in the area since then. Our route in from home also takes us through the older, more traditional part of Sydhavn. In my quest for my second morning coffee and perhaps the odd pastry, I have been discovering a few coffee shops in the area. Here are a few I like in case you are also in this area.

First is Snabel B located close to Valby Station. This is a retro, grungy cafe which reminds me a lot of the Berlin aesthetic. Friendly staff, comfy seats, great music and reasonable coffee. 

Next is the Valby outpost of the Emmerys chain, located at Trekronergade 147b. Not a big fan of their coffee as I find it a little strong but if you like it that way then this is the place for you. It is a short walk from Sjælør Station. Their avocado on rye bread is very good.

Saving the best for last is Rallys, located just off Mozarts Plads in Sydhavn. A cosy place with great coffee, pastries and breakfast plates. It is also very reasonably priced. This is certainly an area on the up and Rallys has got in before the area gets too gentrified.

Also worth another mention is South Harbour Cafe (close to Sydhavn Station) and Wild Kiwi Pies (close to Valby Station).

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.

Get a new look this autumn with a fab hairdresser!

I have written before about my amazing hairdresser, Sharon Hatting. Not only is Sharon a great hairdresser but she is also something of an inspiration to me.

Sharon is now renting a chair in a salon called Hair by Dunja at Enghavevej 70 in Vesterbro. It is a great location and easy to get to. In September she is offer 10% off a cut as an introduction offer to her new location. You can book an appointment via their website here.


I also interviewed Sharon for a My Danish Career piece in The Local Denmark and it is getting a cracking response. You can read it here and find out more about Sharon’s business journey.