Getting started in Denmark can be easy or it can be a case of learning by trial and error. For every expat moving to a new country, the question of what steps to take is always foremost in their minds.
Unfortunately, doing the wrong thing or taking too long to do something else can cause you heartache, cost you time and money and, more importantly, sometimes prevent you from staying in your new home.
Taking the appropriate steps with this 10 step guide will help you get started right. This guide will help you avoid a lot of needless aggravation. This is not to say there are not other things to do, but these will get you off on the right foot and I have more suggestions below.
Remember, other expats have done these same things when they were getting started in Denmark and they are now comfortably living and enjoying their lives. You can too!
Tip: If you skip some of these steps, you will find it much harder to complete some of the others. Complete each step before going to the next one. If something does not apply, like schooling, just move on to the next step.
1. First step in getting started in Denmark is to get permission to move to and work in Denmark. If you do not have permission to reside/work in Denmark before you arrive, you can be waiting months for approval and be unable to earn an income. Stay at home, keep earning money and then move when you get your approval.
2. When you get your residence/work permit, your next getting started step is a stop at the Folkeregister in the kommune (www.fyidenmark.com/danish_kommunes.html ) which you are moving to. At the Folkeregister, you will apply for your CPR Number (www.fyidenmark.com/CPR.html ).
Remember, you can’t get a CPR number without having a residence permit.
The above step will open so many doors, when your CPR card arrives. Makes life alot easier.
3. So the next step is to take your CPR card to the bank (www.fyidenmark.com/banksinDenmark.html ). When you get your CPR card, you can open a bank account and do so many other things which are all based on your CPR number; e.g., apply for a Dankort and also set up a NEM Konto.
P.S. It is possible to open a bank account without a CPR number, but it is difficult and fewer and fewer banks are willing to do it.
4. Next getting started step is to stop in at the tax office (www.fyidenmark.com/taxofficesindenmark.html ) to apply for a tax card. You will get two cards – an A kort and a B kort.
5. Step five is to check in with your kommune and register for Danish language classes (www.fyidenmark.com/danishlanguageschools.html ). They will either enroll you, put your name on a waiting list or give you a list of schools and let you contact them and make your own arrangements.
6. This next getting started in Denmark step does not have to be done in order, in fact you should do it within the first few days of arriving in Denmark. If you have a driver’s license (www.fyidenmark.com/drivinglicensedenmark.html ) from outside the EU, get it switched to a Danish license within 14 days. It is illegal to drive on a foreign license for more than 14 days after receiving your CPR number and being officially registered. This is also done at your local kommune / borgerservice.
7. If you have children get them enrolled in school, kindergarten, etc. (www.fyidenmark.com/education-in-Denmark.html ) Your local kommune will assist you with this, so the time to talk to them is when you are doing getting started steps 5 and 6.
8. If you are starting work immediately and planning on staying in Denmark for some time, it is worth getting unemployment insurance or A-Kasse. If you are on a short-term contract, 6 months to 1 year, it is not worth the bother.
9. Crime is not a major problem, but make sure you have insurance coverage. You should get home or renter’s insurance. This will also cover bicycle theft, which is a problem in the city. It is not expensive and well worth the cost in case of problems.
10. Now for the most fun and important getting started in Denmark tip that I can impart to new expats. Familiarize yourself with the area you are living in. Take lots of walks, visit as many stores (www.fyidenmark.com/shops_in_denmark.html ) as possible, locate the post office (www.fyidenmark.com/postofficeDenmark.html ), bank, drug store, library — explore, explore and explore some more. The more you know of the area in which you live, the quicker you will begin to feel at home.
Being in a new country requires you to learn some new rules of etiquette so that you are not spoiling your chances for further invites.
The Danes have some traditions, which they hold very dear and expect others to respect and uphold.
Ignoring these Danish rules of etiquette can spoil your chances of being invited back for other dinners.
Punctuality: The first etiquette rule of being invited to dinner is that you must be punctual. Being late is unacceptable and not considered polite. If you are invited for 6 p.m., than you should arrive at 6 p.m., and no later than 5 minutes past. It is acceptable to be a few minutes early, but late is never acceptable.
Even if you are only delayed 5 minutes, you should call and let your host know that you are running 5 minutes late.
Gifts: Next thing to remember is that you should never arrive empty handed. It is customary to bring a small gift like a bottle of wine, flowers, chocolates or small trinket. I always like to bring candleholder or glass ornament. If it is a birthday or type of anniversary, than you should also bring a larger gift for the honorary.
Shoes: It is impolite to wear your outdoor shoes inside a person’s home, so it is expected that you remove your shoes when entering a persons home. In order that you do not go around in your socks, you should bring along a pair of slippers. Sometimes the host will have extras, but it is advisable to bring your own.
Now this is not always the case, especially if the party is being held partly outdoors or it is a fancier type party – ball or large banquet. But you should be prepared with a pair of slippers in your bag. You can always ask the host what is expected.
Introductions: Depending on the size of the party, you may not be introduced to everyone individually. You should take it upon yourself to go around and greet each person. Say hello and shake their hand. This is very Danish and would be impolite not to introduce yourself.
Seating: When it is time for dinner, your host will announce that dinner is served. You should than proceed to the table and find your place. Depending on the size of the party there may be table cards indicating your seating arrangement. At other times the host may assign your seats. You now stand behind your chair until everyone is at the table. When your host says «Vaersgo or Velbekomme» that means it is time to take your seats.
P.S. Depending on the circumstances it is okay to hold a ladies chair and help her, but it is not expected. Equal rights and all, so you should play this by ear. Watch what other guests might be doing and take a clue from them.
Courses: There are usually several courses served during an evening meal. You will start with a fish dish as an appetizer, than a main course and than dessert. You are not expected to help clear plates between courses, but after the entire meal is finished, you should tell the host «tak for mad». This means thank you for the meal.
After the meal you will usually retire to the living room and have coffee/drinks/snacks and than the evening will end after that is served.
Departure: When leaving the party, you should tell the host that you had a good time by saying «Det var rigtig hyggeligt». You can also say it when saying goodbye to the other guests. This is the polite way to let everyone know you enjoyed yourself.
The Next Day: The following day or the next time you meet the host or any of the guests from the dinner party, you should say «Tak for sidst!», which means «thank you for the last time». You say this to everyone that was at the party, since everyone contributed to the success of the party.
P.S. I always find it amusing, when after an office party, as everyone comes to work all you hear for the first hour of conversation is «tak for sidst» repeated to every person walking into the office.