Looking back on my first settling in post, after just ten days in Denmark, I think, oh how minor those settling in wins were! Fast-forward six weeks, we have completed settling in level two and it feels good. It’s just in time for our next house move, and for the Spring weather to kick in. Double whoop.
Level two has been all about the admin, to function as Danish residents. The actual process of registering as a Danish resident was fairly straightforward, thanks mostly to still being in the EU – just! It has been all the other ‘extras’ that come with integrating into a new country, that have taken time and caused a few teething problems (can’t type teething without shuddering – it’s been one of those weeks!).
I’m going to write a separate post on the paperwork you need to set up in Denmark, in case it’s useful to future expats. But to give you an example; to open a bank account, you need a health card, to get a health card, you need a CPR number, to get a CPR number, you need to be registered as a resident, to register as a resident…you get my drift. So after a month of using English bank cards with exchange rate charges and buying the more expensive single tickets on the metro because you can’t get the resident travel card that requires the CPR number, I just wanted to feel like I lived here. Instead, I had moments of feeling like a sort of tourist/visitor/outsider/half Dane who doesn’t understand what you just said to me even though I said ‘ja tak’ and fluttered my Danish blue eyes. I’m a fraud!! Well no longer. Sort of.
So let’s get to the settling in level two wins….
Win number 1: We are permanent Danish residents.
Paper-work is complete! See next blog post on the hoop jumping this involved. It also means we don’t have to drag Lydia around to offices while we wait in queues to get it all sorted.
Win number 2: We have Danish bank accounts.
The debit cards should arrive this week, which means no more exchange rate charges or doing binge ATM visits.
Win number 3: Travel cards like the locals
We have resident travel cards which equals cheaper travel and the easy Oyster-style cards. I had a low-point, when taking a bus journey with Rich and Lydia one day before I got my travel card. Rich had already been sent his, and we thought he could add me to his journey, which is what you can do on the metro and s-tog. Apparently not. To cut a long story short, it ended in a ticket officer who didn’t understand us, we didn’t understand him, suddenly asking for my ID and zapping it with a hefty £90 fine. This was NOT a settling-in win day and I felt frankly fed up with all the admin and waiting, to get something as simple as a travel card. I got over it with the help of chocolate and added to my admin to-do list by appealing.
Danish metros and trains are brilliant and incredibly pram and bike-friendly. Buses with prams/pushchairs are harder work. There are two spaces for prams on the bus and if they’re full – you can’t get on. You also have to board the middle of the bus to use that space. So if you don’t have a travel card and want to pay in kroner, you need to park the pram in the middle and get to the front to pay the driver before he/she sets off. But the drivers aren’t in charge of checking payment, it’s the ticket inspectors, who randomly board public transport. So quite often, the bus has set off, probably assuming you’ll swipe your travel card in the middle. You then have to navigate getting to the front to pay, while leaving your pushchair/child, while the bus driver is still driving or about to stop and you try and get in there before other passengers board. It definitely seems a design fault in an otherwise great public transport system. Before I got my resident travel card, I paid for single tickets by coins or debit card. But you can in fact buy a travel card at a visitor rate, which I would recommend if you’re visiting Copenhagen.
Win number 4: Nursery place
We have navigated the Danish childcare system and Lydia is on the waiting list for a nursery (This also requires a separate blog post). I feel settled that I know she is going to be able to enjoy playing with more Danish children soon, as I have mum guilt that we aren’t doing enough exciting day trips with her.
Win number 5: Our first visitors
Richie’s parents came for five days, staying nearby and my best friend Ali came for a weekend visit. Both times it rained and was freezing but we still loved showing them around Copenhagen, our new home. Richie’s parents also brought with them a suitcase of extra clothes for me and toys for Lydia. It was like Christmas!
Win number 6: La La Land
I went to the cinema with Ali and watched La La Land. It’s a trivial win but while Rich and I are both juggling settling-in admin, work, job searches and full-time Lydia care, we can’t even contemplate something like a cinema trip. In fact, we haven’t even switched on the TV since we got here. So 2 hours of watching this, reminding me about the excitement of pursuing your dreams, was a happiness win. (Except the ending, which I’m just glossing over – sob.) It also gave me an incentive to make use of the piano in this house, by learning some of the score. Happy times for me; for Rich, piano practice apparently sounds like ‘torture.’
Win number 7: Family Firth time.
I am sure we will look back at this time as really special, as we are managing to spend so much time together and watch Lydia come on leaps and bounds. Before we moved to Denmark, she was just about walking and said a few words. Now she runs, jumps, side-steps, dances and has new words everyday including tak! It’s so lovely to see and for Rich to share this stage of development so closely with her. In between job applications and meetings, he is doing an incredible job at Daddy daycare on the days I’m working.
Win number 8: We got through winter
I wouldn’t go as far as saying it’s warm, but it’s definitely heading that way. Gone are the seven-layers approach to dressing and almost…almost, gone is the winter coat. The lighter evenings are wonderful and during the last week I’ve been able to play with Lydia outside in our allotment area before her bedtime, which is idyllic.
Win number 9: We have a new Danish home
And we move in two days! Our new home for six months will be in Valby (pronounced Valboo). We were cautious not to get somewhere much longer while we still don’t know what our average joint income will be. This is a ground floor apartment, fairly central and by a lovely park and zoo. We have managed to find another lovely family who are leaving most things for us while they move to their summer house for half the year. Apparently this is quite common in Copenhagen as you are never far from a beach. So people move 30 minutes down the road, to live by the sea in the summer and rent out their city apartments. We will be sad to leave our wonderful first Danish house but it feels a natural time to start a new Danish living chapter. And guess what…change of address admin – already done!
Win number 10: Work is in progress
Rich has made so many more contacts now we are living here and has had positive meetings – including in the tile industry, his speciality. It’s a bit of a waiting game as the appointing process takes so long. So irons are constantly being thrown in the fire and we are still staying positive that one will come good.
My freelance work is going well and I’ve been very lucky to find someone who took a chance on me and not only gave me my first project but is letting me use their office in central Copenhagen while I set myself up. This means I get to feel part of a Danish work place, which I think is a massive settling in help/win and I’ve learnt more about Danish culture from being there.
Lunchtime is important and most work places have it at 12pm, some even at 11.30am, where everyone will gather for around 30 minutes or so and enjoy lunch and not talk about work. Eating at the desk is just not a thing here and when you start to explain that’s what you’re used to, you actually realise it’s pretty gross. So…at 12pm I am treated to a table laid with rye bread and an abundance of fillings to choose from. During my first couple of weeks, I would pick a selection of fish, tomatoes, cheese, avocado and eat it like a mixed salad with the bread. This isn’t Danish. The Danish way is creating a perfectly formed instagram-worthy smørrebrød. This is the Danish open bread – not to be confused with the Swedish Smörgåsbord. And there are ‘rules’ on what fillings work with what. Which is why, in my half-baked attempt at putting a mix of everything on my bread, I started to get a few looks. Then one lunchtime, while looking with concern at my plate, they uttered, “You have some interesting combinations there.” I knew I was getting this all wrong! And then I was told about ‘the rules.’ I actually still can’t quite remember what they are as I go for the copycat approach. But I do know my philosophy of ‘cheese goes with everything’, is not correct. And actually, the ‘rules’ taste good.
Other work-place-perks include being taught Danish rap as a way to learn the language, and in doing so, finding out the name Brian in Denmark, is associated with being a bit of a chav – apparently! I tried to explain this is nothing like a British Brian. So, driving on the way to a filming day, my colleague introduces me to the rap song Det’ Brian. This was definitely a work highlight. It went something like this:
Pizza med ananas og skinke, det’ Brian
Pizza with ham and pineapple – that’s Brian.
Og nik’ en skalle uden at blinke, det’ Brian
Head-butt without blinking – that’s Brian
Ikk’ at forstå ironi, det’ Brian
Not understanding irony – that’s Brian
Ansigts-tattoo på en pige, det’ helt Brian
A tattoo of a girl’s face – that’s totally Brian
Er det Brian? Ja, det’ Brian. Hvor Brian er det? Det’ helt Brian
Er det Brian? Ja, det’ Brian. Hvor Brian er det? Det’ helt Brian
Is it Brian? Yes, it’s Brian. Where’s Brian? It’s totally Brian.
I got you Brian! Note to self: don’t order pineapple and ham pizza in public.
Settling in level two – you’ve been fun, sometimes challenging, mainly eventful. Now time to ease back, enjoy the sun….and get ready to enrol on our Danish language courses!