If there is one thing you should do when living in Copenhagen, it’s to experience a performance of Hamlet at Kronborg Castle in Elsinore – the very place where Shakespeare set his play.

I was lucky enough to experience this aged 17, with my family.  Something about my Danish ties and the unique experience of watching that performance, had an impact on me. I wrote about it for my English A-level course work and used it in my applications to study English Literature at university.

 

15 years and many Hamlet essays later, I was back in Elisnore to see another performance of the play at the castle. This time, it was just as unique. Not only was I now a Danish resident audience member, watching with new friends and a bottle(s) of wine; but I knew the Danish actor playing Hamlet. And it was his opening night.

 

Indoor picnic due to rain!

Cyron Melville is part of my wider Danish family. I’d met up with him a couple of times in the build-up to Hamlet, and as a bit of a geek, asked him loads of questions. He’s the first Danish actor to play Hamlet in an international production of the play at Kronborg Castle. The only other Danish actor in this particular production was Natalie Madueño, playing Ophelia. It was directed by Lars Romann Engel. Now, if you know Hamlet, there are a lot of words. It’s actually Shakespeare’s longest play. And although this version was cut down, there were still a hell of a lot of words for Cyron to learn, understand and perform in a British accent. It’s such a brave decision to take on the role, especially when his predecessors who have performed on that stage include Laurence Olivier, Kenneth Branagh and Jude Law. To say he did it brilliantly is an understatement. I am convinced he’ll go onto even bigger things from this, so you heard it here first. 🙂

Rave reviews

What makes performing and watching Hamlet at Kronborg Castle so unique is that it’s completely outdoors. Only the stage is covered. Behind the stage you see the castle, the views of Elsinore and the sea in the distance. You hear the seagulls, who seem to time their squawks at just the right dramatic pause. As the play enters the second act and becomes quite dark, (people die, Hamlet turns quite horrible), the sun sets and you are actually watching in darkness, with the sounds of the night around you. It’s a vast yet intimate setting and even on the back row, as we were, you can see and hear everything clearly.

Being outdoors, you have to be prepared for the weather. Denmark is like England in that respect and true to Danish summer, it rained on the opening night.  But this doesn’t deter a Danish audience, wrapped up in their thermals and waterproofs. An announcement was made just before the play started, saying if the rain became heavy, we’d be directed to shelter. “Errr…this is heavy..?!” whispered my expat friends. But as soon as the actors entered the stage, we didn’t notice the rain or our soggy bottoms and before we knew it, the first half was ending and a rainbow appeared.

The comedy of the first half, which was actually laugh-out-loud, it was so well performed, was counterbalanced by the very dramatic second half. It’s the first performance of Hamlet I’ve seen where they’ve acted out Ophelia’s death (not the way I was expecting!) and the way Hamlet poured the poisoned drink down Claudius’ throat was so realistic, I wondered if we had paramedics on stand by. Luckily, this happened at the very end and he came back to life for the curtain call so all was well.

As I post this, it’s the penultimate performance of the production’s 19-day run and I can’t imagine how the actors keep going night after night, when I think of what I’ve done since the premiere (blog posting not included!) But a new production of Hamlet is performed outdoors at Kronborg castle every summer. So if you’re planning a trip to Copenhagen in August, definitely go and experience it. You might just view Hamlet, and the state of Denmark differently.

 

This is one overdue blog post! I have missed updating you all on all things Danish but life suddenly got quite busy. Lydia, work, language classes and some super fun visits from friends and family, haven’t left much time for blogging. If I have any time left at the end of the day, which tends to be 9pm, going on Lydia’s recent bedtimes, I tend to choose to sleep. If I had one of those Trainspotting t-shirts from back in the day, mine would be amended to ‘Choose Sleep.’

So it’s about time you had an update, and we’ve hit some pretty big settling in wins lately. So here we go…

1. We have both started our Danish language lessons.

It’s so nice to use parts of my brain that have been in slumber since school and feel like I’m really challenging it. And even though I haven’t had many lessons, I can now pick out words I here in every day life and that’s a huge settling in win.  Rich and I are in separate schools, as one of us needs to look after Lydia, so Rich has been going on Tuesday and Thursday evenings and I’ve been going on Monday and Wednesday evenings. My school, called Studieskolen is quite hardcore it would appear. Lessons are 5.30pm-9pm and there’s a lot of homework. I had to actually be interviewed to get onto the course, which involved an English grammar test, that I feared I’d failed after forgetting what an ‘article’ was. Embarrassed English Lit graduate. Then I had to translate Danish even though I hadn’t had any lessons. Perhaps they were testing I had some sort of brain up there?! Anyway, I got on the course and my first lesson came after a 24 hour flight back from San Diego. I looked a little spaced out to my new classmates. I’d like to say that look has changed, but as a mummy to a toddler who never sleeps, I don’t think it has. No one else in the class has a child, which is my reason for being the one who never does their homework on time. Richie’s lessons have been more relaxed, finishing at an early 8pm. His school was called Clavis. I say ‘was’ because halfway through his module, he received a letter from the government informing him that his language school was closing. The students found out before the teachers and just like that, before even finishing the module, his class was dismissed and told to enrol at a new school. There are now three language schools left to choose from in Copenhagen, compared to the original six, because the government are no longer funding those that teach ‘labour market-related Danish.’ The rumour on the language school circuit, is that it’s the beginning of the phasing out of free language classes altogether. Whether that is true or not, I have no idea, but we are extremely grateful to be learning while we can. Rich will start his new school in September, and I will continue with my classes after a summer break. I will keep you updated on all things Danish language and how difficult the pronunciation is! Right now, my only aim is to converse with toddlers. And that, I am beginning to achieve. Win win!

Standard language text book image. Standard swotty Emma notes.
This image is so very accurate.

2. Keeping with the theme of Danish – Lydia can speak some of the language!

Aged 21 months, Lydia can count to ten in Danish – not always in the right order and sometimes mixed with a bit of English, but she can do it. Eight ‘otte’ and ten ‘ti’, are her favourite numbers. She also says ‘vi ses’, which is ‘see you’, ‘hi hi’, which is ‘bye’ and the word that gets the most use at the moment, ‘nej’ which means ‘no’. I think she’s probably saying other words that she’s picked up at nursery but I wouldn’t know. A mum told me last week she was saying peekaboo to me in Danish. I thought she was doing a poo.

3. Lydia is in Danish nursery – vuggustue.

She started at the beginning of June and settled in after just a week of building up from one hour to five. It was heart wrenching, just as it was when she started nursery in England. I’ve personally found nursery the hardest part of parenthood so far. Thankfully, it didn’t take Lydia long before she was running in to greet her friends. Perhaps because she was older, this time at 20 months, rather than 12 months when she started in England, but it was a much smoother transition. The nursery gave me photos and names of everyone in her class, as well as a laminated sheet of Danish vocab they would be saying to her during the day, so I could repeat it at home. Lyds knows all her nursery friends’ names by heart – Sophus, Viggo, Jens Peter, Clara, Christian, Daniel…I won’t list them all as there a quite a few. And not quite as many adults. This is the Danish way it seems. It’s laid back, and then some. It has and still is, taking me a bit of time to adjust to it. Lydia is happy, I can tell, it’s just poor Rich and I who are left a little in the dark as to what she actually does there. The motto of a lot of Danish nurseries, is no news is good news. In England I was given a sheet of paper at the end of each day, telling me exactly what Lydia ate, how many nappy changes she had, what made her laugh, what made her sad and a development ‘test’ to check she was reaching milestones in social and physical development. The end of a nursery day here, consists of me asking:

“How has she been today?”

“Fine. Vi ses i morgen!”

We get updated via an app with photos of what the children are doing each day and I know they will text me if Lydia is having a bad day. It’s just a different kind of approach that I’m getting used to. Yesterday I logged into the app to see photos of them building a camp fire in the playground. You know, like you do with under twos! Lyds is happy and healthy so we are just trying to go with the Danish flow.

4. I got a work project that took me to San Diego.

I had never been to San Diego before and even though I was in the air for longer than I was on the ground, it was so much fun to work with a Californian crew,  produce something different and briefly see some of San Diego. Watching flight films all by myself, was also a huge novelty! (I, Daniel Blake by far the stand out.).  I’d never left Lydia for longer than a night, so being away for three nights and four days, did make me have a little cry when I said goodbye. Yes, this is how I am now. You give me San Diego filming fun, I give you tears.

6. Summer has arrived in Copenhagen.

And wow what a city it becomes. It took a while. Back in May, while England was basking in a heat wave, here in Copenhagen it was pretty darn cold. Rich did actually ask at one point, whether we’d moved to a country where you can never take off your coat and kids have balaclavas sewn onto them. But by the end of May, we were officially out of winter and we’ve enjoyed some gorgeous summer days. Blog posts about day trips, visitors and a minibreak are to follow. As you can see, we’ve discovered quite a few places and all of them are on our doorstep. The beauty of Copenhagen.

Belle Vue beach in Klampenborg
Hellerup
Frederiskberg Have
Islands Brygge
Christianshavn
Nyhavn

7. Visitors

As mentioned above, we have enjoyed some lovely visits from friends and Richie’s parents. We’ve also had two trips to see my grandparents and aunt and uncle in Jutland, including a lovely four days on the island Rømø, where my grandparents have a summer house. My parents. sister Izzy and her boyfriend Dan also came out to join us there. After five months away from them, it was so lovely to catch up and Lydia was in her element.  Rømø is where we have spent most summer holidays since I was at school, so it is always a special time for all of us. I’ll tell you all about it in another post.

8. And the best win for last. Rich got a job….and then he got a better job!

You probably noticed in the networking article I wrote back in May, that I casually mentioned, what we had all been waiting for….Rich got a job! Now I didn’t go all bells and whistles about it on here because a) it was a temporary job and b) we were waiting until the contract was signed, after a previous experience where Rich was offered a job and then the company folded. That aside, we were so relieved when it all came through, thanks to Richie’s friend at his language school. And it timed just as Lydia was about to start nursery. The job was and still is, cleaning hire cars, checking for damage, filling in paper work and driving them to an allotted space. Repeat. 8 hours on a shift rota. Part of my brain thought, eek – Rich is a business graduate with nearly 10 years experience working in sales and he’s having to clean cars. But it’s a job, in a country where you don’t speak the language and Rich has really enjoyed working there; he’s met people from all over the world and made new friends. They all have their own story to tell, of how they ended up washing cars in Copenhagen.

The day Rich signed his contract for the hire car job, he got a phone call out of the blue. A global tiles company were on the look out for a Scandinavia Sales Manager and a contact Rich had made during his networking, had put him forward for the role. Richie’s work in the U.K. involved selling tiles, so this was a perfect job and actually part of his career progression. One week later, someone from the company flew out to interview Rich at Copenhagen Airport. He was told there was one other person in the running for the job at this point, and he spoke Swedish. We know how this ends, we thought, yet we hoped differently. One week later, while Rich was on his way to his first late shift, he got the call. He was their new Scandinavia sales manager. He’d done it! Eight months after his first Danish application back in October, Rich had made it happen. Interviews, meetings, networking events, application after application and that small matter of a relocation – it had paid off. Those cars got the best clean of their lives that day.

Rich starts his new role on 1st September and a new chapter in the Danish adventure begins. It also coincides with the time we move apartments (not actually found one yet) and comes just after our first trip back to England in August (to attend four weddings-yes four). So it really will feel like we’re starting afresh, but in a settled kind of way.

When the sun is shining down on you...

Six months on…

This new chapter is probably the point most people begin their journey of living abroad – with jobs sorted, a place to live and nursery set up. We have definitely taken the road less travelled, working it out as we go along with a dollop of family-belief, and sense of adventure. It’s not been easy. May and June were both months where we had to have conversations about how long we could sustain living here if the right job didn’t come along, and we discussed all our back up plans, including the date we would go home. On top of this, we really felt the gap of grandparent support when we got about three full night’s sleep during the month of May, and then June brought us hand, foot and mouth disease. Cue a screaming Lydia, rather frazzled parents, a call to Danish 111, a knock at the door from a concerned neighbour, ending in lullabies from Richie’s mum via Facetime for Lydia but quite frankly I think we all needed it. They have been testing times but we made it. We’ve constantly got each other’s backs, checking the other is still ok doing this, ready for the next stage and still happy. And here we are, at Settling In Level Three, nearly six months into Danish living and so excited and grateful we have got more to come. There’s so much more to say, so much more to learn. I look forward to keeping you with us as we progress on our Danish dream. x

For those that missed it, this is the article I wrote for the online paper The Local, Denmark about networking two weeks ago. Where two weeks have gone I do not know. Well actually I do know – working, Lydia playing (day and night) and nursery settling in! I will do a full update on our Copenhagen lives soon, I promise. For now, here’s a little insight into how I’ve found networking in a new country.

Lydia's lovely new bike to grow into.

Just after I wrote the article, our current landlord came by to give us his daughter’s old bike to use when Lydia is older. It’s these acts of kindness that really make a difference to how you integrate into a new place. It keeps you bobbing along when obstacles come your way. Living in a new country can make the every day simple tasks quite tiring because of translating, not quite understanding protocols and just inexperience. Only yesterday I was staring at our communal tumble dryer wondering why, for the second attempt and numerous google translations of the settings, our clothes were still damp. So if you add a few bigger obstacles into the mix and a dose of sleep deprivation; your bobbing along can soon turn into treading water. *

* Treading water for me =  massive effort and a bit of a panicked look. I only ever got my 10 metres.

My point is, aside from my poor swimming metaphor, is that goodwill gestures are vital. Not just for people who are new to an area, but in life. Never underestimate them because if you can keep people afloat, they can go on to thrive.

 

The Local, Denmark, 22nd May 2017 

Networking. A word I used to shudder at. Alone in a crowded room, lurking on the periphery of a group deep in conversation, sipping cheap wine while smiling meaningfully at a conversation you can’t hear. All the while channelling that song from La La Land…

“Someone in the crowd,

Could be the one you need to know.

The one to finally lift you off the ground.”

As in the film; the reality is that you spend most of your time in the loo.

But since moving to Copenhagen three (*eek it’s now four since this was published!) months ago, I have started to view networking differently. It doesn’t involve awkwardness, it doesn’t pin all hopes on one meeting but it does, slowly but surely start lifting you off the expat ground.

Neighbours

It started with asking our first landlords for a list of places we could take our one year-old daughter Lydia while we got settled.

They left us a four-page document, a cuddly toy present (for Lydia, not us) and their contact details, if we had any more questions. Two-weeks into moving, we knocked on our neighbour’s door introducing ourselves. This led to being left a lovely note on our gate, inviting us to their house, where we were treated to pastries, coffee and most of all a genuine friendship.

The card left on our gate by our new neighbours.
The card left on our gate by our new neighbours.

They offered us a stop-gap place to stay when our two-month rent was up, they contacted friends to help us find work, they even translated our mail. When we moved, our new landlords were equally as welcoming; inviting us over for coffee (we end up drinking a lot of it over here), and recommending local nurseries.

 

Saying hello

Lydia will knock on windows to get a response to her waves.

Having a toddler who likes to wave and say hello to anyone passing, has been a gateway to many conversations. Now I’m not saying, we all need to wave at strangers in the street to find out information, tempted as I am to try it. But being present in the moment and open to smiling/helping someone off the bus/giving a little more information about yourself, can really lead to some fruitful conversations.

Lydia’s productive waving started on our flight out here, when we met a mum from England, who has lived in Copenhagen for seven years. As I write this, I’m about to go for an evening drink and catch up with her. A nanny looking after Danish children gave my husband a list of fun places to take Lydia, as well as money-saving tips and apps. A Danish family we met at a Fastelavn festival, offered their house for us to rent over the summer. And a Dad I met in our local park on a day I was feeling homesick, turned out to come from a place 30 minutes from our home in England. We swapped numbers in case we ever need adult conversation on the park run again.

Work

Kaffe og kage, available around every corner in Copenhagen.

As a freelancer, meeting people for coffees to discuss potential projects is how I get work. I didn’t realise this was also the most successful technique for getting a permanent job in Copenhagen. Employers like to know people who know you, however tenuous it might be. As a result, I have been blown away by the number of people – Danes and expats – who have gone through their contacts list to try and think of people that my husband and I can approach for more work. When my husband joined his Danish language class, the first lesson was about what you did for a living. He was the only one who needed the translation for ‘job-seeker.’ As a result, people in his class came forward with advice and contacts. Through that, he now has a temporary full-time job. It’s not a dream job but it’s work and it’s the first concrete offer after six months of applications. The Power Job Seekers group is another form of networking that has been a big help to him. It’s a weekly group, run by job-seeking volunteers, who invite employers to give presentations and follow it up with a workshop. Here people can learn tips about making Danish CVs, practice interview techniques and most importantly, give each other the confidence to keep going.

Social Media

Facebook and Meetup provide an abundance of groups where you can share information and meet new people. I never thought I’d be someone that used social media to make new friends. I’m that wave and say hello type of person. We also have some family in Copenhagen and Jutland so we are not completely alone. Yet social media has made moving to a new country so inclusive. Wondering where to buy new shoes for your toddler? Post it on a group and you’ll get a few replies within minutes. Struggling to work out how to send a parcel – someone there will have the answer instantly or recommend a useful blog. Want to meet up over the Easter weekend…wait, you’ve already been invited to an event. So there we were, on Easter Sunday afternoon, at someone’s house we had never met. A young family had put on an Easter egg hunt and picnic for other people, like us, to feel welcome on what’s traditionally a family day. Not only did it feel completely normal, it was enjoyable. We were inspired to hear why everyone ended up here in Denmark and we now have a new circle of friends.

Summary

So for me, this is what networking now means. It isn’t searching through a crowd for someone to present you with a golden ticket. It’s making an effort, each day, to meet someone new, learn something different and start building up a new network of information, of friends, of future colleagues. It’s a network to help build your new chapter of life in a different country. And if this type of networking has taught me anything, it’s to never underestimate your goodwill gestures. That smile, that tip about the best playground, that number of the prospective employer and that invitation; that is what ultimately lifts you off the ground.

You’re in for a giant surprise.

Last Saturday we packed up a picnic and met some of our lovely expat friends in the woods to go on a hunt for….giants.

Isn’t it bears you find on a picnic day down the woods you say? Not in Copenhagen.

Meet The Six Forgotten Giants. Well meet two of them – we didn’t have time/toddler capacity to find the other four.

These impressive sculptures have been created by the Danish artist Thomas Dambo. With the help of volunteers, he built the six friendly giants across the woods of Copenhagen, his home town, using only recycled wood.

The aim of the project is to bring art outside and show off beautiful nature spots around the city that are often left unexplored. You can get a treasure map for your adventure, which shows roughly where the giants are located, across the areas of Rødovre, Hvidovre, Vallensbæk, Ishøj, Albertslund and Høje Taastrup. And by each giant is a plaque, giving a clue about how to find another one.

You don’t just stumble across these giants or spot them driving along on your bike or in your car. That’s the point. You have to work hard to find them – and there’s a beauty in that – looking at the map, working out your route and planning a day outdoors in the woods. Our group all used different modes of transport to get to the giants – cycling, walking, public transport and driving. One family lived a short bike ride from one giant and didn’t even know that wood existed. So Thomas Dambo, you did your job! We have already planned another outing to explore the area and other giants, so I’ll make sure to update this post with more of the giant characters.

Sleeping Louis

 

All the sculptures are named after their builders. Louis is a former assistant of Thomas Dambo and he came over from England to help build this sculpture. Sleeping Louis is hidden up a little hill in the forest in Rødovre. He doubles up as a shelter because Dambo noticed the spot was often used by homeless people as a place to sleep.

 

Hill Top Trine

Here’s Trine, chilling on a hill in Hvidovre. You can sit in the palm of her hands and look across the beautiful view of Avedøresletten.

Lydia preferred Trine’s shoulder…

Again, the giant has been named after one of the volunteers who helped build her.

Apparently the giants are here to stay, as long as they are safe.

So go down to the woods today, wherever you are.

For it isn’t just about giants that surprise you…it’s the magic of nature.

 

This blog post is all about the logistics of setting up in Denmark and how we did it, as EU members. Just as we finished all our expat admin four weeks ago, Article 50 was triggered for Britain to leave the EU. 20 days later, a snap general election was called. So who knows what the future holds. Without getting too political, all I will say is that being part of the EU has made our move and transition here smooth and straight forward and we are very grateful. I’m sure Rich would like to say a lot more about the current state of affairs in UK politics but I’ll leave that for his family and friends 😉

Before I begin, remember how I’m half Danish. Well I did wonder if that gave me any sort of ‘Pass Go’ card. In my research I found out that if one of your parents is a Danish national, even if you, the child has never lived in the country, you are automatically Danish nationals as well. But…unless you move to Denmark by the age of 22, or claim you’ve got an association with the country by this age, you lose that nationality. Nooo…ten years too late I thought! But actually it isn’t that simple in my case because Dad, although born in Denmark to Danish parents, became a British citizen through his adoption process. His adopted mum was Danish, his adopted Dad British and they always lived in England. So the upshot is that I have to apply to become a Danish resident just the same as anyone else coming from the EU without Danish connections.

So here is the list of what we did, to get it signed and sealed that we could live here properly.

Register as a Danish resident

As a member of the EU, you can stay in Denmark for leisure/holiday for up to three months and you can stay up to six months if you are job-seeking. It is after this time that you must register as a resident if you want to stay longer. You can of course do this as soon as you arrive, if that’s your intention.

So to apply for Danish residency as an EU member, you need to meet one of these criteria:

  • you’re in paid employment in Denmark
  • you’re self-employed in Denmark
  • you provide services in Denmark
  • you’re a retired worker, retired self-employed person or retired service provider in Denmark
  • you’ve been seconded to Denmark
  • you’re a student in Denmark
  • you can prove you can finance your stay in Denmark

You can’t apply to be a resident until you’re actually in the country as you need to physically provide your documents. You will need your passport, one passport photo and your proof of meeting one of the criteria above, along with a form which you can print off from the website: http://www.statsforvaltningen.dk

Other useful websites are www.nyidanmark.dk and www.workindenmark.dk

So once you’ve got to Denmark with all your documents, you can go and register at the Statsforvaltningen (State Administration), or International Citizen Service (ICS). We went to the Statsforvaltningen. We waited for about an hour to been seen and then it was very straightforward to process the documents. Two weeks later, we were sent our registration certificate through the post.

CPR number

So you’ve got your registration certificate and you’re a Danish resident. But this doesn’t really mean anything without a CPR number, which is your personal ID. This gives you access to free Danish healthcare, subsidised daycare, free Danish lessons, a Danish bank account etc etc. Some landlords for long-term rentals also require you to have your CPR number.

Now you need to take a trip to the International Citizen Service (ICS). Our letter told us we could go to our local municipality. After two metro journeys and waiting in the queue there, we were told this was only for NemID (see below what that is). Joys. Another trip and another hour’s queue, we were ready to get our CPR numbers, at the right place of ICS.

This time you need your residence certificate, passport, proof of address in Copenhagen, marriage certificate if married and children’s birth certificates, if you have kids. This process takes a bit longer. Luckily there was a kind worker on hand to bribe Lydia with a banana and croissant. Just when I thought we were done, an error was spotted. My date of birth on the residency certificate had been printed incorrectly. Oh never mind I thought, my passport clearly has the right date of birth, as well as my marriage certificate, so this can be amended right? Wrong. Well it can be amended but that’s down to me. It meant a trip back to Statsforvaltningen (a 30 minute bus trip from our house), another hour’s queue, to get them to amend their mistake, and then a metro journey to return to International Citizen Service with the updated version, to process it all again. Oh and because on paper, the mum has the main responsibility of the child, Lydia couldn’t get her CPR number until I’d done this. This was a “let it go, let it goooo” moment after a tedious trek and queue of a day, with Lydia in tow. So two days later I did it all again, taking poor Lyds with me while Rich job-searched. Luckily I managed to queue jump at the ICS and saw the same lady. Just as well because I didn’t realised the office closed at 2pm and I arrived at 1.50pm. And then hurrah, we had our CPR numbers instantly, a ‘Welcome to Copenhagen’ pack and were assigned a GP.

I have recently discovered that you can actually get both the residency certificate and CPR number at International Citizen Service. I wish I had known this. If you manage it correctly and queue before the office opens at 10am, you can book a slot to get your registration certificate processed that same day and then book another slot to get your CPR number later in the day, as well as your tax card. Which makes me wonder even more, why the error on my residence certificate couldn’t be corrected when I was applying for my CPR. (“Let it goooo!”) Anyway, there’s more info here.

NemID

This is your key to online Denmark. You can order your NemID once you’ve got your CPR number and it can be done at the same CPR appointment at the International Citizen Service (make sure you ask for it), or you can go to your local municipality, along with your CPR number. You’re given a user ID and a code card is sent to you about two weeks later.

Your NemID is your Danish online profile and you need it to access things like online phone contracts, travel card top ups, online banking, tax returns, VAT, anything public-authority related, as well as your digital mail. Everyone is expected to have a NemID and Digital Mail, unless you give a reason why you can’t.

Two weeks after asking for your NemID, you’ll receive three small paper cards in the post, each filled with 44 codes.  Every time you log in to something like online banking, you enter your NemID (which is a username and password you set up on registration) and then you fill in a code. You’re given the first four numbers of that code, you then have to find that sequence (across 44 numbers x 3 cards) and fill in the remaining six numbers. You do this for every online process. The same code will never be used more than once and the system automatically sends you new cards when you’ve used all the codes. It makes for some blurry eyes but you soon get used to it. Nem is meant to stand for ‘easy’ but I’ve heard many Danes say it is anything but.

Digital Mail

You need NemID to set up your digital mail. You receive all post from public authorities via digital mail rather than paper. So for example I’ve had digital mail about our GP and Lydia’s nursery place and application. It’s pretty important so make sure you set it up. You can get alerted to a new digital mail through your personal email address and text (if you have a Danish number).

Health card

About two weeks after getting your CPR number and being assigned a GP at the same time, you get your health card through the post. This has your name, address and CPR number on it, which acts as an ID so keep it in your wallet. It was what I got asked for when I was fined on the bus and the ticket man zapped it and got all my info (sad face).

Bank Account

You need your health card to open your bank account. Thanks to fellow expats who told us this as, it would never have occurred to me to wait for a health card before joining yet another queue in a bank. We picked Nordea as a bank, only because I see branches everywhere and in Denmark, you’re charged for taking cash out of an ATM that isn’t from your own bank. When you open your account(s), you need to assign a Nemkonto to your main account (the bank should initiate this but worth checking). This is linked like the digital mail, so the public authorities know where to pay in money like child benefit pay etc.

You are also charged about £20 a year for having a debit card or credit card. We had to order these ourselves online and they took two weeks to then arrive. And we were sent a debit card, not a Dankort which we asked for and were advised to get. I’m not fully sure of the difference yet but when I tried to create a direct debit scheme for my Rejsekort, it asked for a Dankort, so I need to ask the bank about this but for now we are using the debit cards.  The time between arriving in Denmark, getting registered, being assigned our CPR numbers, getting health cards, opening bank accounts and then getting bank cards delivered, was seven weeks.

Travel card/Rejsekort

I’m still navigating this system as I go along. Apparently the Rejsekort, which is like the London Oyster card, was only introduced to Copenhagen very recently and is still experiencing some problems. The resident Rejsekort gives you the best price on public transport (buses, metros and s-togs, which are the trains.) So I waited for my CPR number before getting one and went to Copenhagen Central Station to queue (again!) and get it, as I hadn’t sorted my NemID to order online. There are various options and I went with the Travel Map flex, which means I can lend it to friends or family to use. The monthly passes are also very good if you know what zones you travel across on a regular basis. I’ve recently discovered there’s an app called mobilbilleter, where you can pay for trips as you go, or top up with credit for multiple journeys. The bonus of this, is that you don’t have to remember to swipe your Rejsekort at the start and end of your journeys or between modes of transport. Unlike in London, there aren’t ticket barriers here, so it’s easy to forget to check out on your card. You’re then charged as if you’ve continued travelling around the whole of Copenhagen for the day. Rich learnt this the hard way. Twice.  If you have that ‘doh’ moment soon after you’ve left the station/bus, you can check out using the app Check Udvej, which will save you some money.

And then there’s the old fashioned option of just paying for a day ticket or single ticket at the machine/on the bus. But you need Danish kroner in coins to do this, or a bank card for the metro/s-tog, which of course will charge you the exchange rate if you haven’t got your Danish bank card, and it’s not the most cost-effective option.

If you’re a visitor, I’d recommend mobilbilleter or getting a visitor Rejsekort, which is available at Copenhagen Central Station and various other station machines. If you’re with a Danish friend/family member, they can add you to their journey on their own Rejsekort, but remember this can only be done for the metro and s-tog and not the bus, as we discovered to our detriment with the bus fine scenario!

On top of this, I’ve heard you are charged to take a bike on the s-tog but not the metro. How this works, I don’t know, as we are not yet bike owners. As soon as we are, I’ll be posting all about it 🙂 And maybe the conclusion of this travel-ticket-purchasing system, is to just get a bike!

Danish Language Courses

When you get your CPR number, you are entitled to 250 hours of Danish language lessons completely free, which is an amazing opportunity to learn the language. The classes are divided into five modules of 50 hours with an exam at the end of each section. You have 18 months to complete your 250 hours of Intro Dansk, which starts the day you sign up. Once you have completed this within 18 months, you can then progress to The Danish Language Training Programme, which gives you another 3-3.5 years of free language lessons. When you have your CPR number, you can choose a language school and class time that suits you best. There can be a bit of a wait for a class to fill up and start a new module. I am still waiting for mine but Rich has started his evening classes and is busy practising! But I’m sadly realising that my brain doesn’t hold new information like it used to. I hope this is just because of the many plates I have spinning now I’m a mum, freelancer and new expat, as opposed to just getting a bit thick.

Danish language homework.

Phone contracts

There are loads to choose from but for a sim only pay-as-you go, Lyca is the recommended provider and is what Rich has. My British phone contract runs until October and it isn’t worth the charge of leaving it early, when I get EU calls and texts included in my package, so I still have a British number. It hasn’t stopped me doing anything but it doesn’t make me feel very Danish. Other phone contracts that have been recommended to me are Fullrate, Oister, Tjeep and 3.

Nurseries

Once you’ve got a CPR number, you can get on the waiting list for a nursery. We had to wait until we knew where we were going to be living after our two-month rent was up, as I didn’t want to swap nurseries. Waiting lists are long but the rule is, you will get something within two months. It may not be your first choice of nursery and it may be a childminder, but you will get something. You are also assigned a ‘movers spot,’ which helps you jump up the waiting list, if you’ve recently moved to the area and need a place asap. I’ll dedicate a whole post to nurseries as there’s a lot to say. But after looking around seven, I got a movers spot for my second favourite place and had to wait two months, which is now one month away. My favourite nursery had a six-month waiting list; without a movers spot it would have been at least a year. So get on the list early is my advice.

Housing

It is possible to rent in Denmark without being registered and it then gives you an address to get yourself set up.  There’s also the option of Airbnb for somewhere short-term, while you settle and look at long-term rentals.

I have found both our places (two month and six month contracts) through the website Lejebolig. Both times have been through private landlords (families) for fully furnished places. This has suited our situation perfectly because we are still in a little bit of limbo regarding Richie’s work situation. Many people have an opinion on renting in Copenhagen. The long-term rental market is competitive and generally requires at least three months’ rent for a deposit plus a month’s rent in advance, which is a LOT. And some landlords require a CPR number. I know we have been lucky so far and haven’t had to meet that criteria. But it did take a lot of research and looking at the websites a few times a day, to get in there first when something suitable came up. For both our places, I rang the landlords within hours of the properties being advertised.

Yippee!

And then you’re done! (Minus what I did to set up as a freelancer but there’s only so many ‘to-dos’ a blog post can take.)

It took us about seven weeks to complete all of the above, which was when it was time to move to house number two! Thankfully, moving house is when the online identity NemID comes into its own. I just had to fill in one form at borger.dk for all three of us and everything got updated. You have to register your new address no later than five days after moving, otherwise you’ll get fined. Danish efficiency!

So there you have it. Turning a thought about moving abroad, into a reality, can really be done. We’d done our research before moving but we also learnt a lot along the way, so I hope this helps or inspires others.

When I first asked my younger sister Izzy about my Denmark idea, and whether I was a bit mad, her response really stuck with me. In her laid-back, twenty-something living in London kind of way, she replied:

“It’s just a bunch of logistics Em.”

And you know what Izzy; it really is.