Denmark is a diverse country that borders Germany to its south and flanked on its north by the tumbling waves of the North and Baltic Seas. The crisp sea breezes give Copenhagen an allure for both tourists and residents alike.
If you’re planning on moving to Denmark, you’re in for a culture shock. Although the people and services are much like what you would find in the USA, there are some noticeable differences. Living in Denmark has its advantages, but moving there will cause you to change some of your habits.
Whether you’re used to the warm California winters or swimming off the beaches of Miami, Denmark has some surprises in store for you! We’ll start our living in Denmark pros and cons by giving you the pros and then moving on to the cons.
1. Location, Location, Location!
We don’t know for sure, but if you’re thinking about moving to Denmark, you probably love traveling. From experience, I can tell you that taking those long cross-Atlantic flights is a real headache. Not only do you have to wake up early to get to the airport and get through security, but you’re also trapped on the flight for between five and eight hours.
Although this benefit isn’t specific to Denmark, it’s nonetheless one of the greatest advantages of living in Denmark. If the Danish winter is driving you slightly nuts, you can always jump on a quick flight to Spain or Italy. Since all these countries are part of the Schengen Agreement (which we will address shortly), all you need to do is show ID to board a flight. You’ll be basking in a sunny paradise in no time!
2. Public Transportation is a Breeze
If you’re not from New York or Chicago, you’ve probably struggled to find adequate public transportation in your city. Denmark is a small country, but its government invests heavily into maintaining its robust public transportation sector.
In Denmark, all major settlements are connected through their train system. You can get from the German border all the way to Copenhagen without having to switch trains. On shorter trips like this, trains can be more efficient than both cars or an airplane.
Denmark also has a significant number of metro lines, especially around major cities like Copenhagen. The Copenhagen Metro serves more than 450 000 riders every day, although the lines could easily handle more. For a complete breakdown of public transport in Denmark, you can view their maps and timetables here.
3. Bikes Everywhere
You’ve probably heard that Amsterdam is the biking capital of the world, but I bet Copenhagen gives the Dutch a run for their money! Although people in Copenhagen may not own as many bikes as the Dutch, what they have is bicycle infrastructure.
In Copenhagen alone, there are more than 220 miles of segregated bike lanes. These lanes have a concrete curb to protect bikers from other vehicles on the road. Aside from their bike lanes, Copenhagen has invested in bike paths for green spaces, including through parks and along some of the canals.
Copenhagen isn’t alone in installing its biking infrastructure. Other cities like Aarhus and Odense have followed Copenhagen’s lead and are now building their own bike lanes. Since Copenhagen installed the bike lanes, the number of bikers has risen dramatically, which resulted in a reduction in congestion on the roads. Whether you’re a driver or a bike rider, having all these bikes in Denmark is a real advantage.
4. Work-Life Balance
Have you ever looked at some of those graphs showing where people have the most time to spend on themselves and their loved ones? Well, if you have, you’ve probably noticed Denmark near the top every year. With all the benefits the Danish government provides for their citizens and workers, it’s not much of a surprise.
The Danish full-time workweek is only 37.5 hours per week. Although this seems almost the same as an American workweek, when you think about it over an entire year, you realize how much more time you have for your interests. The average Danish person will work 130 fewer hours than the average American.
It’s not just the workweek that helps keep your work-life balance in check. Denmark offers both maternal and paternal leave when a family has a new child. Denmark also mandates that employers need to give their employees five weeks of paid vacation every year. How many employers offer those types of benefits in the USA?
5. Healthcare—Inexpensive, Quick, and Easy
Danish healthcare is one of the envies of the other European nations and the world. Not only do they have some of the most innovative procedures in the entire world, but they offer it to their residents at what we would consider an extremely affordable rate.
Once you arrive in Denmark, you can begin looking for a general practitioner. They’ll be your go-to doctor when it comes to check-ups and any other basic services you need. They’ll also help you book appointments for specialized care, like cancer treatments.
Why is Danish healthcare so affordable? The Danish government funds their healthcare system through taxes from your paycheck. The government pools all their citizens into a single risk pool, thus lowering the amount residents pay for their healthcare. All appointments are free at the point of access, so you don’t need to bring cash with you to the hospital. Just don’t forget your government healthcare card!
6. Affordable Childcare
As one of the most egalitarian places in the world, Denmark assumes that women won’t be stuck at home raising the kids. Rather, the government assumes that both parents will be at their jobs, which means no one is left at home with the baby.
Luckily, the Danish government subsidizes childcare so that parents won’t have to choose between a paycheck and good care for their children. Not only are these childcare facilities a great place for working parents, but they help socialize children before they enter school. Most daycares also offer basic teaching, including lessons in Danish.
The amount you pay for daycare depends on a few variables, such as how much you make and where you live. In populated areas like Copenhagen, daycare is much more expensive than in rural areas. If you’re a low-income earner, the Danish government subsidizes more of the daycare costs, which means an even lower rate.
If you’re leaving a large US city to move to Denmark, you’ll wonder why everyone walks around as if they don’t have a care in the world. To some extent, it’s because they don’t! No one in Denmark needs to worry about being a victim of a random crime because random attacks don’t happen.
It may seem a little presumptuous to say that random crime doesn’t happen in Denmark, but the statistics bear it out. Compared to the USA, Denmark has lower crime rates in all regards. For example, the murder rate is five times higher in the USA than in Denmark, as is the sexual assault rate and gun crime rate.
Although you don’t have to worry about criminal activity affecting you in Denmark, that doesn’t mean it’s not there. Most of Denmark’s criminal activity is a result of drug use and other petty offenses. As a resident going about their daily activities, you won’t have to ponder over your safety.
8. Equality for Everyone
Denmark strives to create an equal society. Not only is Denmark among the leaders when it comes to women’s empowerment, civil rights, and disabilities, but also for the working class. The Danish emphasis on the working class has helped create a society where no one is left behind and everyone has a chance to give their children a better life than theirs.
One of the reasons the Danish government provides so many services to their citizens is to create a sense of equality among their residents. Low-cost daycare, high rates of unionization, and free at the point of access healthcare all help provide low-income workers with a way of bettering their circumstances.
9. Part of the European Union
We touched on this before when we mentioned the Schengen Agreement, but one of the best aspects of living in Denmark is that it is part of the European Union (EU). The EU is a super-national organization of 27 countries. They share a single economic market and their residents can travel from one country to another without the need for a passport (ID is still required in some cases though).
The EU offers its member nations many benefits. One of the greatest advantages of the EU’s single market is its stringent requirements for food quality. If you’ve ever been to Italy or Spain, you know how much better produce tastes compared to the USA. The same requirements used in Spain are used in Denmark too, so get ready for high-quality food!
Aside from the Schengen Agreement that allows for easy travel, EU membership also gives nations a more secure environment. Since the inception of the European Coal and Steel Community, which was the precursor to today’s EU, there hasn’t been a major conflict between any member countries. All in all, EU membership means better quality goods, freedom of movement, and security. What more could a small nation like Denmark want?
10. Happiest Country
For all of these reasons, Denmark has consistently ranked among the happiest nations in the world according to Forbes. A country only becomes this happy when its government has the best interests of residents in mind and those residents respect the country they live in. Denmark has all of these qualities and more!
Whether it’s their free at the point of service healthcare, their transportation options, or the fact that their nation is so safe, Denmark has helped cultivate a nation built on equality and respect for one another.
Living in a country this happy is a benefit in itself. People in Denmark are extremely friendly and will help you if you ask. This could be as simple as asking for directions or more complicated tasks, such as asking a neighbor to watch for mail when you’re on vacation. In general, Danish people are even willing to help out strangers. A country full of such happy people will help you raise your levels of joy, too.
11. Learning Danish
Perhaps the hardest part of moving to Denmark is learning Danish. For English speakers, Danish is as easy to learn as either German or French. These languages are usually categorized as “Level 1” languages for English speakers because their roots have many of the same origins.
Although some people may learn danish quickly, it can take time for others. You need to learn Danish when you move to Denmark because a large portion of the population doesn’t speak English. You can get by with English in areas like Copenhagen, but once you leave the big cities, English proficiency drops dramatically.
The main reason you need Danish when you move to Denmark is to find a job. Almost all jobs require you to speak Danish on the job. If you apply to any government jobs, it’s mandatory to speak Danish while at work. To have a good chance of finding a job, you need to learn Danish.
12. Dark, Rainy Winters
If you lived in Seattle or along the Alaskan Panhandle, you have an idea of what winter is like in Denmark. Cold, wet, and dark is the perfect way to describe the winters in Denmark. Copenhagen’s average temperature in January is around 32º F with an average rainfall of 1.47 inches in the month.
Both the cold and the rain combine for a dreary winter. If you’re the type of person who hates the cold and the rain, Denmark probably isn’t the country for you. On average, Copenhagen experiences rain for more than 170 days each year.
Denmark is also significantly further north than anywhere but Alaska in the USA. Since Denmark is so far north, they experience short days in the winter. For example, on the shortest day of the year (December 21), Copenhagen only received seven hours of daylight.
Denmark isn’t a cheap place to live by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, Denmark recently ranked as the fifth most expensive place to live in the entire world. Compared to the USA, everything from shampoo to food costs more in Denmark than in America.
To offset this problem, Denmark has a high unionization rate. The unions help raise wages with inflation to make sure that workers have the means to live a sustainable life. As someone who moves to Denmark, you’ll be shocked to see how expensive household items are. But once you get a job in Denmark, you’ll find out that your wage covers these essentials.
14. Heavy Drinking is Normalized
Depending on the type of person you are, heavy drinking can be an advantage or a disadvantage. To be safe, we decided to put this as a con because of the social pressures that can come along with drinking culture.
In Copenhagen or other large cities, seeing people extremely drunk on a Friday at 7 pm is not uncommon. More people drink during the dark winter months, too, since there’s much less to do. If you’re unwilling to participate in these festivities, you may feel a bit out of place, which can be slightly awkward.
15. Obtaining a Visa
If you’re planning on moving to Denmark, one of the initial steps is obtaining a visa. Just because you’re American doesn’t mean you’ll automatically be granted an indefinite stay in the nation. To do that, you need to go through the immigration process like anyone else.
The visa process begins with a form you can find here. Fill out the form and send it back to the proper authorities with all attachments included in the email or envelope. You’ll need to include any previous visas and passports you may have. You also need to provide proof you have the financial means to support yourself while you’re not working. Do this before arriving in Denmark so there aren’t any hiccups along the way.
When you first arrive in Denmark, you’ll probably be looking for a rental rather than buying a home. In Denmark, the rental market works differently than here in the USA. When an apartment says it’s “unfurnished” in the USA, it means it doesn’t come with furniture, like couches or beds. Unfurnished almost always includes appliances like fridges and ovens though.
In Denmark, unfurnished means just that! An unfurnished apartment will not include any furniture nor any appliances. As a renter, it’s your responsibility to get these items yourself. Renting isn’t cheap either. Copenhagen is the 25th most expensive city in the world when it comes to rental prices.
If you are planning on buying a home in Denmark, you’ll see how expensive it is compared to the USA. On average, each square foot costs $218, which is almost double the price of an American home, which is $123 per square foot.
Perhaps the hardest part of moving to Denmark is the potential loneliness. Moving to a new country often means losing your closest friends, so making new ones is a priority. Although Danish people are extremely friendly, they aren’t as outgoing as the average American. You’ll have to put in the effort to make friends and find a group you enjoy spending your time with.
Many Danish people keep the same friends from childhood, so getting your foot in the door with such groups can be a tough task. Although you’ll never be treated rudely in Denmark, it can be hard to form bonds with new people.
Try going out to a bar or enjoying the summer sunshine in a park, since these are some of the most common hangout spots for Danish residents. You can also join clubs or teams so that you can find people who share your interests.
All in all, Denmark is one of the best places to live in the entire world. Whether you love bikes or trains, there’s always a way for you to explore the country on your terms. You can even use their free at the point of access to healthcare when you’re in a bind—and you don’t need to worry about a bill!
Although there are countless positives about living in Denmark, there are some downsides. If you’re looking for a cheap country to live in, Denmark probably isn’t for you. With high housing and everyday necessity prices, you’ll end up spending a lot more than you did in the USA while getting less.
These were just some of our favorite aspects of Denmark. See anything we missed? Let us know in the comments below!