Living Here


Relocating is an overwhelming and intimidating prospect and to help make the initial move as seamless and straightforward as possible find our tips for must-knows and to-dos here.

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By Tina Jimmy Dastur

Whether you’re moving to Denmark lock, stock, and barrel with the family for an indefinite period or only temporarily for a slightly long-term work requirement, leaving the comfort, safety and familiarity of your homeland is a monumental challenge for many and understandably so.

While there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to relocating, there are things you can do to prepare for your move beforehand so the culture shock doesn’t startle you.

If you’re moving to Denmark soon or have only recently set foot here as an expat, here’s what you need to bear in mind during your first couple of weeks to make the transition smoother and keep yourself from running from pillar to post like a headless chicken.

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#1: Sort-out your CPR
First things first. If you intend on staying in Denmark for a period exceeding three months, it is of the essence that you obtain your CPR number.

CPR is short for Central Person Registration and it is essentially a civil registration number assigned to every individual in Denmark. This unique identification number is vital to living here and is linked to several daily life issues in the country.

Not only does it act as a means to communicate with Danish authorities (especially in cases of tax and social security related issues) but is also connected to your salary, Danish bank account, place of residence, doctor and insurance policy.

As an international newcomer, depending on which part of the country you’ll be living and working in, you will need to contact and likely visit an International Citizen Service (ICS) centre.

In Denmark, four municipalities host an ICS, and your best bet would be dropping in to fill-out necessary paperwork and iron-out any lingering doubts.
• For Copenhagen: International House Copenhagen
• For Aarhus: Borgerservice, Aarhus Kommune
• For Odense: International Citizen Service Center, Odense Kommune
• For Aalborg: International House North Denmark

To avoid unnecessary back-and-forth, we recommend calling the ICS and booking an appointment prior to your visit.

#2: Get your health insurance card

A legal permit to work in Denmark means that you are covered by the Danish health insurance system, but to avail of free consultation and treatment, you need to be armed with the Danish sundhedskort.

Commonly referred to as ‘the yellow card’, your health insurance card is proof that you are entitled to medical services that are offered under the national health insurance scheme.

It includes the name and address of the general practitioner (GP) assigned to you (usually in your vicinity) as well the number you need to dial in case of emergencies.

Once you have registered for your CPR number at the ICS in your municipality, your health insurance card will be issued to you and should arrive in your registered address’s letterbox via post within a month.

Generally it is best to keep your yellow card on you at all times in case of unforeseen medical emergencies.

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#3: Download the MitID app

Denmark is a digital-first country, and MitID is your gateway to key digital services here. This Danish national eID is a digital identification solution necessary to access public self-service solutions.

Whether it’s to transact online, do your taxes, change your address, or read your digital post, MitID facilitates a wide range of digital self-services quickly, easily, and, most importantly, securely.

When you visit your municipality’s ICS for CPR-related paperwork, it’s worth enquiring about MitID, too, as the staff there will be best placed to guide you.

Note: Denmark has only recently replaced NemID with MitID. If you already possess a NemID, no harm done because there are select private service providers that still operate with NemID, but that’s not to say you shouldn’t make the switch to MitID.

If you haven’t received any intimation, it’s worth checking your letterbox and e-Boks inbox.

#4: Sign-up on the e-Boks app

Speaking of e-Boks…this is an app that automates and streamlines your digital post from public authorities free-of-cost, consolidating it in a single place for ease of access using a secure system.

As stated earlier, Denmark is a highly digitalised country and one making great strides to go green.

In the interest of the latter, digital post is a handy solution, as it eliminates the need for paper letters (although not in all cases, so you must make it a point to peep into your physical letterbox from time to time).

These posts could take the form of letters from hospitals, pension statements, news on job fairs for expats, changes to housing benefits, and intimations from SKAT (the Danish Tax and Customs Administration), among others.

Your e-Boks is linked to your CPR number, so you can rest assured that it will stay with you irrespective of a change in residence or e-mail. It is also easily customisable, so you can tailor it to suit your needs and preferences.

This includes having the freedom to unsubscribe from receiving post from businesses as well as the option to decide how your mail is filed and setting e-mail alerts for new post notifications.

The best part? There is no scope for spam or phishing attempts, it’s ad-free, and let’s not forget that you can access it on the go (mobile, tablet, or web—it’s up to you)!

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#5: Apply for your Rejsekort

Figuring out the transportation system in a new country can be tricky, but thankfully, it’s pretty straightforward in Denmark. For uninterrupted travel by trains run by DSB (Danske Statsbaner), Metro, or Arriva as well as for travel by bus, get yourself a Rejsekort pronto.

Replacing the old zone ticket system, the Rejsekort calculates the fare basis the distance travelled from the start of your journey to its end. While you can get an anonymous card at most 7-Elevens, it’s recommended you personalise yours with (at least) your name, if not a profile picture.

When in the bus or at the train/metro station, look for the ‘Blue Dot’ card reading machines.

The ‘Ind’ machine is where you need to tap in at the start of your journey and ‘Ud’ is where you need to tap out upon completion of your journey.

A two-tone ‘ding’ sound with an ‘OK’ notification on the display screen of the card reader is confirmation that your card has been read; conversely, a ‘Read error, try again’ message, with a lower-pitched sound, is indication that the card reader has not registered your tap-in or tap-out.

A successful tap-in will throw-up a ‘Good trip’ message notification on the card reader, while a successful tap-out will display the total price of your trip as well as your card balance (read: saldo in Danish).

It’s worth noting, though, that you need to tap in when switching modes of transport en route to your destination.

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If your journey necessitates taking a bus and subsequently, the metro, for example, you will need to tap in first in the bus and then again at the metro station before finally tapping out when exiting the station of your destination.

Regardless of where you’re travelling from, the Rejsekort can be used all the way to Hyllie, Tringeln, and Malmö C.

Getting a Rejsekort is fairly easy. While there are certain physical outlets you can go to, to instantly get your travel card (like the DSB store at Central station in Copenhagen), it’s easier to order it online on the official website by heading to the ‘Self-service’ tab.

The website also allows you to choose a card based on the type of traveller and his/her/their specific travel requirements. Online, you even have the option to opt for a top-up agreement, with a minimum top-up amount of DKK 100.

This ensures that the minute your card balance dips below DKK 50, it is tanked-up with DKK 100, so you never have to worry about running out of card balance on your travels.

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#6: Learn Danish
Denmark is undeniably one of the most fluent English-speaking nations in the European Union, and while it is entirely possible to get by without knowing the native language, it’s recommended you learn Danish, simply because it helps you integrate into Danish society quicker.

Fortunately, Denmark offers both paid and free courses for newly arrived expats, with the latter being organised at select language schools by your local commune.

Within a few weeks of your arrival, you can expect a letter from your commune in your registered address’s letterbox, which details the process of application, the language schools you can reach out to for free classes, and the timeframe within which you can sign-up.

If, for some reason, you do not receive this letter within a month of your arrival, reach out directly to the language centre of your choice.

Based on your educational level and English proficiency, the school will place you in one of three courses: Danish Education 1, Danish Education 2, or Danish Education 3.

Each course comprises six modules in all, and an exam after each module needs to be undertaken and passed before you are allowed to progress to the next module. While the language classes are free, you do need to pay an upfront deposit of DKK 2.000 before each module begins; however, should you pass your module exam, this deposit will be reimbursed.

Note: If you wish to take a break between modules, you are free to do so, but it is incumbent on you to inform your language school of the same.

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#7: Scour your neighbourhood’s supermarkets

Picture this—it’s your first week in Denmark, and you’ve stepped out to do some grocery shopping, assuming it will be as uncomplicated as it is back in your homeland. If you’re expecting hypermarkets at every turn, you will be sorely disappointed.

The closest you’ll get to a hypermarket is, perhaps, Bilka, with its largest supermarket finding floorspace at Copenhagen’s Field’s mall. However, that’s not to say that there aren’t worthwhile grocery markets in the country.

The three leading Danish groups with several sister grocery brands include the Salling Group, Coop, and Dagrofa, with Salling and Coop having an established presence and dominating market share.

The Salling Group owns discount grocery chain, Netto; the more upmarket grocery brand, Føtex; and supermarket Bilka. This, in addition to having its eponymous department store in Aarhus and Aalborg.

Coop, on the other hand, owns popular supermarket chains Kvickly, SuperBrugsen, Irma, and newly launched discount chain, Coop 365, while Dagrofa owns supermarket chains Meny and Spar.

Beyond these Danish brands, German discounters Aldi and Lidl, as well as Norwegian chain Rema1000 can also be found scattered across the country.

Prices for the same groceries vary from brand to brand and department store to department store, and over time, you will learn which of your friendly neighbourhood markets offers the best rate for your go-to pantry essentials.

Variety is limited, so don’t go in expecting to find exactly what you want.

Some brands may stock certain items which others do not, and this back-and-forth between your grocery markets to figure out what is available where, though cumbersome, is unfortunately part of the process.

These big names aside, you will also find smaller Asian markets stocking a number of local products that are not commonly found at the regular grocery chains, so be sure to ask around (especially fellow expats from your homeland) and do a Google Maps search for one nearest to you.

On the subject of Google, it’s also worth keeping the Google Translate app handy on your phone when you do step out for groceries. Most product labels don’t necessarily come with English translations; to save yourself time, use the camera feature on the Google Translate app to translate the fine print for you in a jiffy.

Lastly, remember to carry your own grocery bag each time you go, as you are charged a fee for every bag purchase at the grocery markets. The Danes are big on reusing and repurposing in the interest of a greener planet, and this pricing of bags is a way to limit unnecessary plastic purchases.

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While this encapsulates pretty much everything you need to know to help you find your feet in Denmark, there are also a few ‘over and aboves’ to make note of that will go a long way in ensuring that you settle well into Danish society sooner rather than later:

Cycle all the way: When in Denmark, do as the Danes do and pedal your way to work, back home, and for everything in between (be it to pubs or the movies). Shops to purchase a cycle and cycle gear can be found at almost every turn in the road, but if you’ve not got the purchasing power for a set of spanking-new wheels just yet, consider looking into the second-hand market in Denmark.

It’s huge, (mostly) reliable, and a great go-to if you need to be thrifty yet resourceful. If you ask us, DBA and Facebook Marketplace are great starting points for your second-hand search! Find tips on cycling in Denmark in our article on this topic here.

Get in line at the chemist: Your local apotek (Danish for pharmacy) works on a ‘first come, first serve’ basis, and you need to collect your coupon number from the machine before queueing-up and waiting your turn. Most Apotek outlets shut by 20:00, so plan in advance to stock-up on necessary meds.

Join online expat groups: If you have a digital presence, it’s worth joining Facebook groups of the likes of ‘Foreigners in Denmark’, ‘Expats in Copenhagen’ or ‘Aarhus Internationals’ (in addition to community-specific expat groups; for example, ‘Indians in Denmark’) for practical—and often, vital—tips, tricks, advice, and insights into Danish life and culture.

The ‘Expats in Copenhagen’ group, while focused on happenings in the capital, has much help to offer expats outside of Copenhagen, too.

Whether you need recommendations for anything from karaoke spots to movers and packers, want to seek advice on how to circumvent certain issues, or just need tips on decalcifying your kitchen appliances, ask and you are likely to find a solution to most of your concerns within these online communities.

Find inspiration on meeting other exapts in our article here.


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