Welcome to Denmark!

Summer is peak time for the arrival of new immigrants to Denmark. Most of you will be students and only intend to stay for the length of your course. Maybe for work afterwards, if Denmark works out. Some of you will be “expats”, as in, you do not intend to stay longer than five years and you have come for a specific job. Others have come here for a Danish romantic partner.
I am sure you are more than overwhelmed with advice about how to navigate the system and to a large extent, I cannot help you. I got here five years ago, everything I had to do is different. Plus, the things that people from Europe have to do differ wildly from people from the rest of the world. I have no idea what you have to do.
However, here is a checklist to help you settle in:-

  • Join the library
  • Once you have a CPR card, you go to the library and say you want to join. I was worried about doing that in case they were mean because I could only ask in English but they were NOT mean. In the library, there are lots of books to help people learn Danish. Getting you signed up for Danish classes is going to take forever and they aren’t all that anyway. You can use the library without being a member, so if you are waiting on your CPR card, you can just drop in and use the books and then go home.

  • Get apps to learn Danish vocab
  • I used Before You Know It but I wish I had had Memrise back in the day. Vocabulary is the way in to this language.

  • Don’t worry about learning Danish
  • What’s that? Contradictory advice? Didn’t I JUST tell you to learn Danish? Yes. And no. Learn Danish on your own terms. Do not ever get on your own case for being lazy about learning Danish. Learn Danish because it delights you to do so. Learn Danish because it fascinates you. Learn Danish because it makes you happy. Do not learn Danish as penance for being foreign in Denmark.

  • Walk your own path
  • You may be excited to see that there are blogs about living in Denmark from the point of view of an immigrant. You may feel impatient with people (like me), who point out things that are less good about Denmark. I know. I know. But. Just walk your own path. Some of my best friends are Danes, people who like living in Denmark despite living here for AGES and people who like living in Denmark but haven’t been here all that long. I am not saying YOU have to feel a certain way, I have merely expressed my brain juices towards your eyes. We can agree to disagree. You do not need to try to set me straight or school me on proper guest etiquette. If you can ‘Noble Savage’ the Danes, you can extend the courtesy to me. It is my path, let me walk it.

  • Get ready for winter now
  • Like the Starks of Winterfell say, winter is coming. Winter lasts for approximately seven months. The main problem is not the snow or cold or ice. The main problem is the lack of sunlight. People get really weird. Social isolation becomes a huge issue as people “act lonely”. Make plans to do awesome things, they can be in countries you can reach by rail or air. Buy boxed sets or sign up for Netflix. Take an interest in crafts or reading. Look into gym or pool membership, you are not going to want to run in the conditions in February. Find out where you can get vitamin D and calcium from. Make your place as warm and cozy as possible, you are going to be semi-hibernating from September until March.

  • Find out the names of the pastries
  • Copenhagen Cast has a delightful podcast about the names of Danish pastries. You will really feel like you live in Denmark if you can use the bakery even if you do not learn any more Danish than that.

  • Join the union (and the A-kasse)
  • If you have a job, join the union. Unions are very helpful and strong in Denmark. A-kasse is unemployment insurance. (Check if you will be able to claim it if you lose your job) The reason Denmark has good working time agreements is it has the unions, join the union.

  • Get a notebook
  • Make a note of your questions about Danish culture, combine with photos and when you have worked out ‘what’s with the flags on buses?’ then open a blog for business.