The Kingdom of Denmark is bordered by the Baltic and North Seas in Northern Europe. It comprises the Jutland peninsula and close to 406 islands, 80 of which are populated. A network of bridges and tunnels link the largest islands of Zealand (Sjælland), Funen (Fyn) and Jutland (Jylland). Denmark is connected to its neighbour, Sweden by the Øresund Bridge and the two countries share many cultural and historical elements, as well as having similar languages.
Denmark has a population of around 5.6 million inhabitants and the capital of Copenhagen, situated on Zealand, is the most densely populated part of the country with 1.3 million inhabitants. Denmark is a constitutional monarchy and the current head of state is Queen Margrethe II. Denmark is also a member state of the European Union but opted out of the Euro in favour of its own currency, the Krone. The national Dannebrog flag is the oldest in the world still in use.
Denmark has been named the ‘world’s happiest country’ by a number of international surveys. This accolade can be attributed to the country’s culture of collective responsibility, gender parity, excellent healthcare and education systems, high levels of parental leave, low crime rates and a love of outdoor pursuits. Like other Scandinavian cultures, equality, fairness and family time is fundamental to Danish society. The Danes claim their high quality of life comes from a concept called ‘hygge’ roughly translated as ‘cosiness’ or ‘fun’. Hygge is where Danish people come together, particularly in winter, to relax with friends and family. Sharing food, drinking and playing their own version of Secret Santa, known as Pakelleg, are the most popular pastimes aimed at producing that ‘cosy’ feeling.
Food and Drink
Foods commonly associated with Denmark are bacon and potatoes. However, the new trend for ‘scandi’ fare has placed other Danish dishes at the forefront of world cuisine.
Traditional foods in Denmark include porridge, smørrebrød (open sandwiches made with a variety of toppings) and the national dish stegt flæsk, fried pork in parsley sauce. Danish people have a love of rugbrød (rye bread) which is eaten with jam or cheese for breakfast and as a sandwich at lunch. The Danish koldt bord, closely related to the Swedish smörgåsbord, is a buffet of cold meats, baked herring and salad which is popular at family events and celebrations.
The Danes are a nation of beer drinkers and home-grown brands such as Carlsberg and Tuborg are among the most popular. Danish Akvavit or snaps, a clear, high proof spirit made from potatoes and herbs, is often enjoyed after an evening meal.
The Danes are fanatical about football which is played in most schools by both boys and girls. In winter, the national sport is handball – said to have originated in Denmark – which is played on indoor courts.
Danish people are passionate about exercise with cycling, sailing, horse-riding and fishing among the most popular weekend activities. Denmark is not normally associated with beaches, however the country has 7,300km of white, sandy coastline and in the summer the resorts are as beautiful as any in the Mediterranean, attracting thousands of visitors each year. The area of Jutland has the most popular beaches, many with campsites, summer cottages and holiday centres within walking distance of the soft sands. The cosy resort of Søndervig Beach in West Jutland is famed for its dramatic sand dunes and laid-back atmosphere, which is popular with surfers and water sports enthusiasts.
Danish in the national language of Denmark, but English and German are widely spoken by young and old. Danish is very closely related to Swedish and Norwegian (which has the same alphabet as Danish) and it is possible for speakers of all three language to understand each other easily. Nearly 90% of Danes speak English as a second language, and most Danish children start learning the language at age six.
Accents and dialects
Denmark has a number of dialects and accents which are generally a variation of the official language of Danish, with Swedish influences. Bornholmsk is a Danish dialect spoken on the island of the Bornholm in the Baltic Sea, however Bornholm residents also speak Danish and English.
Denmark has a temperate climate with very cold winters. There are four distinct seasons, Spring (February to May) Summer (June to August) Autumn (September to December) and Winter (December to February). Temperatures in summer can reach a high of 26°C and in winter temperatures can drop to as much as -13°C. A Danish winter usually comes with a large amount of snowfall, with huge snow drifts and icicles dangling from every roof.
Safety and Security
Denmark is considered one of the safest countries in the world and has very low crime rates. However, crime is on the increase in large cities where pickpocketing and gang activity has become more of a problem, so it is best to keep a close eye on your wallet or purse. The good news for female travellers is that sexual equality is a high priority in Denmark, so women should encounter virtually no discrimination or harassment.
Denmark has a high standard of education, which is free to all children and young people up to and including university. Schooling is compulsory between the ages of 6 and 16. The Danish education system is divided into primary and lower secondary schools (folkeskole), followed by an optional two to four years at upper secondary level. Students do not finish formal education in Denmark until the age of 20, when they can choose to enter higher education or the employment market. There are also a number of private international schools in Denmark which offer tuition in English, with the most exclusive schools being in and around Copenhagen. All state and private schools are regulated by the Danish Ministry of Education.
The academic year runs from August to June and is divided into two semesters, Autumn and Spring. Children have a six-week break from June to mid-August and a week in February, October and at Easter and Christmas.
A typical school day in Denmark starts at 8am and finishes at around 3pm, although the first three year groups (ages 6 to 8) usually end their day at 1pm. Most Danish schools run an extensive program of after-school clubs for children with working parents.
There are eight state-funded universities in Denmark and a range of technical and vocational further education colleges. Five of the eight main universities appear in the top 400 universities in the world (QS World University Rankings), with the University of Copenhagen leading the field in 45th place. Danish students must complete qualifying examinations at the end of upper secondary school in order to gain admission into university. Non-Danish students who do not hold a Danish entrance examination certificate can consult the Ministry of Higher Education and Science to see if their qualifications are suitable.
Higher education in Denmark is free to all students from the EU/EEA and Switzerland. Students from outside the EU can expect to pay an annual tuition fee of around 6,000 to 16,000 euro (£4,205 to £11,215), depending on the course of study. State grants (Statens Uddannelsesstøtte) are available to all Danish students to support living costs, regardless of financial circumstances, however students from outside Denmark are not eligible to apply.
Danish universities offer a wide range Bachelors, Masters and PhD programmes in all areas of study. Most courses are taught in Danish, but there are currently over 1,000 degree programmes taught in English and some in German. An undergraduate degree takes around two to three years to complete and a postgraduate Masters around two years in Denmark.
Danish universities place great emphasis on research and work closely with businesses around the world to provide vocational internships and up-to-the minute research tools for their students. Universities at the forefront of research, particularly in the scientific and computing fields, are the University of Copenhagen, the University of Aarhus and the IT University of Copenhagen.
Primary and Secondary Education
Primary and lower secondary schools (folkeskole) provide free education to all Danish children between the ages of 6 and 16. From age 6, pupils follow a core curriculum of mathematics, Danish, science, history, geography, English and German. On completion of folkeskole, children have the option to continue into upper secondary education, which is divided by type of study (academic or vocational).
Upper secondary school takes from two to four years to complete – depending on the course of study – between the ages of 15 and 20. The most common type of upper secondary school is the academically-oriented gymnasium, or students can choose to complete practical training and apprenticeships in vocational schools (erhvervsuddannelse).
Denmark has a very flexible and generous attitude towards nursery and preschool childcare, with up to 80% of the cost being funded by the state. A number of Danish companies also have their own in-house day care centres.
All children under 6 in Denmark are entitled to attend a nursery (vuggestuer) and then preschool (børnehaver) with parents paying up to 25% of fees. There are also many privately run nurseries for children under 3, often found in people’s homes.
Most child care centres in Denmark have specially trained staff specialised in looking after foreign children, with most carers able to speak both English and German.
Denmark has a high cost of living compared with other European countries. Eating out, accommodation and utilities are especially pricey, particularly in Copenhagen, which is one of the top ten most expensive cities in the world. Income tax is high by international standards with high earners paying up to 57% of their salary. However salaries are generally higher in Denmark than in most other European countries and expats moving there – particularly those with children – will enjoy a very high standard of living.
Property prices in Denmark are high. However, although renting and buying are expensive in Copenhagen, they are still far below other capital cities such as London and Paris. There are no restrictions on EU citizens buying property but those from outside the EU must gain approval from the Danish Ministry of Justice before purchasing a home.
The majority of foreign nationals choose to rent a property in Denmark before taking the plunge into buying. Prices for rented accommodation in Denmark vary greatly depending on the type of property, its size, and where it is located. For instance, the rent for a luxury apartment in Copenhagen city centre can be as much as 35,000 DKK (£3287) per month. Rents are cheaper outside of the cities in rural areas, although seaside properties and holiday homes can be as expensive as the capital. The easiest way to find a rental property in Denmark is through local and national newspaper classifieds sections or through an estate agent such as boligportal.
Tenants pay a rental deposit of no more than three months in Denmark. Private properties are generally rented for a minimum of three months, but normally have a rental period of one year. Tenancy contracts (lejekontrakt) for a longer period of time are also available.
All home owners in Denmark pay a split municipal property tax (ejendomsværdiskat) which is based on the value of the property and the land it stands on.
The price of utilities in Denmark is high in comparison to other European countries, particularly in the major cities. Gas and electricity bills are usually based on an estimate of what you consume and are paid by standing order. Most other bills such as water drainage, sewerage and wastage are included in the property tax paid by homeowners. Telephone and internet provision was previously monopolised by the state-run Tele-Denmark Communications (TDC) but de-regulation has led to a more competitive – and cheaper -market. Most telecommunications companies offer TV, phone and broadband packages, which are paid monthly.
The average cost of utilities (electricity, water, gas) for a 85m² apartment in Denmark is around 1,252.69 DKK (£117) per month with a cost of 255 DKK (£24) per month for a basic phone and broadband connection.
In Denmark anyone who has a television or a computer, smartphone or tablet with internet access must purchase a media licence (licens). The media licence fee is currently 2,460 DKK (£231) per year and is used to fund the Danish Broadcasting Corporation (DR)
Healthcare and medical costs
Denmark has a tax-funded universal health care system which is free to all Danish citizens and EU nationals in possession of valid European Health Insurance Card. Expats from outside the EU will receive free emergency healthcare, but need to have a private international health insurance policy for routine medical care until they become permanent citizens in Denmark. The standard of healthcare provision is very high in Denmark, so there are very few private hospitals. However, these medical facilities can be accessed through a private health insurance policy. Most of the Danish population speak English, so expats should have no problem finding an English-speaking doctor.
Global demand for Scandinavian (or ‘Scandi’) homewares, clothing and food has seen an explosion in recent years, so more tourists are heading to Denmark’s stylish shopping malls and high-end boutiques than ever before.
It pays to shop around in Denmark, however, as clothes and furniture are notoriously expensive in Copenhagen compared with other cities. When it comes to food shopping, Denmark has a number of large budget supermarket chains such as Netto, Fakta and the German chains Aldi and Lidl. Groceries are significantly cheaper in these larger supermarkets than the smaller city-based food markets. The cost of food and alcohol are higher in Denmark than other European countries, particularly in Copenhagen, where is it is not unheard of to pay 74 DKK (£7) for a small beer in a bar.
Shops are generally open 9am – 6pm Monday to Friday, with supermarkets open until 9pm and limited hours on Sunday.
Denmark has one of the highest national sales taxes (VAT) in the EU. It is currently set at 25% on nearly all goods and services.
- Rent 1-bedroom apartment in city centre – 6,140.80 DKK (£577.19)
- Rent 1-bedroom apartment outside city centre – 4,325.97 DKK (£406.61)
- Price of apartment per square metre in city centre – 28,972.89 DKK (£2,723.25)
- Price of apartment per square metre outside city centre – 18,087.68 DKK (£1,700.12)
- Loaf of bread – 15.70 DKK (£1.48)
- Milk (1 litre) – 6.56 DKK (£0.62)
- Bottled water (1.5 litre) – 10.40 DKK (£0.98)
- Draught beer (0.5 litre) – 12.64 DKK (£1.19)
- Packet of cigarettes – 44 DKK (£4.14)
- Petrol (1 litre) – 10.88 DKK (£1.02)
- Cinema ticket – 95 DKK (£8.93)
Source: www.numbeo.com (accessed November 2015)
Budgeting and Savings
Denmark has a number of price comparison sites such as kelkoo (http://www.kelkoo.dk/ and) pricerunner (http://www.pricerunner.dk/) but bear in mind that these sites are mainly in Danish. Eating out in Denmark is not cheap (average 205 DKK ~ £20 for one course in a restaurant) so a good way to save money is to shop in budget supermarkets (such as Aldi) and cook at home.
Denmark is a nation of cyclists and most people choose bicycles over cars whenever possible. The Danish Government has recently introduced measures, such as the costly car registration tax, to discourage driving and car ownership in favour of more eco-friendly forms of transport. However, despite negative attitudes towards driving, Denmark has a well-developed road and motorway network. There are no toll charges on Danish roads but you may be charged to use one of the country’s many bridges, such as the magnificent 16 km Øresund Bridge which connects Denmark and Sweden.
Speed limits range from 110km to 130kmph (70mph to100mph) on major roads and motorways, 80kmph (50mph) on country roads and 50kmph (30mph) in built-up areas. One peculiarity of Danish roads is that cyclists and pedestrians have priority over any vehicle at all times. This may come as a shock to those from countries where the car dominates the road. Drivers from the EU can use their own European driving licence in Denmark but those from outside the EU must exchange their driving licence for a Danish license on taking up permanent residence in the country.
Taxis are readily available across Denmark and can be hailed from the street or at a designated taxi stand. Taxing a taxi, as with everything else in Denmark, is not cheap. However, the good news is that Danish drivers are trustworthy and unlikely to take advantage of their passengers.
Buses and Coaches
Local and regional buses are not as common in Denmark as they used to be but most cities operate at least one efficient service. Danish cities are relatively compact so most people choose to get around on foot or by bicycle.
Long distance coach travel is considerably cheaper than train travel in Demark. Efficient and comfortable coaches connect Copenhagen, Odense, Aarhus and Aalborg and tickets can be purchased on board. You can also travel by coach from Denmark to many destinations in other European countries, tickets can be booked through eurolines.
Denmark has a comprehensive rail network with regular connections to all major cities and towns, on most of the Danish islands. There are three types of train in Denmark, regional, which operate between all local stations, InterCity and InterCity Lyn. Intercity trains provide direct, fast connections to the larger cities and towns. Trains to international destinations can also be caught at Copenhagen Central Station, with direct routes to Berlin, Stockholm and Hamburg leaving regularly during the day. Denmark’s trains are operated by DSB (Danish State Railway) and booking tickets in advance though their website can work out cheaper.
Copenhagen is the only Danish city to have a metro network, which consists of two lines and 22 stations. The Copenhagen City Pass, covering all of the city’s transport system, is a cost effective way to get around.
Trams and light rail
Denmark previously had a number of tram systems in operation, however these fell out of use on the introduction of the metro and private car. However, a new Light Rail Transit (LRT) line, using advanced technology, is currently under construction in the city of Aarhus and is set to open in 2017. There are also further plans to introduce LRT lines in Odense and Copenhagen.
Copenhagen International Airport, located 8km sound of the city centre, is the largest and busiest international airport of all the Nordic countries. Over 18 million passengers use the airport each year, travelling to destinations around the world. Due to extensive road and rail networks, domestic flights are limited in Denmark. However there are flight connections between major cities such as Aarhus, Aalborg and Karup which are usually only a short hop of around 30 minutes. The largest airline is Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) which operates 182 aircraft to 90 destinations around the world.
Other ways to get around
The Danes are known for their love of cycling, and Copenhagen was recently voted the world’s best city for bicycles. Cycling is the primary way to get around in Denmark, and the country has around 10,000km (6,200 miles) of cycle lanes and routes. Nearly half of Danish people travel to work and school by bicycle, and children as young as 3 can often be seen cycling alongside their parents. Bicycle rental shops are ubiquitous in Denmark and Copenhagen has recently introduced the new City Bikes Scheme where you can rent bikes fitted with GPS navigation by the hour.
Copenhagen also offers a water bus service, with four lines serving 10 stops along its harbour. Denmark has a widely used ferry network, with regular sailings to Oslo and Swinoujscie in Poland. Ferry tickets can be booked through DFDS Seaways.
An average working day in Denmark starts between 8am and 8.30am and typically ends at 5pm. Women work around 35 hours while men work an average of 41 hours. Less than 10% of workers do more than 49 hours a week. Denmark’s strong family-centred ethos means employers generally expect their workers to leave on time and weekend meetings are rare. Scheduling business meetings after 4pm and on Saturdays are, therefore, not advisable unless absolutely necessary. Working hours are flexible and employees are able to fit their work around family commitments.
Holiday entitlement in Denmark is generous with workers getting five weeks and up to five more days off on top each year. Danes take at least three weeks off during the summer and it is not unusual for some firms to close completely over the summer period (late June to early August). Christmas and Easter are also observed holidays. Employers are expected to pay workers sick pay. Employees do not have to tell their bosses the nature of the illness but a Fit for Work certificate maybe required for both short and long-term absences. The Danish maternity leave system is considered generous by international standards, with parents entitled to receive 52 weeks of paid leave per child.
There are 13 public holidays in Denmark and although not protected by law, most employees, both part-time and full-time, are given paid time off on certain dates in the calendar.
Public holiday dates
New Year’s Day: 1st January
Maundy Thursday: 18th April
Good Friday: 19th April
Easter Sunday: 21st April
Easter Monday: 22nd April
Prayer Day: 17th May
Ascension Day: 30th May
Whit Monday: 10th June
Constitution Day: 5th June
Christmas Eve: 24th December
Christmas Day: 25th December
2nd Day of Christmas: 26th December
Visas and eligibility to work
Thanks to freedom of movement with the European Union, the majority of EU citizens are permitted to enter Denmark without extra documentation. For citizens from outside the EU, Denmark offers a points-based Green Card to workers who fulfil certain criteria designed to attract skilled workers into the country. Foreigners with a job offer from a Danish employer can also apply for a work permit under the Positive List scheme. The Pay Limit scheme also allows workers who earn more than DKK375,000 (£35,412) to apply for a residence permit. British workers can apply for visas by submitting applications to the Denmark Visa Application Centre in either London, Manchester or Edinburgh.
In Denmark the tax year runs from 1st January to 31st December. Denmark has one of the highest income tax rates in Europe which contributes to its social welfare system. As well as high taxes, there is a 25% VAT charge on nearly all goods and services. Upon gaining employment in Denmark, you will need to find out which tax scheme you are required to pay into. In order to do this you will have to register with SKAT (the Central Tax Administration) which are based in most towns and cities. Since January 2011, expats who come to Denmark under the Researcher Tax Scheme (which is aimed at researchers and academics) will pay a flat rate of 26% for the first five years.
Pension contributions are deducted from almost everyone’s wages in Denmark. Most public sector workers also contribute to a collective pension which workers’ pay into in addition to their state pension. Anyone who has lived in Denmark for at least 40 years after the age of 15 is entitled to a full state pension which is paid to people over 65. Company pension schemes normally make up around 15% of an employee’s wage which is paid into every month. Company pensions usually also offer insurance covering health, disability, critical illness and death. Private pensions can be arranged with a bank and can be paid out in full or in instalments.
In Denmark expats are entitled to unemployment insurance if they are between 18 and 63 and are working in the country. Some benefits are granted immediately but others depend on how long you have worked in Denmark. For more information, visit Unemployment Benefit in Denmark
The rights of disabled workers have been strongly promoted since 1993, when Denmark adopted an equal opportunity resolution. Although not legally binding, the government urged public and private companies to support disabled workers. The Danish Disability Council, (Det Centrale Handicapraad) is based in Copenhagen and is government-funded. It advises the government on disabled issues and works to promote good working environments.
The Danes embrace an egalitarian business culture and most companies favour a flat organisational structure with little hierarchy. Equality, social justice and mutual respect at all levels of the workplace is seen as essential. Status is not regarded as important in terms of authority and respect so as to avoid barriers between senior management and lower level employees. Danish people value the sharing of ideas and opinions in business, so it is important to respect this democratic style when doing business in Denmark.
Denmark has one of the strongest economies in the EU and is home to a number of large multinational companies such as Carlsberg, Tuborg, Lego, Arla and Lurpak. The country’s economic success can be attributed to a highly developed infrastructure, efficient and contented workforce and advanced welfare provision.
Denmark favours a management style that is based on equality and consensus, typical throughout Scandinavia. Unlike some other Western management structures, where bosses have a ‘paternal’ role in making many decisions unopposed, Danes consider this outmoded and at odds with the desire to create an equal society. Danish managers have an inclusive style, where all team members are involved in decision-making, and creativity and initiative are encouraged.
Business culture is informal and the Danes are easy-going, flexible and patient in negotiations. They also like to use humour in business relationships and feel that everyone is at their ease. However, it is best to avoid being confrontational and maintain a respectful physical distance, as touching and expansive gestures are not the norm in a business setting.
A healthy work-life balance is very important in Danish society, so an attempt to impress the boss by working long hours would be unsuccessful. Family is important to the Danes and most people hurry home after finishing work. Therefore, business negotiations should take place inside working hours and long business lunches between co-workers are rare. Although Danish people have a relatively informal business culture, workers are expected to keep their private lives outside of the workplace. Relationships between co-workers are based on tolerance, cooperation and frankness. Aggressive or dictatorial attitudes would go against the grain of the Danish consensus-model of management.
Business attire is more informal in Denmark compared with other countries. Danish men usually wear smart-casual clothing (such as trousers, shirt and casual jacket) and, barring some professions, ties are not generally necessary. Women wear smart-casual trousers, suits or dresses. Jeans and a smart shirt are also acceptable in some more informal professions. The weather in Denmark can be exceptionally cold in winter so overcoats, hats and gloves are essential on the journey to and from work.
The accepted business greeting in Denmark is a firm handshake, for both men and women. Personal space is important to the Danes so kissing and hugging is reserved for family and friends only.
Danish people take punctuality very seriously and everyone is expected to be on time to meetings and even social events. Although the Danish are hardworking people, they favour an equal work-life balance so every moment at work is used productively and effectively. By being late, you would be seen as holding others up, so try to be on time at all times.
Danish companies have a lot of meetings, which in the spirit of consensus, have a reputation for being long! Meetings tend to follow a pre-determined agenda and are relaxed and informal, although everyone is expected to be on time. All participants in meetings are encouraged to speak and put their opinions across. Managers are expected to control the meeting but this is more to encourage everyone to express their point of view.
If scheduling meetings, do so during lunch times as opposed to outside of normal business hours. It’s also best to avoid scheduling appointments during the months of July or August, as this is the prime holiday period in Denmark.
Danish people are open, friendly and tolerant and are highly inclusive of other people’s race, religion and gender. Racist, sexist or discriminatory comments or jokes would be deemed incredibly rude and met with an angry reaction in any setting.
The Danes tend to dislike materialism and displays of individual achievement. You should show appreciation for the Danish love of hospitality and ‘coziness’ (a concept known as ‘hygge’ in Denmark), and be respectful of working hours and family time.
Most business is conducted in Danish. However, the majority of Danish people speak a high level of English and German and will switch to these languages easily in the presence of a non-Danish speaker.