Moving to Denmark
Expats moving to Denmark will find that despite being a small country – with a population of just over 5.6 million people – it has a complex underlying character.
Denmark comprises more than 400 islands, and while the Jutland Peninsula (Jylland) shares a land border with Germany, most of the population live on islands. Only 70 of the islands are populated, and the largest, Zealand (Sjælland), is where Denmark's capital, Copenhagen, is located, and where around 25 percent of the country's population lives.
Denmark is an increasingly popular expat destination, as the Danish government, industry and higher education institutions are all keen on greater internationalisation.
Generally, Denmark is a high wage, tax and welfare economy. The labour market is governed by the concept of 'flexicurity', which means that government policy and labour market legislation are guided by a high degree of market flexibility while providing substantial security through the welfare system.
Denmark has one of the lowest low-income inequality measures amongst Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries – that is, the gap between senior executives and factory floor workers is smaller than most other places. It must be said, however, that it is considered necessary to have at least two incomes for most families to maintain a decent standard of living, so expat families with only one working spouse may experience financial strain.
The cost of living in Denmark is high. As with any European capital city, rents are high in Copenhagen – almost 50 percent higher than in provincial Danish cities. However, accommodation costs are competitive compared to Paris, London or Oslo. Property in Denmark is presented primarily in square metres rather than by number of rooms. An 80sqm apartment might only have one bedroom and one living room, while another 80sqm might have two bedrooms, a study and a living room. Since costs are generally calculated on size they would cost roughly the same.
The Danish language is closely related to Swedish and Norwegian. It is not unusual to find a Dane and a Swede conversing together quite happily, each in their own language, each understanding the other but neither wanting to adopt the other’s tongue. English is compulsory in secondary schools and most people, particularly in urban areas, can speak it well. This makes it is quite easy for expats to be lazy about learning Danish, even though local authorities provide free or subsidised language courses to a high level. Danish hosts will nevertheless appreciate at least some effort being made to get to grips with their language. Furthermore, despite many larger companies adopting English as their company language, it remains difficult to do as well career-wise without at least some Danish.
Despite its small size, Denmark has much to offer expats in terms of culture, sport and outdoor life. Visitors are often surprised at how unpopulated some parts of the country are. Being a peninsula and a series of islands, there is no shortage of coastline and water-based activities are very popular. Expats should be warned, however, that if they are looking for mountains and fjords they will be disappointed. Denmark is 'rolling' rather than hilly, with the highest point being only 170m above sea level.