- Purchase the complete Expat Arrivals Denmark Guide (PDF)
Known for looking after its residents, this Nordic country values equality, offers excellent and affordable services, and is blessed with gorgeous landscapes in which to spend one’s free time. Although the quality of life in Denmark is extremely high, there are downsides to life in the country that expats should be aware of before making the move. We’ve therefore put together a list of pros and cons of moving to Denmark.
Cost of living in Denmark
- CON: Everything is expensive
Everything in Denmark is expensive, from accommodation and utilities to fuel and eating out. In fact, Denmark's capital, Copenhagen, is one of the most expensive cities in the world, ranking 16th out of 209 cities in Mercer’s 2021 Cost of Living Survey. Luckily, salaries in Denmark tend to be high and, in most cases, will be able to cover an expat’s costs while also providing them with a good quality of life.
+ PRO: High taxes cover essential services and subsidise others
Workers in Denmark pay extraordinarily high taxes. This tax money is put to good use though, and the population enjoys good social services and free access to education and healthcare. Even higher education is free for students from the EU and EEA. These services are also of high quality and therefore worth the high tax rates for most.
Accommodation in Denmark
- CON: Unfurnished in Denmark means completely bare
Expats should be aware that unfurnished in Denmark does not mean the same as unfurnished in the majority of destinations around the world. If a home in Denmark is unfurnished, it will most likely be completely bare – without even kitchen cabinets or appliances. It may be best for expats to find furnished accommodation in Denmark, as this will save them the costs involved in kitting out their new home.
Healthcare in Denmark
+ PRO: Healthcare is world-class, affordable and accessible
Healthcare in Denmark is equally accessible for everyone and is funded by taxes taken from residents’ salaries. This means that expats will not be charged for healthcare at the point of service. A yellow card that they will be issued upon arrival in Denmark is all they need to receive treatment – not a single form will need to be filled out. Public healthcare is also of such a high standard that it is used by the majority of the population, although there are private facilities available.
Getting around in Denmark
+ PRO: Public transport is efficient and extensive
Denmark is well connected with public transport networks, including buses, trains and ferries. The majority of big cities in Denmark are also serviced by Metro systems. This makes getting around the country quick and easy, and owning a car unnecessary. Many locals choose to use public transport over driving, as the systems are easy to use, efficient and well maintained.
+ PRO: Many people get around via bicycles
Denmark truly gives the Netherlands a run for their money when it comes to cycling culture. If people think Amsterdam has a lot of bicycles, Copenhagen is just as packed with them. In fact, there are more bicycles in Copenhagen than people. The city also has well-segregated bike infrastructure alongside roads, as well as in green spaces such as parks as along the canals. Many other cities in Denmark are also following suit and building bike lanes. In the country as a whole, the current network of bicycle routes extends over 7,000 miles (over 12,000km).
Lifestyle in Denmark
+ PRO: It is extremely safe
Denmark is a safe country, with incredibly low crime levels. The criminal activity that does occur is usually in the form of petty offences, and these occasions are far and few between. Expats going about their normal lives in the country will therefore not have to worry about their safety.
+ PRO: There are so many gorgeous natural spaces to explore and enjoy
No matter where in Denmark expats are, they are never more than 30 minutes away from the sea. Beach opportunities are endless, and there are more than 100 islands in the archipelago to explore. Along with seaside adventures, inland escapades can include camping and hiking trips in beautiful landscapes throughout the country.
- CON: It can be difficult to make lasting friendships
It is not always so easy for expats in Denmark to make friends among the local population, especially in the working world. Most people in Denmark made their friends during their childhood and are not always enthusiastic about forming new relationships later in life. That’s not to say people won’t be friendly and courteous, but that expats may not be invited to join social events or be welcomed into anyone’s inner circle initially. There are a number of expat groups in Denmark, however, which is a good place to start.
- CON: The weather is challenging
Denmark, like the other Scandinavian countries, is cold and dark for a significant portion of the year. Even during the summer months, hot and sunny weather is not guaranteed. The sky is often cloudy and grey, and rain is common. Sunlight is also weak due to the northern location of the country. This can be especially challenging for people used to large amounts of sunlight each year.
Working in Denmark
+ PRO: Good work-life balance
The official work week in Denmark is 37.5 hours. Most offices are empty by 5pm and parents with small children often leave work at 3:30pm to pick their kids up from day care. This does not mean that people in Denmark are less productive than people from countries with longer work hours. In fact, they work just as hard. Denmark just has a culture of separating professional and personal lives, and spending time doing what they love or with family and friends is seen as important.
+ PRO: The income inequality rate is low
Denmark has created a society that strives for equality, and one way in which they do this is by paying everyone a somewhat equal salary. This means that locals and expats working in Denmark will be able to afford a decent lifestyle, while also paying the high taxes and having access to great services. This also means that there are many employment opportunities for expats as no matter what job they end up doing in Denmark they will earn a living wage.
- CON: Getting a visa is difficult
Although EU and EEA citizens are able to live and work in Denmark without a visa, expats from elsewhere will need a visa and a work permit to live and work in the country. Expats that apply are not guaranteed a visa for Denmark and should start the process well in advance as there are many steps to follow.
Families in Denmark in Denmark
+ PRO: There is subsidised professional childcare
Families with children will discover that the Danish government offers highly subsidised childcare for both local and expat children, as they assume both parents will be working full time. At these facilities, children will be cared for by professional teachers who will help them to learn Danish and general social behaviours and rules. The amount expats will pay for these services depends on where they live in the country.
Local Culture in Denmark in Denmark
+ PRO: Denmark has a human-oriented culture
The Denmark government has the best interests of its residents in mind and therefore looks after them by offering them plenty of subsidised services and well-maintained infrastructure. This has led the population to have respect for their country and for one another. The greatest result of this, however, is that people are happy in Denmark. In fact, the country is consistently ranked one of the happiest countries in the world. This happiness translates into people being extremely friendly and genuinely helpful, whether with a friend, neighbour or stranger.
- CON: Heavy drinking is normalised
Drinking in Denmark is a popular activity, especially during the dark winter months, and it’s not uncommon to see a person drunk before 7pm on a Friday in Denmark. Those who are not willing to participate may find their social lives to be somewhat limited, as getting involved in these festivities could result in friendships forming over a drink and a conversation in a bar.
- CON: Language barrier
A large portion of the Danish population doesn’t speak English and learning Danish should therefore be a priority for those planning to spend a decent amount of time in the country, or for those living and working outside of Copenhagen. Danish is also the language of choice in most companies in Denmark, and it is often a prerequisite to finding a job. While learning Danish can be relatively easy for some, it is tricky for others.
►For more about life in the country, read Moving to Denmark.
►See Culture Shock in Denmark for more about adjusting to local customs and behaviours.
"Who needs public transport? You can get everywhere with your bike! But still, if you want to use the public transport, there is a wide network of buses, metros and trains; so you can get pretty much everywhere in the city and the region." Read more about Astrid's expat experience in Denmark.
Are you an expat living in Denmark?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Denmark. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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