Q&A

I’m sitting here at a car workshop waiting to get the oil changed on our car so I figured it’s a good time to tackle some of these questions a few of you have had. Maybe even throw a couple more in…

One of the most frequent questions I get is about the weather. What is the weather like in Denmark? How does it differ from the Midwest?

The main difference: extremes in temperature. Denmark lacks the extremes or roller coaster type weather that we get in the Midwest. In the Midwest, we can have thunderstorms one day then snow the next. An 80 degree high one day and 40 degree high all in the same week. That does not happen here. This is all thanks to the fact Denmark is small and surrounded by ocean. The ocean currents keep the temperatures fairly steady. We have just seen a gradual increase in highs over the past couple of weeks heading into summer. The winter highs rarely get below freezing and the summer highs tend to be below 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
But that doesn’t mean the weather forecasting is easy here. Temperatures might not be too difficult but forecasting rain is. Again because of the abundant amount of moisture in that ocean next to us, there is a chance of rain nearly every day it seems. Even when the forecast says 10% chance, we’ll likely have a quick downpour. We have a good amount of dreary days as well, especially in the winter. The winters here are very comparable to the Pacific Northwest. A HUGE lack of sun.
Happily, the sun is back and I’m really seeing Denmark wake up.

Another question I’ve gotten is about prices on goods and how stores look here.

European vs American Paper Towels

Stores here are very similar to the USA. They are smaller. You do not see a Walmart sized store in every town but there is a store called Bilka that is probably the most similar to Walmart. It has it all; electronics, food, clothing, garden supplies, etc. Shopping malls are also scattered across the country and are actually thriving unlike malls in the US (at least before COVID-19).
Prices depend on the goods. Fresh produce seems to be very comparable to the US. Just like the US, produce is cheaper when you buy in season. There are also a lot of roadside produce stands that sell potatoes, strawberries, flowers and apples. I really enjoy picking up fresh fruit during the summer.
Sweets and alcohol are a bit more expensive. There is a higher tax called the “sugar tax”. A kilo of chocolate or sweets is subjected to a $3.25-4 tax depending on the sugar content. It’s seen as a way to curb obesity and is also the reason many Danes cross the German border to obtain sweets. Alcohol on the other hand is subjected to a $7.49 tax per liter of 100% alcohol. So good wine is a bit more expensive here…
I know clothing is more expensive here but I really don’t have a great handle on it. I rarely buy new clothes. I mainly shop at the second hand stores if I’m in need of clothes. If I do need new clothes, I typically go to H&M as it is a cheaper option and they are also located throughout much of Denmark. Or I use pricerunner.dk which compares different prices at different stores.
There really aren’t many “dollar stores” here. There are a few companies that do sell cheaper items but they are small and their product is constantly changing.

Speaking of food (I’m gettin hungry), one question I got was about seafood. Is it readily available?

Yes, at least much more available than it is in the Midwest. We have fish at least once a week. Claire loves salmon now (still working on Avery). Smoked fish is also very popular and we found a variety we like in Rømø .
The husband went oyster hunting last fall and there are also shrimp tours that occur in the spring/summer. There is even a meal box company that specializes in fish meals for costumers.

Taxes. That is another question I get.

How high are taxes in Denmark?

High. Denmark is a welfare state. The income tax rate is 12.16% for the lower bracket (income above $6,794.02) and 15% for upper bracket (income above $75,499). One that really tends to shock folks is the tax on a new car. Vehicle registration tax is 150% for cars newer than 2017. This is likely the reason why many Danes bike or live very close to work…
There are also many different taxes that I don’t have the knowledge or experience on. Wikipedia has a great breakdown if you’re interested.

What do Danes think about this?

We’ve talked to a handful of Danes about the taxes. Like Americans, they are resourceful in finding loop holes or cross the border to Germany to avoid the high tax.
However, all have stated they don’t mind paying higher taxes than other countries. The reason? They know they are taken care of. Danes have free (or subsidized) childcare, education (through college level), healthcare and assistance if they should become unemployed.
The maternity leave policy here is absolutely outstanding. Parents can receive a total of 52 weeks of paid leave from the government. Few families have to decide between a career and raising a family due to childcare costs. Therefore, most members of the household work. A stay at home mom is sort of seen as an abnormality.
Are there issues with the system? Of course. There may be longer waits for healthcare in bigger cities. You are not allowed to see a specialist unless your GP refers you which means you may have to fight more for your health. You can change doctors but it costs a fee (you typically stay with the one in your municipality). The emergency room is only for true emergencies and you must call ahead.
My experience has been small here but it has all been pleasant so far. Our doctor has happily talked English to us. We have made same day appointments (one including pulling a bead out of a screaming toddler’s nose). We have called the on call doctor in the evening to get a next day appointment at an urgent care. It has all been pretty seamless…so far.

What is driving like in Denmark?

Just like Iowa; or should I say we drive on the same side. This is not Britain. The terrain is the same and you pretty much just need to learn the signs so you know exactly what they’re telling you.

I was asked if we visited Tivoli. Twice: here and here.

I was also asked about the little mermaid statue in Copenhagen. It is probably one of Denmark’s most famous statues and has been vandalized many times. Her head has been sawed off twice, she has lost an arm and she’s been painted on several times. The latest vandalism was to show support for Hong Kong.

I was also asked if COVID-19 is widespread through Denmark. It is widespread in Copenhagen and its island. As of today (6/8) the border remains partially closed. German, Norwegian and Icelander tourist may now visit Denmark if they can prove an overnight stay of at least 6 nights. They are not allowed to stay in Copenhagen.
Schools are open completely and businesses are opening as well. The assembly ban has been raised from 10 to 50. Everything has strong restrictions to slow the spread of the virus. You can check out all my lock down posts for our experience with the lock down.

And the final and likely most frequent question: how long are you staying in Denmark?

We will be here for at least another year. Our visa allows us to be here for a total of five. So somewhere in between…

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