Moving overseas. It’s an experience that may be hard to explain. It’s one of those things that can make one say, “you’d only know if you’ve done it”. I’ve lived in America just until after my 28th birthday.
In the past two decades, I’ve traveled back and forth between the USA and Greece, so I DO know what’s it’s like to travel. But how about living in another country other than the one you’ve been so accustomed to your whole life? It’s not only an eye-opening experience: it’s life changing.
I moved to Denmark in June of 2017 to live with my sweet fiancée, in hopes of starting a new life, fresh off the slate. I sold everything.
I owned a well-kept 2009 Honda Accord – paid off, but I sold it. All of my furniture, games, electronics, and kitchen utensils – all sold as a result of moving abroad and starting a new life. It was an empowering feeling to sell it all, taking a chance that many people thought was “risky”.
You’re not on vacation
Being on vacation somewhere is always fun. You experience all of these new tastes, sounds, scents, and sights. If you experience something rather unpleasant, you can always get away from it by returning home and make it a story to tell your friends about.
The same goes for an incredible experience: you will go home and tell all your friends and family how wonderful this new place was. The important thing is that you always have a “home” base, or somewhere you can return that feels normal to you.
When settling abroad, these privileges are taken from you, so to speak. It’s a double-edged sword. It’s great to experience these new things, but it’s also nice to get away and recharge if needed. Nonetheless, just as many other things in life, it takes time to get used to it.
The interesting people of Denmark
The Danish culture is quite an interesting one to say the least. Not only does it take time to get used to, it also involves a lot of patience and understanding. The Danes are special people. They’re outgoing, yet reserved, happy, yet disgruntled, and few, yet proud. They have managed to build their own little world where it’s their rules, and their rules only.
As an American, some of these rules may either seem ridiculous or brilliant. Danes have free healthcare. Their education is also free, and in fact, students are paid to go to school when they turn 18.
Renting apartments in Denmark
The Danes have this way of renting apartments or homes. You can’t just go on the web and find an apartment or home and chose to live in it (unless you’re incredibly lucky, then it may work for you). You must be on a list, and wait for “x” amount of years until it’s your “turn”. I’ve never heard about waiting lists for apartments in America.
High wages and even higher taxes
Denmark doesn’t have a minimum wage, so companies can actually pay you however much they want. BUT most companies in Denmark are part of a union and that makes it a different story. Then minimum wage is actually pretty high compared to America.
To compare: I worked as a waiter in a modern Greek restaurant just before I left Colorado, and my hourly pay was only $5,5 (around 37 Danish Krones). When I came to Denmark, my first job was also as a waiter and I made 130 DKK an hour ($19!). That is quite a difference.
Danes also have 6 weeks paid vacation every year (after working at that specific job for a year, or at least that’s what I’ve been told). What a cozy life, huh? – High minimum wage, and a fairly long paid vacation every year.
The only downside is that the tax system in Denmark is ruthless, yet fair. Where I live, the minimum amount you pay is 38% on your paycheck every month. That’s a good cut of cheese that government takes away from you. So lets put it this way: You make 25,000 DKK a month, but after taxes you get 15,500 DKK. That is almost $1400 that just goes “poof”. ($1=6,8 DKK).
The more you earn a month, then the higher the monthly taxes. Good thing SKAT (Danish Tax Authority) provides fradrag (tax relief), so your monthly salary will be a bit higher depending on your fradrag. So what’s the fair part of it, you ask?
Free education and health care
You are covered here in Denmark. Their system is efficient and comforting. That money that’s taken from your wallet goes straight into society. Public transportation is not only convenient, but also highly affordable in my opinion. Free visits to the doctor are a huge bonus as well.
You get this yellow health insurance card, (sygesikringsbevis) which has all of your information on it. You simply go the doctor, swipe it, and you’re good. If you’re referred to a specialist from your personal doctor, then it’s free. So if something is wrong, the Danes have your back.
The Danish language
Almost everywhere you go, one can rely on communicating to one another in perfect English. That’s right – the Danes have perfect English in my opinion (at least the younger generation). Their accent is even American due to a combination of early schooling and watching American television shows and movies.
You won’t have any trouble nor will you feel the urge in attempting to speak Danish (at your own risk). Learning their language is incredibly challenging. The guttural sounds and shape of their lips while speaking takes years to master, and the accent – oh the accent is by far the highest hurdle.
Even if you master the language, a word as simple as ‘killing’ (kitten) will inevitably be confused with ‘kylling’ (chicken). Imagine you’re in the grocery store and instead of asking for a pack of chicken, you say a pack of kitten instead!
It all takes time
It seems to be a lot of things to get used to in a short period of time. Truth is, it does take time, but it is worth it in the end. It’s a great country. It’s peaceful, simple, and organized. It may be hard to take the plunge and leave behind all your comfort, but it opens the door to a set of new experiences.