Developers Guide to Moving to Denmark

Developers Guide to Moving to Denmark

I've wanted to write a guide for tech workers looking to leave the US and
move to Denmark for awhile. I made the move over 4 years ago and finally
feel like I can write on the topic with enough detail to answer most

Denmark gets a lot of press in the US for being a socialist
paradise and is often held up as the standard by which things are
judged. The truth is more complicated, Europe has its own issues that may impact you more or less depending on your background.

Here's the short version: moving to Europe from the US is a significant
improvement in quality of life for most people. There are pitfalls, but
especially if you have children, every aspect of being a parent, from
the amount of time you get to spend with them to the safety and quality
of their schools, is better. If you have never considered it, you
should, even if not Denmark (although I can't help you with how). It
takes a year to do, so even if things seem ok right this second try to
think longer-term.

Reasons to move to Denmark

  • 5 or 6 weeks of vacation a year (with some asterisks)
  • Public very good healthcare
  • Amazing work/life balance, with lots of time for hobbies and activities
  • Great public childcare at really affordable prices
  • Be in a union
  • Summer is amazing weather
  • Safety. Denmark is really safe compared to even a safe US area.
  • Very low stress. You don't worry about retirement or health insurance or childcare or any of the things that you might constantly obsess over.
  • Freedom from religious influence. Denmark has a very good firewall against religious influence in politics.
  • Danes are actually quite friendly. I know, they pretend they're not in media but they are. They won't start a conversation with you but they'd love to chat if you start one.

Reasons not to move to Denmark

  • You are gonna miss important stuff back home. People are gonna die and you won't be there. Weddings, birthdays, promotions and divorces are all still happening and you aren't there. I won't sugarcoat it, you are leaving most of your old life behind.
  • Eating out is a big part of your life; there are restaurants, but they're expensive and for the most part unimpressive. If someone who worked at Noma owns it, then it's probably great, but otherwise often meh.
  • You refuse to bike or take public transit. Owning a car here is possible but very expensive and difficult to park.
  • Lower salary. Tech workers make a lot less here before taxes.
  • Taxes. They're high. All Danes pay 15% but if you earn "top tax" you pay another 15%. Basically with a high salary you get bumped into this tax bracket.
  • Food. High quality ingredients at stores but overall very bland. You'll eat a lot of meals at your work cafeteria and it's healthy but uninspired.
  • Buying lots of items is your primary joy in life. Electronics are more expensive in the EU, Amazon doesn't exist in Denmark so your selection is much more limited.


There are certainly no shortages of reasons today why one would consider leaving the US. From mass shootings to a broken political system where the majority is held hostage by the minority rural voter, it's not the best time to live in the US. When Trump was elected, I decided it was time to get out. Trump wasn't the reason I left (although man wouldn't you be a little bit impressed if it were?).

I was tired of everything being so hopeless. Everyone I knew in Chicago was working professional jobs, often working late hours, but nobody was getting ahead. I was lucky that I could afford a house and a moderately priced car, but for so many I knew it just seemed pointless. Grind forever and maybe you would get to buy a condo. All you could do was run the numbers with people and you realized they were never gonna get out.

Everything felt like it was building up to this explosion. I would go back to rural Ohio and people were desperately poor even though the economy had, on paper, been good for years. Flex scheduling at chain retail locations meant you couldn't take another job because your first job might call you at any time. Nobody had health insurance outside of the government-provided "Buckeye card". Friends I knew, people who had been moderates growing up, were carrying AR-15s to Wal-Mart and talking about the upcoming war with liberals. There were confederate flags everywhere in a state that fought on the Union side.

I'm not really qualified to talk about politics, so I won't. The only skill that lends itself to this situation was someone who has watched a lot of complex systems fail. This felt like watching a giant companies infrastructure collapse. Every piece had problems, different problems, that nobody seemed to understand holistically. I couldn't get it out of my head, this fear that I would need to flee quickly and wouldn't be able to. "If you think it's gonna explode you wanna go now before people realize how bad it is" was the thought that ran over and over in my head.

So I'd sit out the "burning to the ground" part. Denmark seemed the perfect place to do it. Often held up as the perfect society with its well-functioning welfare state, low levels of corruption and high political stability. They have a shortage of tech workers and I was one of those. I'd sell my condo, car and all my possessions and wait out the collapse. It wasn't a perfect plan (the US economy is too important to think its collapse wouldn't be felt in Denmark) but it was the best plan I could come up with.

Doing something is better than sitting on Twitter and getting sad all the time was my thought.

Is it a paradise?

No. I think the US media builds Denmark, Norway and Sweden up to unrealistic levels. It's a nice country with decent people and the trains, while DSB doesn't run on time, it does run and exist which is more than I can say for US trains. There are problems and often the problems don't get discussed until you get here. I'll try to give you some top level stuff you should be aware of.

There is a lot of anger towards communities that have immigrated from the Muslim world. These neighborhoods are often officially classified as "ghettos" under a 2018 law:

And the Danish state decides whether areas are deemed ghettoes not just by their crime, unemployment or education rates, but on the proportion of residents who are deemed “non-western” – meaning recent, first-, or second-generation migrants.

You'll sometimes hear this discussed as the "parallel societies" problem. That Denmark is not Danish enough anymore unless steps are taken to break up these neighborhoods and disperse their residents. The solution proposed was to change the terms: The Interior Ministry last week revealed proposed reforms that would remove the word "ghetto" in current legislation and reduce the share of people of "non-Western" origin in social housing to 30% within 10 years. Families removed from these areas would be relocated to other parts of the country.

It's not a problem that stops at one generation either. I've seen Danes whose family immigrated over a generation ago who speak fluent Danish (as they are Danish) be asked "where they come from" at social events multiple times. So even if you are a citizen, speak the language, go through the educational system, you aren't fully integrated by a lot of folks standards. This can be demoralizing for some people.

I also love their health system, but it's not fair to all the workers who maintain it. The medical staff don't get paid enough in Denmark for all the work they do, especially when you compare staff like nurses to nurses in the US. Similarity a lot of critical workers like daycare workers, teachers, etc, are in the same boat. It's not as bad as the US for teachers but there's still definitely a gap there.

Denmark also doesn't apply all these great benefits uniformly. Rural Denmark is pretty poor and has limited access to a lot of these services. It's not West Virginia, but some of the magic of a completely flat fair society disappears when you spend a week in rural Jutland. These towns are peeling paint and junk on the front lawn, just like you would expect in any poor small town. There's still a safety net and they still have a much better time of it than an American in the same situation, but still.

I hope Danish people reading this don't get upset. I'm not saying this to speak ill of your country, but sometimes I see people emotionally crash and burn when they come expecting liberal paradise and encounter many problems which look similar to ones back home. It's important to be realistic about what living here looks like. Denmark has not solved all racial, gender or economic issues in their society. They are still trying to, which is more than I can say for some.


The next part are all the practical steps I could think of. I'm glad to elaborate on any of them if there is useful information that is missing. If I missed something or you disagree, the easiest way to reach me is on the Fediverse at: [email protected].

Why do I say this is a guide for developers? Because I haven't run this by a large group to fact-check, just developers moving from the US or Canada. So this is true of what we've experienced, but I have no idea how true it is for other professions. Most of it should be applicable to anyone, but maybe not, you have been warned etc etc.

Getting a Visa

The first part of the process is the most time consuming but not very difficult. You need to get a job from an employer looking to sponsor someone for a work visa. Since developers tend towards the higher end of the pay scale, you'll likely qualify for a specific (and easier) visa process.

In terms of job posting sites I like Work in Denmark and Job Index. I used Work in Denmark and it was great. If a job listing is in Danish, don't bother translating it and applying, it means they want a local. Danish CVs are similar to US resumes but often folks include a photo in theirs. It's not a requirement, but I've seen it a fair amount when people are applying to jobs.

It can be a long time before you hear anything, which is just how it works. Even if you seem amazing for a job, my experience with US tech companies was often I'd hear back within a week for an interview. Often with Denmark its 2-3 weeks to get a rejection. Just gotta wait them out.

Where do you want to live

Short answer? As close to Copenhagen as possible. It's the capital city, it has the most resources by a lot and it is the easiest to adjust to IMO. I originally moved to Odense, the third largest city and found it far too small for me. I ended up passing time by hanging out in the Ikea food court because I ran out of things to do, which is as depressing as it sounds.

The biggest cities in Denmark are Copenhagen, Aarhus on the Jutland peninsula and Odense on the island of Fyn sitting between the two. Here's a map that shows you what I'm talking about.

A lot of jobs will contact you that are based in Jutland. I would think long and hard before committing to living in Jutland if you haven't spent a lot of time in Denmark. The further you get from Copenhagen, the more expectation there is that you are fluent in Danish. These cities are also painfully small by US standards.

  • Copenhagen: 1,153,615
  • Aarhus: 237,551
  • Odense: 145,931

Typically jobs in Jutland are more desperate for applicants and are easier to get for foreign workers. If you are looking for a smaller city or maybe even living out in the countryside (which is incredibly beautiful), it's a good option. Just be sure that's what you want to do. You'll want to enroll in Danish classes immediately at a faster rate to get around and do things like "read menus" and "answer the phone".

There are perks to not living in Copenhagen. My wife got to ride horses once a week, which is something she did as a little kid and could do again for a very reasonable $50 a month. I enjoyed the long walks through empty nature around Fyn and the leisurely pace of life for awhile. Just be sure, because these towns are very sleepy and can make you go a bit insane.


Danish interviews are a bit different from US ones. Take home assignments and test projects are less common, with most companies comfortable assuming you aren't lying on your resume. They may ask for a GitHub handle just to see if you have anything up there. The pace is pretty relaxed compared to the US, don't expect a lot of live code challenges or random quizzes. You walk through the work you've done and they'll ask follow ups.

Even though the interviews are relaxed, they're surprisingly easy to fail. Danes really don't like bragging or "dominating" the conversation. Make sure you attribute victories to your team, you were part of a group that did all this great work. It's not cheap to move someone to Denmark, so try and express why you want to do it. A lot of foreign workers bounce off of Denmark when they move here, so you are trying to convince them you are worth the work.

After the interview you'll have....another interview. Then another interview. You'll be shocked how often people want to talk to you. This is part of the group consensus thing that is pretty important here. Jobs really want the whole team to be happy with a decision and get a chance to weigh in on who they work with. Managers and bosses have a lot less power than in the US and you see it from the very beginning of the interview.

Remember, keep it light, lots of self-deprecating humor. Danes love that stuff, poking fun at yourself or just injecting some laughter into the interview. They also love to hear how great Denmark is, so drop some of that in too. You'll feel a little weird celebrating their country in a job interview, but I've found it really creates positive feelings among the people you are talking to.

Don't answer the baby question. They can't directly ask you if you are gonna have kids, but often places bringing foreign workers over will dance around the question. "Oh it's just you and your partner? Denmark is a great place for kids." The right answer is no. I gave a sad no and stared off screen for a moment. I don't have any fertility issues, it just seemed an effective way to sell it.

Alright you got the job. Now we start the visa process for real. That was actually the easy part.

Sitting in VFS

This wasn't going to work. That was my thought as I sat in the waiting room of VFS Chicago, a visa application processing company. Think airport waiting area meets DMV. Basically for smaller countries it doesn't make sense for them to pay to staff places with employees to intake immigrants, so they outsource it to this depressing place. I was surrounded by families all carrying heavy binders and all I had was my tiny thin binder.

I watched in horror as a French immigration official told a woman "she was never getting to France" as a binder was closed with authority. Apparently the French staff their counter with actual French people who seem to take some joy in crushing dreams. This woman immediately started to cry and plead that she needed the visa, she had to get back. She had easily 200 pages of some sort of documentation. I looked on in horror as she collapsed sobbing into a seat.

On the flip side I had just watched a doctor get approved in three minutes. He walked in still wearing scrubs, said "I'm here to move to Sweden", they checked his medical credentials and stamped a big "APPROVED" on the document. If you or your spouse is a doctor or nurse, there's apparently nowhere in the EU who won't instantly give you a visa.

My process ended up fine, with some confusion over whether I was trying to move to the Netherlands or Denmark. "You don't want a Dutch visa, correct?" I was asked more than once. They took my photo and fingerprints and we moved on. Then I waited for a long time for a PDF saying "approved". I was a little bit sad they didn't mail me anything.

Work Visa Process

Just because it seems like nobody in either sphere understands how the other works

The specific visa we are trying to get is outlined here. This website is where you do everything. Danish immigration doesn't have phone support and nothing happens with paper. It's all through this website. Basically your employer fills out one part and you fill out the rest. It's pretty straight forward and the form is hard to mess up. But also your workplace has probably done it before and can answer most questions.

This can be weird for Americans where we are still a paper-based society. Important things come with a piece of paper generally. When my daughter was born in a Danish hospital I freaked out because when it was time to discharge her they were like "ok time to go!". "Certainly there's a birth certificate or something that I get about her?" The nurse looked confused and then told me "the church handles all that sort of stuff." She was correct, the church (for some reason) is where we got the document that we provided to the US to get her citizenship.

Almost nothing you'll get in this entire process is on paper. It's all through websites and email. Once you get used to it, it's fine, but I have the natural aversion to important documents existing only in government websites where (in the US) they can disappear with no warning. I recommend backups of everything even though it rarely comes up. The Danish systems mostly just work, or if they break they break for everyone.


There is a part of the process that they don't draw particular attention to. You need to get your biometrics taken, which means photo and fingerprints. This process is a giant pain in the ass in the US. You have a very limited time window from when you submit the application to get your biometrics recorded, so check the appointment availability BEFORE you hit submit. The place that offers biometric intake is VFS You have to get it done within 14 days of submitting and there are often no appointments.

Here are the documents you will need over and over:

  • full color copies of your passport including covers
  • the receipt from the application website showing you paid the fee. THIS IS INCREDIBLY IMPORTANT and the website does not tell you how important it is when you pay the fee. That ID number it generates is needed by everything.
  • Employment contract
  • Documentation of education. For me this included basically my resume and jobs I had done as a proxy for not having a computer science degree.

Make a binder and put all this stuff in, with multiple copies. It will save you a ton of work in the long-term. This binder is your life for this entire process. All hail the binder.

Alright you've applied after checking for a biometrics appointment. You paid your fee, sat through the interviews, put in the application. Now you wait for an email. It can take a mysterious amount of time, but you just need to be patient. Hopefully you get the good new email with your new CPR number. Congrats, you are in the Danish system.


Moving stuff to Denmark is a giant pain in the ass. There are a lot of international moving companies and I hear pretty universally bad things about all of them. You need to think of your possessions in terms of cargo containers. How many cargo containers do you currently have in your house worth of stuff and how much can you get rid of. Our moving company advised us to try and get within a 20 foot cargo container for the best pricing.

It's not a ton of space. We're talking 1,094 cubic feet.

You gotta get everything inside there and ideally you go way smaller. Moving prices can vary wildly between $1000 and $10,000 depending on how much junk you have. You cannot be sentimental here, you want to get rid of everything possible. Don't bring furniture, buy new stuff at Ikea. Forget bringing a car, the cost to register it in Denmark will be roughly what you paid for the car to begin with. Sell the car, sell the furniture, get rid of everything you can.

Check to see if anything with a plug will work. If your device shows an inscription for a range 110V-220V then all you need is a plug adapter. If you only see an inscription for 110V, then you need a transformer that will transform the electricity from 220V to 110V. Otherwise, if you attempt to plug in your device without a transformer, bad things happen. I wouldn't bother bringing anything that won't work with 220V. The plug adapters are cheap, but the transformers aren't.

Stuff you will want to stockpile

This is a pretty good idea of what American stuff you can get. 
  • over the counter medicine, doesn't really exist here outside of Panodil.
  • Pepto, aspirin, melatonin, cold and flu pills, buy a lot of it cause you can't get more
  • Spices and Sauces
  • Cream of tartar
  • Pumpkin pie spice
  • Meatloaf mix
  • Good chili spice mixes or chili spices in general
  • Hot peppers, like a variety of dried peppers especially ones from Mexico are almost impossible to find here
  • Everything bagel seasoning, I just love it
  • Ranch dressing
  • Hot sauces, they're terrible here
  • BBQ sauces, also terrible here
  • Liquid butter for popcorn if that's your thing
  • Taco mix, it's way worse here
  • Foods
  • Cheez-its and Goldfish crackers don't exist
  • Gatorade powder (you can buy it per bottle but its expensive)
  • Tex-mex anything, really Mexican food in general
  • Cereal, American sugar cereal doesn't exist
  • Cooler ranch Doritos
  • Mac and Cheese
  • Good dill pickles (Danish pickles are sweet and gross)
  • Peanut butter - its here but its expensive

You are going to get used to Danish food, I promise, but it's painfully bland at first. There's a transition period and spices can help get you over the hurdle.

Note: If you eat a lot of peppers like jalapeños, it is too expensive to buy them every time. You will want to grow them in your house. This is common among American expats, but be aware if you are used to them being everywhere and cheap.

Medical Records
When you get your yellow card (your health insurance card), you are also assigned a doctor. In order to get your medical records into the Danish system, you need to bring them with you. If you don't have a complicated medical history I think it's fine to skip this step (they'll ask you all the standard questions) but if you have a more complicated health issue you'll want those documents with you. The lead time to get a doctors appointment here in Denmark for a GP isn't long, typically same week for kids and two weeks for adults.

Different people have different experiences with the health system in Denmark, but I want to give you a few high level notes. Typically Danes get a lot less medication than Americans, so don't expect to walk out of the doctors office with a prescription. There is a small fee for medicine, but it's a small fraction of what it costs with insurance in the US. Birth control pills, IUDs and other resources are easy to get and quite affordable (or free).

If you need a specific medication for a disease, try to get as much as you can from the US doctor. The process for getting specific medicine can sometimes be complicated in Denmark, possibly requiring a referral to a specialist and additional testing. You'll want to allocate some time between when you arrive and when you can get a new script. Generally it works but it might take awhile.


The pets and I waiting for the bus with my stolen luggage cart

My first week was one of the harder weeks I've had in my life. I landed and then immediately had to take off to go grab the dog and cat. The plan was simple: the pets had been flown on a better airline than me. I would grab them and then take the train from the airport to Odense. It's like an hour and a half train ride. Should be simple. I am all jitters when I land but I find the warehouse where the pets were unloaded.

Outside are hundreds of truck drivers and I realize I have made a critical error. People had told me over and over I didn't need to rent a car, which might have been true if I didn't have pets. However the distance between the warehouse and where I needed to be was too long to walk again with animals in crates. The truck drivers are sitting around laughing and drinking energy drinks while I wander around waiting for the warehouse to let me in.

I decide to steal an abandoned luggage cart outside of the UPS building. "I'm bringing it closer to where it should be anyway" is my logic. The drivers find this quite funny, with many jokes being made at my expense. Typically I'd chalk this up to paranoia but they are pointing and laughing at me.  I get the dog and cat, they're not in great shape but they're alive. I give them some water and take off for the bus to the airport.

Loading two crated animals onto a city bus isn't easy in the best of times. Doing it while the cat pee smell coming out of one crate is enough to make your eyes water is another. I have taken over the middle of this bus and people are waving their hands in front of their faces due to the smell. After loading everyone on, I check Google Maps again and feel great. This bus is going to turn around but will take me back to the front of the airport where I want to go.

It does not do that. Instead it takes off to the countryside. After ten minutes of watching the airport disappear far into the background, I get off at the next stop. In front of a long line of older people (tourists?) I get the dog out of the box, throw the giant kennel into a dumpster, zip tie the cat kennel to the top of my suitcase and start off again.

We make it to the train where a conductor is visibly disgusted by the smell. I sit next to the bathroom hoping the smell of public train bathroom would cover it. I attempt to grab a taxi to take me to where I am staying to get set up. No go, there are no taxis. I had not planned for there to be no taxis. On the train I had swapped out the cat pad so the smell was not nearly so intense, but it still wasn't great.

I then walked the kilometers from the train station to where I was staying, sweating the entire time. The dog was desperately trying to escape after the trauma of flying and staying in the SAS animal holding area with race horses and other exotic animals. There were giant slugs on the ground everywhere, something I have since learned is just a Thing in Denmark. We eventually get there and I collapse onto the unmade bed.

What I have with me is what I'm going to need to get set up. There is a multi-month delay between when you land and when your stuff gets there, so for a long time you are starting completely fresh. The next day I start the millions of appointments you need to get set up.

Week 1

Alright you've landed, your stuff is on a boat on its way to you. Typically jobs will either put you up in corporate housing to let you find an apartment or they'll stick you in a hotel. You are gonna be overwhelmed at first, so try to take care of the basics. There is a great outline of all the steps here.

It is a pretty extreme culture shock at first. My first night in Denmark was a disaster. I didn't realize you had to buy the shopping bags and just stole a few by accident. So basically within 24 hours of landing I was already committing crimes. My first meal included an non-alcoholic beer because I assumed Carlsberg Nordic meant "lots of booze" not "no booze".

When you wake up have a plan for what you need to get done that day. It's really tiring, you are gonna be jet-lagged, you aren't used to biking so don't beat yourself up if you only get that one thing done. But you are time limited here so it's important to hit these milestones quickly. You are also going to burn though kind of a lot of cash to get set up. You'll make it up over time, but be aware.

Get a phone plan

You can bring a cellphone from the US and have it work here. Cellphone plans are quite cheap, with a pay as you go sim available for 99 dkk a month with 100 GB of data and 100 hours of talk time. You can get that deal here. If you require an esim, I recommend 3 although it is a bit more. They are here.

Find an apartment
The gold standard for apartment hunting is BoligPortal here. Findboliger was also ok but much lower amounts of inventory. You can get a list of all the good websites here.

These services cost money to you. I'm not exactly sure why (presumably because they can so why not). Just remember to cancel once you find the apartment.

Some tips for apartment hunting

  • Moving into an apartment in Denmark can be jaw droppingly expensive. Landlords are allowed to ask for up to 3 months of rent as a deposit AND 3 months of rent before you move in. You may have to pay 6 months of rent before you get a single paycheck from your new job.
  • You aren't going to get back all that deposit. Danish landlord companies are incredibly predatory in how this works. They will act quite casual when you move in, but come back when you move out and will inspect everything for an hour plus. You need to document all damage before you sign in, same as the US. But mentally you should write off half that deposit.
  • After you have moved in, you have 14 days to fill out a list of defects and send it to your landlord.
  • Don't pay rent in cash. If the landlord says pay in cash it's a scam. Move on.
  • See if you have separate meters in your apartment for water/electric. You want this ideally.
  • Fiber internet is surprisingly common in Denmark. In general they have awesome internet. If this is a priority ask the apartment folks about it. Even if the building you are looking at doesn't have it, chances are there is a building they manage that does.
This doesn't have anything to do with this, I just love this picture

Danish washers and dryers are great. Their refrigerators suck so goddamn hard. They're small, for some reason a pool of water often forms at the bottom, the seal needs to be reglued from time to time, stuff freezes if its anywhere near the back wall. I've never seen a good fridge after three tries so just expect it to be crap.

All the normal kitchen appliances are here, but there are distinct tiers of fancy. Grocery stores like Netto often have cheap appliances like toasters, Ikea sells some, but stay away from the electronics stores like Power unless you know you want a fancy one of them. Amazon Germany will ship to Denmark and that's where I got my vacuum and a few other small items.

Due to the cost of eating out in Denmark you are going to be cooking a lot. So get whatever you need to make that process less painful. Here's what I found to be great:

  • Instant Pot: slow cooker and a rice cooker
  • Salad washer: their lettuce is very dirty
  • Hand blender: if you wanna do soups
  • Microwave: I got the cheapest I could find, weirdly no digital controls just a knob you turn. Not sure why
  • Coffee bean grinder: Pre-ground coffee is always bad, Danish stuff is nightmarish bad
  • Hot water kettle: just get one you'll use it all the time
  • Drip coffee maker: again surprisingly hard to find. Amazon Germany for me.
  • Vacuum

Kitchen Tools

  • Almost all stove-tops are induction so expect to have to buy new pots and pans, don't bring non-induction ones from the US
  • Counter space is limited and there is not a ton of kitchen storage in your average Danish apartment so think carefully about anything you might not need or use on a regular basis
  • Magasin will sell you any exotic tools you might want or need and there are plenty of specialist cooking stores around town

Go visit ICS
You can make an appointment here.

They will get you set up with MitID, the digital ID service. This is what you use to log into your bank account, government websites, the works. They'll also get you your yellow card as well as sign you up for your doctor. The process is pretty painless.


  • pick whichever you want, bring your US passport, Danish yellow card and employment contract
  • it takes forever, so also maybe a book
  • they'll walk you through what you need there but it's pretty straight forward
  • credit card rewards don't exist in Denmark and you don't really need a credit card for anything

If the bank person tells you they need to contact the US, ask to speak to someone else. I'm not sure why some Danish bank employees think this, but there is nobody at the US Department of Treasury they can speak to. It was a bizarre roadblock that left me trying to hunt down who they would be talking to at a giant federal organization. In the end another clerk explained she was wrong and just set me up, but I've heard this issue from other Americans so be aware.

I did enjoy how the woman was like "I'll just call the US" and I thought I am truly baffled at who she might be calling.

First night

Moving In

  • Danish apartments don't come with light fixtures installed. This means your first night is gonna be pretty dark if you aren't prepared. Trust me, I know from having spent my first night sleeping on the floor in the dark because I assumed I would have lights to unpack stuff. You are gonna see these on the wall:

Here's the process to install a light fixture:

  1. Turn off the power
  2. Pop the inner plastic part out with a screwdriver
  3. Put the wire from the light fixture through the hole
  4. Strip the cables from the light fixture like 4 cm
  5. Insert the two leads of your lamp into the N and M1 terminals
  6. If colored, the blue wire goes into N and the brown wire into M1
  7. If not colored it shouldn't matter

Here is a video that walks you through it.

You are gonna wanna do this while the sun is out for obvious reasons so plan ahead.

Buying a Bike

See me wearing jeans? Like a fucking idiot?

Your bike in Denmark is going to be your primary form of transportation. You ride it, rain or shine, everywhere. You'll haul groceries on it, carry Ikea stuff home on it, this thing is going to be a giant part of your life. Buying one is....tricky. You want something like this:

Here's the stuff you want:

  • Mudguards, Denmark rains a lot
  • Kevlar tires. Your bike tires will get popped at the worst possible moments, typically during a massive downpour.
  • Basket. You want a basket on the front and you want them to put it on. Sometimes men get weird about this but this isn't the time for that. Just get the basket.
  • Cargo rack on the back.
  • Wheel lock, the weird circular lock on the back wheel. It's what keeps people from stealing it (kinda). You also need a chain if the bike is new.
  • Lights, ideally permanently mounted lights. They're a legal requirement here for bikes and police do give tickets.
  • If you haven't changed a tube on a bike in awhile, practice it. You'll have to do it on the road sometime.
  • Get a road tool kit.
  • Get a flashlight in this tool kit because the sun sets early in the winter in Denmark and hell is trying to swap a tube in the dark by the light of a cellphone while its raining.
  • If you can get disc brakes, they're less work and last longer
  • Minimum three gears, five if you can.
  • Denmark always has a bike lane. Never ride with traffic.
You need all that

It doesn't have to be that one but it should have everything that one does plus a flashlight

Bike Ownership

  • home insurance covers your bike mostly, but make sure you have that option(and get home insurance)
  • write down the frame number off the bike, it's also on the receipt. You need it for insurance claims
  • You should lubricate the chain every week with daily use and clean the chain at least once a month. A lot of people don't and end up with very broken bikes
  • Danes use hand signals to indicate.

You are expected to use these every time.

  • Danes are very serious about biking. You need to treat it like driving a car. Stay to the right unless you are passing, don't ride together blocking people from passing, move out of the way of people who ring their bells.
  • Never ever walk in a bike lane
  • Wear a helmet
  • Buy rain gear. It rained every morning on my way to work for a month when I first moved here. I got hit in the eye with hail and fell off the bike. You need gear.

Rain Gear

Rain jackets: Regnjakker
Best stuff is: or McKinley on a budget.

Rain pants: regnbukser
I love the Patagonia rain pants cause they're not just hot rubber pants. Get some with air slots if you can.

You can grab a full set here if you don't want to mix and match:

Rain boots:
Tretorn is the brand to beat. You can grab that here: They also sell all the gear you need.

Get a rain cover for the backpack and also get a waterproof backpack. I'm not kidding when I say it rains a lot. Rain covers are everywhere and I used a shopping bag for two months when I kept forgetting mine.

Alright you got your apartment, yellow card, bank account, bike and rain gear. You are ready to start going to work. Get ready for Danish work culture, which is pretty different from US work culture.


Danish work can be a rough adjustment for someone growing up in the American style of work. I'll try to guide you through it. Danes have to work 37 hours a week, but in practice this can be a bit flexible. You'll want to be there at 9 your first day but don't be shocked if you are pretty alone when you get there. Danes often get to work a little later.

You'll want to join your union. You aren't eligible for the unemployment payouts since you are here on a work visa, but the union is still the best place to turn to in Denmark to get information about whether something is allowed or not. They're easy to talk to, with my union I submit an email and get a call the next day. They are also the ones who track what salaries are across the industry and whether you are underpaid. This is critical to salary negotiation and can be an immense amount of leverage when sitting down with your boss or employer.

Just another day biking to work

Seriously, join a union

If you get fired in Denmark, you have the right to get your union in there to negotiate the best possible exit package for you. I have heard a lot of horror stories from foreigners moving to Denmark about not getting paid, about being lied to about what to do if they get hurt on the job, the list goes on and on. This is the group that can help you figure out what is and isn't allowed. They're a bargain at twice the price.

Schedules tend to be pretty relaxed in Denmark as long as you are hitting around that 37. It's socially acceptable to take an hour to run an appointment or take care of something. Lunches are typically short, like 30 minutes, with most workplaces providing food you pay for in a canteen. It's cheaper than bringing lunch and usually pretty good. A lot of Danes are vegetarian or vegan so that shouldn't be a problem.

Titles don't mean anything

This can be tricky for Americans who see "CTO" or "principal engineer" and act really deferential. Danes will give (sometimes harsh) feedback to management pretty often. This is culturally acceptable where management isn't really "above" anyone, it's just another role. You really want to avoid making decisions that impact other people without their approval, or at least the opportunity to give that approval, even in high management positions.

Danish work isn't the same level of competitive as US/China/India

As an American, if you want a high-paying job you need a combination of luck, family background and basically winning a series of increasingly tight competitions. You need to do well in high school and standardized tests to get into an ok university where you need to major in the right thing to make enough money to pay back the money you borrowed to go to the university. You need a job that offers good enough health insurance that you don't declare bankruptcy with every medical issue you encounter.

US Tech interviews are grueling, multi-day affairs involving a phone screen, take home, on-site personality and practical exam AND the job can fire you at any second with zero warning. You have to be consistently providing value on a project the executive level cares about. So it's not even enough to be doing a good job, you have to do a good job on whatever hobby project is hot that quarter.

Danes don't live in that universe. They are competitive people in terms of sports or certain schools, but they don't have the "if I fail I'm going to be in serious physical distress". So things like job titles, which to Americans are "how I tell you how important I am", mean nothing here. Don't try to impress with a long list of your previous titles, just be like "I worked a bunch of places and here's what I did". Always shoot for casual, not panicked and intense.

Cultural Norms

Dress is pretty casual. I've never seen people working in suits and ties outside of a bank or government office. There isn't AC in most places, so dress in the summer for comfort. Typically once a week someone brings in cake and there are beers or sodas provided by the workplace. Friday beer is actually kind of important and you don't want to always skip it. It's one of the big bonding opportunities in Denmark among coworkers.

Many things considered taboo in American workplaces are fine here. You are free to discuss salary and people often will. You are encouraged to join a union, which I did and found to be worthwhile. They'll help with any dispute or provide you with advice if you aren't sure if something is allowed. Saying you need to leave early is totally fine. Coffee and tea are always free but soda isn't and it's not really encouraged at any workplace I've been at in Denmark to consume soda every day.

There are requirements around desk ergonomics which means you can ask for things like a standing desk, ergonomic mouse and keyboard, standing pad, etc. Often workplaces will bring in someone to assess desks and provide recommendations, which can be useful. If you need something ask for it. Typically places will provide it without too much hassle.

Working Late/On-Call

It happens, but a lot less. Typically if you work after-hours or late you would be expected to get that time back later on by leaving early or coming in late. The 37 hours is all hours worked. The rules for on-call are a bit mixed and as far as I know aren't defined in any sort of on-call rules. Just be aware that your boss shouldn't be asking you to work late and unlike the US being on salary doesn't mean that you can be asked to work unlimited hours in a week.


Danish summer isn't bad

Danish vacation is mostly awesome. Here's the part that kinda stinks. Some jobs will ask that you use a big chunk of your vacation over a summer holiday, which is two or three weeks the office is closed during May 1 and September 30. Now your boss can require that you use your vacation during this period, which is a disaster for foreigners. The reason being is you don't have anywhere to go, everything is already booked in Denmark during the summer vacation and everything travel related is more expensive.

Plus you'll probably want to spend more of that vacation back home with family. So try to find a job that doesn't mandate when you use your vacation. Otherwise you'll be stuck either flying out at higher prices or doing a lame staycation in your apartment while everyone else flees to their summer houses in Jutland.


Is it worth it? I think so. You'll feel the reduction in stress within six months. For the first time maybe in your entire adult life, you'll have time to explore new hobbies. Wanna try basketweaving or kayaking or horseback riding? There's a club for that. You'll also have the time to try those things. It sounds silly but the ability to just relax during your off-time and not have to do something related to tech at all has had a profound impact on my stress levels.

Some weeks are easier than other. You'll miss home. It'll be sad. But you can push through and adapt if you want to. If I missed something or you need more information please reach out at [email protected] on the Fediverse. Good luck!