Category Archives: Living in Denmark

Flights from Copenhagen to Sonderborg – More flights added


From February 18th of this year DAT, the operator of flights from Sonderborg, is bumping up the number of routes that fly between Copenhagen and Sonderborg.

Flight Schedule

As of this month the weekly timetable looks like this:

Departing Sonderborg Arrival Copenhagen
06:20 (Monday-Friday) 07:05
09:15 (Monday-Thursday) 10:00
15:45 (Monday-Friday) 16:30
18:20 (Monday-Friday + Sunday) 19:05
Departing Copenhagen Arrival Sonderborg
08:05 (Monday-Friday) 08:50
14:30 (Monday-Thursday) 15:15
17:15 (Monday-Friday) 18:00
19:45 (Sunday Only) 20:30
22:50 (Monday-Friday) 23:35

Prices for tickets

Prices start at 499DKK per way if you book early making it feasible compared to the 419DKK you pay for the 4-5 hour train ride.

Book flight

You can book your flight from Sonderborg to Copenhagen on DAT’s site here.

A Year of Working in Denmark

Working in a new country will undoubtedly raise questions about the working style to be encountered. Every company has its own working culture, which is also affected by the cultural expectations of the employees. Before I started working in Denmark I had a number of doubts about what I would find.

These are the points I would have highlighted to myself one year ago, based on my experience of different management styles I have encountered:

  • Expect to be trusted to do you work without being checked. Conversely, be careful how you ask questions to others. They might see it as criticism rather than an attempt at understanding (or knowing that 2 heads are better than one).
  • Expect to receive emails starting ‘Hi’, or even ‘Hello’. Formality is considered redundant.
  • Oh – and don’t expect to receive a reply saying thanks for a report or even confirming that they have received it! no contact = no issues (normally).
  • Expect to be taken seriously, regardless of age or gender. Equality (at least in this sense) really permeates the working life more than I had ever imagined it could.
  • Enjoy a flexible working situation and a good work-life balance. Arrive early and leave early. That said, you can do whatever you want, as long as the work gets done.
  • Forget about management styles you are used to. Decisions making is much more consensual. Great if you are the worker, not so great if you are in need of a decision!
  • Your colleagues are not your friends. Friendly enough at work, but don’t expect this to extend to life outside. Make friends elsewhere.
  • Phone usage? Forget most previous experience. Answering your phone during meetings is fine. But do walk out of the room if possible.

What about you? What would you add to this list?

Buying a used car in Denmark

Tiny Fiat
We are getting close to having lived in Sonderborg for a year and about a month ago we decided it was about time we bought a car. I have previously lived in Copenhagen, Prague and London where a bike and public transport can easily cover your travel needs. In Sonderborg you can also make do with public transport. However, it does limit your range and for trips further afield it can be a bit of a puzzle to find the right connections.

We decided to take the plunge and buy a car. Here are some tips from our experience. Remember that in Denmark cars are taxed 180% which means a lot of people drive small cars or old cars. Also because of the weather the cars have a hard life. Roads are salted during much of the winter making rust a big problem unless the used car has been washed and treated properly.

Where to look is a very good place to start looking at cars. Most second hand dealers will put their cars on here. The search engine lets you search based on price, make/model, type, age, fuel economy and distance from you. You can mark cars as favourites and get notifications when their price is lowered or they get sold from under your nose. You can set up search agents that on a daily basis give you an update on new cars that match your criteria. Other sites in this industry that we didn’t use but could be useful are BilPriser and DBA where a lot of private people post their cars. Prices on these sites include purchase taxes but exclude delivery costs.


Buying from dealers vs. from private people

Prices at used car dealers are higher than if you buy from a private person but a used car dealer also has to give you 2 years “faults on purchase warranty” (reklamationsret) on issues that were present at the time of purchase. Many used car dealers also offer six months warranty on issues that arise after the purchase. Buying from a private party there are not these warranties and you buy “as seen”. However the car will be cheaper to purchase from a private person (in the range of DKK 5-15000 cheaper). I do not know much about cars so we opted for buying from a dealer.

Blue vetran car

Getting a second opinion

As I was new to buying a car and don’t have any friends who are mechanics I opted for a service called Used Car Test (brugtbilstest) by the Federation of Danish Motorists (FDM) on the car that we were most interested in. The test is thorough and checks all the vital parts of the car but also comes at a price of DKK 2200.

Buick Riviera

Price and costs

Keep in mind that there are more costs to having a car than the price tag in the window.

Delivery costs (leveringsomkostninger) about DKK 3500 are paid to the dealer and covers getting new license plates and making the paperwork.

Green Tax (Grønne afgifter) is the biannual cost of owning a car. It is based on the fuel economy or energy class of the car. The fuel economy is measured according to the EU standard. When you see cars on site like BilBasen you can see the energy class. Our car is a diesel in class A, which costs DKK 1330 every six months.

Insurance (forsikring) costs are based on the car type, your age and your experience. It’s required by law to have third party insurance (ansvarsforsikring) and optional to have comprehensive insurance (kaskoforsikring). We asked four companies for quotes and got prices ranging from DKK 8000 to DKK 13000 so it’s worth shopping around. There is an independent site where you can get some initial quotes from a couple of companies but do call them and explain your specific situation to get a definitive offer.

Vehicle inspection (Bilsyn) are done after the car is four years old. Then it has to get an inspection every other year. These are about DKK 500. Of course your car has to be in good nick to pass the inspection so there might be a bill from the mechanic to pay before you take it to inspection.

Winter tyres. If you are from a warmer climate you might not be aware of the difference between winter and summer tyres. There is no legal requirement to change over in Denmark but most people do and in Germany and other North European countries it is a legal requirement. An extra set of tyres costs from DKK 2500 (plus rims which are from DKK 2000).

An old Ford Escort

These were our tips. Here are links some linke for further reading on buying and selling and importing cars. Do you have any pointers to give to potential car buyers in Denmark?

BTW – none of the cars pictured in this post are from Denmark, I just thought they were cool.

Denmark – One Year On

One year ago today I arrived in Denmark. From London, via Hamburg. I arrived exhausted – it was a gruelling trip, what with luggage and train cancellations. However, it signified the start of a new life: a new country and a new job in a new field. I was excited.

Having known Michael for around 4 years, I had, of course, often visited Denmark. During these visits I had encountered a country that looked ‘like in the films’: green rolling hills in spring and summer, golden reddish hues in autumn, and snow! However, most of all, houses had attics – with sloping roofs! You may say – why the excitement? But I come from a country with flat roofs and sloping roofs was what all houses in fairytales had when growing up!

However, I was also apprehensive. I had experienced quite a number of Danes who solely looked inwards towards Denmark and Danes rather than outwards towards the rest of the world. These were people who really believed that everything in Denmark is the best in the world. An attitude, might I add, I had never encountered previously and is the complete opposite to what I expect. This did not sit easy with me – I like to question everything, if only to understand. This is a country where ‘hygge’ and a happy time is important above all else. Coming from a confrontational society, where arguments are relished, I was worried.

So what have I found? I have found a bit of both. Lovely nature that is opposite to the dry and urbanised landscape I grew up with. But also, people with different norms of what is acceptable discourse and what is not, and individuals who struggled with my questions as they were used to having what they say accepted without being challenged in the hope by others of keeping the peace.

Over all, however, I am happy to be here. I appreciate the nature I have around me. I appreciate having the possibilities I have been given in being involved in the community. Above all else, however, I have learnt more about Danish culture and what causes people to act the way they do. This has come in handy in feeling less affronted by what I am told and confronted with, and – why not? – in knowing what buttons to push when I feel its time to give my argumentation skills some exercise!



Autumn in Denmark

Autumn, or fall, is the season that says goodbye to summer and hello to winter. It is typically associated with harvest, and Halloween/Thanksgiving/All Souls and All Saints day (depending on where you come from).

Growing up I associated Autumn with the return to school. After the 3 month summer holiday period is was back to routine and a hectic schedule to fit all that I wanted to into the day. However, autumn in Malta missed the one thing that you see in all autumn shots in films: reddish golden tones in the nature around you.


Coming to Denmark, these colour are one of the defining features of autumn. It has made it a pleasure going for a walk in the forest after work just to see the colours. However, what has surprised me the most is how quickly it became cold. It doesn’t help that Autumn in Denmark starts on the 1st of September rather than the 21st of the month, as I am used to back home. This being my first autumn here I really wasn’t expecting it.

So what to expect for Autumn in Denmark? Lovely golden colours, days becoming shorter, and cold! People have already seen snow in Sonderborg (alas, I wasn’t so lucky), and we are only halfway through the season! Luckily for us, the hour has just been moved back, so we get a bit more light in the morning. Not looking forward to the dark evenings though!

Review: Being Danish – Paradoxes of Identity in Everyday Life

I have often wondered about why do Danes act the way they do, or why do they say what they say. In one person it might be an individual trait, but when you notice the same behaviour repeatedly you realise that there is something else beneath this behaviour. However, it was only when I received this book as a gift that I could put some context to my thoughts and some grounding to my feelings.

Being Danish: Paradoxes of Identity in Everyday Life is an ethnographic study of the concept of identity in Denmark. Written by Richard Jenkins, a Professor of Sociology in the UK, it is mainly based on field work done by the author in around 1997 in Skive. The book discusses the paradoxical nature of Danish sense of identity, both inward looking within Denmark as well as outward looking towards Europe and the rest of the world.

The book, although being an academic study, is also quite accessible, though certain parts are a bit tedious for the leisurely reader like me. Even if I am used to reading academic texts, this is a completely different subject so I easily miss the nuanced points the author is trying to make in such sections. In particular, I found the first chapter tough going. However, don’t despair at this stage! The further on in the book you go, the more relevant the book was to my interests (i.e. understanding the people and culture around me).

I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in the Danish sense of identity, be it as an immigrant living here, or as a Dane seeking to understanding the reason behind their actions. I liked the book as it made me think deeper about where I am living, understand the people around me, as well as exclaim very often “Phew – I am not the crazy one here!”.

Urging you to read the book, I leave you with the ‘entertaining observatory explanation’ to the following question, as summarised in the conclusion:

How could it be that despite the overwhelming obviousness of everyday differences between ‘ethnic Danes’ the story that ‘we are all the same’ continues to be sufficiently convincing?

It suits them […] It allows them them to feel better than they are […] It enables them to feel special – even smug and superior […] It allows them, indeed, to overlook the fact that Denmark isn’t actually as wonderful as they think it is.

It also answers part of the question I asked in an earlier post on Danishness. And why not? Feeling smug and superior myself!

A Country of Contradictions?

Talking with Danes you immediately realise that they have a strong sense of identity, what being Danish means, and why something that you do or the way that you think is NOT Danish. However, Danishness is not as clear cut as most Danes you meet on the streets like to believe. To a foreigner (or at least me), being Danish is also a quagmire of contradictions:

A fair and equal society.

A homogeneous/equal society that focuses on the individual.

Rules so that no one is left out

All of these characteristics are ideal aspirations in themselves. However, reaching a real and sustainable balance between the two is often much harder than it may at first appear unless people consciously keep this in mind.

Kelly Draper, writing for the Copenhagen Post, makes an excellent show of how being fair and equal can be contradictory. Both of these characteristics are to be aimed for. However, a fair society is not necessarily an equal one. A fair society is one where people get what they need when they need it. Otherwise we risk wasting resources ‘helping’ people who do not need it and missing the ones in need as we put rigorous checks and balances in place to ensure that everything is equally divided at the specific level rather than the holistic one. This is, of course, easier to manage, but helps no one.

Another issue I am struggling with is how we teach our* children how to be inclusive citizens and thoughtful about the circumstances that others may be in. Talking to parents (and at work I am surrounded by them) it is usual that there are rules in place at school as to who you can invite to a birthday party (all girls, all boys, or all children in the class), how much money is to be spent on gift, and also who to play with**.

Of course, teaching kids that no one should be left out is an excellent ideal. And there are instances where rules are necessary and important, when someone’s rights are being trampled on. However, when putting such rules in place, are we teaching the kids the importance of what lies behind them, or are we just teaching them to follow rules. And, what about teaching kids that not everyone can afford the same things, so be grateful for what you got in terms of what they could afford. Again, it is easier to put a rule in place than to teach the kid why such an action is important. After talking with parents, unfortunately, I strongly suspect that the second part of explanation is often forgotten.

As a foreigner thinking about the society I am living in I am sometimes criticised for saying anything below stellar about Denmark. I can understand that no one likes hearing criticism about what they do. But I often wonder if what I say stops at the ‘being rebuffed’ level, or if some people also think about it following our encounter. Quoting Socrates “the unexamined life is not worth living”.


* Yes. I say OUR children. Although I have no children and am not ethnically Danish, I am living in this society now and am making an active contribution to it. So I am entitled to an opinion about it ( just like everyone else).

** In at least one school, the teachers organise kids into groups of 4 and once a month they go to each others houses to play together.

Danish Wedding Traditions

So far we have written about general Danish celebration traditions. Although most of those are also true for a Danish wedding (particularly the speeches!), there are a couple of other traditions that are worth knowing if this will be your first experience.

The first time I attended a Danish wedding I was surprised as to how much of a spotlight the wedding couple was under and that as a guest I felt more of an observer than a participant (rightly so, you may say – this is their day). What about you? Have you been to one? And if so, what surprised you? These are a few other things that surprised me.

Let’s Stamp and Clink

You may be expecting an uninterrupted dinner with pleasant conversation with the people sitting next to you. However, if the speeches haven’t already put paid to this expectation, there is one more thing you have to keep an eye (or ear) out for. During the meal, at random intervals, the guests will either stamp their feet or clink their cutlery against glass or plates. If the stamping happens, the couple have to go under the table and kiss. If the latter, they have to stand on chairs and kiss.

You may kiss the bride (or groom)

If the groom leaves the room you will see all the guys get up as well. They will quickly queue up to go and kiss the bride, and vice-versa; when the bride leaves the room all the girls will rush to give the groom a cheeky kiss. So don’t worry – you will be kept active as well!

First Dance

You may be looking forward to cake following dinner (and all the activity around it). However, If the cutting of the cake is a major event in your culture’s weddings, you will probably be disappointed. Instead, a major occurrence is the first dance. This has to happen before midnight (as otherwise your wedding day is over), but also close to midnight, as this is when the couple changes status from unmarried to married.

As a guest you do not only watch. You also have to get involved! As the couple dances, the guests surround them, clapping in unison and getting closer and closer to the couple until the couple can no longer move…and they kiss amid (thunderous) applause.

The Cutting of the Cake Socks

Back to the cake! The cake will be cut, but even more importantly is that the socks are cut! After the first dance, the guys often pick up the groom, take off his shoes, and cut his socks. Apparently it is for the guy to see how good his new wife is at sewing. Let’s just hope I am never put to this test!

Cutting the grooms socks + why we do that I dont know

(Inspector) Gadget

One of the things that fascinated me when I first started visiting Denmark was gadgets! There is a gadget for every imaginable action in the kitchen, often with a price tag for the design luxury, and a practicality that does not often match!

They fascinated me as I was often presented with them and had not an iota of a clue at what I should do with them! Luckily (or strangely?) for the gadget-ignoramus that I was, every house seems to have the exact same ones, so once shown you can be up and running in no time!

So I though I would look back into my previous blog and look back on my initial thoughts on four of the gadgets that fascinated me and perplexed me in equal measure.

The Cheese Cutter

Cheese cutter

Imagine me, the first time I came to Denmark and we sit down to eat, and I am told that since I am the guest, I start. I asked for cheese (unfortunately I matched it with ham!) and was given a piece of metal with a thin wire attached. I was baffled! What do I do with it?

This was, of course, a cheese cutter. However I am used to harder (often crumblier) cheese which we typically cut with a knife. I am proud to say that now I know how to hold it AND use it successfully. Considering my bad luck with knives, this is a good thing!

The Wine Pourer

A circular piece of foil, and a bottle of wine! What do you do? You roll it into a cylinder and introduce it into the mouth of the wine bottle. And voila! Easy pouring with no dripping (or so it should be). Best of all, I have been told? It can be dishwashed and reused!

The Tea Pot

Oh no! This is no ordinary tea pot. IT has a fancy lid that closes when you stop pouring, a zipper cover to keep it warm AND, of course, a system for not dripping. Trying not to drip and wiping if you do seems not to be a sufficient solution here! I remember being perplexed as to where the ‘open’ button or mechanism was. Little was I to know that this magically happened when you try and pour.

The Tin Opener

Can opener

I first read about this gadget in another blog a few weeks before I moved to Denmark. Imagine my surprise when Michael said that this was exactly what he has for us to use when we move to Denmark! As someone mentioned, it is a mystery metal shard that even in my wildest dreams wouldn’t have thought actually did anything. But it does open cans (albeit at a slow speed in my hands). And best of all? Unlike all the other stuff, it is decently priced!

Images: Wine Pourer from; Tea Pot from


Danskhed: What is Danishness?

“That is not the way we do it in Denmark.”

This is a comment you often hear when interacting with Danes. Danes have a word for this belief that the Danish way is the right way: Danskhed which translates to Danishness. However, I often wondered what IS Danish, and is there really only ONE Danishness, and if not, who’s Danishness is the real one? And I’m not alone to be asking this question!

I have, therefore, been interested in what has caused this interest in Danishness by the Danes in a very different way to the way other nationalities look at their national identity. Taking the example of Malta: people there have a strong identity, but it is not discussed on a national level in much the same way. We don’t even have a corresponding word! Furthermore I still struggled to identify if Danes actually understood what ‘Danishness’ meant and if everyone understood the same thing.

One of the sources I have found that makes a very good attempt at discussing how Danishness arose is ‘Being Danish’ by Richard Jenkins. He writes that the current belief in the existence of something that can be called ‘Danishness’ is part of Grundtvig’s legacy from the 1800s and his key values amongst which there is patriotism. Since many people, especially in education, childcare and voluntary association systems still hold these principles in high regard Jenkins suggests that it is them who are “at the heart of the national master narrative that insists that all Danes are basically the same”. However, when digging deeper he realises that while people talk about Danishness with a confidence that everyone would understand what they are referring to it is “equally clear that they did not always agree about what it was that they had in common”.


Putting this in context, it is worthwhile noting that there was something else going on in Denmark in the 1800s, besides the emergence of Grundtvig and his widely accepted principles: Denmark was a much bigger empire (see map below). In 1780 the Danish empired covered all that is today Denmark, plus Norway, a number of overseas territories and what is now Schleswig and Holstein in Germany. In 1814 Denmark lost Norway in the Treaty of Kiel. In 1864, a significant part of Denmark was lost to Prussia. Towards the later 1800s and early 1900s Denmark lost much of its overseas possession.

This vast reduction in size of the Danish empire was maybe what caused this notion of Denmark consisting of one homogenous people that needs to defended and maintained. This undoubtedly was the perfect environment for Grundtvig’s principles to emerge and flourish until this very day.

So what IS Danishness? The closest I got to a definition was in the Being Danish book by Jenkins. On analysing readers’ letters to the Skive newspaper about the Maastricht Treaty he identified that when Danes talk about Danishness (IF they do, since most take it for granted), it appears to indicate:

co-operative and egalitarian similarity within Denmark (and indeed, Scandinavia), and independent difference from the rest of the world, especially Germany.

I have come to the end of my search, however, without understanding WHY Danes often come across as believing that the Danish way is the best way or simply the only way. However, I have a much better understanding of why this strong belief in Danishness has arisen.

And what about my view of what identifies ‘Danishness’ in a person? Someone who has very set ideas of the relationship between lamps and bulbs, uses candles as a feasible source of lighting, while intimately knowing the rules relating to open sandwiches. Now those three things I think I can never achieve. And lets not forget the flags!