Category Archives: New in Town

We all have to start somewhere. These are blog posts about being new in town and finding the useful, interesting places.

Apartments in Denmark: Observations

After nearly a month living in temporary accommodation in Denmark, we finally received the long-awaited keys to our apartment on the 1st of December. This is my first experiencing at trying to maintain Danish standards of house decoration. With Michael holding my hand, this is the start to that journey.

First Impressions

Spacious was the first word that came to mind on entering the apartment. This was especially so when compared to what we had in London. The space is then bound by wooden floors and whitewashed walls; a blank canvas that you can infuse with your own character over time.

Practicalities

If you have been looking for apartments in Denmark you have probably figured out that most are offered unfurnished. If not, hopefully you would realise this before you enter the apartment. For this purpose we had previously extracted Michael’s furniture (mostly from his university days) from storage, and bought a few other essentials, such as a bed and sofas.

When selecting furniture, however, it would be useful to keep in mind that the first floor is floor 0, so if you are on the 3rd floor that means you need to lug your furniture up 4 flights of stairs. Glad to have had people helping us for that.

Nevertheless, the practically that might take you by surprise the most is that you would probably have no lighting in your apartment at all, so make sure you have all the essentials for this at hand before it gets dark. You need to not only get bulbs with you but wire them into the system yourself. As Heidi said over at her blog ‘The Red Project, I am not sure how safe that is.

Living in the apartment

So far the apartment has been comfortable. The heating (Danfoss products, may I add) does its job well and the windows don’t seem to be leaky. This makes for a comfortable temperature that can be easily reached and then maintained.

The apartment also has a ‘special feature’! As we don’t have that much furniture (only 1 trailer of furniture when compared to someone who moved below us on the same day who had 3+!) voices still echo in the living room (the largest open space in the apartment). However, a few more bits and pieces and carpets will probably remove this ‘feature’.

The only ‘issue’ is that we can never seem to get cold water out of the tap – it always comes out lukewarm at best. We suspect that the cold and hot water pipes run close to each other and are not properly insulated, hence this result. However, this is nothing that cannot be solved by putting a bottle of water in the fridge!

Good to Know

I will finish this post with this warning however. Remember that deposit you paid on signing the contract? Well, expect to lose a good chunk of it. Unlike in other places I have lived, where you got your deposit back if you leave the place in good conditions, this does not happen in Denmark. The owner will generally repaint the apartment regardless of if you leave it in pristine condition or not.

Paying it forward

We moved into our new flat recently – on the 3rd floor. I had some furniture in storage from my university days and we had just bought some secondhand sofas and bed. So not a huge load but some, especially the sofas, turned out to be fairly heavy.

My parents came down to help us move in the day we got the key. Other than that I have one friend in town from high school (gymnasium) but he was busy with work they day. We could pick up the key on the 1st of December between 11 and 12 so we planned to move in then and hoped to be have most of it done before it got dark at 16.00.

Two days before the move in a bit of a desperate try I posted on the Facebook wall of Newcomers Network that we were moving in and could use some extra hands. And lo and behold a few hours later we had offers from 3 guys who could come and help on the day of the move. Pato we had already met briefly as he organised the first Newcomers Network meetup we went to in November. But Merwyn we didn’t know.

amanda lifts a couch
Photo by Tango McEffrie (Jim Hickcox)

It ended up working out great with the help of the guys. We had moved most of the boxes and smaller items to the flat by the time Merwyn and Pato arrived so we “just” needed the big items. And they were a huge help! Without them we would not have been able to get the sofas up four and a half flights of slim stairwell that day – no way.

Once we had finished we asked them why they came and helped and Merwyn told us a story about how some complete strangers had helped him move on several occasions. This was a way for him to pay back – by paying it forward.

I’m thinking and hoping we’ll see a lot more of these guys in Sønderborg and once we are a bit more settled we’ll invite them over for dinner. But more importantly I have a debt to pay and hopefully will be able to help some other people who are new in town.

Sonderborg accommodation

Review: Bed and Breakfast in Sonderborg

As we could only move into our apartment on the 1st of December we needed temporary accommodation in Sonderborg for around 2 weeks. After looking at the options our choice fell on Bed and Breakfast Sonderborg mainly for its location and facilities.

Sonderborg accommodation

The B&B is the red building in the top centre

Location

The B&B is located on a road overlooking Als Sund. It is easily reached from the town (around 10 minute walk from the bus station, and just across the water from the train station i.e. around 10 minute walk).

Our room was then on the top floor of the building, making it quite a bit of a climb. If this is a problem for you do make note, though otherwise it should be OK if you are in good health. Nevertheless, there are also rooms in the ground floor if needs be.

Accommodation

The first thing of note on entering the apartment, particularly our room, is the amazing views onto Als Sund, taking in Sonderborg Castle, King Christian X’s bridge, Dybbole Molle and Alsion. The big windows along one wall framed this view perfectly.

View from our room at the B&B

The set-up inside is just as pretty, particularly our room: spacious and clean, with lovely wooden beam features. The only downside of the room is that it doesn’t have a wardrobe, though some shelves and drawers are available. However, there are some coat hooks both inside the room as well as outside, which helped.

Facilities

Having a small kitchen area where we could cook our own food was a deciding factor in picking our place. Particularly when living here for more than a few days – eating out in Denmark is not cheap!

Internet

Another thing we look for is, of course, wireless internet. The wifi is decent most of the time, though it does seem a bit busy when more people are using it. We did, however, have some problems on a number of days when the router seemed to completely give up. On the other days, however, we did make skype calls of good quality, so it is more than sufficient for us.

Overall

I would have no problem staying here myself again or recommending it to family or friends. However I would suggest asking for the top floor room with the view if possible – the view is definitely worth the climb, and you know you need the exercise anyways!

 

Sonderborg’s Newcomers Network

When moving to a new place one of the biggest concerns you have (after accommodation) is making friends. Back home you probably have a support network of friends that you have been building for years, but all of a sudden you are all alone, starting from scratch.

You are probably not alone in that situation in town. A problem is finding the others! For this reason the Sonderborg Industry and Tourism Centre (SET) has set up a ‘Newcomers Network‘.

This group, organised by Patricio Soto, meets every first Monday of the month at 7pm at Broggeriet, a cafe in central Sonderborg. Even though we were not yet living in Sonderborg we attended the November meetup.

At the meetup we attended there were people from all over, particularly in Europe, and also Danes. Surprisingly to us we were seated for the ‘networking event’. However, as people joined and left we moved around on the tables to make space or close gaps, which helped the circulation of people.

The next meetup is a Julefrokost (or Christmas lunch) in December. So if you live in the area and interested in meeting other new (and not so new) people living in Sonderborg and surroundings check out this group page and send an email to Patricio to book your place (it is subsidised so only costs 50dkk). I look forward to seeing you there!

Working in Denmark

The main reason for our move to Denmark was that I got a job at Danfoss. However, although I had read and heard quite a bit about working culture in Denmark, I hadn’t experienced it myself as yet first hand. So how different is working in the UK, or Malta, to working in Denmark? Here are a couple of impressions I have had so far:

Danfoss entrance

First Day at Work

It was immediately clear to me that the company was ready for my arrival. I had a computer, a phone, a mobile phone and a desk with storage space already set up. An introduction plan had also been prepared for my first weeks with timeslots already planned for meetings with individual colleagues to introduce me to their work. I was also assigned a buddy for practical help and a mentor for technical help, besides the colleague I will work most closely with. I was also greeted with flowers from my manager!

My colleagues were also eager and ready to meet me; a message had been circulated about my joining and with some brief details about me as soon as I signed the contract around a month earlier. This is unlike my experience in the UK where we often only learnt about a new person joining when they turned up on their first day.

Work Day

The work day proceeds quite differently to what I am used to too. In London I worked a 9-5 day, which meant that I was often one of the first (if not the first) to arrive in the office and also to leave. In Denmark? I aim for 8:30-4:30, and am one of the last to arrive and last to leave!

There is also one other big difference in working culture. In the UK (and Malta, though to a lesser extent) I often felt that presenteeism (the tendency to stay at work beyond the time needed for effective performance on the job) was pervasive. Here, employees come to work, do their work, and then leave, giving them the necessary time for a fulfilling personal life. This probably explains why I have not heard anyone grumble or complain in the few days I have been there!

I think this is possible as employees are trusted to see that their work is done. This also means that I have seen much less time-wasting here (if at all!). At the same time activities that bring employees together, such as a Friday roll club (where bread rolls and toppings and brought by a different person each week), or a joint Advent calendar (where everyone gives 2 gifts to the pile and every day in advent someone gets to choose a gift), are accepted with a smile.

Overall Impression

My first impressions of working in Denmark are positive: welcoming colleagues with a successful work-life balance. Of course, I have not had extensive experience of working in either the UK, and more so Denmark, but I look forward to learning more about the Danish working culture over the coming weeks, months and years.

give way sign denmark

Driving in Denmark

When Michael suggested that I drive back home after dropping his parents off at an event, and his parents didn’t bat an eyelid at the suggestion, I agreed to my first drive on ‘the wrong side of the road’. This is my take on it:

Driving on the Right

In Malta, we neither drive on the right nor on the left, but we drive in the shade,

I don’t think the above is a fair assessment of driving in Malta, but we do, officially, drive on the left hand side. Add to this the fact that I have driven only very sporadically over the last 3+ years. This means that not only did I need to get back in the motion of driving, but mirror everything my body knows!

Overall I think it went quite well, considering. I did keep on trying to change the gears on the door side, but other than stalling once at the very beginning it went smoothly from there. I was quite worried as to if I would take the right side of the road when joining a new road, but with Michael’s help I had no problems.

Other Quirks

There were two other things that struck me while driving. The first is something which has made me think when sitting in the passenger seat. Being in the driver’s seat made it even more important. This is the fact that there are no road lights on most roads, with all the light being provided from the car’s lights.

This is excellent in terms of light pollution, but to someone who is used to driving in well lit roads (mostly within urban areas), it was a bit disconcerting. In particular I struggled to recognise the signs in the middle of the road when a car was coming on the opposite side as the car’s light bathed the sign in too much light. However, as these were always arrows pointing to the side of the road I should stay on, I am sure I will relax about it in the future.

give way sign denmark

The second issue is the shark teeth at ‘give way’ signs. Michael said, and a brief search on the internet seemed to confirm, that this means that you have to stop. I am not sure I came to a give way sign without shark teeth, but if there are, I wonder what the difference between a normal give way sign, a shark toothed give way sign, and a stop sign actually are.

Michael says

I thought I did quite well, but Michael did comment on two things when we arrived home. The first is that he thought that I changed gears much quicker than what he would do. However, I felt that my gear changing on the whole was as normal.

He also commented that I never crossed my arms on the steering wheel. I remember being told quite severely during driving lessons that my arms shouldn’t cross, while Michael said that I should cross them when at sharp turns. We are at a bit of an impasse about this. Luckily for us Michael’s sister and her partner were both driving instructors, so we hope to resolve them soon.

Update

Since I wrote this post I have driven a couple more times. Something that has impressed me is how anxious both Michael and his mum got when I am not driving at the maximum speed limit allowed! I’m used to being told that being comfortable is the most important consideration, but in Denmark it seems that driving at the maximum limit overtakes all others.

Photo by Wiki@internezzo.dk 

Danish-German border

Getting Registered in Denmark

In a previous post I described my first attempts at getting registered in Denmark. Those first attempts were a failure. Luckily things started to look more positive from then on. Following the writing of that post I decided to email the state administration offices in southern Denmark and got a reply saying that I could use that e-mail to forward my application! So that is what I did.

A few days later I received a letter saying that I should turn up at the Aabenraa state administration office with my passport. As the offices were closed on Monday (for some employee training?) I went to Aabenraa yesterday with my passport. After waiting for around 30 minutes I was called in to an office, where they asked to see my photo-ID, printed off the registration certificate, and off I went – I am an official resident of Denmark!

Ann in Denmark

Registration certificate – check! CPR number – to go!

The CPR number is the Danish personal identification number. You need it to to open a bank account, to rent a house and a million and one other things I am yet to discover. While the registration certificate is applied for at the state administration offices, the CPR number is applied for at the citizen service (Borgerservice) in your respective town hall.

I was quickly served at the citizen service. The process involved filling in one form and presenting my passport and residence certificate. I was also asked to select a doctor which I did from the list provided. I now have to wait for my CPR number to be issued.

Overall, as Judith Doyle had commented on my previous post, once I got to Denmark it was all quite easy. An added bonus was that everyone spoke English to me – that is, until the counter lady at the citizen service realised that Michael was Danish! From that point on all she spoke was Danish, even if her English was very good. I was quite surprised to say the least!

How to get to Sonderborg

We are on our way to Sonderborg as we write this. We were looking into how to get there from London and these are some of the ways we considered.

Travelling by Train

Sonderborg is well connected by train within Denmark. It is located at the end of a main line to Copenhagen with trains every 2 hours during the day. From Copenhagen, trains further afield to Sweden and beyond may also be taken. For trains further north in Denmark you need to change in Fredericia or Middelfart. Towards Germany you often need to change twice in Padborg and Flensburg.

To organize a train journey inside Denmark use Journey Planner and for Germany use Bahn.

Travelling by Bus

Bus line 10 goes to Flensburg every two hours during weekdays. Xbus 900 goes to Vejle almost every hour and Xbus 915 goes to Esbjerg four times a day.

Travelling by Air

Sonderborg is graced by its own airport, which is around a 15 minute drive from the centre. The airport is, however, not very well connected: the only commercial flights available are to and from Copenhagen with Cimber Sterling. Therefore it is also convenient to investigate flights to nearby airports.

Airports in Jutland

Billund Airport is the closest international airport in Jutland. It is decently well connected internationally. As it is a Ryanair airport destination, cheap flights are also available. Not being on a train line, it is not well connected domestically. Regular buses are available to a number of destinations on the Jutland peninsula and beyond, though none directly to Sonderborg. One option is to take the bus to Kolding and train from there.

Another airport on Jutland with similar issues is Aarhus airport. In this case a bus connects the airport to Aarhus from where a train to Sonderborg is then possible (with a change in Middelfart).

Airports Further Afield

Of course, the first obvious airport is Copenhagen Airport. Due to the very good connection between Sonderborg and Copenhagen Central trains station and then onwards to Copenhagen airport, this should be quite practical.

Another option is to go south to Germany. Hamburg airport is within reach and the train connections are easy enough. It should be possible to book a German taxi from Sonderborg to the airport for Euro 165 according to this site.

Applying for Residency (EU)

Although I am an EU citizen and should, therefore, have freedom of movement within EU countries, this doesn’t mean that I can just swan up to any country and settle there. It was, surprisingly, that easy when I moved to the UK. In Denmark I need to jump through a few more hoops however.

Border post from the election in 1920

The first on my list of things to do was applying for a registration certificate. This certificate is the piece of paper I need to be able to stay in the country for more than 3 months (or 6 months if a job seeker).

There should be three ways of applying for this certificate:

  1. at the state administration offices in Denmark,
  2. via mail or email,
  3. or at the Danish mission abroad.

As I was not yet in Denmark I tried option 3 first. I tried to call the embassy but no one seemed to know what I was talking about. I decided to try and visit the embassy in London myself, but there I was not even allowed in to speak to anyone. My final try involved getting Michael to call himself to a new number I was given, where he was told that I should apply when I get to Denmark. So option 3 was scrapped.

In the same way, it was not clear where to send the documents by email or post. I tried to call Danish Immigration but they kept on telling me that I should call somewhere else but didn’t know the number of where I should call. Also, no one seemed to know that Malta is in the EU, so that approach also didn’t work too well. I then hunted down another number online and finally got through to someone who spoke English and knew what I needed. Unfortunately it seems that although I can send them things by email, this won’t speed up the process at all as the application will only be processed once I appear in front of them in person. Therefore, I am not too sure why they list the last 2 as options.

On to my last option: waiting till I arrived in Denmark. I managed to find a list of state administration offices in Southern Denmark on the Danish Immigration Services website by going through the Danish language part using googletranslate.

Temporary Accommodation in Sonderborg

We were offered a flat in Sonderborg through one of the housing associations. However, the place is available from the 1st of December and I start work on the 15th of November. Therefore, we have to find a place to stay in for around two weeks. This is what we found.

Hostels

We found two hostels in Sonderborg. The first, Sonderborg City, is in the north-west of the city. The second, Sonderborg-Vollerup is on the city outskirts within the Vollerup neighbourhood. Both are part of the Danhostel organisation. This is a Denmark-wide chain of private and public hostels that is a member of Hostelling International, indicating that certain standards of service are met.

Let me dream

B&Bs

Sonderborg being an area that is quite popular with tourists, there are quite a number of B&B options. The options vary from places in the city centre, to places with views of the harbour to places with views of the forest. Luckily for us this was the off season, meaning that we could find a place at a reduced price. Here are the ones we found in Sonderborg:

Éole Airlines

Hotels

We are typically more of a B&B/hostel kind of people, depending on the reason for the trip. Also, we were hoping to find a place where we had access to a kitchen, which is typically not available in hotels. Therefore, we didn’t investigate this option too deeply. However, these are the ones we found in Sonderborg city:

Time to go to bed

Of course, so far we haven’t stayed in any of these places so we cannot really provide recommendations at this point. At the moment we are leaning towards a B&B. However, we will let you know how the decision turned out once we’re in Sonderborg.

All photos in this posts are bedjumpings made by Éole Wind.