When You’re There
Part One of this guide contained some advice to prepare you before you leave. This part of the guide is for once you’ve arrived in Denmark. Here are some less obvious things that are good to know.
It will take a good few weeks to a couple of months before you receive your all-important CPR number. This is the Danish personal identification number, and it’s needed for many things, such as setting up a bank account. It’s even required for a gym membership. Until then, keep the card purchases to a minimum. I made some larger cash withdrawals to last me for a while. But I was careful not to flitter around too much cash.
Once you do finally get set up with a Danish bank account, you’ll obviously need to transfer some money over. In my experience, my home bank didn’t let me make transfers internationally online. And where you can, it’s usually not without a sizable fee. A Google search for ‘transfer money abroad’ reveals some excellent services for customers to convert and transfer money abroad at a rate that is close to the real mid-market exchange rate with a low fee. To compare the quote that you’re given with a third party, use something like to XE Currency Converter.
This is what I’ve used all year to convert my currency and to transfer it abroad, and I’ve found it to be user friendly in terms of ease of use and low cost. If you’re concerned about the legitimacy of these companies, check that it’s a registered money service business with an HMRC certificate number and that it’s an Authorised Payment Institution by the FCA.
When setting up an account, check that there isn’t an account closing fee. Be aware that some banks don’t have online banking in English. If not, you’ll get a paper copy of a guide in English on how to use it, which isn’t a problem.
You will find that you cannot make online bank transfers over the weekend. For my bank account here, and for as far as I know for the others, you can’t make online transfers in the evening, after the bank has closed. Instead, you have to select the next day that it’s open to make the payment. I found this system to be quite strange and in need of some desperate modernisation, but I’m sure that they have their reasons.
Last of all, the Danes love their holidays. Keep a note of the bank holidays so that you can make all of your rent payments on time and so that you’ll have enough food in the fridge. This will prevent you from having to survive on a jar of pickles for three days over Easter because all of the shops are closed.
Denmark offers free Danish language classes to foreigners for up to three years. This is an excellent scheme. As I’ve mentioned before, practically everyone in Denmark speaks English to a high level of fluency, especially in the cities. For this reason, it’s by no means essential to learn Danish. But if you have an appetite for knowledge, and you want to improve your language skills, then I would strongly recommend taking up these classes. For anyone who decides that they want to live in Denmark after their studies here, it would be smart to learn Danish.
Some of my peers have told me that they’re impressed with my commitment to learning Danish, given that I’m only here for a year. I’ve even been mildly scoffed at by some who couldn’t see why I’d bother to learn a narrowly-spoken language. But if you think that way, you’re literally missing the point of education. At the end of the day, it’s up to you to make what you will of your opportunities.
Danish Students’ Grants
I’ve saved my best tip for last as a reward for paying attention. But I must warn you, if you think that socialism is inherently evil and that welfare is always a dirty word — look away now.
Find out about the SU, which is the Danish students’ Grants and Loans Scheme. This is the one thing that I wish that I’d known about at the beginning of the year. Basically, in Denmark, students get paid to go to university, rather than the other way around. It sounds like a fairytale, but it’s true.
I had heard about how amazing this is from Danish students, and the warm fuzzy feeling they get from knowing that their government is highly invested in their education and cares so deeply about them. But I never knew until quite late into the year that as a foreign citizen, I could have been eligible for the SU. I already get Erasmus grants, as do all Erasmus students. But seeing as a grant is money that is given to you by the government, which you don’t have to pay back, you want to get as many as possible.
There are a few ways to qualify for the SU as a foreign citizen. If you are a citizen of the EU, you can apply for equal status with Danish citizens and thereby be approved to receive SU. In addition, you must work a minimum of 10-12 hours’ work a week, which is manageable as a student. But do your own research from the official link above and don’t just take my word for it.
Some More Guides