Academic wanderlust: edition Copenhagen
January 10, 2014 8:19 AM   Subscribe

So I'll be moving to Copenhagen for a few years starting next fall. As an American who has only ever lived in the US, what do I need to know now?

Since I have a bit of time I may ask some more specific questions later; right now, I'm most interested in general advice for American expats, or for foreigners moving to Denmark. What should I start doing now, with a 10ish-month lead time, that will make my life better/easier when I move?
posted by nat to Grab Bag (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You still have to file American tax returns with the IRS. You probably won't actually owe them anything - various reciprocity agreements, if you're getting taxed over there, you'll most likely get credits and won't owe actual tax.

But you still have to file a return just like usual. Do not fail to do this. Big mess.
posted by Naberius at 8:41 AM on January 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

Do you want to vote while you live outside the United States? Find out your state's procedures for this.

Will you make money while living outside the United States? You still need to file a US tax return.

Do you want to keep credit if/when you return to the United States? Start planning for that now.
posted by fireoyster at 8:42 AM on January 10, 2014

Buy any sort of consumer electronics you need stateside. My expat friend who visits from Copenhagen semi-regularly tends to go back home with like $3-4K of electronics because it'd cost him $6-8K over there.

Also I've been told they don't have zip-loc bags there.
posted by griphus at 8:57 AM on January 10, 2014

There's a decent amount of expat advice in this thread. I think a large part of it would be transferable to Copenhagen.
posted by Liesl at 9:11 AM on January 10, 2014

You can figure out most things after you arrive.

The two biggest pieces of advice, things you should be doing/planning now:

1) Shed as much of your stuff as you can. Start getting rid of everything.
You don't want to ship lots of stuff over. Use this as a chance to start fresh.

2) Get your banking/finances sorted out ahead of time. Is someone at your new job going to help you get a bank account started up?
After you set all this up, you have to let the US Govt know about these accounts every year.
posted by vacapinta at 9:21 AM on January 10, 2014

Seconding the advice about filing with the IRS. This can wait - the first year you're abroad, you'll probably have to file for an extension anyway. (But remember, if you owe money, it is due on 15 April, and penalties start to accrue from that date even if you file for an extension.) We got accountants at both ends (USA and Australia), but our needs were ... complicated.

This would be a good time to get (or look into) a credit card with no foreign transaction fees and Chip+PIN (or at least Chip+Signature) set up, and to set up online statements and online payments. It probably takes a while to get credit cards in foreign countries (not sure about Denmark in particular) and you'll appreciate the backup, especially in the early days with household purchases. Many places in Europe no longer accept cards with just the mag stripe - something to look out for.

If you can get a bank account set up at the other end, that would be useful, but I doubt it's possible. Most places want to see you in person with a passport and a local address.

Do you speak the language already? Maybe 10 months is enough time to pick up some of it in advance? (You always get points for trying the local language, even if they speak English flawlessly.)
posted by RedOrGreen at 9:25 AM on January 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

First of all, learn a little Danish. I really got a lot out of the Pimsleur program. Most people speak pretty good English but it always helps to navigate a little better, and people will like it if you can say "Tak", or "Jeg vil gerne have en kop kaffe" in convincing Danish.

Make sure all the electronics you want to bring are rated for 110-240V. It's easier to get a plug converter than a transformer.

I would recommend getting a bank account with HSBC or someone else with a physical presence in Copenhagen.

When you get to Copenhagen, it is very wise to have a Danske Bank account.

Will you be driving in Denmark? It is not necessary in Copenhagen, or in most of Denmark.
posted by Llamadog-dad at 9:30 AM on January 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Oh, and congratulations on the new job! (I assume.)
posted by RedOrGreen at 9:31 AM on January 10, 2014

Vonage. Get yourself a VoIP phone service with a US number. Plug it into your router in Denmark and your friends can call you - and you can call you friends - for very little money. I have a Manhattan phone number that rings in my flat in Sweden and it is the most useful item in my house.
posted by three blind mice at 10:35 AM on January 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

On the electronics front, if your cell phone takes SIM cards, look into the possibility of buying a new SIM card at the airport.

It's true that you probably want to simplify your life by getting rid of stuff, and you don't want to ship over tons of stuff, but stuff in general tends to be more expensive over in Denmark. ("I'll just go buy a cheap ironing board at whatever their equivalent of Target is ... wait, Bilka's cheapest ironing board is $60?!") Similarly, clothes seem ridiculously expensive to me, as an American, as well.

Everybody in Denmark speaks English, but everything is still labeled in Danish. Just because there is a picture of a happy, smiling cow on a package of cheese does not mean it's not some horrifyingly strong Danablu.
posted by Comrade_robot at 10:48 AM on January 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

three blind mice: Get yourself a VoIP phone service with a US number.

Oh, yes, we did this in Australia (just kept our Vonage account going) and it was really useful.

It did lead to some confusion when Obama's GOTV operation repeatedly called us in the middle of the night to make sure we were going to the right polling place, but that was more our fault for not killing the ringer after the second time.
posted by RedOrGreen at 1:45 PM on January 10, 2014

Thanks for the advice so far (and for the congrats, yes it's a new job.) A few questions on some of your responses:

1) Yes, I want to get a chip+pin card (not chip+signature, as I want to be able to use it in automated kiosks etc). Is there a good list of what true chip+pin cards are available from the US at this point? I don't really know where to start looking.

2) I'd love to learn some Danish! What's the best way?

3) I hate the phone. The only people I regularly talk to on the phone are my parents, and my mother does know how to use Skype. I do text with my Dad sometimes, and my boyfriend. My boyfriend and I use google hangout, skype, or facetime depending on what's functioning that day. Otherwise my phone is just an internet connection device. Is there some other reason I should get a VoIP setup that I'm not thinking of?

4) Why do books weigh so much? butIneedmybookshowamIgoingtolivewithoutthem
posted by nat at 10:27 AM on January 11, 2014

Great advice so far.

Depending on where you're from in the US, you may want to read up on the different seasons and temperatures in Denmark. We rarely have extremes, but a year's worth of weather can still range from snowstorm to heatwave.

Also: ebooks. Start accumulating now.
posted by rawrberry at 10:29 AM on January 11, 2014

As a native Dane I would suggest that you don't spend time on learning to speak Danish. It is very difficult to pronounce for foreigners and all Danes instantly switches to English as soon as they hear your accent as it's much easier for them to talk English with you.

Foreigners trying to pronounce "rødgrød med fløde", the name of the national dessert.

The Language Challenge Video fem flade flødeboller...

If you're masochistic and really want to learn to pronounce Danish, then watch the movies in the "Danish Udtale" YouTube channel.
posted by flif at 12:54 PM on January 11, 2014

Danes usually speak excellent English. You'll pick up enought Danish when you get there.

As doing preparations: read up on some Danish history. See some Danish movies (maybe Pusher, any one of Bille Augusts movies, Lars Von Trier (an acquired taste)), read all of HC Andersens stories (in original - not Disneys "remakes").

Be prepared to be indoors in the presence of people smoking...
posted by Rabarberofficer at 8:42 PM on January 11, 2014

So, I finally actually moved, and *then* I notice that duolingo now has (in beta) Danish? how did I not know this earlier?

Otherwise thanks everybody for your advice. Advice I should add for future readers: October is kinda rainy. Might be better to get your bearings during another month.
posted by nat at 1:54 AM on October 24, 2014

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