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LIFE IN DENMARK

Why provincial Denmark is a great place to be for an international family

Settling into life in Denmark can be challenging for newcomers, even those who live in big cities with all their resources and diversity. So what’s it like moving to a Jutland town with a population of 8,000? Guest columnist Kelly Kristensen explains.

Why provincial Denmark is a great place to be for an international family
Photo: jeancliclac/Depositphotos

Hi! I’m Kelly, and I’m an American living in a rural town of 8,000 people in central Denmark.

You wouldn’t believe the looks on people’s faces when I told them this after we moved to Denmark three years ago. It was a cross between disgust and pure shock. Why in the world would I choose to move to a small town in Denmark instead of a bigger city like Aarhus with more excitement and diversity? To many other foreigners, and even some Danes, I seemed completely crazy.

I have to admit, that I agreed with them at first. It wasn’t just that the town was small, but it was also “in the middle of nowhere” type of rural. What were we going to do with ourselves in all that farmland with all that quiet? 

When we moved to Denmark, we didn’t know the area. We were parents to two small children, and I worried that they wouldn’t transition well. In reality, I knew that the children would be fine, and that it was my transition that would be the hardest. Sticking things out in a small town until I got adjusted seemed like the best, not-so-stressful approach to moving to a foreign country. 

A contact at my husband’s new job found an apartment for us, and though his company had housing, my visa required me to live in something bigger. Luckily, it wasn’t hard to find an apartment in a small town – there always seemed to be something available. Our new home was small for a family of four, but it offered exactly what I needed.

Nothing! 

We had no TV, no internet, no distractions. I started to focus on what was in front of me, and found that the small town had much more to offer than just a place to wait for something better. 

I loved that it was so safe. I could come home late from language class with the train and walk home alone in the dark and feel comfortable doing so. Though my Danish was as raw and imperfect as ever, my neighbors were patient in communicating with me. 

At times, we would be standing outside the apartment building with our cell phones ready to look up a word or phrase during the conversation. My children met other children at the playgrounds, and though they couldn’t communicate right away, the parents would still invite them over for an ice cream or to bounce on their trampoline. The town was so welcoming that it showed me that there was no need to keep searching for a “better” home in Denmark.

Embracing the quiet

I’m the type of person who needs to research everything, see it from all points of view and become over-informed when facing something new. My mind is always thinking, and it is because of this that I often don’t sleep well and often stress myself out. After some time in our small town, I became accustomed to the quiet and felt that it helped me calm down the storm within. I learned to became more mindful of the reality of things. The peacefulness allowed me more time for reflection, and my mind became clearer than it had been in a long time. I looked with new eyes, heard with new ears and felt with a cleansed soul. Moving to this small, quiet place was just the readjustment I needed.

Slowing down

Another nice thing about living in a small town was that everything went a bit slower. People weren’t rushed to get anywhere, which meant no traffic. The stores weren’t crowded, and shopping for groceries didn’t take up half of my afternoon like it might in a very large, American grocery store. I felt that all daily activities went at a casual pace, since I didn’t need to rush or wait or stress. Living in a small town allowed me more time to do the things I wanted. Walking or riding my bike to the grocery store felt natural and calming, and it didn’t make me feel stressed.

READ ALSO: Is Denmark really a happy country? Your views on Danish happiness

Family Time

One thing that worked great for us as a family in a small town was exploring. Perhaps it came with having two very curious children, but we loved that our small, rural town was surrounded by forests. We always had new things to discover in the woods, and the combination of fresh air and exercise did something good for our attitudes. 

Cheaper and healthier

I’m not going to lie: Denmark can be a bit on the expensive side. This, of course, is felt when going out for meals and other entertainment, buying cars and houses, and traveling. When the container with all of our belongings from the US came, we quickly outgrew our tiny apartment. The thought of moving to another smaller place in a bigger city didn’t thrill me, so staying in a small, rural town to buy a house was what we chose. The amount we paid for a larger home with a back garden and car port was much cheaper than anything we’d find in a bigger city. 

Since the options for shopping were also limited, we tended to buy only what we needed and what we could get in town. This meant that we may have changed our eating habits a bit, like buying plain oats and making our own oatmeal instead of buying the pre-made packets. We didn’t have the option of going to Sam’s Club where we could buy everything in bulk, because smaller stores like Fakta and Aldi offered just the bare essentials in smaller quantities. We were more conscious of what we were using, which also helped us to waste less.

In Denmark, we found that we weren’t spending as much money each week and used the extra money we saved on additions to the house or family trips which made us happier in the long run.

We enjoyed taking occasional trips to bigger cities in Denmark for a day out, but we were always glad to come home to our quiet, small town and our spacious and comfortable home. 

It has now been three years of living in Denmark for us, and though I wouldn’t say that it has been completely easy, I have to admit that my attitude has improved immensely compared to the first few months of completely losing my mind with learning the Danish language and culture. We interact with our neighbors. We get together a couple of times a year for street festivals and parties. We attend local events and celebrate holidays in town. 

I can be myself here, and these fantastic and patient Danes deal with that. Though I still have room for improvements, I know that I don’t have to be confused anymore on where my place in all of this is, because the place where I am meant to be is in a small town. 

READ ALSO: Six things I wish Danes knew about Americans who live in Denmark

Kelly Kristensen moved to Denmark in 2016 and lives in central Jutland. She documents Danish life as a US citizen in her blog, which you can find here

 

 

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WEATHER

Essential rain gear for a wet Danish winter (and autumn, spring and summer)

Winter in Denmark is a shock to the system, particularly for those of us who come from warmer, drier climes. But if you know where to look, you can find the right rain gear to keep the Danish drops off your head.

Bicycling in wet Danish weather doesn't have to be
Bicycling in wet Danish weather doesn't have to be "træls" (bothersome) if you're kitted out in the right water resistant gear. Photo: Henning Bagger/Ritzau Scanpix

This roundup is unsponsored and the fruits of much googling, review-reading, and recommendation-begging by a sad, damp American.

Where to shop? 

To try things on, the best places are Intersport, Spejder Sport (home to Columbia, Patagonia, Asivik and FjällRaven) and Eventyr Sport, as well as outdoor outfitter Friluftsland.  

To shop the Danish way, put in the hours combing the racks at your local second hand or charity shop. If you strike out there, search by brand on DBA.dk or Facebook marketplace.

Rain jackets: Regnjakker

Your rain jacket is your second skin in Denmark during the damp winter months. Helly Hansen is a go-to brand, according to a Johannes, a Jutland native who offered his recommendation to The Local. The Norwegian company offers well-made jackets at a reasonable price point, ranging between 600 and about 1,500 kroner. These can be ordered direct from the manufacturer or on Amazon.de (the German one) for delivery in Denmark—if you want to try before you buy, go to Eventyr Sport.  

A budget pick is McKinley, which you can pick up at Intersport. These cost between 200-400 kroner.

The classic Scandinavian splurge rain jacket is Fjällräven—these are available in stand-alone Fjällräven stores, Friluftsland, Eventyr, and Spejder Sport, and cost a not-unsubstantial percentage of your rent starting at about 2,500 kroner and climbing north of 6,000 kroner.

Rain pants: regnbukser

Rain pants are a novelty to those of us who don’t come from bike cultures, but after your first rainy day cycling commute leaves you at the office with drenched trousers you’ll understand the appeal.

The New York Times’ product review service Wirecutter highlights the Marmot PreCip Eco Pant as the best pick—here in Denmark, they’re available for men and women at outdoor gear purveyor Friluftsland for about 700-800 kroner.

McKinley also makes rain pants that will set you back around 200 kroner.  

Some of Patagonia’s rain pants, which we found at Spejder Sport, have side zippers for ventilation—if you’re on the sweatier side, this may be a good call. (Their website also proudly reports these rainpants roll up to the “size of a corncob.”)

Rain sets: regnsæt

Also on the market are rain sets, which are coordinating jacket-pant combos like this one from Asivik. It’s cheaper to buy the set rather than both pieces separately, but for many people it makes more sense to invest in a higher-quality rain jacket and go for a more affordable rain pant.

Backpack rain covers: regnslag til rygsæk

Backpack rain covers are an easy buy and cost orders of magnitude less than the laptops and other electronics they protect. Snag one on the way out the door at Intersport, Spejder Sport, or most anywhere that sells rain gear. Expect to pay about 60-180 kroner—just make sure it fits your backpack.

Gloves: Handsker

Your favourite fluffy mittens may not be well suited for your bike commute. GripGrab, a Danish company popular all over the world, offers a variety of waterproof and winterproof gloves— including the lobster style, which has split fingers that allow you the dexterity to ring your bell, pull your hand break and do a Spock impression at a moment’s notice. These are available at specialty cycling stores.

Rain boots: Gummistøvler

Perfectly serviceable budget rainboots are available at the same retail stores discussed above—though for longevity, look for boots made from rubber rather than PVC.

At a higher price point, Hunter rainboots are sold by Danish online retail giant Zalando and keep you dry and in style.

Tretorn is a Swedish brand over a hundred years old—their rain boots are available for both men and women through Spejder Sport and, of course, their website.

For women: available on the German Amazon website is the Asgard Women’s Short Rain Waterproof Chelsea Boot, one of the best reviewed women’s rain boots that doesn’t make you feel like you’re wearing clown shoes.

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