How to move to Copenhagen like a boss

Ayla Newhouse
Jul 22, 2018 · 7 min read

Part One: Onboarding

Moving to Copenhagen can be pretty overwhelming, and I found all the sequenced steps to be frustratingly unclear. To help you avoid running around in circles, I’ve put together a step-by-step guide to beginning your awesome new life in Copenhagen.


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Me and my trusty bike Vincent, who’s travelled by plane 3 times already.

Each step must be done in order, or you risk wasting a lot of time.

  1. Getting around — I highly recommend bringing your bike, and most bike shops will pack one in a box for you for a fee. Fun fact: SAS counts a bicycle box as a single piece of regular luggage! If you did not bring a bike, then I suggest buying one immediately to help you with the apartment hunt. Try DBA (Denmark’s craigslist), Facebook, or SecondHandBikes.dk. Make sure you test-drive the bike, and check its registration on the Danish police website to make sure it’s not stolen. If you’re not into biking, or if you move in the coldest week of the year like I did, you can download the DOT Mobilbilletter app and pay as you go for bus and subway fare with an international credit card.
  2. Customs Arrival — requires proof of employment and/or Danish embassy approval letter. I found this process to be quite easy, since we had all our paperwork handy, and the Copenhagen airport is amazing.
  3. Residence Permit — A card that you will probably receive from your job if you are not an EU citizen. EU citizens need to apply for this in the International House, using your employment contract & passport (no need to have address yet). You will need your residence card when traveling in and out of Denmark, and getting your CPR number and yellow card.
  4. A place to live with an address — Probably the most important step. Begin as soon as you possibly can. To rent an apartment requires proof of residency permit, a passport, and a means to pay rent. The money will probably come from your home country because the next two steps to get a bank account here require you to have a local address first, which is maddening. I found TransferWise to be quite handy for sending large sums of money overseas quickly.

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Dinner on our new deck with some of our first friends in Copenhagen, who have since moved to NYC.

Once you have your proof of residency and an address, you’ve unlocked the next set of tasks.

  1. Bank account — requires proof of address (a bill, or your lease), CPR number, passport. I would recommend picking a bank close to your house because you have to physically be present for many services. We used Danske Bank because they had a special service for expats.
  2. Mobile phone — usually requires a CPR number (and ideally a bank account), except with Telenor, which offers prepaid plans without a CPR. Some companies will also require you to be a resident of Denmark and show your residence permit. To buy a telephone online, you need to have a NemID and a Dankort or Visa card. It’s probably easier to just go to a shop and get a phone and a plan together if your employer doesn’t offer phone plans (which many do). My husband had some success with Telia.
  3. NemID — your digital signature and single sign-on (SSO) for public services. Requires proof of address and a bank account to activate. You will get a letter with a hidden window code to activate, and a physical card in the mail with lots of numbers (keys) on it. Then, you can download the new NemID app which allows you to do the equivalent of a 2-factor authentication for most Danish websites. It’s kind of an amazing system.
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My doctor’s office. It is true that everything is beautiful here.

With your NemID and CPR number set up, you are finally eligible to get your yellow card, and set up your online life.

  1. Digital Post — AKA eBoks or Borger.dk. With NemID you can set up to have your important mail arrive digitally. This includes things like payslips, bills, and letters from your bank or the government.
  2. Online Banking — requires NemID and a bank account. My bank required me to set this up in person before I could activate it with my NemID.
  3. Mobile Pay — How locals pay smaller shops and each other for pretty much everything. It is particularly awesome for splitting the bill, and they have a seperate service for ongoing sharing arrangements called WeShare. Payment automatically comes in and out of your bank account when you use mobile pay. Requires a bank account, and NemID.
  4. Dankort — A special kind of Visa card that you need in case you want to pay some small shops (like hair dressers), or the government for some things (like changing doctors and getting a new yellow card), or to travel outside Denmark without getting travel fees. For some reason, banks are hesitant to hand these out. Requires an existing account, and maybe a yellow card…
  5. Taxes/SKAT — Fun fact, the word for the Danish tax agency, Skat, translates to “sweetie”. The Danes are weird about their love of taxes. The good news is that if you have a simple situation, you will simply receive a notification via eBoks/digital post in February saying what you owe or get back. It’s not like in the US where you need to fill out your tax paperwork, but if you have things to report (such as donations that were not automatically reported, additional income, or cleaning fees that you want to get a tax break for!), then you will have to manually add those online at the end of the tax year.
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All the cards you’ll have when you’re done: Dankort, Bank Card, Yellow card, Residence permit, NemID

The following steps can be done with a bit more leisure, but most within 90 days of arrival.

  1. Drivers License — required after 90 days. But, then it will take at least 90 days to get a new license. Kind of a no-win situation. Make an appointment at Borger Service (just around the corner from International House) and bring your existing license, passport, a letter from your doctor about your health, and a passport style photo with your CPR number and your doctors signature and stamp and date on the back, and they will give you an interim license that is good for use in the nordics while the police process your new license. Fun fact, your Danish license is good FOREVER.
  2. Media License (DR) — Someone will probably come and knock on your door or send you a letter (either by post or digital post) saying that you owe a fee for “media usage”. The monthly fee is 160.58 DKK and you need a NemID to register. Edit: I think this has been phased out and incorporated into taxes.
  3. Paying your bills — You can do this via online banking, but it gets pretty confusing. You can set up auto payments for almost everything through Betalingservice or online banking, but you MUST pay the first bill manually, or you will be charged late fees, typically 100kr. per month. I have learned this the hard way more than once.
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Bringing a dog is pretty easy (no quarantine!), except when finding an apartment…

Leaving — If you were to ever leave Copenhagen (and really, who would?) you have to go in reverse order and remove yourself from all these systems. Read more here.


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