Saturday, June 13, 2015

Thoughts on Denmark

Thoughts from Copenhagen 

1.  Europeans don't know how to share space...sidewalks, lines, etc.  Sometimes it feels like a game of chicken while walking down the sidewalk.  I'm still not sure how two opposing Europeans sort out who gets the sidewalk because I've never had one step aside for me.  Somehow someone must move though, because you never actually see a's just like the most perfectly timed chaos.

2.  Europeans smoke.  a LOT.  Moms are smoking while pushing their infants in a pram, or while holding their toddlers on their hip.  People smoking while riding bicycles.  Smoking in cars, at restaurants, outside every building on every street.  The whole place reeks of second hand smoke!  What's more surprising to me is that every pack of cigarettes has "SMOKING KILLS" in big bold letters on it too (maybe packs in the US do too, I haven't bought cigarettes in years).

3.  Speaking of prams, EVERYONE has one!  And kids are always in them!  They look crazy big and I was surprised that the usually space conscious Europeans were using these monsters, but then it was explained to me that infants basically take all their naps in the pram.  And the basket comes out and they use it in homes and daycares as a bed for the baby.  Ok.  Multi purpose.  Makes more sense.

4.  And speaking of kids, everyone has those too!  In Denmark you are paid to have kids.  No, really!  Just like we get a child credit on our taxes, Danish folk get a stipend each quarter for their children!  They also pay crazy taxes though, so it's probably a wash.

5.  Fashion is what you make it.  Seriously you couldn't be out of fashion here if you tried because literally, ANYTHING GOES.  And that anything goes with ANY body type too (whether it looks good or not).  People watching here is on a WHOLE new level.

6.  Everyone bikes.  The post man bikes, women in dresses bike, men in suits bike, pregnant women bike, young kids bike.  There are bikes with big trailers in front to pedal your govt funded family home in.  There are bikes with kid seats in the front and back.  The bikes all look like what you'd pedal in the 60s and 70s and the seats look like they are way too high.  There are bicycle parking lots even!  And if you're walking (which is what you do if you're not biking), look out!  Bikes seem to have right of way and will plow you over!  Stay on the walking path!  God forbid you accidentally wander into the bike path!

7.  Copenhagen is a melting pot.  I've never heard more languages spoken in one place.  It's almost a fun game to try to identify all the different languages you encounter while out and about. And thank goodness everyone speaks English!

8. If you want to use a credit card you better know the PIN.  And despite the fact that your credit card company will likely insist that you WONT need it and that you can sign for things, they're wrong.  Get the PIN and get it well before you leave.  If you haven't set it up yet they will likely mail it to you and that can take 7-10 business days.

9.  You can't leave Copenhagen without having a street vendor hotdog.  The best (in my opinion) is the Fransk dog.  It's basically an extra long hot dog that slides into a bun with a hole in it for easy portability. Your condiments are squirted into your bread before the hotdog is inserted and it makes eating it less messy.

10.  Danish customer service sucks. But then again you aren't expected to tip anyone, so perhaps that is why?

11.  Public transportation is readily available and easy to use. You can choose between the boss, the train, or the metro.

12.  Street entertainers are truly entertaining and plentiful!  Always something fun to see when on the walking street 

13.  Architecture is amazing and castles are plentiful.  You could spend hours just walking around taking in sights without spending a dime!

Cemetery in Roskilde

Domkirk in Roskilde

Rosenborg castle 

Christiansborg castle.

14.  Danish people are among the nicest, friendliest and happiest people in the world!  I have never felt so welcome or at home in another country before.  I was able to strike up conversations with random people all over the city.  Most everyone speaks English (and speaks it well).  This alone makes me less anxious about our transition.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

House hunters into - Denmark. The final pick...Which to choose?

So, which do we choose?

House #1 ( with the party yard and house but close proximity to trains that go by almost every other minute?  Rent here is by far the least, well under our allotted stipend.

House #2, ( the beach house that would be a constant vacation for us.  Spacious house with lots of room, good sized yard, easy access to running path and beach.  Schooling options unknown (as I write this, but relocation agent should be getting info).  Rent is well above our stipend but could possibly be negotiated lower into a more stomach able range..


House 3 ( with its close proximity to work, trains, school and city. Neighborhood not as charming and would take some getting used to.  Nearby a good school which offers language assistance.  Rent is within our range and could possibly be lowered even more.

Which would you pick and why??

Day 2 house hunting: house #3: the city house

I feel like I should be honest and let you all know that going into this house hunting trip, both Max and I had a strong bias towards house number three.

House number three is VERY attractive because of its location. It is pretty much the closest we could get in living arrangements to where Max will be working. It is 5K from his job and only a short bike ride, walk, or one train stop away.  And, because I am approaching our family's relocation to Denmark as the catalyst for a large lifestyle change for our family, this fact was very attractive to me! Max and I agreed that we would love to try to see how long we can survive without a car. With public transportation so readily available and so easy to use, there's no reason that we should even need a family vehicle except for taking European vacations....

But back to the house...from all the pictures we had seen online of the house, it looked open, very airy,  light, and clean. On paper and on pictures, it looked to be the perfect house! It even boasted a 10 minute walk to a primary school with language assistance.

But, as anyone who has ever looked for a house knows, pictures don't always meet reality when you go to visit a property in person.

The house was very open and airy, and it was mostly clean as well. But it seemed a lot smaller in person than it had appeared in pictures. Part of that could've been because there was nothing in the house when we went to look at it though.  The backyard was definitely a lot smaller than it had been represented in pictures.  The neighborhood, while not unsafe, was definitely a little more rough around the edges than the last two houses we had looked at. 

The house was definitely a 'city house' and you would be hearing a lot of city noise as a result.  While not necessarily a bad thing, this would be a transition for all of us...There are definite pros and cons to a city house...You are close to everything, and a car most definitely not be necessary.  But life would definitely not be quiet nor private!

But, on the flip side, I suppose if you are making a lifestyle change that involves moving your entire family across the ocean, you shouldn't really expect too much of your life to stay the same! And if you're going to go all out, you might as well go all out :-)

From the outside, the house appeared very similar to the listing we had seen online. It was a very decent sized house with a modest sized yard. The yard looked like it needed a little TLC, however.  The agent showing us the house assured us that it would be taken care of prior to move in.

On the first floor was a decent sized modern looking kitchen. It definitely had less storage then house number one and house number two, but it could be doable.

While that looks like a lot of cabinet space flanking the built in oven, to the left of the oven the entire wall is a hidden refrigerator.

The large dining and sitting area beyond the kitchen was an open space that received good natural lighting from the door leading to the backyard. The floors were a really cool whitewashed rustic looking pine.  They definitely were well worn but it added to the charm a bit...

Beyond the dining/sitting room was a room with two entrances, both which could be closed off.  It had a built in desk in the corner. It could have easily been converted into either a bedroom or a guestroom or even a playroom!

There was a small half bathroom downstairs, and upstairs was a full bathroom with a shower. There were also three bedrooms upstairs. The master area had a living area similar to house number two adjoining it.

Bedroom #1

Bedroom #2

Master bedroom 

Room adjoining master bedroom.  They had a large unit in the middle of the room making it difficult to photograph.

This house also had a full basement, in which the laundry was located. The basement was very short and kind of gave me the creeps, so I didn't take any pictures down there. :)

Overall, house number three, despite being a little different than we expected, turned out to be a decent choice!  It is right at our price range, and our agent felt that we could negotiate it even lower. The neighbors appeared to have small children as evidenced by the toys we could see in their backyards from the second floor. It has a big open floor plan, and lots of space for us and the children. It would even have plenty of space for all the guests we expect to come visit :-)

The cons include that there were no closets in the upstairs bedroom and only one shower in the house.

But of course, the pros as mentioned in the beginning are that this one is closest in location to where Max will be working, it is right near the train line and right near a very good school!

Overall, I feel like our house hunting on day two went well. I'm not exactly happy that we only had three choices to review, especially when our list of potential homes was around 12 to begin with. We are dealing with the relocation agent to see if there are any other houses that we can look at before we leave Denmark to head back home. If not, we will enter negotiations with the agents of the houses or house that we select. Here in Denmark, apparently rental rates are negotiable. So it is possible we can negotiate rates even lower to our benefit.

Stay tuned for more!!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Day 2: house hunting, house #2 - beach house

House #2 was suggested by our relocation agent.  It was a bit above our price range, but it looked to be really nice and we wanted to make sure we had plenty of options to choose from (before we knew that 2 were already rented!).  

It was a bit further out then House #1, but still near a train station - about a 5-10min bike ride to the nearest station.  It was a bit more difficult to locate, but when we caught the first glimpse of the ocean through the houses in the neighborhood we quickly forgave that!

House #2 was at the end of a street and had 2 parking spots along with a carport.

It had a good sized front yard and the backyard...well I will get to that...

Right upon entering the house we could tell it had a lot of charm.  It had a nice sized kitchen with lots of seating and space.

Beyond the kitchen was a dining/sitting area.

Beyond that was a small back room that was being used as an office but could also have been converted into a playroom or guest bedroom

As you might notice from a lot of these pictures, it seems like people here don't feel the need to tidy up or prepare for showings.  The owner of this house was still using the bathroom when we came in.  But they were a charming couple and we got along very well with them so it was forgiven :)

Back towards the kitchen I forgot to mention this splendid door.  

And back behind the kitchen was the laundry room and a larger bedroom and full bathroom (bathroom not pictured).

Beyond the sitting area was another bedroom, a mudroom, another full bathroom and a walkin closet/office space.

Up the windy staircase we went and found this view:

The upstairs had a large living area and a master bedroom off that.  The patio outside had a stunning view of the ocean and the owner showed us where we could see Sweden!

Outside the house had a good sized yard and beyond the gate was a running trail which we could easily jog to a bird sanctuary even to the beach!

We left the house feeling warm and fuzzy but a bit deflated.  The house was beautiful but just out of our price range.  We would have to go back to the hotel and do some number crunching... be continued...


Day 2: House Hunting, house 1

Day 2 started with a leisurely wake up and a relaxed breakfast on the top floor of our hotel.  We then met up with our relocation agent who was basically our house tour guide for the day.

We had originally planned to view 6 homes.  Of those, 2 were off the market by the time we arrived and 1 the agent never returned the calls from our relocation agent, so our agenda only included 3 appointments.  While that was a bit disappointing at first, we were still able to look at some quality Danish houses.  All were quite nice, all with different pros and cons.

But this post focuses on House #1.

From the outside, House #1 appeared quite rundown and in need of repairs.  The agent who arrived to show the house  assured us that many repairs were on the works and that would be completed before we took over the house.

Then a train went by...then another...and another...and another.  Well, you get the idea.  Turns out House #1 was right by the main train line.  And when I say right by, I mean RIGHT BY.  There was a wall blocking the yard and house from the tracks.  I could have touched the train with a ten foot pole if I wanted to!  Now the train wasn't loud, but it was definitely there...and it goes by frequently.  It was a definite con before even seeing the house.

The outside yard was large, definitely a good party patio and yard, spacious enough for the boys to play and have fun.  There was both a front and back yard, both size able.

View from driveway/carport

The fence blocking the train.  Those wires are for the train!

Nice large patio area

Front yard of house

Inside the house was very nice.  Modern kitchen, 3 bedrooms and 1 bathroom.  The living spaces were HUGE and with lots of windows it received fabulous natural light.  The house had lots of closet/storage space inside and the carport/garage offered additional room.

Laundry room/mud room off the kitchen and main entrance

Spacious and modern kitchen

Lots of cupboards and stainless steel appliances.

View from the kitchen.  A nice breakfast bar, table book and to the left a sitting/tv area.

This space was incredible!  Look at how big this table was and there's still lots of room.  And the angled windows added a lot of character as well.

The one bathroom offered dual sinks and a stand up shower.

Mudroom area off the second entrance

One of the kids rooms - sporting some fancy One Direction posters

Second kids room sporting some Skylanders bedding :)

I guess I didn't get a shot of the master bedroom.  It was decent sized with an entire wall of closet space.

The inside of the house was definitely nicer than we were expecting after viewing the outside.  And indoors the train was a bit more muffled.  But we still weren't sold on having a continuous interruption by the trains day and off to House #2. be continued.