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I moved to Denmark from the UK for better childcare. The lifestyle here means I don't have to choose between a job I love and my kids.

Laura Hall   

I moved to Denmark from the UK for better childcare. The lifestyle here means I  don't have to choose between a job I love and my kids.
  • Laura Hall moved to Denmark with her family in 2017 from the UK.
  • She was drawn to Copenhagen because it's been ranked one of the best places to raise children.

In 2017, I was working remotely from the UK as the communications director of Kid & Coe, a family-travel startup, and my husband was working for a company with offices all over the world. Knowing that the Brexit vote would narrow our chances of working abroad, we wanted to live in Europe for a few years while we still could.

We had been to Copenhagen, Denmark, on vacation. The car-free culture was appealing, as was the chance to live more sustainably and find out what it's like to live in a country ranked one of the best to raise children in. We'd also met a few Danes in our travels.

We bought a one-way ticket to the city, rented out our house, and left. Fast-forward nearly seven years, and we're permanent residents with no plans to return to the UK.

Getting permanent residency in Denmark was easy, as we came before the Brexit changes. Because we were European Union citizens, applying for residency was a formality. Here's what surprised us the most since our move.

'Hygge' culture is prioritized over hustle culture

I thought people exaggerated the Danish concept of "hygge." Boy, was I wrong. Hygge, the Danish concept of taking time to relax and enjoy simple comforts, is everything here.

When you go out for a drink with your friends, it's "hyggeligt," which means it's fun and comforting. In the swimming pool, there's a lane for fast swimmers, a lane for medium swimmers, and a lane for hygge swimming.

It's a cultural experience; the translation of "cozy" does it justice. It's more about enjoying the moment, taking pleasure in each other's company, and prioritizing the good moments. It may be why there's not really hustle culture here — people don't typically prioritize anything uncomfortable over enjoying a warm and cozy moment.

Danish children are independent

One of the funniest conversations I had was with a parent about what to get our kids for Christmas. She was considering a hunting knife. Her son was 5. It was perfectly normal for her — but for me as an English mum, all I could think about were the safety risks.

In Denmark, kids are much more independent from a younger age than in the UK. I often see children walking home alone from school or doing an activity at a much younger age than would be acceptable in my home country. Even in kindergarten in Denmark, my kids play next to an in-use fireplace. They're trusted to be independent — and more resilient as a result.

The weather is very different from the UK's

Even though we're just across the North Sea from the UK, the weather is very different — it's so much warmer in the summer and so much colder in the winter. Sometimes the harbor freezes in winter, which feels dramatic. In summer, there are weeks of nearly uninterrupted sunny weather and many sandy beaches to play on. We feel a lot closer to the weather than we did in the UK, perhaps because we do everything by bike.

Community is everything

A few years ago, the word of the year in Denmark was "samfundssind," which means community.

Academic studies have cited Denmark's strong sense of community and the trust in government as reasons for its low rates of infection and deaths compared with other European countries. In Copenhagen, lockdowns were fast and short because people worked together, had a high level of trust in the government and authorities, and followed the rules.

The spirit of community is represented in the flat hierarchies in Danish businesses and its drive for equality.

I love the sense of community in our neighborhood and at work. It's a big positive of living here.

The flip side is that it's sometimes hard if you stand out in any way — unlike in the UK and the US, it can be frowned upon to be too much of an individual. And bragging about yourself or your achievements doesn't go down well.

It's not perfect, but I love it

There's a lot of hype about Denmark being one of the happiest countries in the world — but that ignores a lot of factors. We've had only good experiences as English expats. That's sadly not the case for all our friends.

There's an undertone of sexism and racism that makes me feel uncomfortable at times. The drive for equality is admirable, but it's a work in progress: There are more top business leaders called Lars or Peter in Denmark than female CEOs. Though I do see these issues being talked about more.

I love living in Copenhagen. I love swimming in the harbor, I love my Danish friends — the internet will tell you it's hard to make Danish friends as an expat, but I disagree — and I love living in a city where everything is a 15-minute cycle away.

I admire the incredible kindness and warmth of the Danes, who are intimidatingly tall and beautiful but always up for a good time.

I love a lifestyle that allows me to be a parent with happy, well-cared-for children and hold down a job I love at the same time. Life just works here.

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