Coming in from the Cold (part 2)

From Copenhagen to Vienna
July 2009 to September 2011
An Epistle

Instead, we cycled. The cycle routes are cleared first after each snow fall, so it was the most natural thing to pull out our bikes and drive the 2km to the super market, our daily chore. We had made the considerable mistake of not buying a car immediately upon arrival, when dividing the currency by 7.4 to reach euros does not yet come natural and the shock of paying a 200% premium on any normal vehicle could have been stomached better.

Only a month later, it wasn’t an option anymore and we would spend the next 23 months learning the bus timetable by heart and figuring out the byzantine Danish public transport fee structure. Or we cycled.

Then there were the daily bills. The Danish state does not only cash in on the vehicle industry, but virtually on anything material or spiritual that one can think of. The cost of living in this country is staggering, with a whopping VAT of 25% and prices that currently top all its Nordic neighbours, or are at least equal to them. When we came back to Germany for holidays, the children thought the prices on restaurant menus were a joke, or missed a zero. In fact, salaries in Denmark are generally quite high for those that have jobs, but are still so much in level with service industry prices that people think twice when considering a babysitter – having a live-in au-pair from South-East Asia comes cheaper in the long run – and going out is nearly always a special event for families.

But it wasn’t only our entertainment budget that was suffering. Rents are roughly the same as elsewhere, but it didn’t help that we lived next to the country’s most fashionable seaside community, and close to a wonderful park that is the main weekend haunt of Copenhageners. Utility rates are also sky-high, what with the extra green taxes piled on top of the already large fees, and nowhere is water more expensive than in – guess where: Denmark. That’s nowhere, on Earth. Now, don’t get me wrong: this is all done to cut down on waste, make people more aware of their use of energy and resources, and frighten away foreign investment. But it does not help you have a social life outside of your home, and does not improve the lousy bus timetables and the quality of the (taste-free and very hard) Danish water. They need to improve a bit in these areas.