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LIVING IN DENMARK

KEY POINTS: What changes about life in Denmark in February 2022?

Coronavirus restrictions and travel rules are among the changes which will affect life in Denmark in February.

Hailstones in Denmark in February 2020. The country will lift its Covid-19 restrictions in February 2022.
Hailstones in Denmark in February 2020. The country will lift its Covid-19 restrictions in February 2022. Photo: Ida Guldbæk Arentsen/Ritzau Scanpix

No Covid-19 travel restrictions for vaccinated persons

A small number of Covid-19 travel restrictions will be retained in February but these will not apply to people vaccinated against the virus.

People who can document vaccination with an EU approved vaccine, or who have been previously infected with Covid-19, will no longer have to take a test or quarantine on entering Denmark regardless of where in the world they are travelling from, the government recently announced.

For travel to Denmark from EU or Schengen countries, people who are neither vaccinated nor previously infected must take a test for Covid-19 no more than 24 hours following entry, or may alternatively take a test prior to travel.

Unvaccinated people with no infection history travelling from outside the EU and Schengen area are affected by different rules depending on whether they are travelling from what Denmark categorises a “risk” or “high risk” country.

Full details of how the rules will change can be found here.

Domestic restrictions to be lifted on February 1st

All domestic restrictions, including the use of a vaccine pass, mask-wearing and early closings for bars and restaurants, are to be lifted on February 1st.

A coronapas has been required since late last year at bars and restaurants among other settings, while face mask rules have been in place in stores, on public transport and in health and social care settings.

The decision was announced by the government last week despite high infection rates, with falling ICU patient numbers, high vaccine uptake and the milder Omicron variant forming the background of the decision.

READ ALSO: Denmark’s Covid-19 rules for close contacts and ‘other’ contacts

Restrictions on alcohol sales to end a few hours early

If you want to celebrate the end of restrictions with a late drink, it will be possible to do so the day before the change takes full effect.

With general Covid restrictions scheduled to be lifted on February 1st, the government has brought forward the end of the restrictions on bars by a few hours.

The decision was made to avoid a situation in which bars would have had to close at 11pm on January 31st, only to open again an hour later following the cut-off point for the outgoing restrictions.

Alcohol may also be sold after 10pm from January 31st, including in stores.

Covid-19 sick leave compensation could end

Increased sick days taken by staff at Danish companies, related to the country’s current high rate of Covid-19 infections and self-isolation rules, are currently eligible for special compensation under a deal reached by the government and the labour market late last year.

Under normal Danish sick leave rules, companies must pay up to the first 30 days of sick pay for staff. The current special provision allows companies to apply for reimbursement for this.

A criterion for the compensation is that the staff member in question is unable to work from home.

The agreement is set to expire on February 28th 2022. It will be reviewed close to this time to assess whether an extension is needed.

Return to ‘normal life’ in sight?

At the beginning of January, the head of department and senior consultant at the State Serum Institute (SSI), Tyra Grove Krause, said that she expected the current wave of Covid-19 infections in Denmark, driven by the dominant Omicron variant, to peak in coming weeks before drop in infections in February.

“Omicron will peak at the end of January, and February will see falling infection numbers and a reduction in strain on the health system. But we must make an effort in January, because it will be hard to get through,” she said in an interview.

“I think (Covid-19) will have the next two months and after that I hope that infections will begin to pare back and we will get our normal lives back,” she also said.

Although there is little sign of infection numbers flattening at the time of writing, Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen spoke of a return to “life as we knew it” after announcing the end of Covid restrictions last week.

“We are saying farewell to the restrictions and welcome to life as we knew it before corona,” Frederiksen told a press conference.

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SHOPPING

What your Danish supermarket choice says about you

In Denmark, the grocery store you pick reveals much about your character traits, daily routines – and how far you'll go for a proper cup of tea.

What your Danish supermarket choice says about you

From your lifestyle and spending habits to your culinary preferences and even your socio-economic status, your supermarket selection can be more telling than you might think.

This holds true in Denmark, where, despite the closure in 2023 of the most exclusive supermarket of them all, Irma, there’s still plenty to choose from even in mid-size towns.

International stores: Homesick foreigners and food enthusiasts

If you find yourself frequenting international stores such as specialised Asian or Eastern European grocery shops, you might be a foreigner looking for a taste of home or a culinary enthusiast searching for exotic ingredients you just can’t find in Danish supermarkets.

These supermarkets stand out from the regular offerings not just in terms of what’s on the shelves but also because they tend to be independently owned, there because an entrepreneurial soul – often with foreign roots themselves – has started their business from scratch.

One perk of these stores is that while some of the imported goods are quite pricey, fruit and veg can be a lot cheaper than in regular supermarkets.

Their major attraction, though, is the ease of finding imported products nowhere to be seen on the aisles of Netto, Føtex or Brugsen.

This can range from Arabic flat bread and the za’atar mixed spice that can be spread on it with oil to make the classic Middle Eastern snack manouche; a huge range of Japanese and South Korean instant ramen and noodles (apart from the ones Danish food authorities decide to ban for their spiciness); to bumper packs of PG Tips teabags.

This is only scratching the surface of the variety of exotic goods that can be found in these off-the-beaten track Danish supermarkets.

REMA 1000: For the practical planners

If you shop at Norwegian-owned REMA 1000, you value practicality and efficiency above all else.

You know you can get everything you need without breaking the bank and you appreciate the straightforward approach these stores offer.

Trips to Rema can be quick and to the point; it’s possible to memorise the layouts of the shops, which are frequently organised identically. This allows you to go into “autopilot” mode and save time.

REMA 1000 shoppers generally adopt a no-frills attitude, and the stores deliver by rarely having discrepancies between listed prices and what you pay at the checkout.

Like other Danish supermarkets, Rema delivers a regular tilbudsavis or “special offer leaflet” through the letterboxes of any homes that don’t opt out of them. If you take the time to study the Rema leaflet and plan your trip to the store before items sell out, you are likely to reap savings at least as hefty as you’ll find in any other shop.

It’s also worth praising REMA 1000 locations for invariably being clean and organised, and the service is usually good.

READ ALSO: REVEALED: Your money-saving tips for life in Denmark

Netto: Convenience and familiarity

If you prefer an easy life, you probably find yourself steering the short journey to Netto more often than not.

With 531 stores across Denmark as of December 2023, Netto is the most prevalent supermarket in the country, ahead of second-place Rema 1000 on around 400 (there are 900 Coop-owned stores but these are split between various chains).

This means you nearest supermarket is probably a Netto and if you live in a city, there’s almost certainly one in walking distance.

Like Rema, the cost is low (by Danish standards) and you know what you’re getting. In recent years, many of the stores have been given renovations, transforming them from scruffy yellow messes to calming supermarkets with wood panelling and enticing fresh veg sections (just block out the in-store muzak).

Føtex: For those who want a bit extra

Technically, Føtex is considered a varehus or “warehouse”, meaning it is larger than a regular supermarket and sells goods like household durables and clothes. This puts it in the same bracket as the out-of-town Bilka megastores but unlike Bilka, Føtex can perform the role of a local supermarket with its more manageable size and central locations.

If you’re a Føtex shopper, you won’t be too concerned about an above-average shopping bill and are happy to make the trade-off for the option of buying premium products like the “Salling Princip” range.

If you want to buy a new frying pan, a pair of yoga pants or a Trivial Pursuit set, you can also pick these up while you’re shopping for bread and milk.

One of the draws of Føtex is that it combines several elements – you probably don’t need your own car to get there (unlike Bilka), it doesn’t have to be your primary supermarket, but if you need a specific, good-quality item at the same time as tonight’s dinner ingredients, you’re covered.

Lidl and discount365: The budget-conscious and students

For students and those on tight budgets, these two stores can be lifesavers.

Shoppers here know the value of a krone and aren’t afraid to hunt for the best deals and discounts, even under the blaring lights of the local Lidl store where the inside of it often resembles an industrial storage facility.

Whether you’re a student juggling expenses or just trying to make ends meet, Lidl and 365 are a trusted go-to for saving money.

In the case of 365discount, a much-needed rebrand by parent company Coop last year meant that the old Fakta discount stores – often bleak, run-down places – have been converted into the new 365 brand with its more welcoming green colour and better product range.

For Lidl, there’s a crossover with the international store customers mentioned at the start of this article given the range of German-produced items, not least the excellent bakery range.

Brugsen: Bonus points for atmosphere

The name ‘Brugsen’ is almost a colloquialism for ‘supermarket’ in some parts of Denmark, particularly in small towns where it is likely to have been the only local shop at some point in the past.

The Coop rebrand of 2023 meant that the names SuperBrugsen and Dagli´Brugsen for the larger and smaller versions of this store have now been streamlined, and there are fewer of them.

One of the charming quirks of shopping at a smaller Brugsen is the friendly atmosphere. It’s where you’re most likely to start a conversation with the cashiers or even the customers – perhaps the only Danish supermarket where this happens.

Many older shoppers tend to prefer Brugsen, so don’t be surprised if you shop on a weekday afternoon and have to wait around at checkout while a friendly chat between a senior shopper and the cashier finishes.

Cross-border shoppers: The zealous budgeters

Despite the cost of petrol cutting into your household budget and the travelling times into far southern Jutland, your love for bulk buying leads you across the border into Germany.

There can be no doubt that border shopping is a popular activity in Denmark – some 5.5 billion kroner is spent annually in the German hypermarkets and international webshops combined, according to a 2023 Boston Cosulting Group analysis.

This includes a total of 3.6 billion kroner (in 2018) spent alone on leisure items like cigarettes, beer, spirits, chocolate and sweets, according to tax ministry figures.

It’s not always a choice people make for fun, though. Recently, Denmark changed its welfare benefits rules to allow people who receive the basic unemployment benefit to spend a night outside the country without losing eligibility.

In the past, rules on unemployment benefits barred recipients from leaving Denmark at all, but this was changed after people who live near Denmark’s border with Germany said it raised their living expenses because they were unable to cross the border to shop at cheaper stores in Germany.

What are your observations about Danish supermarkets and which ones do you prefer? Let me know in the comments.

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