Wednesday, May 29, 2013

what have i learned from denmark?

I try for the most part to keep politics out of this space, but the time has come to break my own rule.

Earlier this week, Huffington Post ran a blog post entitled, “What Can We Learn From Denmark?” Most of the information in the article is attributed to the horse’s mouth, Danish Ambassador Peter Taksoe-Jensen, as regurgitated by Bernie Sanders, an Independent Senator from Vermont.

I’ve been following the comments on this article, and discussions in blogs and various social media, and before everyone packs their bags and jumps a plane to Kastrup, I'd like to share my firsthand perspective as an expat living in Denmark.

Let me preface this post by saying that my perspective on the Danish system is of course going to be different from that of most Danes. This post isn't meant to critique the Danish system, it's meant to offer the perspective of an American who's actually living in this so-called utopia.

I don't come from a charmed upper middle class background. My parents were married at 17, had me at 18, had my sister 3 years later, and were divorced 4 years after that. During that time, my mother became an alcoholic, who prioritized vodka over groceries. She left my sister and me alone for days at a time. We sent ourselves to school, answered the door to bill collectors, had our heat and power shut off, and were evicted. Long story short, we ended up with Child Protective Services and were ultimately placed with different sets of grandparents, neither of whom were enthusiastic about the situation.

I’ve been doing volunteer work since I was 12 years old, and that work led to my first paid job at 16. I attended college on a full academic scholarship. I graduated Magna Cum Laude in 8 semesters, and I worked multiple jobs throughout. After graduation, I took a low paying internship and lived in a one room apartment in order to get the work experience most students were fortunate enough to have during their college years.

By all accounts, I should be in love with the Danish system. As a child and young adult, I was exactly the type of person it's designed to protect and nurture. I moved here expecting to fall in love with the Danish way and to forever swear off America's heartless capitalistic ways. Instead, I learned the truth of the saying among expats that, "you never know how patriotic you are, until you move abroad."

I was raised in a capitalist society. I'm a capitalist, a liberal capitalist, but a capitalist just the same. I built my career slowly. I saved for emergencies, a house, and my retirement. I was raised to believe that hard work was the way to success and that I was in charge of my future. Considering my beginnings, I've accomplished quite a bit, and while I believe that some of it was because of chance, luck, karma, or whatever you want to call it, a lot of it was due to careful decision making and hard work.

Before I moved to Denmark, I was saving at least 30% of my net pay, I was contributing the maximum to my 401k and IRA, and I was debt free except for a small mortgage that would've been paid off within the year.

Now, three years later, in Denmark, I have "free" healthcare, no 401k, and a higher gross salary, yet I bring home less per month than I did in the US. I have a small pension here, but I'll only see a percentage of it because I will not retire in Denmark.

So, how does Senator Sanders' panacea stack up to my reality? Let's see...

"Health care in Denmark is universal, free of charge and high quality."

That statement is partly true. For the unemployed, healthcare is in fact free of charge. However, those who work pay 8% of their salary for healthcare. Quality is variable from district to district. I just looked for the soonest available non-emergency appointment with my doctor, it's June 25th, and there's only 1 time available. It is possible to get in earlier if it's an "emergency" but that's hit or miss. A few months ago, I developed several big floaters in my eye, when it didn't improve over several weeks, and the soonest available appointment was 5 weeks away, I emailed my doctor, requesting an emergency appointment.  I told her I'd had the floaters for several weeks, and that I was concerned it could be a Lasik complication, she replied asking me if I sure it wasn't "just dirt" in my eye.

Danish healthcare does not include vision or dental coverage. Dental work especially is so expensive that people in need of extensive treatment sometimes travel to other countries, financing their trip plus the cost of treatment for about the same cost as the treatment alone in Denmark. A lot of people take out supplemental insurance for vision and dental, and so they can "jump the line" and see a specialist at a private hospital if the need arises. Without this insurance, the wait to see a specialist can be very long.

The adequacy of Denmark's preventive cancer screening is questionable. Routine mammograms, for example, don't start until age 50; high risk women often turn to private hospitals if they insist on earlier screening. Coincidentally (or not), Denmark has the highest breast cancer mortality rate in the EU.

My US health plan cost $106/month for great PPO coverage for two of us. Under my US plan, I had dental coverage, including 2 cleanings per year, vision coverage, mammograms starting at 40 (earlier if deemed high risk), and the ability to see specialists without a referral. That's better coverage, and much less expensive than the 8% of my gross salary I'm paying for my "free" healthcare here.


"Prescription drugs are inexpensive and free for those under 18 years of age."

I just paid 960 kr. (about $170) for two asthma prescriptions that would've run me a $40 co-pay in the US, or $20 if I'd gotten them mail order.

The system uses a sliding scale, which means that prescriptions become less expensive the more you spend, but in three years, I've yet to hit the threshold that makes my prescriptions cost less on average here than they did in the US.

Someone needs to check their facts because prescriptions are not free for those under 18, but minors do receive a higher reduction percentage without the 900 kr. deductible that applies for adults. (You can see the exact policy here. Google translate is usually pretty helpful if you can't read Danish.)

There's no doubt about it, not having health insurance can be catastrophic in the US, and I believe that situation needed to be fixed, but for most of us who did have insurance in the US, Danish healthcare falls short of what we had in the US at a much lower cost.


"The state covers three-quarters of the cost of child care, more for lower-income workers."

As well they should. The reality of the Danish economy is that it only works if everyone who can work, does work. That means most people can't afford the luxury of choosing to have a stay at home parent. I don't think it's even possible to cut expenses and rearrange finances to make it happen. There needs to be two incomes, essentially one for the household and one for the taxman.

After paying the insane income tax bill, the taxman gets another 25% VAT on everything we buy, including prescriptions, legal services, dental care, groceries, and even the mandatory media license. This puts us in the ballpark of 75% of everything that we earn and spend going to some sort of tax.

P.S. There's 180% "registration tax" on cars. In Denmark, we pay for a car about 3 times over, then we pay $8 - $9/gallon for gas and some other yearly taxes for road use/environment, etc.


"Virtually all higher education in Denmark is free. That includes not just college but graduate schools as well, including medical school."

This is true. Students also receive a government study allowance while they're in school. They're also taking an average of 3 gap years before studying, and another 1.5 years off during their studies, which is costing taxpayers about 2 billion kroner ($173 million) extra per year than if they'd finished in a shorter amount of time.

The former college student in me who worked multiple jobs, jammed college into eight semesters and still graduated with honors bristles a bit at financing this little perk, while not ever having the opportunity to benefit from it.

Which brings me to another point. I've mentioned before that I was entitled to three years of Danish language classes when I moved here. Recently, the government needed to find money to expand unemployment benefits, and it found the money by cutting the language school benefit for "working foreigners" from three years down to one. Aside from the "free" healthcare, that's pretty much the only benefit I was getting for my generous contribution to the state.


Which brings me to:

"...when people lose their jobs they must have adequate income while they search for new jobs. If a worker loses his or her job in Denmark, unemployment insurance covers up to 90 percent of earnings for as long as two years."

"People" must = Danes, because this is not true for foreigners in my visa class, which is for "highly qualified workers" and has a minimum salary requirement. If I lose my job, I have 3 months to find another one with a comparable salary, or I'll be deported. Nevermind that I've been paying into the system at the citizen rate for 3+ years, own property here, etc.


"In Denmark, adequate leisure and family time are considered an important part of having a good life. Every worker in Denmark is entitled to five weeks of paid vacation plus 11 paid holidays."

True. When I leave Denmark, aside from the people, this will be what I miss most. I have a challenging job that I love, yet I still have plenty of time to travel and pursue other interests. I have enough time to workout 5-6 days a week, cook dinner most nights, take online classes, read, write, work on my photography, socialize, etc.

Denmark is without a doubt, a great place for families!


"Recently the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) found that the Danish people rank among the happiest in the world among some 40 countries that were studied. America did not crack the top 10."

Not anymore. According to the 2013 report, Denmark fell to the unlucky 7th spot this year, one spot behind the US, which is ranked number 6.


"Danes are, politically and economically, a very engaged and informed people. In their last election, which lasted all of three weeks and had no TV ads, 89 percent of Danes voted. "

They're so informed that they kept in power for 10 years the Dansk Folkeparti, who recently took out full page ads listing the names and towns of 700 residents who are to become Danish citizens, with the warning, "One person on this list is a danger to Denmark’s security. He will now become a Dane."

Everyone on this list has worked and paid taxes in Denmark for at least 4 1/2 years, passed a language exam, and a citizenship exam, renounced their previous citizenship (Denmark doesn't allow dual citizenship, even for mixed nationality children), signed an integration contract, and made a solomn declaration to become a Danish citizen. And now they're all being called out in the newspaper as a potential "danger to Denmark's security." What a warm welcome!

Dansk Folkeparti was voted out in the last election, but it's still a major player in Danish politics, not a fringe group of crazies like the ad, and some of their policies would suggest.


"Instead of promoting a system which allows a few to have enormous wealth, they have developed a system which guarantees a strong minimal standard of living to all."

Well, yes. This is what makes Denmark so comfortable. There's an amazing work/life balance, everyone has enough, and working more won't help you get ahead; so, you may as well sit back and enjoy life. But don't expect anything extraordinary.


I think the Danish system is great for Danes, and maybe even for permanent residents who have Danish partners and children, and who are able to benefit from the rich social programs our high taxes are financing. It's not a great fit for medium-term expats like me who are single, foreign educated, established in our careers, and locked out of the "safety net" due to our visa class.

Culturally, I think the Danish model is too tough a sell to most Americans, even liberal Americans. Idealistically, we may buy into a lot of the principles, but too many of us are programmed to push beyond the status quo, and expect to be handsomely rewarded for it. It is after all one of the founding principles our country, and it's part of our DNA.

I don't believe that either system is "better." I think they come from different histories, and that they're different. If I had grown up in Denmark, and been able to take advantage of all of the social benefits, I'd probably prefer the Danish system. But I grew up in the US, and I will likely die in the US, and the fact of the matter is that I am my own safety net. The system in my ideal world is somewhere between these two extremes.

As a relatively high earning single woman who's already been educated and doesn't have children, I'm paying into the system at a rate that's unsustainable to my long-term personal economy. I'm going to be 40 in a few years and I need to think pragmatically about my future; preferably before the future is now and I've given the majority of what I should've saved for retirement to the Danish coffers.

Danish policy has made it very clear that it does not want foreigners to settle here. Even though I'm mostly happy here, and considered the "right kind" of foreigner, it's been made clear that this is a business arrangement, a mostly one-sided business arrangement, but a business arrangement nonetheless.

My visa extension letter states that my residence and work permit is:
  • conditional upon the employment implying an annual pay of DKK xxx,xxx.00 (their bolding for emphasis, not mine)
  • granted with a view to a short-term stay
You're welcome, Denmark. I'll show myself out ; -)

I believe and hope that having been living here for over three years, that I'm qualified to give an American perspective on living in the Danish system. I hope I've given an interesting, fair, and educated counter-perspective to the original article.

There is no panacea, there is no utopia, but it is a nice fairy tale.

39 comments:

  1. On the issue of subsidized childcare and the need for two-income families...I do appreciate the very generous maternity and paternity leave benefits here. But when they are mentioned in the press, no one seems to note the related issue: 95% (according to our state-sponsored language and culture classes!)of kids are in full-time daycare (primarily commune-run institutions) by the age of 1. I think it's great that childcare is affordable and available to those who want to work full-time, but I find it odd that part-time work after your maternity leave is over is not usually a viable option. As for women who choose to stay at home with their toddler...there is a lot of pressure for them not to do so, with the prevailing attitude being that kids have to be socialized and that daycare starting at a very young age is more beneficial than staying home with a parent or parents.

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  2. Sage, I'm very, very sorry about your miserable childhood; you've certainly done well for yourself.

    A friend of mine has a romanticized view of Denmark - I'll have to print this and show it to him. God bless!
    xoxo

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  3. Hehe you ought to come to Australia - we did hit number one on that happiness list afterall ;-P
    I totally knew we would!

    That said, even Happy Country Number One: Australia, is not without its issues! We are socialist in comparison to America - yet not as much so as Denmark. Our pollies are too conservative and our two party system is flawed.
    Living costs are rising because the booming mining industry is rocketing our economy sky-high - unevenly and surely it's short term. This makes it good for Australians buying overseas, but small and local business suffers at the cost of high wages for employees and lack of customers.

    I wasn't born here either - my family moved from Communist Romania in 1987-89 and we are happy we moved away from such an awful place.

    I dont think there is one right answer for how to manage a country perfectly. We can only hope that we will always have the freedom to go elsewhere if we don't like our living situation - which is something that is taken for granted sometimes I think. Not everyone has that opportunity.

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  4. Sage, so very well written; so very well said. Some of your points really needed to be heard by the Senator and, frankly, the Huffington Post which has ignorantly promoted the fantasy image of Denmark before, but omitted that it is fantasy. The image is a falsehood even to many Danes who, in my opinion, are estopped from seeing what is really happening there - lest they bite the hand that feeds them. Call it wilful (or unconscious) blindness. Either way, you are right, Danish DNA is not USA DNA. You will be welcome when you come back home!

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  5. Sage - As a former expat to Thailand, I get where this is coming from and appreciated your perspective. I have recently struck out on my own and left my comfortable health-insurance-laden job to the pitfalls of the open market.

    As you correctly noted, for people with access to a PPO plan through their employer, the Danish system is expensive. For now, I pay $1100 (US) for two healthy 33 yr olds in premiums alone and that doesn't pull in vision and only annual dental cleanings. Arg!

    When you take into account what the company pays for your health care, the equation changes significantly. I've also learned that many employers state-side are starting to shift my well-educated (aka expensive) engineering position offshore because of rising costs (including those pesky health care expenses that our employers take on.)

    You nailed in! There are no utopias.

    On another note, do you know the graduation rates for college there? We've got some pretty dismal statistics where kids enter, but 50% don't make it past freshman year. Yikes!

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  6. Nice work! I'm not sure why HuffPo style articles keep popping up, but there are a few to counterbalance it, I'll have to start collecting those.

    I can only echo that the Danish way may be great for the Danes, but just goes against other countries' mindsets. I'm from the UK, and the lack of individualism and diversity makes DK a very foreign country I will never feel at home in (I've been here seven years.)

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  7. Really well done, Sage. I have to say on the subsidized childcare, we paid less for our daughter's childcare in Los Angeles than we did for the subsidized childcare in Denmark, which in our opinion functioned as no more than a parking lot for our child. Because the quality was so poor, we had to seek out private childcare, and are now paying much more.

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  8. Glad you wrote this and even posted the link for the willfully blind. Just wish this stuff would sink in!

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  9. Thank you for your insightful blog. I really enjoyed reading this post and all of your others, as well. I lived abroad for several months at a time as a teen, in Spain and also in Israel. I learned so much about other cultural norms and values. I still have the romantic notion of living abroad one day in the future, so I am living vicariously through your blog right now. I love hearing about the pros and cons of different political and social systems. Casey

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  10. This is unfortunately very true, most Danes don't see it, I moved to the US with my American wife after living in Denmark for 6 years. She was not having a good time there, a lot of Danes do not like non-Danes, laws don't like non-Danes. Finally we had had enough and moved back to the US where she can feel free and be happy.
    kk bye thx Denmark

    Thor

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  11. It's a shame you have such a dim view of a people that are generally very kind and broad minded about other countries and it's a shame your finances and standard of living is less in Denmark than your home in the US. But the point about the Danish system, as the Huff post pointed out, is to protect those people who are in trouble or less advantaged than most. Put it this way; in the US there are parents with young children sleeping in cars and going to food shelters just because they can't find work. There are mentally ill people in jails, elderly people eating cat food so that they can afford to pay for their medication. No Denmark isn't perfect, no country is, but your view is petty and true to US stereotype, only concerned with how much money you could be making. Poor you.

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  12. I'm sorry Nina, if that's what you took away from my post.

    But if you had actually read everything I'd written, you would've read that the people are one of the things I'll miss most when I leave, so I don't know how that comes across as having a "dim view" of them. I've made lifelong friends in Denmark, with Danes, and I don't appreciate you drawing wrong conclusions about my views and posting them on my blog.

    I'm actually not concerned with how much money I could be making. My concern is that the amount of money I'm spending to live in Denmark is not sustainable in the long-term because Danish immigration policy pretty much ensures that I will have to go back to the US at some point. If I don't prepare properly for my future, in the US, I may very well be one of those "elderly people eating cat food so that they can afford to pay for their medication" that you mentioned.

    Did I say anywhere that the Danish system is preventing me from driving a luxury car, having a big house, a closet full of fancy clothes, etc.? No. True to the title of my blog, I live a pretty simple life. My main concern is about financing a safety net that I don't have access to at the expense of my own safety net. That's not greed, that's just common sense and personal responsibility.

    I know full well about poverty. As I wrote, I was evicted as a child. If you're not familar with the process, that means the landlord showed up with the police, removed all of our belongings to the curb and changed the locks because my mother couldn't pay the rent. I was less advantaged than most.

    So I know the issues we're facing in the US, and I know how things are in Denmark. I don't think my concerns are the result of greed, just the result of trying to straddle two very different economic systems in a sustainable way.

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  13. I have to make this over two posts, since it's so long, sorry :)

    I'm sorry that our previous government (2001-2011) were such racists (especially right-wing Dansk Folkeparti which was a support party for the government). I suppose the American equivalent of DF would be the Tea Party Movement.

    I'm not sure where to start and where to end in order to try to explain this, but I'll give it a shot. I do not agree on all the point of views I'm about to write about, I'm just trying to explain how we got to where we are today.

    We were, and still are, a really homogeneous society with very similar values. With the influence of globalization and immigration some people have been scared that our ”Danishness” would disappear. This already started in the 1970's with workers coming here from especially Turkey. The fear/hate grew in the 2000's after the 9/11 attacks and the following demonization of Muslims + our own Muhammed cartoon crisis in 2006 if I recall correctly.

    The Danish people in general is a quite reserved people, so it can be hard to be accepted I think. We seem to differentiate foreigners into Western foreigners, which we like, and non-Western foreigners, which we don't like so much and in some cases not at all it seems. I believe this is due to shared Western values and non-Westerners being seen as very different from us. The laws you, Sage, have felt the effect of are actually designed against non-Westerners, but since that would be openly racist and illegal, they affect all foreigners.

    There has been/is a problem of integrating Muslims into our liberal, largely non-religious, gay-accepting modern society. The Muslims have a belief system that belongs to religious medieval times from our point of view, and it doesn't mix in well with our modern one. Danish people expect foreigners who come here to respect our society, values, laws etc. and there have been numerous cases where Muslims have not. Also in general if you don't learn the language of the country you live in, you will be really disadvantaged and it will be difficult to integrate, find jobs, socialize etc. I have lived in Germany, so I know first hand the importance of speaking the local language.

    I'm not sure if you know that we were the only country during World War II where the people collectively saved our 7.000 Danish jews and helped them escape to Sweden. The reason for that has been pointed out to be because the jews were integrated so well into our society that they were simply seen as our country men and not as jews. That view was not shared in other European countries at the time. My point of telling that, is that this is the difference between then and now. The immigrants we have today do not share our views on values, are very different from us, and have had a hard time adapting to our society.

    I personally think our media has done a poor job of diversifying their coverage and have largely focussed on a lot of bad cases involving Muslims, thus not portraying the full picture of showing all the immigrants that have integrated very well into Danish society. They have blindly reported negative stories and thus supported the ”them vs. us” mentality spread by Dansk Folkeparti.

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  14. ----- A few comments to Sage's critique points -----

    Overall I think your critique is fair and educated, but I have a few comments.

    Our health care certainly isn't perfect by far, but everyone gets treatment regardless of economic means. And our prescription medicine is more expensive as is everything else compared to America. Our average salaries are also higher and the difference between rich and poor is small, so not only the rich can afford medicine.

    We pay way too many taxes I agree, and our public sector needs to downgrade.

    About unemployment insurance I just want to point out that unemployment insurance is something you pay privately by being a member of a union or A-kasse (which is pretty much just unemployment insurance). If you're not insured you can also get money from the state (what we call kontanthjælp), if you get into economic trouble, but only when you own less than 10.000 DKK, else you're not deemed needy enough and have to spend your own money first. I'm not sure if you as a foreigner can be a member of a union or A-kasse, but I'm sure you can't get kontanthjælp. But about being deported if you lose your job... I would be the same in America, if I was a foreigner and lost my job.

    The whole thing about Denmark being the happiest country in the world was always a wrong claim in my opinion, but we may be among the averagely most satisfied people in the world.

    You mock the claim that we are an engaged and informed people, and you are certainly right in your critique in regards to Dansk Folkeparti. You lack perspective though. The racist ad by Dansk Folkeparti has been very critisized and even reported to the police by a mother whose son was on the list in the ad. Compared to Americans I think Danes are much more engaged and informed about society and the world around us. Don't forget about your right-wing Republicans, specifically the Tea Party, when you critisize Dansk Folkeparti. I certainly personally count the Tea Party as being more nuts than Dansk Folkeparti.

    @Lisa - Denmark shouldn't be overly romanticized. We certainly have our share of problems, and I also think that we are too socialistic with the problems that kind of policy brings. However I have read that 1 in every 7 Americans are poor, and I really don't feel like that will be a good society to live in.

    And lastly I'm sorry our country doesn't treat you better Sage. You seem to be exactly the kind of foreigner we want to be here. I hope one day our immigration laws get revised.

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  15. I am not a member of a Tea Party but to call them racist or wacky is unfair. Generally I would say they love their country and don't like what it is becoming which is an amoral welfare state that by the way is using the IRS and other means to shut up voices that don't dig government interfering in every facet of their lives. What they were afraid of....tyranny...has happened. I can't believe these liberals would be ok with a government agency with great power systematically trying to destroy them as the IRS has done.
    I work in an ER and I see the direct effects of liberalism on the people their..no dads, no respect, everyone can afford phones and smokes but not a 4 dollar antibiotic. I can usually tell when someone is on Medicaid ( freebie) because they come in for non emergencies or in wads of 2 or more for generally ridiculous complaints and why not in Illinois since there is borderline no copayment and they don't have to pay it upfront.
    I'm sure there is nothing I could say to a lib to convince them that their social justice leads to plenty of injustice but when you take away incentive and responsibility and preach that your life sucks because somebody has too much then you get what America has become.
    The other day I saw a commercial that said " everyone deserves to go college" and I thought BS how bout you earn it first.
    Denmark should keep a tight control on immigration or they will end up like us with millions breaking the law as their first act in coming to America. We are hosed. We might as well make all Mexicans citizens now. Don't get me wrong I think they are generally good people ( and I like them)and I have tried to learn Spanish but it is not practical or ethical for people to migrate here in an uncontrolled fashion. It happened anyway.
    Anyway have a good day

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  16. @ Anonymous
    I feel bad about getting into the Tea Party thing now, but from an outside perspective I must say they are just about as religious, primitive and medieval as the fanatic Muslims they hate. ”OBAMA IS A DIRTY MUSLIM AND A SOCIALIST!” Anyone who sincerely believes that, is crazy enough in my book to be locked up in a mental hospital. And I don't wanna go into all the specific, primitive beliefs they have here. I agree with you that they love their country, and I respect that. I just really disagree with their political beliefs, which I find to be uneducated and primitive. Oh wait, I have to say one thing that I hear repeated over and over again. They are against all regulations and want free market capitalism. Here's an economic fact: There are no free markets. All markets need rules and regulations to function, else you have fraud and anarchy. Anyone who believes otherwise clearly doesn't know much about economics.

    I find it extremely depressing for the human race to read comments on American news sites the last few years. The kindergarten-like behaviour that your politicians are portraying (and thus gambling not only with your own economy, but the whole world's) have trickled down to the citizens.

    The IRS scandal is disgusting, and I hope the guilty one(s) will be brought to justice, but to call America an amoral welfare state sounds like a joke to any European. I believe every European country is a bigger welfare state than America. BTW if I recall correctly, then Franklin D. Roosevelt was the most popular American president ever. I find it funny that he was also the most socialistic one, and he got you out of the Great Depression.

    I would like to hear your views on why social justice leads to injustice.

    About economic inequality I think you should watch this youtube video that explains everything: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QPKKQnijnsM

    About ”Everyone deserves to go to college” then no, not everybody. But if you have the ability you ought to try to reach your full potential. If a lack of money means you can't, then not only you, but also your country will miss out. It's good business to have a well-educated population.

    Now let me tell you what really happens in a welfare state that is too big. A sense of entitlement for different benefits arises, while you believe you don't have to work very hard. This is somewhat true in Denmark today, and you do NOT want that. But America is far, far from being in that situation. Anyone with a sense of entitlement in America is probably a rich, spoiled brat. In Denmark the taxes are so high that most people would automatically feel a certain degree of entitlement to some benefits, and the high taxes also ruins the incentive to work hard to become richer. That is a big problem we have today I think. But as long as Danes feel solidarity to all Danes, then our system still stands. If solidarity dies out, then the wellfare state has to shrink too, else you get a collapse. In regards to economic incentive, we can learn a few things from America.

    I think the ”perfect” system probably lies somewhere between the Danish and American system.

    And on Mexicans you definitely have a problem you need to deal with. You need to control immigration, but I also think you need to help many of the 'undocumented aliens' as you call them over there. Many of them have lived their whole life in America, have educations and jobs and contribute positively to your society. They have proved themselves already and deserve to stay I believe. The fact that they probably shouldn't have been there in the first place, is a thing of the past that can't be changed now. It can only be changed for the future.

    You have a good day too sir :)

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  17. Thank you, Rasmus, for your thoughtful comments.

    I thought the kontanthjælp benefit was overstated in the original article, but I wasn't sure and didn't want to give false information.

    I believe I can belong to an A-kasse, but I never bothered to look into it because if I lose my job, money is pretty irrelevent. In that situation, my biggest concern would be how do I sell my home and car, and get out of the country within 3 months.

    I don't expect to be able to stay in Denmark forever if I'm not working, but I would be able to support myself financially well beyond 3 months. I think it's unfair and bad business that whether I've been here paying the full tax rate for 2 months or 5 years, I still only have 3 months to find a job or leave. I believe the UK bases the time you're allowed to stay on the amount of time you've been working, which seems a fair system. Having been here for 3+ years I have ties in this country that would be pretty difficult to wrap up within 3 months.

    I completely understand the need to protect the safety net from parasites, but I think current policy assumes that all non-EU foreigners are parasites who want to work the system. I also realize that I'm negatively affected by strict policies that weren't meant for people in my situation, but it does make it less enjoyable to be here.

    I see DF as the DK version of our Tea Party. Fair comparison, IMO. And I've also been following the backlash of that DF ad. Unfortunately, I arrived in Denmark in 2010 to the full effect of DF's work, so it's sore spot for me.

    I completely agree that the ”perfect” system probably lies somewhere between the Danish and American system. And that's why I wrote this post, because there have been a number of articles in the past months about how perfect Denmark is and most of them contain incorrect facts. It's just an updated version of the stories they used to tell aspiring European immigrants to America about the streets being paved in gold.

    I'm glad you found my blog and took the time to comment.

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  18. Dear Sage,

    This is long so will be in two parts.

    I have known that someone needed to inject a bit of balance and reality into the “streets paved with gold” stories. I am glad you took the plunge. Frankly, I was so overwhelmed by the half-truths and outdated facts in recent stories, I hardly knew where to start. So thank you for inspiring us all, and not least me!
    Since 1977 I have been visiting, studying and/or living and raising children in Denmark. In 1990 I began as comparative welfare researcher with focus on Scandinavia and USA.
    Here are some factual corrections from my blog.
    8 % tax
    The 8% you pay in your tax is not for health care. It is (or was) called the Labour Market Contribution (Arbejdsmarkedsbidrag). On paper, it is meant to finance the insanely expensive and inefficient controls and "activation" of the unemployed. I will not go into details here, but let me just say that this system is reported to cost (for a nation of about 2.5 million working taxpayers) a cool US $2 billion (you read that right) a year. In reality this is just a crude regressive tax on earnings and employee benefits with no deductions, no matter where from, how small, no matter whether one earns 1000 dollars a year or 1 billion. Only pension contributions are excepted.
    The money goes into the coffers of the state, which needs the income for other purposes and just pretends that it is to pay for high quality requalification and career help to those without jobs. But because the purported purpose of the law is to with being out of work, the tax is something you pay when in work and do not pay when you are not in work. So you, Sage, being in a job, pay this 8%. The unemployed, old age pensioners, etc. do not.
    12 % tax
    You mentioned a health care tax. The health care tax is the tax Danes pay to the five national regions, each of which is responsible for running the hospital system in its region. This tax, which EVERYONE must pay, unemployed or not, is around 12%.

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  19. Whoops. Part 1 printed twice. Here is part 2.

    Unemployment insurance which covers 90% of wages
    This is extremely misleading.
    First, not everybody can get unemployment insurance. Unemployment insurance is a voluntary insurance arrangement. The individual pays quarterly premiums to an approved unemployment insurance association (“A-kasse”). The government acts as guarantor, so there is enough to pay also in crisis years when unemployment is high.
    Second, the maximum of 90% is a paper fiction. On paper, one gets 90% of wages up to a ceiling which represents the equivalent of the minimum wage 30 years ago. Today, maximum benefits cover less than 50% of the average unskilled industrial wage. Even low-wage office cleaner, who in 1982 received 90% compensation, by 2011 saw it reduced to 65%. Furthermore, the compensation level is lower than most countries in Europe.
    Third, not everybody is entitled to unemployment insurance. You have to fulfill several requirements to join, you have to be accepted as a member, pay your premiums and have been a member for at least one year. Before you can be entitled to benefits, you have to be able to document that you have been in work and paid wages (or lived from your own business) for at least the equivalent of one year full time unemployment (1960 hours) in the course of the previous three years. There are lots of traps. For example, the new graduate who is looking for work will NOT be able to join an a-kasse, never mind get unemployment insurance, unless he or she remembers to join the A-kasse within 14 days of graduation.
    Fourth, in 2010, in the middle of the financial crisis, the conservative parties voted to reduce overall protection levels by about 75%. The maximum rates remained as defined by law, but the maximum period was reduced from 4 to 2 years. And the “re-earning period” which is the time it takes to requalifiy for benefits for those who use up the two years, was doubled. According to experts, this has taken the Danish unemployment system from one of the most secure (if low-paid) in Europe to one of the least secure.


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  20. Rasmus,

    I apologize - what I should have said was that my friend tends to romanticize many things without looking into them more deeply. My point with him would be to show him there are good and bad points to every society.

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  21. @Sage
    I really hope our rules will get revised, but it will be difficult as long as DF has as much power as they do. I think current polls give them 15% of votes, which is a lot considering they're 1 of 8 parties in parliarment + usually the 2 biggest parties swallow a lot of the votes.

    The UK system sounds like a good idea I think, certainly better than our own.

    I'm also pretty tired of the fairy tales being reported about Denmark. It's cool that big countries notice our small country. However I don't think it contributes positively to the debate in America to compare to Denmark. We are simply too much of an extreme, too socialistic (though not in the communist sense, we are still far from that). Our socialdemocratic model would not work in America ever I think. The way your country was founded and the values you hold are much different from ours when it comes to getting by on your own, not taking benefits from the state and simply not being a burden to anyone. Simply different mindsets.

    I think what Senator Sanders wants, is to treat the weak and unfortunate people in society better, as we do in Denmark. But as we can agree on in this debate, the ”perfect” balance lies somewhere between Denmark and America. Hopefully both of our countries can move in the right direction.

    @VisNorn
    All that you write seems to be true to my knowledge, and it shows some bad things about the system for sure. I doubt Senator Sanders knows about them, or maybe he didn't care.

    @Lisa
    No problem :) You should show him this site and the debate here, maybe he would revise his view of Denmark a bit.

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  22. Hi Sage. I'm a Danish Expat in the UK moving to the US now and it will be interesting to see the differences in real life. I believe much in the US also depends on the State you live in? We are moving to California and tax there is not low when you take into consideration that we will be paying a lot for healthcare - its about the same level as UK. Housing tax is not cheap either. But we can own a house even though we don't have a green card - unlike Denmark. If we loose the job, we loose the visa - just like you. Public school is free, but you do pay extra to keep art, music etc. And apparently schools are funded by the tax income in the district, so there are huge differences in quality of schools and in the neighbourhoods and the competition for places in private schools seems enormous. There also seems to be a lot more bureaucracy than we are used to. It will be interesting to see how that all works out, but we are looking forward and have already been welcomed and find people mostly very open. All the best to you. Its an interesting blog! Birgitte

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  23. By the way... It could be interesting with an article about what we can learn from USA.

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  24. I am sitting here getting more and more angry as I read your post, ending with me having to stop because I simply couldn't take anymore of your absolute nonsense. Are you seriously and honestly sitting their, criticizing Denmark whilst comparing it to the USA? You ought to be ashamed of yourself. In Denmark we have flaws, no doubt about it, but I have lived abroad too, and have come to learn that there are few countries, and that would definitely not be including the USA, that have a better system than Denmark. Denmark is the least corrupt country in the world together with Finland, while the US doesn't even make the top 15. In Denmark we care for the country, so when you say that for you paying 8% of your salary to cover medical care is more than you would've in the States, that's great, the point here, however, is that it gets more expensive because while you think about how YOU pay more, you forget that through these taxes you are no longer just paying for yourself, but also all the less fortunate. That is not something the USA can brag about. And when I look through the comments on this post, I see people feeling relieved. I can almost hear them thinking "Phew, I almost thought America was doing something wrong there." You are. Stop fooling yourself, the US is not perfect nor is Denmark, but we are a damn lot closer. At least we care for each other.

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  25. No, Mette, you're the one who should be ashamed. You should be ashamed for unleashing your wrath without reading my whole post.

    If you'd gotten to the end, you would've that seen my conclusion isn't much different from yours.

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  26. P.S. The majority of people commenting on this post either live in Denmark or have lived in Denmark, so they've experienced your system first hand and are perfectly able to draw their own conclusions, in either direction.

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  27. Wow, I wonder if the some of the Danes commenting here realize how ridiculously narrow-minded and provincial they sound. Sage, clearly you have no right to make ANY judgement of the country you are now paying out over half your salary to live in.

    As a fellow foreigner here, I can tell you that I am counting down the days until I get out, and that people like Nina and Mette (why are they always named Mette??) are a big part of the reason why. Have at it, you bizarro, nationalistic ladies who can't take what is hardly even a critique.

    Denmark needs foreigners to float the bloated welfare state. You need us to pay in and not take back. But you, ladies, drive us away. Good luck making it work without us.

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  28. Hey Danish ostriches, if you don't like what she wrote, shove your head back in your hole. Drink your nescafe out of your kaffekande and eat your kage and pronounce it hyggeligt, but bugger the F off.

    Personally, I'd take living in the states over living in this xenophobic, arrogant, CRAZY BORING, smelly place any day.

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  29. I'd say as a Dane that life in Denmark is pretty damn great. I've never had a single complaint to voice. That did however change when I got a foreign girlfriend and got to see the other side of the medal.

    This goes out on what Rasmus has previously said but... without wrapping it too much... here is the bottom line:

    WE REALLY REALLY HATE MUSLIMS HERE.

    It's sad that it's such a general thing, but it's true. People do try to get along, but I feel like the Muslims themselves are the ones at fault. They simply do not try to integrate themselves in the least, their crime rates are insanely high, they are violent, they are rude, they are racist as all hell towards Danes, and they establish themselves in ghettos with gang environments so bad that Danes steer clear of them completely.

    They are a problem, to the point where it is rather obvious, if you have the misfortune of living in an area where there are a lot of them.

    Remember the girlfriend I mentioned earlier? She says that she never had anything against "Arabians" as she generally chooses to call them, but after spending only half a year in Denmark, she came to dislike their rude and disrespectful behavior as well as FEAR them due to their violent attitudes and actions. I am not in any way imposing this on her, nor did I even bring the topic up to her before she did. It's just that bad of a problem, and that is way a racist party like DF could be in power for so long.

    As for your situation... I don't know THAT much about it as my girlfriend is a EU citizen... but she is basically allowed to be a pseudo-citizen after staying here for 5 years, where she will get all rights except the right to vote. Does this apply to you or not? Please do tell if you know, as I am rather curious.

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  30. Seriously, Mette? I applaud Sage for writing a well-balanced, thoughtful summary of her experience in Denmark, and I agree with her conclusion that perfection does not exist in the US or in Denmark -- both countries have positives and negatives, and can learn from each other (and more importantly from a number of other countries in the world), and the real ideal is most likely somewhere in between these extremes.

    I'm in Denmark now with my Danish husband, who spent the first 30 years of his life in DK and then 14 in various parts of the U.S. He is shocked at how many things in DK just don't work -- the inefficiency, the lack of accountability at all levels, the systems that seem set up to impede progress. Attempts to suggest to Danes that certain things could be improved or modified (based on how they are done in other locales and appear to lead to improved efficiency/results) are met with the typical response that if you don't like it, you should leave -- no constructive dialogue, just the "det skal nok gaa" attitude that is so prevalent. It is exhausting to be continually met with so much resistance to ever think that anything in this country could be improved. We're used to critiquing things that don't work in our homelands and trying to bring about change, and wish we would see a critical mass of Danes equally vocal about changing things here that don't seem very progressive.

    The other thing that amuses me is that when we do the math related to the tax burden here, it is assumed that we don't understand how taxes work. Trust us, we do. We get the concept of paying taxes for the public good and fully support that. Believe it or not, there are safety nets in the U.S. to cover the most vulnerable populations for healthcare -- they are far from perfect, but they do exist (see Medicaid, etc.). Do they need reform? Absolutely. I am a huge proponent of universal access to high-quality medical care (in fact much of my career has been related to this ideal) and I came here interested to see how the Danish health care system would provide that kind of care (especially given the extremely high price we pay compared to what we've had access to in the U.S.). To say it has been incredibly surprising to us to see how poor the quality of care is here compared to what we have been accustomed to is an understatement. In fact, I would go so far as to state that we have experienced negligence in terms of doctors not providing the appropriate standards of care to us. Denmark's objective health indicators are really poor compared to many countries (including its closest neighbors), so something is going on here that needs to be addressed to start improving health outcomes. Heck, check out the World Health Organization's ranking of national health systems -- Denmark checks in at #34 and US at #37 -- both quite poor, frankly, and not significantly different from each other!

    Sorry the post made you angry...I would hope it would make you reflective, if anything, and if you are angry because there are factual errors in it (I didn't see any but may have missed something) then by all means point those out and correct them. We're all intelligent adults here who appreciate facts and appreciate evidence-based learning, I suspect. Just because her experience and the experience of lots of other people doesn't mirror yours exactly doesn't mean that those experiences are somehow invalid. Our take-away message from our time in Denmark is that whether the U.S. or DK or another country is "best" is totally dependent on one's situation and circumstances. For our particular family, Denmark is not the right choice, for a host of reasons. For other families, it would absolutely make more sense for them to live in Denmark than in the U.S. There are far too many variables that go into that calculation for each individual or family, and it's just not possible to ultimately conclude that one country is better than another.

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  31. @ Brutalinax, Things are much more difficult for non-EU citizens, as we're all lumped into that Muslim group that you Danes admittedly love so much ;)

    After I've been in Denmark for 5 years, I can begin to apply for permanent residency, which has a distinct set of requirements, and is nothing I intend to pursue.


    @ Kathy, Thanks for the reality check. It's helpful to hear the Danish perspective in a non-confrontational way. As a single American expat, I don't have intimate access to Danish views on things, so it's nice to hear that I'm not too far off in my perceptions.

    And yes, if there are factual errors, please point them out. I did my best to fact check, but the internet being what it is, I might've missed something and it's not my intention to manipulate facts in order to support my position.

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  32. I also applaud Sage's response to the Huff Post article and wonder if the people who are so ready to critique her response actually read the article that spurred her into action?

    Her response is well-thought out and articulate and I appreciate the counter-balance to the HuffPo article.

    I am an EU and Canadian citizen that has been living in Denmark for about 3 years and Sage's response is realistic in my opinion. In our countries (UK/Canada/US/Germany), we discuss and debate as a normal course of action in an effort to improve situations - it is NOT condemning Denmark. My heartfelt wish for Danes is that you become confident enough to take on board that there are a lot of benefits to being here but a lot of things that need improvement WITHOUT becoming so defensive and pissed at people for having different experiences, opinions and expressing them. - why not direct that angry energy into helping Denmark solve its problems and become a thriving productive liberal state instead of defending the status quo ad infinitum?

    Every country has problems and ways in which their countries could work better - there are always government delegations going back and forth for that very reason: to learn about what each country does better in order to improve. Some areas I am aware of are Germany- recycling, Denmark- environmental policy, Canada-healthcare..etc etc.

    What does not work, and never will, is to take an immediate defensive stance (or play the blame game) and react from that position instead of listening and responding from a thoughtful and considerate space.

    Sage, thank you for being courageous enough to step out of your non-political blog to write this piece which I think is pretty objective, and I thank the Danes who have given thoughtful and constructive feedback and hope those who have given reactionary responses take the chance to self-reflect a bit and read through the article again.





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  33. Sage writes some balanced, thoughtful comparisons of Denmark with her home country, after many years in Denmark. And look what happens.

    THIS is why you don't get to hear the whole story. If anyone dares to pop their head out and even say "But prescription charges are a little steep...but I like a good welfare safety net", they are attacked. Their character is attacked. Their country is attacked. Their perspective is attacked. Their understanding of issues is attacked. Anyone that agrees with them is attacked.

    You don't agree. That's fine. So go after the points Sage makes.

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  34. First of all, I enjoyed reading the blog, and I found that I agree with most of your points. I do however not agree with the generalization about us Danes not caring, or not seeing the issues of our own society (Mostly referring to the comment section).

    We have a Danish saying, roughly translated: "Don't throw stones if you live in house made of glass". It means that if you don't have your own shit under control, don't come telling me how to control mine. This is why Danes don't act well to being criticized; Its not that we don't already know there is a problem, we just don't like taking criticism from someone who cant solve their own problems first.

    We are definitely not perfect, only dumb articles like that one would even try to imply so. But we are proud of how our society works, we are proud that no shit has ever hit the fan for a Dane, and left him or her living on the street with nothing to make the days go by. It may not be perfect, and sometimes it definitely isn't even close, but for most it does what it's supposed to do; Making sure that every Dane has the same possibilities - not based on location, wealth, family, w/e.

    As a last note, I do understand why you feel that paying all those danish taxes are not worth it for you. I know that some Danes feel the same way. Sadly I feel that everyone who looks at it like that, an annoyance, fails to understand why. Maybe the taxes wont benefit you, as long as you decide not to stay, but they benefit the entire Danish society. They help those who can't help themselves, those who are unfortunate, or mentally ill, they help everyone growing up to become what THEY want.

    That's what Denmark is about. Helping all of them, and not just a few.

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  35. Sage: It is not correct when you say that Dansk Folkeparti were "in power" for 10 years, because you make it sound like they were the only political party in power, which they were definitely not. In fact, they comprised only 14 % of the vote and seats in the parliament, making them the third largest party. They were not even part of the government (and so had no cabinet ministers), however the government parties (a coalition of the largest Liberal party and a moderately Conservative party) did depend on the parliamentary support of Dansk Folkeparti (a populist far-right anti-immigration party) in order to have the necessary majority to stay in power and not be toppled in a no-confidence vote in parliament.

    This in fact gave Dansk Folkeparti a large amount of power, even more power than their vote share and popular support would otherwise imply. They especially were very successful in pushing through very restrictive immigration laws that have made life miserable for many, if not most, immigrants trying to settle down in Denmark and become integrated citizens or inhabitants.

    That's because the main focus of Dansk Folkeparti and the main focus of their voters is the fight against multiculturalism in Denmark and the severe fight against any big amount of immigration. Therefore, the government in reality mainly let Dansk Folkeparti have the say when it came to immigraton policies, in order to secure their parliamentary support and "shut them up" a bit more on other political issues. It should be said that I (as an ethnic Dane and Danish citizen by birth, having lived here all my life) deeply disagree with most parts of their policy, including their strict immigration policies, as do a large amount of Danes, 76 % of which do not want stricter immigration laws than we already have, according to opinion polls from 2011. 48 % supported current immigration policies as they are now, 28 % wanted them to be further relaxed, only 24 % wanted to have immigration policies made even more strict than they are today.

    So yes, Dansk Folkeparti did indeed possess a large amount of influence, especially a huge power over immigration policy. It changed in the September 2011 election when the old government was voted out and replaced by a center-left coalition government that is not dependent on Dansk Folkeparti for a parliamentary majority.

    But Dansk Folkeparti were never ever the only ones in a powerful position in Denmark. You need to remember that only 12-15 % of Danes are voting for them, leaving 85-88 % who are NOT.

    At the last election, 87 % voted for parties that are NOT as restrictive as Dansk Folkeparti when it comes to immigration policy or social Conservatism for that matter. 61 % voted for centrist parties, 16 % voted for more far-left parties that are even more (extremely) favourable to immigration and softer immigration policy. 5 % voted for an economically right-wing but LIBERAL party that is also pro-immigration, another 5 % voted for a party which is in the middle when it comes to immigration. Dansk Folkeparti (the extreme anti-immigration party) has NEVER in its history gotten more than 14 % of the vote (2007), and they actually fell to 12,3 % in 2011.

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  36. Also, I want to correct the misunderstanding that the only way to get unemployment benefits when you're unemployed is through the employment insurance associations (A-kasser) where you can receive Dagpenge (meaning some sort of daily unemployment financing). Yes this kind of insurance is for those who are paying members of these associations. However, there is one other way you can get unemployment benefits WITHOUT having to pay for it through premiums or being a member of an A-kasse. It is called Kontanthjælp (literally meaning "cash help"), and it is a benefit (though not as high as Dagpenge) that you can apply for if you're unemployed, which is paid by the municipality (but largely financed by the state).

    In order to be entitled to Kontanthjælp, you may not be living with a spouse (in matrimony or a registered partnership) because in that case your spouse has a duty to provide for you, however you may be living with someone (sharing an apartment/house with someone else) and still receive Kontanthjælp, as long as you're not a cohabitating couple. You may not have more than 10.000 kroner (aproximately 1.800 dollars) on your bank account and you must sell any larger asset that is deemed "not necessary to have a reasonable living" (mainly meaning cars and overly expensive designer/luxury items). If you meet these criteria, you can apply for and receive "cash help" to provide for you, and you don't have to be a member of any association. Kontanthjælp is actually called a "transfer income" in Denmark because it provides the unemployed with an income which is transferred from the municipality as an uemployment benefit/income.

    How do you think a large amount of students living by themselves and being without a job support themselves? They support themselves through the receiving of Kontanthjælp. You would definitely know about this and the existence of Kontanthjælp by living in Denmark if you were properly informed about conditions and society here.

    Also, if you earn less than 42.000 kroner (7.500 dollars) you don't have to pay any taxes at all, except the 8 % in "Labor Market Contribution" that are mandatory for everyone and a general municipal contribution tax. The tax-free amount below 7.500 dollars is called your "Fribeløb", meaning "free amount" (a kind of tax allowance). I know it personally, because I'm earning below 7.500 dollars a month (I'm a 21-year-old student living at home) and I'm covered by my "Fribeløb" so I don't pay any taxes of those first 7.500 except 8 % "Labor Market Contribution" and municipal contribution tax. I also pay 0,94 % "church tax" as a member of the Danish National Church/State Church, but if I decided to leave the church I would not be paying this tax either.

    As of now, I receive a student benefit from the state each month of 500 dollars, which I'm entitled to because I don't have any other income (or get any unemployment or pension benefits) and I'm a student above 18 years in the midst of my Higher Education who is a Danish citizen. By the way, if I were living by myself and not still with my parents, I would be entitled to 1.000 dollars a month in student benefit instead of 500. Also, I can still receive this benefit in full if I have a job besides my studying, as long as I'm earning a total of less than 7.500 dollars a month (the work income and student benefit combined) which is my "free amount".

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  37. @ Brigitte, I lived in Connecticut, which also had one of the highest tax rates in the US, though not as high as CA, and not even in the neighborhood of DK taxes ;) I think the reason I feel that the 3 month visa situation is so unfair is because taxes are so high. I know I'd face a similar situation if I were on a work visa in another country besides Denmark, but it seems a number of other countries base your grace period on how long you've been working, and none (aside from DK's neighbors) have the high tax structure of Denmark. As I've written before, if I were to lose my job, I would be able to support myself, I just wouldn't be able to pay tax during that time, but I've already paid Denmark $100,000+ and taken very little in return. Given my contribution, ability to support myself, and ties to the country, 3 months is unreasonable and actually kind of cruel. Even if I'm unemployed, I still have to eat, keep a house, etc., so DK would still be collecting something off of me.

    @ Anders, I understand why taxes are so high, I just don't understand how I can afford to continue to pay them and still provide for myself during retirement ;) And yes, they do benefit the entire Danish society, though not to the same degree for everyone. While I'm living here, I consider myself part of the Danish society, but the high taxes do not benefit me and other foreigners at the same level as Danes. And as you point out, my own country is full of issues, so that brings me back to the feeling among expats that, "you never know how patriotic you are, until you move abroad." But that's the challenge of living abroad in a country with an economic system very different from my own. Danes are fortunate to not have to deal with these issues :)

    @ Kristian, Thanks for your long explanation of DF. I understand that Denmark's system is very different from the American 2 party system. So yes, you are right that DF wasn't "in power" in the same way we'd say in the US that the Republicans or Democrats are "in power," I'm not going to argue over semantics, my short point was that DF candidates were elected to office and had enough power and influence to pass policies that support their anti-foreigner views. As I've said before, I arrived in 2010 to the full effect of those policies. But yes, immigration policy is slowly improving since the last election, and I hope it continues on that path.

    Regarding unemployment benefits, as I said earlier, I'm not qualified to comment on that because my situation is simple, if I lose my job, I have to leave Denmark. But I don't see where anyone said that the only way to get unemployment benefits was through an A-kasse. Rasmus explained the difference between A-kasse and kontanthjælp, so I'm not sure who that comment is directed to. But given the requirements you say are necessary to qualify for kontanthjælp, it's pretty safe to say that most non-students aren't going to qualify, until they hit dire straits.

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  38. Correction on kontanthjælp: as a non-EU foreigner here on family reunification as several of the commenters are, we would be deported if we signed up for it and received it, even by error. Moreover, we'd be deported if the state gave our Danish partner public assistance, even if it was their error.

    I highly doubt a non-EU immigrant here on a green card would be eligible either.

    Nice dansplaining, though!

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  39. I said in the beginning of my post that this isn't meant to be a critique of the Danish system, I totally understand and respect the philosophy of the Danish system.

    The point of this post was to reply to the original article, as an American who's actually living here. A number of other Americans have also added their voices to the discussion, "thank you" to them for showing me that I'm not alone in my assessment of life here. Some days I've wondered, "is it just me?"

    "Tak" also to the Danes who have added to the discussion in a respectful and constructive way.

    But the comments (from both sides) have become long winded debates and personal attacks, neither of which are welcome here.

    I've deleted the worst offenders, and for the first time in the history of my blog, I'm closing comments.

    Now, let's get back to the recipes and pretty pictures :)

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