(alternately titled, we don’t know our asses from our elbows)
I cannot go through another bike to bus, walk, bike to office, repeat in reverse winter. I live in Scandinavia. The winters are frigid. It’s windy. It snows. It rains. I have asthma. The buses to and from work run once an hour and I have a very long hike to and from the bus stop.
I’ve been sucking it up like trooper, but a few weeks ago, the bus driver overcharged me for my ticket because he couldn’t change 400 DKK for a 338 DKK ticket, and my Danish isn’t good enough to hold my own in arguing about it. Then I got caught in a downpour and spent the morning in wet clothes. The combination of that, and staring down another Danish winter of biking and bussing has made me decide to look into getting a car.
From the beginning, it was the 180% registration tax and $8+/gallon gas that deterred me from getting a car. But actually, those were the least of my issues. The bigger issue is that I can’t legally drive here on a US license. Nevermind that people from the UK who drive on the other side of the road and the other side of the car can drive here on their UK licenses. *Sigh* I’m over wasting energy getting jacked up over that. Really.
When one moves to a new country on a work contract, they might expect the corporate relo department to have helpful information on topics like, “how do I get a Danish drivers license?” And on the surface, they do, except according to them, the process involves a first aid course (good luck finding one in English), about $3,000 for a “driving course,” and hiring a “government certified” translator for the test.
Given my 20 years of driving experience, clean record, and the “UK phenomenon,” there’s not a chance in hell that I’d be willing to plunk down $3,000 + 180% registration tax for the pleasure of driving some POS in this god awful climate. Call me stubborn, but I’ve got to draw the line somewhere.
Through a colleague, I was referred to an angel of a driving instructor, who gave me hope. He said that I’d need a Dr. certificate (a waste of about $100, but ok), and to pass a theory test that I could study for on my own, but for which I’d need to hire the translator, and voila, I could have a Danish license. Well, hallelujah!!!! Finally, there is hope in my rain soaked, bike weary world!
In the meantime, someone else referred me to the DK borgerservice website, which supposedly tells you how to convert a license, and it seemed even easier than that:
“Hvis du er udlænding med midlertidig bopæl i Danmark, kan du bruge et internationalt kørekort eller et gyldigt udenlandsk kørekort. Hvis du ikke har det, kan du få et turistkørekort udstedt hos politiet.”
Basically, it means if you live in Denmark for a certain period of time, you can use the license from your home country. Well, my work contract is for 3 years, and my visa is for 3 years, so if that’s not a certain period of time, I don’t know what is!
So, my driving instructor went to the borgerservice with a copy of my visa, my contract, and printouts of my license and the borgerservice page, and asked them to confirm that I’m able to drive on my US license. But noooooo, I have a CPR number and once you have a CPR number, you must convert your license. Well, since you can’t get a place to live, a bank account, or an income without a CPR number, I don’t know who that clause applies to and apparently, neither do they!
I finally met with my driving instructor, who needed to take my license to the Kommune so that I could waive in under the conversion requirements, not the new license requirements (e.g. skip the $3,000 in lessons and the first aid course). Everything seemed easy peasy, but if you’ve been following my move to Denmark at all, you know where this is going…
The Kommune wants to send my license to Copenhagen for “authentication.” OK, if I were going to fake a license, wouldn’t I just fake an EU license and skip all of this bullshit? Like that’s not bad enough, they’re saying I have to have it translated to Danish by one of those government certified translators.
But the borgerservice website says:
“Du skal medbringe en oversættelse af dit kørekort, hvis dit kørekort ikke er udstedt med latinske bogstaver, eller hvis det ikke findes i en oversættelse til tysk, engelsk eller fransk. Oversættelsen skal være udstedt af en translatør eller en af Rigspolitiet godkendt oversættere.”
Which means that if the license isn’t in Latin characters, or German, English, or French, it needs to be translated. I’m from the US, my license is from the US, it is written in English. Could there be something wrong with the system, if I, someone who barely speaks or reads Danish knows the borgerservice requirements better than the freaking borgerservice????
Someone’s gotta be taking the piss here.
So, I’m waiting for my instructor to sort that out, or to hear back from the government certified translator, whichever comes first. On principle, I’d like to make them accept my English license, but the weather is starting to turn and I want my damn license!!!
Oh, and the driving school doesn’t have English study materials, so I’m in the process of chasing those down, hopefully the library can help me. Otherwise, I’ll have to pull yet another rabbit out of a hat and I’m running out of tricks!
Throughout this move, I’ve tried to play by their rules, and not take a whiny “why do they make everything so haaaard for me, I’m an Amerrrrricaaaan” attitude. But come on! It seems just a little ridiculous to be jumping through hoops trying to follow the laws and processes of a place that doesn’t even know their own laws and processes.
Is it any wonder why more people are moving out of this place than moving in?
I’ll post more about Amsterdam soon, but at the moment, this license situation is sucking my will to live (and develop photos).
UGH! For the love of God.
How frustrating for you. Wouldn’t it be cheaper to fly over to the UK, take a week’s ‘crash’ course and get a licence that you can use? In defence of UK drivers, don’t forget that the Danes can come over here with their licence and drive on the wrong side of the road x
That’s a good idea… I checked it out and you need a permanent address in the UK. :( BUTTS
Fair enough Fran, I suspect American tourists can as well. Great idea and England is on my short “to visit” list :)
Thanks, Kelly for checking into that! Boo on the outcome :(
A blog reader (mange tak, igen!) has come through with an online sample test and place to order English study materials, so it looks like I can save my magic skills for a different dilemma!
My husband is in the midst of trying to get his Danish license as well. It’s been nothing but a pain. Would you mind sharing the name of that website? We’ve been beating our heads against a wall for a while. So frustrating…
Here’s the link to the study materials: http://www.saxo.com/dk/item/ordinary-cars-haeftet.aspx?searchkeyword=teoribog+engelsk
And here’s the link to the sample test: http://www.netkoerekort.dk/ (click “Engelsk” in the lefthand menu bar).
Good luck to your husband, my sympathies are with him!
Gas prices are in litres here so the price of gas isn’t 8+ USD for a gallon but around 30 USD per gallon since there are 3.78 litres to a gallon.
Sorry about the “negative” tone.
My husband and I drove with our US driver’s licenses for almost three years in DK. We bought a car and purchased insurance without issue. At one point I was pulled over(a random thing not for suspicion of anything other than driving from Kolding to Odense at 3 am) without issue. I agree about the price of cars, but keep in mind you will be able to sell it for the same price you paid essentially. Also, I have given the below advice to many other ex-pats at maximum frustration level because it always worked for me:
Walk down any gaagade and just shout,”I hate this f*cking country!”
Nobody even stares and I always fell in love with DK all over again within the next few days.
I’d excuse your “negative tone,” if you weren’t flat out wrong.
Gas is roughly $2.25/liter in Denmark $2.25 x 3.78 litres = $8.50
So like I said, gas is about $8+/gallon here :)