Melanie Haynes lives in Copenhagen with her British husband and six-year-old son, Noah…

We moved here in 2008 looking for a change and an adventure. Within three months we knew this was where we wanted to live long-term. Circumstances meant that we lived in Berlin for eighteen months in 2011/2012 but as soon as we could, we returned here. It’s funny as I never pegged myself as a city person but as Copenhagen is such a small place it works. Close proximity to the sea also helps. I grew up in quite a rural area so living comfortably in a city was a big change for me.

Before we moved I was working as Head of PR for a not for profit in the UK and my life was a blur of stress, meetings, and grabbing fun when I could. I suddenly realised I wanted more from life so when the opportunity to move abroad with my husband’s work came up we jumped at it. My son starts school at 8am at an international school 45 minutes from our apartment. Once I’ve dropped him off my work day starts. I run my own relocation business so every day is different. Sometimes I meet with clients or prepare local information packs for them, other days I am writing my blog or for a media outlet, or researching new things in the city.

Once I collect my son at 2pm we either head home to play, have a play-date or, when it’s warm, go for a walk, visit a museum or swim in one of the harbour pools. Playgrounds here are great but increasingly I find my son enjoys ‘doing something’ in his down-time. The museums here are so geared towards children and many are free so they are some of our favourite places to go — oh and Tivoli, the famous amusement park, in the centre of the city. My son is quite the photographer so loves to take his camera out and about. I love to see his view of our city through the lens.

Most children stay in after-school clubs here until around 4pm if both parents work so this is the time they have more unstructured play. In the international community play-dates are a bigger thing as mums tend not to work full-time. We enjoy play-dates where the kids do something outside, particularly in the warmer months as winters are long here and it’s good to get outside in the sunshine. Play-dates tend to be pretty casual. I have a good rapport with ‘school-gate mums’ (and dads) but in our school everyone lives in different parts of the city so we miss something of a local school community. For children attending local schools this is very different.

The best thing is the feeling of safety in the city. Children travel to school alone by bike or public transport from as young as nine years old and this is considered normal and safe. I am not sure I am comfortable with this but it is good to know it is safe enough to consider. I like that most things are family-orientated rather than child-focused, if that makes sense. So restaurants welcome families rather than catering just to kids, so it is enjoyable for everyone without feeling like a zoo.

The other big thing is the family-friendly nature of work-places. Danes value their spare time so don’t work long and unnecessary hours. My husband is easily home by 6pm everyday and has the flexibility to come to school events. Last year I had a serious accident and he had to step into the role of day-to-day parenting; collecting my son from school, being with him in the afternoons and food shopping and preparation and his bosses were nothing but supportive.

We live in a two-bedroom late 19th century apartment in one of the main central city neighbourhoods. It is small by British standards but normal for a family to live in here. It is open, bright and airy. However recently we have started to feel we are fed up of hearing other people’s noise and as my son gets older, we would like more space and a garden. We are in the process of looking for a small villa (detached house) in one of the ‘flower districts’, slightly further out of the city but still less than 20 minutes from the city centre by Metro and closer to the beach and my son’s school.

I run my own business so I am able to be flexible. I do my best to be present when I am with my son and if I need to work my husband steps in. Most Danish women work and the excellent and very affordable childcare from the baby stage makes this possible. Danish society is very open to families and also people tend to respect your way of doing things. It is rare to find family restaurants as all places, except the very posh, welcome babies and children. Changing tables in toilets and high chairs are widely available. Public transport is geared up for prams and buggies. Breastfeeding here never causes a stir and you see mums doing it everywhere from shopping centre benches to cafes. I would regularly nurse in public and I only ever got positive comments and reactions.

I must admit that stay-at-home mums do cause some confusion amongst Danes who in the main return to work seven to 12 months after their baby is born. But I never felt judged openly about it (I was a SAHM until my son was three) although people did ask if I felt I wanted to ‘do something for me?’. There is a strong culture of dads being very much involved in family life which I find refreshing.

Melanie Haynes writes about life in Copenhagen on her blog Dejlige Days and on the Huffington Post and runs a relocation and settling-in service aimed at helping expats find their feet in the city, called Dejlige Days Welcome 


More in Regulars

Writers Bloc #1 Val McDermid

By , 25th September 2018
Features, Regulars
From imposter syndrome to plotting, in a new series for Marie Claire authors give me chapter and verse on how the writing process works for them - starting with multi award-winning crime writer Val McDermid, who has written 32 books in as many years

The Lives of Others #6

By , 23rd July 2018
Education, Features, Regulars, Travel
Georgie Higginson moved from the UK to Uganda 14 years ago. After losing their daughter to stillbirth, she and her husband were inspired to build a lodge on the banks of the River Nile, overlooking Murchison Falls National Park - an area once occupied by LRA rebels

Global Village #6

By , 9th July 2018
Design, Features, Regulars, Travel
Designer Kate Pietrasik lived in London, Edinburgh, New York and Byron Bay before moving to a town near Biarritz when her daughter was four years old. She reflects on life as a 'blended family', running her own business, and the joy of being rootless

Global Village #5

By , 21st May 2018
Regulars, Travel
When Rosalind Miller's daughter was born, the medical student was determined having a child wouldn't stop her moving to India to carry out her PhD field work. She reflects on swapping London for a local community in Bangalore with a toddler in tow

Global Village #4

By , 14th May 2018
Education, Regulars, Travel
From Scotland to Costa Rica (via East London, New York and Mexico). Mother-of-four Abigail Pilcher talks multiple relocations, opening – and closing – a guesthouse, and how a holiday to Turkey inspired the move of a lifetime