Denmark is a rich country, but does it have rich people?
It does, but Denmark’s wealthy tend to keep a low profile, due to the informal Jante Law that prohibits too much showing off.
That said, spring and summer is great time to see Danish rich people in their natural habitat.
That’s when they put the roof down on their expensive German cars and drive through the medieval old towns, drink rosé chilled in silver buckets at fancy outdoor cafés, or sail through the harbor on their personal boats of various sizes.
In the summer, Denmark’s rich come out to play.
Two types of wealth
There are two types of wealth in Denmark, old wealth and new wealth.
Old wealth is the leftovers of Denmark’s nobility, Dukes and Counts and Barons, even though noble privileges were officially abolished in 1849.
Many of these families still own their old castles and country houses, some of which have been turned into hotels or fancy restaurants. You can stay there for a weekend with your sweetheart. Very romantic.
And then there’s new wealth. Denmark’s richest man owns Bestseller, a fast fashion chain that owns names like Vero Moda and Jack & Jones.
The heirs to LEGO, which is less than 100 years old, are also quite well off, and so are the heirs to the Ecco shoe fortune.
Every country, it seems, has a city or region that is the butt of jokes. The rest of the country makes fun of the locals’ abrasive accents and supposedly low-end behavior.
In the United States, it’s New Jersey. In Sweden it’s Skåne, the area close to Denmark that includes Malmo. I’ve been told that in England it’s Essex, in Scotland it’s Aberdeen, and in Ireland it’s Kerry.
In Denmark, it’s Randers.
Randers is a city in Northern Jutland, about a half hour away from Aarhus. It used to be bigger than Aarhus, and bigger than Aalborg too, but it was a manufacturing town, and when manufacturing fell apart in Denmark after the Second World War, so did Randers.
Today, the stereotype of Randers locals involves muscle meatheads, possibly criminal, possibly in some sort of motorcycle gang, with a rough, gravelly accent, and lots of tattoos and leather.
And that’s just the women. The men are the same, but with shorter haircuts.
Getting to Sweden from Copenhagen is easy: you take a quick trip across the Øresund Bridge in your car or on the train. Getting to Norway from Copenhagen isn’t too hard: there’s a ferry that runs every day from Nordhavn.
Getting to Germany from Copenhagen, on the other hand, is a headache.
If you don’t want to fly or take the long way around through Jutland, you need to head for the little Danish town of Rødbyhavn, on the island of Lolland. Then your train or car or truck drives into the belly of a giant ferry. Then you get off on the other side in the little German town of Puttgarten and continue along your way.
The giant ferries are fun. Up top, they have duty-free shops and game arcades and restaurants where you eat very quickly, because it’s only about a half-hour trip.
But, as of 2029, the trip will be a lot quicker and a lot easier.
That’s when the tunnel between Denmark and Germany is scheduled to open.
Along with food and housing, getting around is a big part of the cost of living in Denmark. In fact, the less you spend on rent, by living outside of the most expensive downtown zones, the more you’re likely to spend on transport.
And no matter what the tourist brochures suggest, you probably won’t go everywhere on a bike in Denmark. Bikes are great in downtown Aarhus or Copenhagen, or in a campus-type area like DTU in Lyngby.
But the further you get outside of urban areas, the more useful a car is. That’s why there are 2.5 million personal cars on the road in Denmark plus 0.5 million “business cars.” Three million cards on the road means roughly one for every two people.
Cars are brutally expensive in Denmark, and if you live far away from mass transport, you might be stuck buying one.
Otherwise, there are many ways to lower your cost of transport in Denmark by getting around for less, and it has a lot to do with how well you plan.
And the Danes are, in general, very good advance planners.
Incredibly cheap train tickets
My personal favorite way to cut the cost of transport in Denmark are the Orange train tickets you can get for incredibly cheap prices if you book in advance.
I was stunned to find that you can get from one side of Denmark to the other – from Copenhagen to Esbjerg, to be precise – for only 99 kroner.
That’s cheaper than a 10-minute trip in a Copenhagen taxi. And it’s 3 1/2 hour journey.
While a car is useful for exploring the Danish countryside, a car in one of Denmark’s larger cities can be a millstone around your neck.
The traffic is terrible, the fuel costs stratospheric, the parking spaces doll-sized. Bicyclists own the road and often ignore traffic rules.
If you’re just visiting, don’t feel you need to rent a car when you land at the airport.
Even if the home or business you’re visiting is in the suburbs, there’s a good chance you’ll save money by taking a cab – and most Danish taxis are Mercedes-Benz or Teslas. (There is no Uber or Lyft in Denmark.)
Watch out for bicyclists
If you do choose to drive in the city, be very careful about right turns.
Several Danish bicyclists are killed every year because a car or truck took a right turn and the bicyclist (who may be drunk, grooving out to music on his earbuds, or simply not paying attention) continued going straight.
There is no legal right turn on red in Denmark, and even on green, the bicyclist has the right of way.