Random Thoughts from the land of Vikings

Mrs. T, Baby T.1.0, Baby T2.0, and I are spending a month in Denmark visiting family and friends. This is my 7th time visiting Denmark and the country is feeling like a second home to me.

When we started looking for flights to Denmark, we were shocked by how much it would cost to fly out of Vancouver Airport. The airfare started at $1,500 CAD (~$1,150 USD). Given that both kids are over 2 now, the cost for flying 4 people to Denmark was getting significant.

Thanks to Google Flights, we were able to search for cheaper alternatives. One of the cheaper alternatives was to fly out of Seattle Tacoma Airport. As it turned out, the tickets were about $750 CAD (~$575 USD) each. Half the price compared to flying out of YVR!

And since the departure flight time was in the afternoon and the return flight would land in the morning, we didn’t need to stay extra nights in a hotel near Sea-Tac (i.e. spend more money). All we needed to do was pay the parking fee for our car.

Rather than spending over $6,000 CAD for airfare, we decided to fly out of Sea-Tac to save us close to $3,000. It was a no-brainer!

If you could recall from our last month stay in Denmark about 1.5 years ago, we had a little incident at Frankfurt airport. On the way back home we were flying from Billund with connections in Frankfurt and Calgary. Our Billund to Frankfurt flight was delayed which meant that we had very little time to catch our connecting flight. We ran like crazy when we arrived in Frankfurt, carrying one kid in our arms each. We made it to the boarding gate and the agents were still helping many passengers to board.

Unfortunately, we were denied boarding even though we had valid boarding passes and travel documents (we never found out the reasons). We were told that we got rerouted to return Vancouver via Beijing. We thought it was a ridiculous idea to fly halfway around the world to return home, especially with two little kids. So we ended up staying in Frankfurt one night and took the same Frankfurt-Calgary, Calgary-Vancouver flights home on the next day.

Flying halfway around the world with 2 young kids didn’t make sense.

According to European Air Passenger Rights, we were entitled to 600 euros per person for being denied boarding on a flight longer than 3,500 km. When we got back to Vancouver in January 2017, we filed complaints to both Air Canada and Lufthansa. But both airlines denied responsibility for our little incident at Frankfurt airport. It was extremely frustrating dealing with both airlines. Not willing to give up, we sent the file to the German authority responsible for the European Air Passenger Rights. About a month later, we got a generic letter from the German authority stating they were investing the case.

Then it went completely quiet for over a year.

Shortly after we booked our Denmark flights for this year’s trip, we received an email from Lufthansa stating that they were ready to pay us the 600 euros compensation and asked for our mailing address. Delighted to hear this news, we quickly replied back with our mailing address stating we’d accept compensation for 4 people (2,400 euros). A few weeks later, we received a cheque worth over $3,800 CAD. Then a few weeks later, we got a letter from the German authority stating that Lufthansa had agreed to pay out the compensation and we should expect a cheque in the mail.

Woohoo, the little guy (us) had won against the airlines! Essentially our 2018 Danish trip was entirely paid for.

Nice!

We were so glad that the European Union had set up such laws to protect air passengers. Too bad there are no such protections for US and Canadian originated flights.

 

While in Denmark, I got a pre-paid SIM card for 49 DKK (~$10 CAD/$8 USD). The SIM card came with 10 DKK worth of talk time/SMS/data. Given that I had to work remotely for 2 weeks while in Denmark and I would be calling co-workers a lot, I knew I had to get a top-up package.

As it turned out, Lebara, the cellular provider, had a 30-day prepaid package for 99 dKK (~$20 CAD/15.50 USD) that would offer the following:

  • 60 GB of data
  • 10 hours of talk time to Denmark + 50 countries (Canada and US included)
  • 3000 SMS within Denmark

Just before we left Canada, I was looking for a cheap cellphone package for Mrs. T. Although her Freedom Mobile cellphone rate of $25 per month was cheap, the coverage was terrible. She would often not get coverage or non-home coverage (cost extra to call & text). I went to Rogers, Bell, and Telus stores and asked for the cheapest monthly cell phone packages.

As it turned out, $25 was the cheapest package I got were from Bell and Telus, and you’d only get ~200 minutes of talk time, 100 free SMS, and unlimited weeknights and weekends.

In comparison, the pre-paid package from Lebara was 1,000 times better than anything the Canadian carriers were able to provide. It’s ludicrous how much we Canadians are paying each month for cell phone packages! For example, my work pays for my cell phone and my phone bill would usually be over $100 a month!

As a dividend growth investor, it certainly makes sense to invest in the Canadian carriers like Rogers, Telus, and Bell, because they are making money hand over fist!

When I talked to my father-in-law about Lebara’s CHEAP prepaid package, he told me that it was quite expensive for Danish standard!

Apparently, they pay around 25 DKK per month, which included a lot of talk time, unlimited SMS, and lots of data.

Crazy!

 

—-

From talking to Mrs. T’s family and friends, the Financial Independence Retire Early (FIRE) concept seems to be a very foreign concept to them. I do wonder whether the FIRE concept is spreading in Denmark or not. Looking at the Rockstar Finance Forum, only 3 Danish bloggers were listed (obviously not a 100% true representation). A quick search on Reddit /EuropeFIRE on Denmark/Dane gave me zero results. Weird.

Interestingly enough, Mrs. T’s uncle retired from his full-time job a few years ago in his mid-50’s. He was a bit of an exception though as he had been working internationally and had not lived in Denmark for over a decade.

Maybe the lack of interest in FIRE is due to the awesome Danish social benefits? As far as I know, if you are unemployed, you are entitled to employee insurance (EI). If you are still looking for a job after a certain period of time, the government would place you in a temporary position for a few months. After the temporary position is finished, if you are still looking for a job, you can start collecting EI again (don’t take my words 100%, I may have the wrong understanding).

There’s probably a reason Danes are the happiest people on earth.

As you may know, Mrs. T and I plan to move to Denmark and Taiwan in the near future and live in each country for a couple of years. This is so our kids can learn more Danish and Mandarin and connect with their parents’ cultural roots.

Unfortunately, the Danish immigration laws are pretty strict, so the easiest way for me to live in Denmark for an extended period of time is to find a job and apply for a work visa (kind of defeats the purpose of FIRE, oh well). When Mrs. T and I talked to her parents about us moving to Denmark and finding a job for me, they would make the following comments:

“Both of you would need to work, you need double income to live in Denmark.”

“Living in Denmark is a lot more expensive than Canada.”

I am not sure if I completely agree with them though. Some people have said that single income is not possible in a high cost of living city like Vancouver, but we are doing it. While we are in Denmark this time, I plan to take a closer look at cost of living and find out more details about living in Denmark one day.

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20 Comments

  • Reply
    Joe
    August 8, 2018 at 7:41 am

    Oh man, that’s crazy at Frankfurt. I never had that problem and hope not to. Are you on some kind of no-fly list? What a mess. Good job fighting them and winning. Score one for the little guys.
    Denmark sounds like a great place to live for a few years. Can we come visit while you’re there? 🙂

    • Reply
      Tawcan
      August 9, 2018 at 7:11 am

      I think they probably flagged us because we were travelling with little kids. The other passengers on the Billund flight that needed to get on the Calgary flight all got on without any problems. That’s why we were pretty mad at the time. Oh well.

      Yup you sure can come and visit us in Denmark.

  • Reply
    Ms ZiYou
    August 8, 2018 at 8:02 am

    Hi Tawcan – enjoy your time in Denmark – your kids are so lucky to get such fun trips at a young age.

    And that would be awesome if you managed a few years living there – I’m sure if you are frugal you can live on one income no problem, especially if it’s a decent income.

    • Reply
      Tawcan
      August 9, 2018 at 7:11 am

      Thanks Ms ZiYou. The kids have been coming to Denmark quite regularly now. Baby T2.0’s Danish actually got better on this trip, which is pretty cool.

  • Reply
    Owen @ PlanEasy.ca
    August 8, 2018 at 10:44 am

    That’s amazing you got $3,800 back! I’m happy if I find a toonie in my bedside drawer : )

    Mind you, I have two small children too and your experience sounds like a nightmare, so I’m glad you got something out of it!

    • Reply
      Tawcan
      August 9, 2018 at 7:12 am

      Very glad we got out on the good end with the flight disaster. Really hope US and Canada would have something similar to protect air passengers.

  • Reply
    Ehlersfinance
    August 8, 2018 at 11:46 am

    Hi Tawcan,

    I hope you enjoy your vacation inDenmark

    I am Danish and Living in Denmark.

    You Are right, the FIRE community is very small, almost NOT existing here in Denmark. I do Think that many danes would like to get the freedom from financial independence. But I am NOT sure they Are willing to do whats required.

    There Are 2 years of employee insurance, which gives you around 12,500 DKK after taxes every Month, thats around 1,984 USD a Month.

    • Reply
      Tawcan
      August 9, 2018 at 7:13 am

      Wow 2 years of employee insurance at almost $2,000 USD per month. That’s quite generous of the government for sure.

  • Reply
    DivvyDad
    August 8, 2018 at 12:02 pm

    Enjoy your trip to Denmark! When I was with my former employer, I spent a good deal of time there in Roskilde, Taastrup, and Copenhagen. Loved visiting Denmark!

    Hopefully you have a smoother experience this go-around, but that’s great that you finally received the proper compensation for the last mixup.

    • Reply
      Tawcan
      August 9, 2018 at 7:13 am

      Very cool, Denmark is a pretty great country for sure and it seems that everyone knows English. 🙂

  • Reply
    Physician on FIRE
    August 8, 2018 at 5:04 pm

    Glad to hear you guys were compensated for the mixup — how strange.

    I love the fact that you plan to spend extended periods of time in both your native countries. There’s no better way for your kids to understand where they come from than to live it themselves.

    Cheers!
    -PoF

    • Reply
      Tawcan
      August 9, 2018 at 7:14 am

      Yes very strange, hopefully, this time we will have better luck.

      It would be pretty amazing if both kids can speak fluently in English, Danish, and Mandarin. If they pick up other languages, even better.

  • Reply
    Roadmap2Retire
    August 8, 2018 at 5:22 pm

    Thats great you got compensated for the airline problems. Too bad we dont get that kind of protection in N.America and are prone to the predatory methods of Air Canada and other airlines.

    Good to see that you are planning out and exploring options to move there. Denmark will be a great place to grow up for the little ones, if you do end up moving.

    cheers
    R2R

    • Reply
      Tawcan
      August 9, 2018 at 7:15 am

      Yea no kidding, I had a few bad experiences with Air Canada and United and didn’t get any compensations. 🙁

  • Reply
    Mr. Tako
    August 9, 2018 at 12:27 am

    Yeah, I realized a few years back what an oligopoly the Canadian cell phone market was. After some research I bought some Telus shares and did pretty well with them.

    Today however, I don’t think these companies are great investments (at current prices). They’re overloaded with debt and have insanely high payout ratios. I think there’s better values to be had elsewhere.

    But yes, cell phone bills are quite high in Canada.

    • Reply
      Tawcan
      August 9, 2018 at 7:16 am

      Yea thought about buying more BCE with the recent price slide but the payout ratio is just too high to justify buying more. There are better companies out there right now IMO.

  • Reply
    Wealthy Content
    August 10, 2018 at 3:14 am

    Ah man I am flying through Frankfurt return trip in September. I really hope this does not happen as the schedule is already very tight. On the cost of flights, it is cheaper to fly via Europe from South Africa to the US or Canada compared to the direct flights, just shows you supply/demand and convenience trumps actual cost when competition is low.

    • Reply
      Tawcan
      August 16, 2018 at 11:16 am

      Hopefully you won’t run into the same issue as us. If you did, at least you know you might be able to get some compensations.

      It’s crazy that flights to Asia are cheaper than flights to eastern Canadian/US cities.

  • Reply
    Runi
    August 17, 2018 at 3:56 pm

    There is now a Facebook group called “FIRE i Danmark” (FIRE in Denmark) with more than 600 members, so it would seem that the FIRE community is growing a bit here. Here is the group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1145367158930357

    • Reply
      Tawcan
      August 20, 2018 at 2:50 am

      Cool, good to know, thanks!

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