Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton
I have been lucky enough to spend the last year living in Denmark – something I never expected to have the opportunity to do or to be able to do.
One of the biggest regrets about my time at University (Undergraduate) was that I never want on an exchange like many of my friends. To be fair, the reason for this was simple – I just couldn’t afford to go!
A year and a half after finishing my Theatre Studies MLitt and three years of struggling to find work in the area I wanted to be in. I had started to wonder what I could do to make a change, what I was doing wrong and why all my friends seemed to have transitioned into adulthood better than I.
So on a whim, I decided I needed to find the opportunities that everyone else seemed to be getting and open my own door to the future… it obviously wasn’t working for me in the UK… my answer? I applied for a Tourism & Consumer Studies Masters at Aalborg University and moved to Copenhagen, Denmark.
Just like my time at University, I had very little savings, but I wasn’t going to let this get in the way of using every opportunity studying abroad could offer me. This was a new chance and I wanted to make the most of it.
I was a little apprehensive, I have to say. I had never been to Denmark (never even met a Danish person), didn’t speak the language and had not been on a bike since I was a teenager.
But I had been promised by the popular media that Denmark was the happiest and most laid back country in Europe.
The Hard Parts
Although I had headed off to live in Scotland (300 miles away from my home and family) only ten years before, there was something a lot more scary about moving to a different country where I didn’t know anyone, the language and or if I was cut out to study at an international level.
But at the same time, I still felt safe – after all I was moving to be a student and I knew this offered me a lot more luxury than if I was completely migrating. After all, I know from working in Higher Education that Universities lookout and offer support to their students.
The savage game of looking for accommodation
But that didn’t stop the fact that it was really hard to find accommodation. Even just temporary.
This is because there is currently a housing crisis in Copenhagen, with a lot more people looking for accommodation than the number of places available.
This meant that it felt like I was in the Hunger Games when trying to find somewhere to live – and there are a lot of people praying on the internationals looking for accommodation and ripping them off. You really had to be on your game and replying to adverts within seconds, which quickly became a fulltime job in itself for the two months running up to leaving.
After a lot of failures, I finally secured somewhere to live two days before I was due to fly out – I was one of around 300 people who had replied to the accommodation post – but it still meant that I had to stay in a hostel for the first week before it would be ready.
I was lucky, the flat was relatively cheap (for Copenhagen), had a lovely landlord and was in the great location of Norrebro.
The Danish system is so hard to understand
In one aspect the Danish system is amazing, it is all connected together through the citizen number CRP (Nem ID), you update your address on one it updates it on all – health, local government, bank, work and university systems. Something which the UK could learn a lot from.
However, most of the information is only available in Danish, has lots of restrictions and will requirer constantly being on the phone or going from one office to another with multiple different copies of all your multiple documents in a particular order.
For example; to get a CRP number you need an address, to rent somewhere or set up a bank account you often need a CRP number… to get a job you need a CRP number and a Danish bank account… to get a bank account you need a CRP number and a job. So you often end up going around in circles.
Someone please please hirer me
English is the most spoken language in Denmark – something I felt very privileged and thankful for.
And I had been trying to learn Danish for 4 months before I moved there, and while I was doing relatively ok at learning to read and write it. I was finding it really difficult to speak – lots of strange sounding vowels my mouth simply has never formed before.
But, at least being a native English speaker would give me a leg up in trying to find work in such a cosmopolitan city right?
No, it really didn’t.
Understandably, every organisation I applied to work for – bars, restaurants and shops etc – wanted fluently speaking Danish and English. And despite having lots of experience, a willingness to get my hands dirty and actively learning the language, nowhere would hire me.
It was March by the time I finally got employed, I had been in the city for 7 months, had ran out of savings and had to ask my family for financial assistance and was questioning how long I could survive in the city before I would have to move back to the UK and work full time while finishing my course from home.
The job I finally got – thank you BDP – was even in my field of study!
I was to be a tour guide for cruise tourists to the city of Copenhagen throughout the summer season. This was awesome, not only did I get to learn the history, culture and fun facts about the city, I also met wonderful fellow Copenhagens and got to interact with the visitors who were exploring this wonderful city for the first time.
However, I did spend two months in training, preparing to start officially, and unfortunately this training was not paid.
Was worth it?
Honestly? Yes, it was hard at times (very hard) but it was also the best experience I could have asked for. And I would do it again in a heartbeat.
Before I moved to Denmark, I had very little confidence (in myself, my abilities or my intelligence), depression, constant migraines, stress and exhaustion. This was something that moving allowed me to really focus, assess and move on from. Not working meant that I was able to take the time to focus on me, want I wanted and as my friend says, really reinvent myself how I want to be seen. It was my new opportunity.
Living in Copenhagen is great, there is a lot to see and do in Copenhagen for free or on a budget, lots of good quality healthy food and very little junk food. I lucked out with the weather and was able to spend most of my weekend’s sightseeing, taking in the culture or just enjoying a coffee and morning walk in the park.
I also got to meet amazing people who really care about the world and the impact we have on it and others. Made friends from across the world and was inspired by the people and way of life (which encouraged the choosing family over work) on a daily basis.
And how can I forget the amazing pastries!
A heartfelt thank you – Mange Tak Danmark
While I fully believe my time in Denmark is at an end – it is simply too hard to live there without being fluent in the language and having a very good job to support you – I will forever be grateful for the opportunity to study and bask in the lifestyle for the 9 months I was there.
I am leaving you a much happier and confident person, who now knows that life doesn’t have to be being constantly exhausted and doubting yourself. I have new friends for life, who I am excited to visit all across the world and I also got to eat some amazing food – which I will be talking about in another post.
I will definitely be a future frequent visitor to your shores.
Plus, you have also opened the door for my next adventure… Australia!