Hi! I’m Maria from the UK. I recently packed my bags (and 10 boxes of miscellaneous stuff) and moved from London to Aarhus to take a Master’s in International Studies. Before March of this year I had never even heard of Aarhus. I applied on a whim a week before the deadline but I am very glad I did.
London can be great – there are good bars and markets and theatres but most of it I found I could only enjoy if I had lots of money. You know who doesn’t have a lot of money – students and almost everyone paying London rents. Other downsides – the pollution, the hours spent on the Northern Line which I’ll never get back and the uneasy feeling that if someone had a heart attack on the underground then most people wouldn’t look up from their Metro newspaper.
Aarhus has many wonderful qualities – it has great bars, Aros the art gallery, a theatre which often shows things in English and the uni has a lake! Moving out here has given me the time and space to enjoy all these things properly.
This is a completely unscientific and unrepresentative take on life in Denmark using sweeping generalisations. To set the standard of accuracy – I’m not even a real Londoner, I only lived there for 3 years. That being said, there are some noticeable differences which I feel qualified to highlight.
- The Danes are as obsessed with hygge as we have been led to believe. They are all about having a cosy time.
- Commuting has a whole different meaning. I live in a flat which is half an hour by bus from the university. My friends here think I live in the middle of nowhere. This baffles me. I would have killed for this commute during any of the many times I stood on a Southern railway platform looking up at all the cancelled trains… BUT I NEED TO BE IN HACKNEY IN AN HOUR!
- There are bikes everywhere! I decided to join the craze and buy a bike – I was sure that eventually I’d be able to cycle the 13km into town. I was wrong. I made it half way once, locked up my bike and took a bus the rest of the way. I was so proud of myself. I told one of my Danish course mates and she really believed I was joking – “you can only cycle 7km?!”. I am determined to get there. The most remarkable thing about cycling here is that neither drivers nor pedestrians hate you. People give way and are cordial! It’s mad.
- Shopping here is weird. As a student on a budget, I have found it possible to live quite cheaply but it takes some practice. It’s not always obvious where you should go to buy things. It took me ages to find somewhere that sells routers. Ikea will always be your friend Rema-1000, Fakta and Netto have been useful places to buy general groceries.
- Apparently, they export all of their good bacon to the UK. I’m in a very strange position where I’m excited to go back home to the UK in order to eat Danish bacon.
- If you drink tea, stock up before you arrive.
- Friday bars are awesome. It’s a weird concept but I love it. Random rooms all over campus get transformed every Friday into cheap bars. Most of them are themed and run by specific subjects – I like the English bar here the most. There was a Harry Potter themed bar recently! You can usually get a beer for 10kr (£1.15 or so).
- The Danish are quite patriotic but in an adorable way. It’s nice to hear from Danes how much they like their country. There are Danish flags everywhere! About 1 in 10 houses I’ve seen (wild guess) have their own flagpole. In the UK, a house flying the Union Jack at any other time then the world cup would be a signal that you shouldn’t talk to them about Brexit. As an ‘international’, I hear from a lot of Danes about their good work-life balance and how taxes are worth it. Not that they need to convince me that spending on higher education is a bad idea….
- Danes talk about their weather just as much as we do. They also feel the same need to apologise for it to foreigners. It is the same as ours, I’m not bothered about it.
- I love that I can walk to a beach and a forest within half an hour. It was gorgeous in the summer and I look forward to making the most of the countryside again in the spring. Also, I forgot how many stars there are and how fresh the air can be.
- Finally, it is nice to live in a more equal society. Sure it has its problems, the far-right is rearing its ugly head here as well. In general though, gender equality and social mobility really mean something in Denmark.