At last I have my first update of life in Copenhagen! It’s quite a long one but I wanted to be as detailed and honest as possible I could be without being boring. The first part will, I hope, be useful to those thinking about moving here and the second part is really just my personal feelings and experiences about living with the Vikings. I hope the next instalment in this blog won’t be far away and hope you enjoy this read.
Anyone looking for a place to live, whether it be an entire apartment or just a room within one, will tell you that the best way to get something decent is to use your contacts. Find places through friends and by recommendations. This of course would have been an ideal way for me to find somewhere, however, it wasn’t really an option given that I was moving somewhere with few acquaintances. I’m not sure if this website works in countries outside of Denmark but I found Findaroomate.dk to be very good for finding a room. You pay around £15 per month to be able to apply to ads, which I liked because it meant that the people posting ads were paying too, leaving less room for scams (this happens on Facebook pages frequently). After about a week of applying I got a message from a girl living semi-centrally and so, after facetiming a few times, and talking through the rental agreement, I decided to go ahead with it. In Denmark you can pay up to 3 months rent as your security deposit (no thanks), but the room I got only required one month’s which was great. Another thing to note is that the price advertised per month usually includes bills and wifi here, which is fab. The less hassle the better in my opinion! To give you a point of reference, I am currently paying 4500kr (around £560) per month and that includes my rent, wifi and bills.
Once I moved in it was time to start getting my documentation and legal stuff sorted. In order to live and work in Denmark you need a CPR number (Danish version of a national insurance number). I was under the impression that I would get this within a few days but unfortunately this was not the case. In order to apply for a CPR number you need to first apply for an EU residence permit, which takes up to two weeks to be processed and issued. I did not know this at the point of moving and to be honest I hadn’t financially planned to be unable to work for that long. Another thing I didn’t know was that in order to apply for the EU residence permit you need to submit the application alongside a work contract. To me this doesn’t really make sense because I was essentially having to go to interviews saying ‘please give me a job but I won’t legally be able to start working for up to 3 weeks’. I was extremely lucky in that I was offered a job as a bartender at a Scottish bar (I know), in town. They were also prepared to wait until my CPR number came through which was very understanding and made the process slightly less stressful. However, not everyone will be this lucky and so I suggest having a good amount of savings behind you before making the move.
In between applying for the permit and waiting for it to come through I was a little stuck. I couldn’t open a bank account without a CPR number and I couldn’t get a phone contract without a bank account. It seemed to me to be one big chain that stopped you moving onto one thing without the other. No skipping steps allowed. This meant that everyday for two weeks I was doing nothing. No exaggeration. Nothing. I think I got through an entire season of the Real Housewives in a day. A DAY. During these first two weeks I found it really hard to stay positive. Before I moved I had these big ideas of what it was going to be like and I was impatient for those expectations to become reality. I hadn’t thought about the boring administration stuff that needed to be taken care of first and it was really hard. I didn’t know a lot of people, everything was foreign, and I missed my family and friends a lot.
Of course, things started looking up. My residence permit came through and then I got my CPR number which meant I could start working. It gave me a purpose and a reason to get out of bed, which I definitely needed after two weeks of feeling like a complete bum. I also took it upon myself to look up dance classes. I needed something to do on the days I wasn’t working and I figured a little exercise couldn’t hurt either. I joined a really cool dance studio that offers classes in barre, hip hop, dancehall, and 80’s aerobics (deceivingly intense) among other things. The dance classes combined with working really lifted my mood and definitely helped me to feel more settled. I now feel like I am carving out a life for myself here (largely helped by a real family vibe at work). People hang out together outside of shifts and it really makes a difference to someone like me who moved here alone.
A little practical note for someone planning to move to Copenhagen or even someone that needs to live here for longer than a weekend. The shop Lidl in the UK is considered to be very cheap and cheerful for what it offers. It is NOT cheap in Copenhagen. To be fair, nothing is cheap in Copenhagen. A latte in a chain coffee shop will set you back around £6. But once you get over the sickening price of such things, the taste is pretty good. But yes, back to supermarkets. The usuals like milk, eggs, bread, etc are not that different in price. However, everything else is considerably more expensive. I have also found there is a distinct lack of variety in the shops here. For example, when buying pasta sauce in the UK, you’ll be met by around 10-12 different brands to choose from. In Denmark there are approximately 2-3. This makes decision making a lot easier but has definitely narrowed down my options. My advice would be to shop around and try your best to make things from scratch. It works out cheaper that way and you don’t feel like you’re being robbed in broad daylight quite as much. If you’re here for the weekend, I would recommend Airbnb so you can cook some meals in the apartment and then maybe go out for one per day. Eating out here is extortionate if you’re not on a Danish salary (fajitas in a chain restaurant worked out at around £17 and a pint of coke was a tenner). Having said that the salaries here are a lot higher. That’s why the cost of food and living doesn’t worry me too much. Once I start earning a full salary here it is definitely doable. I work in a bar and make around £17 per hour before taxes and that’s not including tips. This is would be unheard of in the UK and is almost three times the minimum wage. A full time working week is also considered to be 37 hours which sounds good to me. So in conclusion, if you’re planning to live in Denmark don’t worry too much about how expensive everything seems, it evens itself out. If you’re planning to visit Copenhagen for the weekend and want to eat out and see the sights, I think three months wages should do it.
Now I can’t finish this post without mentioning liquorice. I hate the stuff, I think it is the work of the devil but people here bloody LOVE it. Liquorice ice cream, salted liquorice sweets (shrivel up your tongue salty), liquorice chewing gum, everything. I bought a packet of wine gums and went for the black one thinking it was blackcurrant. It was not. Nothing further.
As fun and as exciting as I hoped my first blog post in Copenhagen would be, I felt it was better to keep it honest. The beginning of my experience here has definitely not being easy, and every time I try to do something or think I’m starting to figure it out, something else seems to pop up or happen that knocks me back. However, I love this city, and I love what I’m doing or trying to do here and am determined to give it a fair chance. I am excited to have people start visiting me. My best friend just left after a fabulous 3 days here and that really left me on a high. My parents get here in a month which I am looking forward to greatly. I think it’s these reminders of home that really put into perspective what I’m doing and make me proud of my decision to move. I have no doubt that in 20 years time I’ll be thankful for this experience and I just need to remember that when I’m feeling a bit down. The weather is improving and I’m looking at picking up a second job to fill out my time, so it can only go up from here.
The next step for me is to enrol in some Danish classes. Everyone speaks English but there are a few older people who really object to people living here and not speaking the language, which is completely justifiable. I don’t want to be ignorant, and even if I learn enough to have a brief conversation with a customer, that’ll be good enough for me. I plan to not leave it so long before I post another update so make sure to sign up for the email alerts to make sure you don’t miss the next one.