Coming to a place that is entirely different from where you’ve been can be a little bit nerve-wracking. But coming from a third world country to a rich one is insanely a different story.
Like what most of the 700,000+ expats living in Denmark today probably went through, the first few weeks is always both fun and critical. Securing legalities and adjusting to new customs and ways of living is no joke.
As mentioned earlier in the disclaimer, the purpose of this blog is, basically, to narrate my experiences here in Denmark, specifically in Copenhagen as a foreigner/expat.
I came to Denmark in 2014 via the au pair scheme. I’m from Asia, specifically the Philippines where roughly majority of au pairs here in Denmark come from. Under the au pair scheme, for those who are not familiar with the term, you are to live with a host family for two years, experience life in Denmark, and learn their culture, language and ways of living. The scheme is also being offered in some other Schengen countries like Norway, Netherlands, etc.
Seeing the place for the first time, it was remarkable to me how organized things were. The roads are clean and well-maintained, the trains were not congested, and everything was high-tech and centralized. I was known thru my CPR number (civil person registry) and was using a single travel card going around the city. Going places was never a problem as every place could be found via GPS. There’s no such thing as getting late as well, as transportation is easy and on time whether it’s taxi, bus, or train.
Økologisk Means Healthy
In Denmark, I was introduced to eating økologisk food or food that was organically produced. Kids at a very young age are being made aware of the importance of healthy living and active lifestyle through sports and after school activities. People take time to run, go to the gym or cycle. You have to be really careful walking on the streets as Denmark is a biking (cycling) country. Danes bike to work, to school, and to friendly meetings all four seasons. I was lucky to have my own that I used to bike around with my friends. Otherwise, I would probably rent as there are a lot of rental bikes around which doesn’t cost that much.
There are a lot of nice parks that you can visit in the city or farther out, cool castles that you can check out and nature reserves such as lakes, lush forests and beautiful beaches. It depends on the season and weather, but indoor is not a problem as you’ll have a variety of things to do as well. In winter, for example, there are a lot of cool theatre shows, art exhibits, cinema and sports that you can engage in. I remember doing ice skating, bowling and other cool stuff with my friends during snow season and it was fun. Later on, I will give you lists of possible things to do including the smallest details you need.
First Danish Christmas
Danish Christmas is one of the best things to experience as well. It was the first time I experience singing and dancing around the Christmas tree. They have what they call Christmas calendar which is a countdown to Christmas day starting the first of December. The children love it with all the gifts and treats, excluding the one that you get for a chunk of almond on your risengrød — a special rice porridge with milk and melted butter topped with marmalade, specifically served during Christmas as dessert. Careful not to swallow the almond because you’ll get a gift once you find it.
Language Barrier: Taler Du Dansk?
My whole two years as an au pair was fun and challenging in some ways. I didn’t get to speak Dansk (Danish) fluently but I mastered the art of saying ‘ja’ (yes) and ‘nej’ (no) with ease. Danish people say ‘hej’ (hi) when you meet them and ‘hej hej’ (goodbye, informal) when you say goodbye. Sounds complicated? Not really. Just don’t forget to say ‘tak’ and everything will sound fine. Anyway, Danes speak perfect English as well so no need to try hard. Listen to Sir Jamie Lannister speak or Micheal Learns To Rock (MLTR) sing and you’ll know what I mean.
There are still a lot of things that I wish to experience and places to visit. Good thing I have my rejseplanen (itinerary) to consult and my visa (residence permit) is on the way. But what’s cooler is the fact that now I have someone to share my journey with. Are you excited? So am I. For now, I’ll just drink my licorice mint tea while I watch Netflix. Farvel!