Astrid is a Spanish expat who relocated to Copenhagen, Denmark in 2015. In her interview, she provides a realistic summary of what life in the capital is like, and how it comes to back home. Read her interview for tips on meeting people, making friends and settling in to a foreign country.
Q: Where are you originally from?
A: I am originally from Spain.
Q: Where are you living now?
A: I’m living in Copenhagen, Denmark.
Q: When did you move here?
A: I came at the beginning of August in 2015.
Q: Did you move here alone or with a spouse/family?
A: I moved here with my partner.
Q: Why did you move; what do you do?
A: I moved to Denmark to do an internship as part of my studies and with the idea of settling down for at least a couple of years.
Living in Denmark
Q: What do you enjoy most about Copenhagen? How would you rate the quality of life compared to your home country?
A: I love the city’s vibe. There is an amazing mix of old and modern architecture, plenty of small cosy cafés, bikes everywhere and a unique culture in each neighbourhood. The quality of life in Denmark is higher, but it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s better to live here.
Q: Any negatives? What do you miss most about home?
A: Dining out is quite expensive here, and given the fact I come from Spain it’s even harder since we have a strong eating out culture.
Q: What are the biggest adjustments you had to make when settling into expat life here? Did you experience any particular elements of culture shock?
A: Timewise, lunch and dinner take place at unusual times for me.
Q: What’s the cost of living compared to home? What is cheap or expensive in particular?
A: The cost of living is higher, much higher. I’m pretty sure everything is more expensive here. Well, I can think of one exception – berries are cheaper here and tastier!
Q: How would you rate the public transport? What are the different options? Do you need to own a car?
A: Who needs public transport? You can get everywhere with your bike! But still, if you want to use public transport, there is a wide network of buses, metros and trains; so you can get pretty much everywhere in the city and the region.
Q: How would you rate the healthcare in your city? Have you had any particularly good/bad experiences with regards to doctors and hospitals? Are there any hospitals you would recommend?
A: It’s a good service but getting an appointment can be tricky. You somehow need to prove that you actually need to go to the doctor, so that they take your request seriously. If they think you are being a hypochondriac, you won’t be getting the appointment.
Q: What are the biggest safety issues facing expats living in your host city or country? Are there any areas expats should avoid?
A: It is a very safe city.
Q: How do you rate the standard of housing in the city? What different options are available for expats?
A: Pretty bad. Copenhagen has an unfair rental market. Flats are overpriced and as a tenant, you barely have any rights over your deposit. On top of that, finding an apartment is quite hard because of the insanely high demand and low supply.
Q: Any areas/suburbs you’d recommend for expats to live in?
A: I would recommend areas depending on your personality; actually, as an expat, any area of Copenhagen could be suitable.
Meeting people and making friends in Denmark
Q: How tolerant are the locals of foreigners? Is there any obvious discrimination against particular religions or women, etc.?
A: Nothing to worry about, Danes are tolerant and open-minded people.
Q: Was it easy meeting people and making friends? How did you go about meeting new people?
A: It took some time, but eventually you’ll end up building a network. I believe it’s important to live close to the city or have a good public transport connection, otherwise you’ll feel isolated. The key is to be active, don’t stay at home waiting for it to come to you.
Q: Have you made friends with locals, or do you mix mainly with other expats? What advice would you give to new expats looking to make friends? Any social/expat groups you can recommend?
A: I already had a couple of Danish friends before moving here, which made it easier to meet more. Inevitably I’ve met more expats than Danes, they are a bit hard to get through, but if you try you’ll definitely be positively surprised.
It’s vital to stay active and try to get involved in events, meet-ups, volunteering, etc. Copenhagen is full of expats, so you’ll find plenty of communities that you could join. Moreover, the city of Copenhagen has a host programme that allows you to get introduced to a Dane who can help you in your first steps in the city.
About working in Denmark
Q: Did you have a problem getting a visa or work permit? Did you tackle the visa process yourself, or did you enlist the services of an immigration consultant?
A: For me, it was pretty easy since I also have Swedish nationality, and I’m European. But the city of Copenhagen takes very good care of foreigners and if you go to the 'International House' they’ll advise you and help you out with all the paperwork.
Q: What’s the economic climate like in the city? Do you have any tips for expats looking to find a job there? Which resources did you find most useful?
A: Copenhagen has a pretty stable economy. Jobs are waiting for you, but you need to go out and look for them. The biggest barrier would be the language. You can get around with English and you can also find a job, but your options will be limited. So my advice is to get started with your Danish as soon as possible.
Q: How does the work culture differ from home? Do you have any tips for expats doing business in the city/country?
A: Work culture is amazing. There are horizontal structures based on trust. Your boss is not going to be all over you making sure you do your work. You’ll get flexible schedules and a very friendly environment at the office. On the contrary, hospitality has a mediocre reputation, but I have heard of people having nice experiences.
Final thoughts about Denmark
Q: Is there any other advice you would like to offer new expat arrivals?
A: Try to learn Danish, it will open many doors for you.
– Interviewed April 2016