Not really any tricks but some advice from experience. I have been living and studying in Copenhagen Denmark for a year and have briefly summarised some points of advice I hope you find helpful.
- How will I make friends when I don’t know anyone?
Everyone is in the same boat looking to meet and befriend new people, take risks and get involved. You’ll be fine and stand to learn a lot from breaking out on your own.
- Am I going to have trouble with the language or cultural differences?
Yes, Danish is difficult; it uses the English alphabet mainly but pronunciation is not intuitive to English speakers, Germans find it easier to learn for some reason, and Swedes can speak it if there drunk (http://www.thelocal.se/20160623/drunk-or-danish-swedish-police-eventually-work-it-out). If you’d like to learn the Danish government offers free Danish language courses to all new arrivals.
English literacy however is at somewhere around 80% and I’ve never met an English illiterate dane between the ages of 15 and 50. While making Denmark easily bridled with only English, it makes learning Danish that much more difficult as most locals will recognise your accent and switch to English.
Still try to learn the language, even if you only pick up a few gimmicky lines is greatly appreciated by Danish people.
….or cultural differences?
Culturally Danish people are western; the local customs and culture are very similar to Australia’s’, right down to a thriving BBQ scene. Without going into too much detail some dig differences you may experience are:
Nudity, Danes like most Scandinavians are pretty relaxed about it. Naked or topless sunbathing is no longer as common place as it has been, however saunas remain very comfortable places for danes.
Reversed paternal roles, men who stay at home with the kids are no big deal. The average age of marriage hovers around 30 and most women have careers.
Oblivious racism, most Danes are open minded and lean to the left. That said Danish humour can tend towards being dark or cutting, or just plain bigoted assumptions about people that are meant innocently. You’ll see, pack a thick skin and good sense of humour.
Free education doesn’t mean we want you educated. Danish University is open to all, however advantages we have in Australia to augment our study (tutorial, recorded lectures, online support, multiple assignments, even counselling, ect…) are not offered.
Danes are difficult to crack but not..? Danish people are easy going drinkers on a Friday or Saturday night, there’s a great pub scene and you can drink in the streets. You may struggle to make close Danish friends at first though. As a general rule; Drunken Danes are warm and welcoming, the morning after can be awkward and distant.
Should I sign up to student clubs and societies? How do I find them?
Defiantly join a student club, it is one of the few ways to branch out of the exchange student network and connect with local Danes. The Friday bars can number 13 a campus and are an institution (they are often looking for volunteers). Spots teams have adapted to the influx of exchange students each semester often offering half year memberships. There are also a large number of weekly events offered at local student bars to help students socialise, from movie and quiz nights as well as many social clubs and cheap dinner nights.
They are advertised freely at student events and again FB is a great resource to find local clubs.
- How will I get around my town/city?
Buy a bike, it’s the singl best way to see Copenhagen and any Danish city for that matter. The public transport system is advanced and modern, but is also the most expensive in the world. Best bet to get a bike is to join the multitude of FB groups where people sell them second hand. You can pick one up for about 500kr, there are free bike servicing stations on campus and don’t forget a good lock. Your bike unattended will be nicked.
- How can I fit travel into my time and budget?
Travel can be done fairly easy over weekends or at the begingin and end of semester. There are travel clubs (ESN) that organise big trips at reasonable prices around the time that suits students. The universities also offer ‘bludge’ courses such as Danish culture, where attendance to most classes counts as a pass, to lighten the load on exchange students.
Where are the best places to go shopping/eat out/meet locals?
To shop and eat stay away from tourist hot spots like the centre of town, there a coffee can cost $10AUD. Explore is really all you can do, luxury is expensive in Denmark but there are options for students. Cooking skills are an asset, nettos are cheap grocers, Bazzars will have the weird stuff your missing, and when going out on the town bodegas, student bars and BYO drinking on the street are things you should consider.
- What accommodation should I choose, and when should I arrange it?
Accommodation is rough in Copenhagen and you should start looking as early as possible. There is a serious housing shortage as Copenhagen has experienced a boom population. There are foundations and programs to help exchange students find accommodation but expect to pay a gap and have your deposit evaporate. When applying directly to colleges or student housing, expect to be met with a waiting list over 3 years long. This is simply the nature of the market at the moment. It pays to trawl FB groups where rooms are privately let, and network friends (the best accommodation can be found through nepotism).
All accommodation is not equal, I highly recommend a place with your own room and close to the centre as you can (30 minutes by bike is fine). Colleges have great parties, and socially very good. Let houses can be hit and miss, depends who you end up with.
- Things to consider.
Music festivals, there are a great number in the summer. The biggest and best is Roskilde festival. If your quick apply online as a volunteer to get a free ticket and perks, it goes for a week and shifts can turn into welcome breaks from drinking.
Apply as an EU citizen. If you’re a dual national or can become one through a relative, may as well. Entering on an Australian passport will cost you around $600AUD for a study visa, on your EU nothing. It’s a lot easier to get your CPR number and other things you will need on exchange.
Don’t travel, or at least don’t feel you have too. This maybe the only time in your life you’ll have the opportunity to live and immerse in a foreign culture on a government subsidy and although Octoberfest and running of the bulls are likely exciting, they are also expensive generic tourist traps and you risk missing something you can’t do on a holiday.
Volunteering is a great way to make connections and experience your adopted country without breaking the bank. I highly recommend it, you don’t have to save the world, even just at a student bar or café. I doubt you’ll regret it and wager you’ll thoroughly enjoy it.
Refund cans add up quick. Hoard yours and then take them to any decent grocer for a refund equivalent to about 20cAUD a can. You pay for this refund on top of the advertised price.
Danes value equality and round table mentality (the company boss is equal to the janitor). Don’t be pompous or shy away from grubby or traditionally low ranked work. You won’t win favours if you do. Australians in general didn’t seem to struggle as much as other cultures did with this aspect of Danish culture. It was impressive to see this ideology extended so broadly and implemented so practically. For example it’s common practise to put cans outside of bins for to save the homeless from digging through trash.
Copenhagen was modelled on a Mediterranean style walking city. Large areas of its centre are designated for only foot traffic, and the bike paths throughout the city are renowned as some of the best in the world. The concept aiming to make Copenhagen a city with a face rather than a car filled metropolis. Making Copenhagen a beautiful green city which I have enjoyed, and hope you do as well.
Good luck J