Welcome to our new format on expat life in Copenhagen! In this series we open our blog to foreigners living in Greater Copenhagen and their experiences. We want to address the challenges of making a life in Denmark, but also introduce you to what makes this city so livable. If you are considering moving to Copenhagen and want some first-hand insight, look no further. This week we’re opening the stage to Ana Rozanova, a former exchange student at KUA.
Note: We speak a lot about “expats” but really we mean “immigrants”, or those who have decided to live in Denmark for an extended period of time and made an effort of integrating into Danish society.
Why I came to Copenhagen
My name is Ana and I am from Vilnius, Lithuania. I studied Danish Language and Scandinavian Studies for my BA in Vilnius, so it was obvious that sooner or later I would travel to Denmark. And so I did, first to a little boarding school near Aarhus, and then to Copenhagen to study at KUA.
It was an exchange program which took me there. After staying in the countryside near Aarhus, I wanted to experience big city life in Denmark. Copenhagen was the only city which could qualify as being big, so there I went.
What were your first impressions of Copenhagen?
The absolute first impression: how stylish and high-quality it felt. It seemed that the fast fashion in Copenhagen is not so fast, that higher quality items from local designers are favored, and you can really see it.
And later I was also amazed by just how many candles those people have there! 🙂
Did you experience any culture shock?
Yes, plenty. I guess the biggest one in the beginning was having no curtains. My room had a window facing a busy street and it was on a first floor, so I felt like everyone was watching me. The first thing I did was cycle to Jysk to get a cheap curtain. Later I realized that the absolute majority of windows in the city had no curtains and in the evening you could look into all of the houses. But I probably also got so used to it by the end of my stay that it felt completely normal.
What’s to love and hate about Copenhagen?
My favorite thing was the wind. I came from Lithuania, another Baltic country; so also rather cold and grey. But while in Vilnius the bad weather would come and stay for days, in Copenhagen it changed so often, I was just blown away. You could leave your house during a moment of perfect sunshine, but then get soaked in the rain just 10 minutes later on your way to the university. I loved this unpredictability – every rainy and grey morning had the potential to become a sunny and warm day, and I loved those hidden promises.
Something I disliked was how expensive it was. I could live with just the bars and restaurants being so ridiculously expensive, but what was killing me was the book prices. I was a student of Danish language and literature, and I finally came to the place, where I could get all the books I had always wanted to get – only that I could not, because I could not afford to buy even one of them.
And another thing I did not like was the smoke. I remember the times when you were allowed to smoke everywhere in Lithuania as well, but this is something from the past. Now it is forbidden to smoke in most places in my country. It was really sad that when we went to La Fontaine – a jazz club in Copenhagen – we could not stay there for the whole evening, as my friend was allergic to cigarette smoke and the air there was thick with it.
Did you discover any hidden gems?
This place might be hidden from you if you come to Copenhagen on business, but if you are a student, this will be the most obvious place to hang out at. It is called Studenterhuset – The Student House – but you will meet all kind of people there, students and non-students, as long as they are young at heart.
We used to volunteer there, as you would get a free beer for every hour you spent working at the bar. Having in mind the cost of beer in Copenhagen bars compared to our scholarship, this was the only place we could actually afford to get drunk at during that semester. This was also the place where my husband and I – I want to say met, but no, we met during the classes at university – let’s say spent some quality time together working behind the bar, dancing, drinking and later cleaning the place, when it would close down in the morning.
So yeah, do head there for great gigs, still rather cheap drinks and both Danish and international young-at-heart crowd! You can read more about Studenterhuset here.
What did you miss most about home?
I missed love. I missed my (at that time still living) grandparents, who I would see every week when living at home. I missed my friends. While I lived in Denmark, I realized that so many people in Vilnius genuinely cared about me – kissed me, hugged me, asked me about my day. In Denmark I had fun, but I did not have such a big support group of family and friends. But then I got a great compensation – I met the man, who became the love of my life!
What are your plans for the future?
I left Copenhagen when my planned semester of studies was over and I had to come back to Vilnius to finish my BA at my home university, so there was no chance of staying longer. At that time I remember being very sad about leaving. During my last night there was a big party in the dorm, so I left straight to the airport in the morning, and arrived to Vilnius tired and slightly hangover.
But I actually took a piece of Copenhagen with me. My husband is Hungarian (and I am Lithuanian, as you know) and we currently live in Vilnius. But because we met in Copenhagen, Danish became our common language and we still speak it to each other 10 years later. We are still toying with the idea of moving back there, because of our jobs, language skills and so many friends, who live in Copenhagen. And also because it is a city like no other – free and fresh – which (even though I have never publicly admitted it until now) I actually miss.
Are you planning to come to Copenhagen as an exchange student or an international student? Then read our handy guide here!
Are you an expat living in Copenhagen and want to share your experience with us and our readers? Then fill in the form here. We’ll get in touch with you soon afterwards!
Now, what do you think? Did you have a similar or different experience when moving to Copenhagen? Do you think Copenhagen is a good place to live? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below! Let’s stay in touch!