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 Ritvars, a master’s student in Copenhagen.
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 did you come to Copenhagen?
I originally come from Latvia – not so far from Denmark. Since my early teens I’ve had the privilege to travel around Europe and I loved being on the road, or just away. So when the opportunity to go abroad after high school for studies appeared, I jumped at it. At the time, I had to make a choice between Denmark and the Netherlands, and somehow it ended up being Denmark.
I visited Copenhagen prior to applying for a school here and I liked it. Besides Copenhagen I also visited Aarhus, Odense and Vejle, but those places just didn’t seem to catch my attention in the same way as Copenhagen. Though funnily enough, Copenhagen wasn’t meant to be my first home town in Copenhagen as I wasn’t accepted in school here. Therefore began my Danish journey in Hans Christian Andersen’s town – Odense. Only two years later I finally managed to move to Copenhagen and continue my studies here.
What were your first impressions of Copenhagen?
In Odense I got used to the idea that I could easily bike everywhere in less than half an hour. When I first moved to Copenhagen, I realized it wasn’t the case here. Especially since in the beginning I lived a little outside the city.
I moved here in August, and it was really warm and sunny the first weeks, so that’s what I really associate the most with my first serious encounter with this beautiful city. In fact, on my first school day I walked all the way from my school in Valby till my place in Brondby Strand. The weather was just so nice and I didn’t have a bike yet. And yes, I also managed to get lost. So that was fun.
In regards of Denmark, I was impressed that everyone, including older people, speaks English so well, and for the most part, they are really willing to help you. Or so it was years back when I first arrived. Now I feel things have changed a bit in this department due to various reasons I suppose. Unless it’s just me, whose perception has changed.
Did you experience any culture shock?
The amount rye bread people consume in Denmark – That was a shocker. Especially when I saw that people eat smørrebrød for lunch, that was just strange to me. It didn’t take long though until I adopted this eating habit as well. Another thing that literally shocked me was the amount of fireworks on New Years. I still think it’s insane in many ways, because firstly, it’s not only at midnight people shoot fireworks and when it is midnight, it just seems so dangerous how chaotic the whole firework thing is on the streets, especially in the city center.
What’s to love and hate about Copenhagen?
I really like that there is a big selection of different food places in the city. Staring from street food and ending with more fancy places. And I’m truly impressed by the quality of the food on either side of the spectrum.
The only thing I don’t really like about Denmark is that I still haven’t really figured out a way to make close friends who are Danes. And while it’s fun to hang out with internationals from all over the world, it’s also often that these are the people who live Denmark at some point. And that has some effect on one’s social life.
Have you discovered any hidden gems?
Downtown hostel bar. Affordable drinks, live music now and then, and what’s most important – I believe it’s one of the most social places in Copenhagen. You can literally walk up to a person in the bar and have a meaningful conversation. Read more about Downtown Hostel here.
What do you miss most about home?
Family, friends and certain food. Latvia is not all that far from Copenhagen – all it takes is an hour flight. Nevertheless, the more time passes, the more I can see that people who I know back home are moving on with their lives and when I go back, it’s like I’m going back to the place I left 7 years ago as I haven’t really been apart of the things that have happened in the meantime.
What are your plans for the future?
I have been here now for a little over 7 years. I’m now about to graduate my master’s and then not sure yet what will happen. I’m quite sure I will stay in Denmark for some time. How long? Well that depends on what’s in the cards for me – for now, one day at the time.
Follow Ritvars’ adventures on Instagram.
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!