Today’s interview is with Nicola, a British expat who is living in Denmark. Nicola moved to Copenhagen from London back in October 2012 with her Danish fiancé in order to make a new life there. Nicola fell in love with Copenhagen upon her first visit and visited seven or eight times before choosing to live there, something she recommends all potential expats to do prior to moving. Since moving Nicola has encountered the natural highs and lows that accompany the life of an expat but maintains that a positive attitude will get her through even the toughest of challenges. She is currently studying Danish and works in a voluntary position at the expat initiative Worktrotter DK, using her professional background in marketing to give advice with regards to online strategy. Nicola’s expat blog is called From London to Copenhagen.
Where are you originally from?
I’m from the UK. I grew up in the county of Essex but have lived in London on and off since 2000.
In which country and city are you living now?
I live in Copenhagen, Denmark.
How long have you lived here and how long are you planning to stay?
I’ve been here since the end of October 2012 and am not planning to repatriate.
Why did you move and what do you do?
After living together in London for 18 months we decided to settle down in Copenhagen due to a cheaper cost of living (yes, really!) and we both agreed that it was a better place to bring up children. If we had stayed in the UK and had children there was a big chance we would have had to move out of the city in order to afford to do so and neither of us want to live outside of the city.
Did you bring family with you?
My fiancé already has family here but I moved here alone. I’m very close with his family though and already consider myself to be part of it.
How are you finding the transition to living in a foreign country?
The transition process, unless one is lucky, will naturally have a lot of ups and downs. At first I had more downs than ups but things are more balanced now and although I still have days where I feel a bit out of it, they are getting fewer as I get used to Denmark. One needs to stay open minded and not constantly compare it to “how things are back home”.
Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?
I was quite lucky in that I inherited my fiancé’s friends when we moved over and luckily we all get on well with each other. I know some expats here have experienced difficulties in making friends with Danes; I know that it is more difficult than in other countries but it is not impossible. The Danes have a reputation of being closed and not open however I do somewhat disagree as I do not think it is a case of being close minded, it is more a case that friendships were formed years ago and so there are already close bonds between friends, making friendship groups difficult to infiltrate. From my own point of view, a friendship is an investment so of course this will take time. I do socialise with other expats but only about once a month at the moment. I’ve joined a few meet-up groups however so that will soon be more frequent. It’s good to have my own ‘thing’ here.
What are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
Explore! What I love about Copenhagen is, despite it being a relatively small city, there are nice little “hyggelige” streets where one can find different types of bars and cafés. Although I am not vehemently opposed to the coffee shop chain takeover in the UK, I have to admit it’s nice to have a plethora of independent places that have their own vibe. Copenhagen does have chains too (Baresso, Joe & The Juice) but I much prefer the independents.
What do you enjoy most about living here?
I love how everyone lives so close together and how there is more of a ‘be with friends’ atmosphere instead of going out to bars. Of course, part of that is the sheer cost of going out drinking but I find it is far more “hyggeligt” to be at a friend’s place for dinner. I love the Danish concept of “hygge”. The best translation is “cosiness” but it’s more than that. To sit with friends or a friend with food, wine and good conversation is hyggeligt. I don’t think I can explain it better than that – it’s something that one will undoubtedly experience living in Denmark.
How does the cost of living compare to home?
I am a rare breed of expat in Denmark where the cost of living is proving to be a lot cheaper. I wrote a blog post on the cost of living where I compared our monthly outgoings now to our monthly outgoings in London. Of course there are things here which are more expensive but the biggies, such as travel and rent, are so much lower here. One thing we don’t do as often is eat at restaurants. However as I explained in the previous question, there is more of a be-with-friends-at-home culture here.
What negatives, if any, are there to living here?
I think this goes for most of Europe at the moment but the job market is tough at the moment. Of course if you don’t speak Danish it adds a hindrance, no matter what your professional skill set, which is why I’m throwing myself into learning it at the moment. To be honest I try not to look at negatives as it will only hold me back. If there is a negative or a problem, one simply has to look for a solution or steps which will enable one to find a solution. Let me give you an example. My professional background is in marketing. A lot of the marketing job ads here require people with search marketing knowledge however I have not got that background. So instead of sitting here, fretting over the fact that I don’t have any experience, I decided to make my own experience. I had already started a blog of sorts so I decided to be more active and practice search marketing this way. Where there’s a will there’s a way.
If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving here, what would it be?
Start to learn the language before you get here and stay positive!
What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
Probably very common but it’s the language. I’m very good with languages and tend to pick them up fairly easily but when surrounded by native speakers who are speaking quickly it can be overwhelming at times. I’m gaining more and more confidence every day, though!
What are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?
- Don’t expect your new country to be like it is back home. There are unique quirks from culture to culture and we should respect that.
- Do your research! I have met a scary amount of expats here who did not research properly prior to coming over and have ended up floundering. Don’t just look at government websites, read blogs by expats in the area you want to live in and visit forums. There will be differing opinions but that’s good as it’ll give you a more balanced view.
- Try to learn the language before coming out. In Denmark you get free language classes once you receive what is called your CPR number – these are really great however the more you learn beforehand the better.
- Build your network. I use LinkedIn a lot in order to do this however I wish I had started using it to cyber network with Danes prior to my move. Networking is so important in Denmark – a lot of the times people get jobs via who they know as opposed to a job ad.
- Short but sweet – stay positive.
Published by ” Expats Blog “