culture

Saving Money in Copenhagen.

So I’m clearly back in the US and well into my fall semester here at Vanderbilt. BUT, my posting on this study abroad blog is not completely strange or irrelevant! I now work as a Peer Advisor at Vanderbilt GEO, the Global Education Office.

Just last week I was helping lead the pre-departure orientation for students who will be in Copenhagen during the coming semester.  Students had lots of logistic questions that DIS provides answers to through their pre-departure materials and on their website, but one question in particular stood out: how do you save money in Copenhagen?

Given that Denmark is unavoidably expensive, it can present worries for students who are a little tighter on cash. So without further ado, a guide to living frugally in Copenhagen.

Day to Day costs

If you’re not living with a host family or at a folkehøjskole, one of your largest expenses will be food.

DIS gives students a grocery stipend that is intended to cover partially cover some of your food expenses. While it would be extremely difficult to make this cover all of your meals over the length of your stay, there ARE creative ways to make the stipend and your money last longer.

1. Do not buy luxuries- mostly alcohol or candy, these items will kill your food stipend very quickly. Given the conversion rate and the differences of price levels, it can be more difficult to recognize how much money your spending. I recommend creating a weekly budget for luxuries and “treats.” I choose to make my weekly spending ceiling 500 dkr (about $100) to encompass all the extra things I might want, whether it be a pastry or a cup of coffee at an expensive cafe or a beer by the harbor.

2. Eat like the Danes- modifying your diet to be more Danish will save you money in the grocery store. Quite simply, some things that are standard in the US are considered a bit of a novelty in Danish grocery stores. For one, meat is taxed pretty highly, so reducing your meat consumption will help lower the grocery bill. Eggs are cheap. Oatmeal or Muesli and yogurt are standard breakfast fare. Vegetables and produce don’t vary significantly from prices in the US, and if you like potatoes you’ll be pretty happy with Danish cuisine.  If you really find yourself wanting more meat in your diet, I recommend frozen Frikadeller. These traditional Danish meatballs are not only delicious, but their ubiquity makes them easy to find and relatively inexpensive. On another note, if you generally keep Kosher or Halal, you may have some difficulties.

3. Don’t eat out- of course this isn’t a hard and fast rule, but a sit down dinner is extremely expensive in Copenhagen. It is much more typical for young people to get together and cook a meal together than to go to a sit down dinner. On a related note, when you DO go out to dinner, make an event of it. Danish meals are for enjoying each others company, and expected to be long. Service will be slow. But there’s also no need to feel guilty about camping out at a table after you’ve paid, or waiting around for late night specials to start. Food service employees are paid hourly, so they won’t feel have a high table turnover to get enough tips.

4. Take advantage of DIS events- there’s often free food, it’s a no brainer. Additionally, optional study tours, adventure trips, and DIS sponsored cultural outings will give you a lot of bang for your buck. The people organizing these have the advantage of economies of scale, connections and general knowledge of the market that can only come with time and experience. If there’s a place you want to go and DIS offers a trip, it’s pretty likely that they will do it cheaper than you.

5. Choose your travel carefully- certain cities will be much more friendly to your wallet. Additionally, try to take advantage of where other friends are studying abroad. Not only will they know the city, but if they have room for you, you get a free place to stay, and a kitchen to cook food in, instead of eating out.

6. Get involved- by far the easiest way to know where the cheap things are and whats worth it or not is to ask somebody who knows. Ask a program assistant, ask your Danish teacher, ask the people who work at the front desk of DIS. Make friends with people in your kollegium, ask your host-siblings, volunteer friends or team mates. Above all, treating your time abroad like a life instead of an extended vacation not only will save you money, but will insure you have the best experience possible.

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Returning Home

After almost two weeks back, I think I’m ready to write about what it feels like to be home.

Firstly, my time in Iceland was a fantastic decision. Leaving Copenhagen, the city that had begun to feel like home was definitely sad for me, and I have a feeling that if I had gone straight home to Tennessee, I would have cried the entire eight hour flight. After six days in Iceland, I made the rest of the journey across the Atlantic to good ‘ol US of A. I was lucky enough to get seated next to a former DIS student who had moved to Denmark and was returning to the US for his college reunion. It was especially nice to have someone to chat with in Danish in the line for customs and get the new experience of having et hemmeligt sprog  (“a secret language”) that no one knows.

I returned to my hometown for only a day, unpacked all my winter clothes, and repacked summer clothes before heading for Nashville to move into an apartment for the summer. Unfortunately, I have not managed to secure a fancy-schmancy internship for the summer, so instead I got a job working for Vanderbilt in Alumni Relations. Basically that means I call alumni all day and try to convince them to donate money back to the university to fund scholarships. It’s definitely a big change from my life in Denmark, but I AM happy to be back, and ready for my last year at Vanderbilt.

It’s strange to start falling back into my old life here in Nashville; whether it’s the heat, the cowboy boots, or the country music, it’s a completely different world than Copenhagen. I miss biking the most; in fact one of my roommates insisted that he was going to create a “curse jar” that I had to put money into every time I mention bikes or bike lanes.  I still find myself saying “hvad?” or “hva’?” instead of “what” and “nej”  instead of no, and I’ve continued to watch Danish T.V. online because I can’t bear the thought of forgetting all I’ve learned in my 9 months abroad.

Above all, it’s good to be back, but I’m definitely not done with Copenhagen yet.

Til alle den Københavners hvem læser den her blog, jeg håber vi ses snart i den mest hyggelig by i verden. Mig, jeg savner Danmark, og jer, og jeg vil gerne sige mange tak til alle mennesker hvem var så venlig og hjælpsom da jeg prøvet at lære dansk. Uden jere, jeg kunne ikke havde haft den samme oplevelse. 

 

Den Sidste Kærlig Hilsner,

Molly.

Smiley Smorgasboard: a note on cultural differences.

If you’re planning on coming to Denmark and of course making lots of Danish friends through various forms of cultural immersion, there’s something you need to know about emoticon usage.

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Danes LOVE emoticons. And not in an ironic, or I’m being silly using so many smileys kind of way, using smileys in any of your informal written communication is normal and expected. This includes your friends, host parents, Danish teachers and DIS administrators.

I’ve come up with two different hypotheses on why Danes love emoticons.

1. It’s because they’re so happy that they need to express it in text messages and letters to make up for the stone faced expressions people wear in public.

2.  Danish humor is very sarcastic and dark, so conveying it in a text message may require a smiley face to insure that no one misreads the intention of your sarcastic joke.

You should also be aware that a “winky face” is not nearly as suggestive in a Danish context as it is in an American context. of course it can be used for the same innuendos, but it can also be used in an innocent context. Unknown

I even have testimony from one of my friends who told me that when we first started texting, she was always worried that I was angry because I never used emoticons in my messages. Luckily, I tend to be particularly susceptible to picking up other peoples habits, sayings and mannerisms, so I learned to incorporate klistermærke og humørikon  into my written communications over my time here. I’ll just have to remember not to use them when emailing my professors at home!

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1. Maj

Candid in fælledparken

Candid in fælledparken

May Day/ the first of May is International Workers Day. While it might be commemorated or acknowledged in small ways in many countries, in Denmark, it’s a pretty big deal.

In Copenhagen, starting around 10 am, thousands of people begin crowding into fælledparken in Østerbro just to hang out with friends,  drink beer, and relax. It’s not really like a party, but when you’re surrounded by thousands of cheerful people in a sunny park, you can’t help but feel happy and relaxed.

Artsy Carlsberg photo

Artsy Carlsberg photo

The Danes get pretty dark, gray winters, so when the sun comes out, everyone takes advantage of it. When the weather is nice, the city of Copenhagen can feel a lot like a college campus; every available park, beach, city square, harbor wall, public terrace and green space is filled with people just enjoying each other’s company.

Beautiful people

Beautiful People 

Maybe the high cost of pretty much everything encourages people to look more towards each other for entertainment than some sort of screen or product. But whatever it is, I know that I like it.

cutie #1 right here

cutie #1 right here

The best part of traditions like this is that they’re ideal for spending time with the friends that I’ve made since moving to Denmark, especially as it’s all coming to an end. It’s bittersweet to have to acknowledge that I only have two weeks left in this lovely country.

Staycation in Copenhagen.

Today is truly the last day of my final travel break; it’s crazy to think that in the last eight months, I’ve had six weeks worth of breaks meant especially for traveling, and during them I’ve been to Cork (Ireland), Amsterdam, Paris, Rome, London, Berlin, and Prague.

I realized that I’ve gotten pretty spoiled with my traveling, because peoples photos of Greek isles and warm beaches just made me insanely jealous. As a Southerner who legitimately likes the heat, even the stifling, humid, 90ºF heat of a Tennessee summer, the weather has been starting to get to me a little.

Luckily, the weather this week has actually been great, and I’ve been able to take advantage of it with lots of outdoor activities. But the best part of staying in Copenhagen for the last break was undoubtedly getting to spend lots of extra time with my host family and hang out with friends from højskole.

Too many selfies with my host sister

Too many selfies with my host sister

So without fourth ado, a list of all the possible fun things you can do in Copenhagen when you decide not to travel on one of your breaks.

 

Bake Cookies with your host family/visiting family

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Climb the iconic spire of Our Saviors Church in Christianshavn to get a nice view of the city

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Hang out in Amager fælled and enjoy the sunshine

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bring your bike on an s-train and explore a suburb

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Spring has most definitely sprung

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walking through the woods in Humlebæk

Go to Louisiana Museum of Modern Art

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Legos in Louisiana's Børnehuset

Legos in Louisiana’s Børnehuset

Visit the old Carlsberg factory/museum

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Join a family/ community activity

My host mom & I washing boats at Lea's Fritidshjemmet

My host mom & I washing boats at Lea’s Fritidshjemmet

 

Despite the fact that I purposely planned nothing for this week, it was busy, full, and flew by all too fast.  It’s about that time where I need to start finishing up all my final papers and projects, with only a little less than a month left in Copenhagen until I head back to the Nashville heat for the summer.

A week at home

It’s already the Friday of my travel break and I couldn’t be more glad that I chose to spend it in Copenhagen. Not only has the weather been lovely, but a week of relaxing was exactly what I needed.
Predictably, I haven’t actually gotten ahead on any of the homework or final assignments I told myself I’d do, but I have definitely enjoyed watching too much tv, meeting with friends over beer, and biking aimlessly around Copenhagen for hours.

Yesterday I biked 8 miles down to Dragør in the southern, less developed part of Amager.

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The town was quaint and adorable, but probably would have been infinitely more enjoyable on a nice, sunny day.

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Even though there wasn’t much there, in the end I felt pretty satisfied because biking 16 miles in windy Copenhagen counts as exercise, but is not nearly as dread inducing as going to the gym or taking a run.

and some days you fall off your bike.

In a city where bikes are the main form of transportation, accidents are pretty much inevitable, but don’t worry no one was (badly) hurt!

first, in case you need a quick refresher on how ingrained bike culture is, here’s a couple of photos from google image searches of biking in Copenhagen.

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none of the above images are even slightly unusual; bikes are for utility and everyday life here, so baskets overflowing with groceries, trailers towing loads or cargo bikes weighed down with people and things are all part of the everyday image of life in this city.

My host family doesn’t even own a car, so when they need to get a large amount of groceries, the Christiania bike is the way to go.

A couple days ago, I decided that if I’m to be truly culturally integrated, I’ve got to be able to ride one of those heavy monsters, so I took the Christiania bike out on the paths of Amager Strandpark

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Although it was heavy, and definitely different than riding a “regular” bike, it wasn’t nearly as scary as I expected. Maneuvering required a bit of getting used to, but these bikes are sturdy, heavy, and safe so it definitely wasn’t a scary experience. I jokingly referred to it as the Copenhagen equivalent of driving an SUV or a truck.

As I said before, with so many bikes on the road, crashes and falling off are just inevitable occurrences that spring up in day-to-day life. Predictably, they tend to happen when you’re using a bike in a way that’s not quite what it’s intended for… like putting a second human on the front rack.

This is my lovely friend Elsa, another full year exchange student, and the bike her host family has lent her has a front rack that looks deceptively like the perfect place to put another human who happens to not have her bike with her (me)

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it LOOKS like it’s made for another person to sit on.

Unfortunately, we decided that we should test out this front rack/chair on a downwards slope, and let’s just say we didn’t get very far before hitting the pavement. Luckily, the worst injury was a skinned knee and hole in my tights. We’re determined to make it happen before we go home in a month, just next time, maybe not on a hill.

Vi taler Dansk og Norsk sammen

Not everyone is enthusiastic about trying to learn a foreign language, but if you are, Danish poses a particular challenge because even if you find the written language easy, it can be difficult to find people patient enough to try to understand a heavy American accent. Basically a huge thank you to my friend Anni who patiently talks to me even though I make fun of how silly Norwegian sounds. Although Swedish, Norwegian and Danish are all relatively similar, I can barely tell the difference between written Norwegian and Danish, despite the fact that they sound quite different.

Let’s Go to the Beach; AMAGER.

I’m sure that if you’re thinking of studying abroad in Denmark, sunny beaches are not exactly your expectation. But the weather in Copenhagen has been absolutely beautiful, so I’ve been doing just that.

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In Copenhagen, ‘beautiful’ weather still requires you to have blankets on all the chairs at cafes to stay warm. and for Hygge.

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BUT! we can still sit outside (with the proper clothes)

I live on Amager (pronounced like “Ahma” because that’s just the way Danish is), the teardrop shaped island that makes up the outer east part of Copenhagen.

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I love living out here because I’m close to the airport, a 15 minute bike ride from the center of the city, and most importantly, 10 minutes from Amager Strandpark, aka the beach, and one of my favorite spots in Copenhagen.

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It’s not exactly swimming weather

My host family introduced me to Amager Strand Park when the weather was still nice in August, and I fell in love with it, I avoided it all through the winter because I didn’t want to become disillusioned, but now that the sun is back, and I only have six weeks left in Denmark, I try to go almost every day.

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A new definition of appropriate beach attire.

As much as I love living in Amager, you can’t talk about it without acknowledging it’s (UNDESERVED) bad reputation. Danes have had terrible things to say about Amager for 200 years, even Søren Kierkegaard made jokes about its bad reputation. Perhaps it stems from the fact that originally, all the latrine waste from Copenhagen was carted over to Amager where the sheep grazed, earning it the nickname of “lort island” (which means “shit island”) until the city created “modern” sewage-a pipe that pushed the waste into Øresund/The Sound, but over by Sweden.

Despite the fact that this is not the case anymore, Amager is still the butt of many jokes in Copenhagen. For instance, in Danish, a lower back tattoo is called a “Amager Plade” meaning an Amager license plate, and even my own host family who lives in Amager love to make jokes about it; whenever my host sister starts acting up, Christian will shake his head and say “this is what I get for raising a child on Amager.”

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Regardless of what people say, I find it impossible not to love Amager Strandpark in this weather.