food

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.

Advertisements

To do in Prague: Hemingway Bar

With three days in Prague under my belt, it’s safe to say that I love the city and would highly recommend a visit there to anyone interested. Although more extensive blog posts will wait until I get home, I haven’t shut up about the Hemingway since I went Sunday night.

20140327-223446.jpg
We arrived in Prague on Sunday, and after a group dinner with my core class (which is typical of DIS) I went to meet up with a friend of mine who is spending a semester abroad in Prague.

20140327-223754.jpg
We hadn’t seen each other in almost a year and decided to grab a drink to catch up. He suggested the Hemingway bar, warning me that it was “a little expensive” but had really interesting and tasty drinks. I can say with absolute certainty that I’d recommend it to anyone; it had a nice ambience and the mixology of the drinks was fantastic. I insisted on going back, and over the three nights I was there I had a “red carpet”- a fruitier take on a whiskey sour, a “dark &stormy”- which was pretty much a mojito with ginger instead of mint, and a lavender martini. It was the type of cocktail bar that I could NEVER afford in Copenhagen, but was quite reasonable in comparison.

20140327-224648.jpg

Rome

I’m back from seven days of traveling (and thus my hiatus from writing) and blogging about my adventures  and blogging about Rome is high on my list of priorities; it comes before sleep, unpacking, grocery shopping, and even doing my homework right now, in fact the only thing beating it was skyping my mom.

Flying over the Swiss Alps to Italy.

Flying over the Swiss Alps to Italy.

Rome was my first destination, and I headed out on my own on Monday morning. I arrived around one, found my way to my hostel and nervously checked in, trying to understand the Italian/English mix spoken at me. I had decided to travel to Rome by myself because no one in DIS wanted to go the exact same dates as me, and I was set on making it to two other cities where I had free places to stay lined up.

Roma

Roma

I headed out immediately with a map in hand, but one thing on my mind: Pizza. I’m a major foodie, and I rarely get pizza in Copenhagen because I try to make the majority of my food to save money, and I simply can’t make pizza.

Deliciosa

Deliciosa

After that I continued exploring, and noted with frustration that Rome is extremely difficult to navigate because none of the streets are completely straight, so the typical city grid is a bit warped, the hills only add to the difficulty. Despite this, I managed to wander to the Coliseum.

IMG_0744

A couple approached me and asked in Spanish if I could take a photo of them, to which I responded “por supuesto” and asked if they’d return the favor.

IMG_0760

The amount of Spanish being spoken was actually a bit of a relief because of it’s familiarity. So I choose to respond to hagglers selling kitschy things mostly in Spanish.

Later I wandered into a Restaurant for a plate of pasta (that I forgot to photograph, but I promise it was fantastic) and met another girl, an Immunology PH.d candidate from Boston, who was also traveling alone. She invited me to eat with her and we discussed all the sights of Rome, and then went to the Trevi fountain.

Truly impressive

Truly impressive

Tossing a coin for luck

Tossing a coin for luck

Insanely crowded at all hours

Insanely crowded at all hours

It was nice to have someone to chat with, because as I discovered over those three days, traveling alone is lonely, exhilarating, exhausting and liberating all at once.  I headed back to my hostel around eight, mostly because I wasn’t keen on the idea of walking around a city alone late at night.

The next day was dedicated to Vatican City. I walked the two miles across the city, crossing the river, pausing to sit in the square by the Parthenon to write postcards home and listen to street performers.

Parthenon

Parthenon

I crossed the river and got into the ridiculous line for getting into St. Peters, Luckily the weather was relatively nice—a mild 55 F, about 15 degrees warmer than what Copenhagen usually is.

IMG_0786 IMG_0789 IMG_0791

Fortunately I got inside about the time that it began to drizzle outside. I marveled at the details of the Cathedral for a solid hour before climbing the Basilica

IMG_0800

View from the top of St. Peter’s Basilica

IMG_0806

After I headed down, a rainbow a beautiful rainbow had formed, and I snapped a shot before heading to a coffee shop for Tiramisu and coffee, which I decided was an entirely suitable dinner, rather than eat my 5th slice of pizza for the day.

The picture doesn't do this rainbow justice

The picture doesn’t do this rainbow justice

The best Tiramisu I've ever had.

The best Tiramisu I’ve ever had.

Walking back over the river towards the center of the city was breathtaking.

IMG_0817

Rome at night.

IMG_0820

Crossing the river

On my third and final day in Rome, I dedicated my time to seeing the Roman Forum, Palatine hill, and the inside of the Coliseum (which I had missed on the first day)

IMG_0841

Roman forum

Roman forum

IMG_0872

My gelato moment

My gelato moment

IMG_0889

Tourist-y inside the Coliseum

Tourist-y inside the Coliseum

In the late afternoon, I headed towards Termini, the central station of Rome, to catch a train to the airport. When I got there, I realized that taking one of the shuttle buses for 4  was a much better deal than the 14  train that I had taken to get there, so I took that instead, and headed for the airport to catch my flight to London.

My three days in Rome was exciting, but also exhausting and a little lonely, so I was happy to be headed to my next destination.

***COMING SOON (tomorrow): London & Berlin, a girl’s gotta sleep sometime.

MexiMad i Amagerbro

IMG_0582

The big news that AUTHENTIC Tex-Mex exists in Copenhagen, or MexiMad (mad pronounced like “mel” means food in Danish) if you want to use my horrendous, but catchy, bastardization of the Danish language.

I’d gotten wind of some place called The Taco Shop while talking to some other people from DIS on my core course week. When I returned to Copenhagen, Nathan had also heard about it, so naturally it took us less than two days to find an excuse to eat dinner there. I got a ridiculously large super taco, the owner didn’t think I’d be able to finish it (I did) and Nathan got some sort of burrito, and of course chips and salsa to share. The owner told us to “eat here, have some extra guac, and pay at the end,” and as we sat down with chips, salsa, guac, and Corona wait for our food to be made.

IMG_0580   IMG_0581

All of the delicious Mexican food was made even better by the fact that the shop is run by a cool expat from California, who’s lived in Copenhagen for 20 years, doesn’t speak much Danish and makes you feel at home right away. Nathan and I chatted with the owner about where we were from, what we were studying and where we had been, and basically had a grand ol’ American time. The only thing that could have made our homesickness curing experience better would have been our faithful third, Michelle (who SHOULD have stayed a full year with us).

IMG_0583

 

The food was delicious, AND reasonably priced–we both spent 100 kr, the equivalent of about $20, which is cheap in Copenhagen. Taco Shop will definitely be forever on my list best things in Copenhagen.

Viking Diet

One of the first things you’ll notice in Denmark is that everyone is beautiful. After about two weeks, you MIGHT be able to pick your jaw up off the ground when you’re riding the metro and stop staring at all the tall, striking Norse gods you’re surrounded by. American students studying in Denmark often have long conversations trying to figure out what the trick to being a hot Scandinavian in this freezing cold weather is.

Throughout my time here, I’ve decided it must have something to do with what people eat and drink, so I’m going to share what’s bound to be the fad diet of the century. I’ve been in Denmark since August, and I even lived at a folkehøjskole last semester with an awesome Danish cook named Nicolaij (who complimented my banana bread once) so I’m basically an expert.

First, say goodbye to white bread. In Denmark, you have to embrace rugbrød which literally means “rye bread” in Danish, but this is not the slightly mutated dark bread that you’re used to being called rye in the US.

Image

No more of this.

Danish rugbrød is crunchy, dense and has sunflower seeds in it. The idea is for it to be something like horse food, except baked into bread.

Image

Next, you have to embrace the smørrebrød;

Image

mmm. Smørrebrød

a traditional, and absolutely delicious open-faced sandwich. Unsurprisingly, it starts with the aforementioned rugbrød as a base, and is topped with no less than four more ingredients, including but not limited to: potato slices, onions, remoulade, and prawns. The Danes have truly turned sandwich making into an art, but you have to make sure you buy your smørrebrød somewhere Danish, because mere mortals are incapable of navigating the lackadaisical rules of smørrebrød making. It’s worth noting that the stacked ingredients will get smeared all over your face and hands, but make sure you keep your cool because Danes are never embarrassed as far as I can tell.

If you like Coffee, Denmark is definitely your kind of place. Unless you like coffee shops, in that case it’s insanely expensive. But in a home setting, coffee accompanies pretty much every meal, and is a great compliment to hygge. According to this, Danes are 4th in the world in coffee consumption, beat only by the Netherlands, Finland, and Sweden (which is really part of the old Danish empire anyway)

Another essential component of the Viking diet is Carlsberg, the Bud Light of Denmark that the Danes drink like water. The open container laws are very laissez-faire in Denmark, so it’s not uncommon to see someone cracking open a Carlsberg on the train at 8 am on a Friday morning. Despite the amount of Carlsberg, a true Viking is never more than buzzed, perhaps allowing a smile to crack through the trademark icy stare.

Since you’ve worked hard to earn the status of a Norse God, you can skip the vegetables and smoke 5 or 6 cigarettes a day, as long as you ride your bike everywhere (and look wonderfully stylish while doing it). Despite the massive amounts of bread, beer, and cheese you will consume on the Viking diet, you will mysteriously stay tall, svelte, and beautiful.

Despite my efforts to embrace the Viking lifestyle, with the bike, bread and beer, I’ve yet to transform into a Nordic Goddess, but perhaps once I’ve learned to pronounce these impossible Danish words, the transformation will be complete.

*If there is any time to break the Viking Diet, it’s definitely when it comes to spicy food. For some odd reason, spicy flavors never made it into the Nordic culinary tradition, the seasonings of choice are salt and pepper. Thus, even though Vikings are indestructible and perfect, they have one downfall—the inability to handle spicy food.

Image

Viking Kryptonite

If you love spicy food, have someone from the US send you habanero peppers and prepare to amaze Danes who cower in the face of chili powder. For bonus points, feed a Dane a hot pepper and be ready with a vial to collect rare Viking tears, said to have magical transformative properties