International Blog: Winnie in Copenhagen – & Amsterdam

— 26.11.15

by Simon Spode

It’s been three months already, and so much has happened so quickly. Being surrounded by so many exchange students also from corners of the world, as far away as New Zealand and the States, means many weekends are spent abroad discovering a new city.

Travelling is addictive and recently with a couple of friends I went to Norway for a spontaneous weekend of hiking ice glaciers and Trolltunga – a 30km, ten hour hike which had scenic views unlike no other place I’ve visited. Norwegian writing is similar to Danish, however, hearing it spoken is a different story.

A day after returning, I caught the next flight to Amsterdam to visit Gigi, a coursemate who is doing her Erasmus year there. What I realised during my amazing week of visiting museums and art galleries whilst discovering cities all over the Netherlands, was that Amsterdam has a younger and more vibrant feeling than Copenhagen. However, I cannot recommend the safety of the cycling culture there, having been accustomed to strict Danish rules and flat roads for miles!

The busy city and nightlife seems incredible there – I went to a party in Eindhoven which showed me a more openly welcoming culture than I have experienced in Copenagen! In comparison, Copenhagen has a very laid back love for bars, and it is great you can definitely feel the cultural differences in terms of how people interact with the Danes who are famous for their equality.

Since coming to Denmark, I have fallen in love with things. The culture is reserved with high privacy, meaning it has been a little harder getting to know local students, however, once friendships have been established I’ve learnt a lot and have become open minded to having a quieter yet more meaningful social life. The friends I tend to make, often due to the varied class mix itself and many Danes being years older than me, has been appreciated as I get new insights and fresh perspectives all the time.

Danes love to have dinner parties or simple walks together, helped by their love of “hygge”, translating roughly to a sense of warmth and coziness in the presence of good company. It is a common sight to see candles lit everywhere you go, and the crazy huge variety of them, more so than the range of food available in supermarkets! This concept of hygge was one thing that attracted me to Denmark way back last year when applying, and certainly is what I believe contributes to why Danes are some of the happiest people on earth.

Cultural differences in particular with Americans are the funniest. My friend took her American flag up the mountain with us – so much pride! In America, the common phrase “keeping up with the Joneses” represents the strive to be better than our neighbours. However, one thing I love about the Danes is their Scandinavian roots in modesty, believing in “Janteloven”. It is truly refreshing to live in a country that upholds these values so strongly.

In terms of workload, I do not have any tutorials so the challenge lies more in self-discipline – to work independently throughout the semester until our 100%, four-hour exams which start in three weeks, I am quite nervous about them! Whereas In Amsterdam, Gigi gets assigned weekly tests which perhaps would be better, but on the other hand, it means I have lots of time to travel and explore!

I live next-door to one of the main teaching buildings too, meaning my room is literally 10 steps down the corridor to the 24/7 library which is very convenient. The lecturers are great and come from many professional backgrounds. For example, one is a track and field medalist on the Olympic committee, who took us to VIP area of FC København’s football stadium last week for my first ever viewing of a match!

Amsterdam however is so much cheaper than Copenhagen! They say prices are similar to London here but, to be honest, I believe it’s more affordable back home – particularly when my simple weekly grocery shop is double the price of what I spend in the UK! Likewise, dining out is not helped by the fact that Copenhagen is listed as the world’s third most expensive place to do so. My favourite places to grab quick food though is at Norreport food market due to its resemblance to London’s Borough market, and Papiroen, an edgy hipster warehouse filled with candles and a food court of different cuisines.

I have joined AISEC now, in Corporate Relations Intern Management, and it is really making me think of the opportunities yet to come in this sophisticated and relaxed country. I’ll do the next blog post on when my fellow Sheffield girl Kerrie comes to visit and we can be typical tourists for the weekend!


Celebrating the graduation of our International Faculty students


International blog: Frances in Copenhagen – potatoes & pastries


International blog: Joe in Hamilton – homecoming at McMaster!