The English student

“I like the lifestyle here much better”

By Emma Brink

Lucy Suggitt first arrived in Denmark in the autumn of 2018. When her semester abroad in Aarhus came to an end, she returned to the UK to finish her degree in law. The next year, however, she was back, this time in Copenhagen, where she is currently working on her master’s. She was drawn back to Denmark by what she felt was a more relaxed pace of life here – even if Danes themselves can be a little unapproachable.

I fell in love with Denmark during my semester abroad in Aarhus. That was why I chose to come back. Everyone here is down-to-earth; people don’t stress, and I think their work ethic is way more relaxed than it is back in England. Danes spend time together, they relax and hygge with each other.

The relationship to your instructors is much different. In England, we’d never walk out of a lecture to answer a phone call or something like that. We don’t speak with our instructors the same way either. Everything in England is much more formal. University here is much different, and it was kind of a culture shock to find that everyone is on a much more equal footing. Instructors aren’t arrogant.

The workload is much heavier here, I feel. There is a lot more self-study. In England, courses are centred around the instructor and lectures. If you miss class, you fail the exam, because it doesn’t get recorded or repeated. Here, it seems like you could do everything from home and still pass your exams. And you don’t need to worry about getting sick; all you need to do is send an e-mail to your instructor. They’ll e-mail you back to tell you that it’s okay and let you know what you missed. That’s way different than in England.

I love the social life outside of university here. To be able to go out and sit in a park and relax. In England, socialising means going to a discotheque or something like that. Here, it’s a lot more relaxed. You hang out with friends and make dinner. You don’t need to put on nice clothes and get all dolled up. People here are more relaxed.  

Most of the people I know here I met at work or during my semester in Aarhus. The rest I just met at random. Some of my friends here in Copenhagen, for example, I met through a flatmate. When I meet Danes, it’s generally though someone I know. Otherwise, I find it kind of hard to make Danish friends – especially at uni.

Danish students don’t really talk to us internationals. Some do, of course, but I generally don’t sit with the Danish students because they normally don’t talk to us unless they have to, in my experience.

I’m not sure why it’s so hard to make friends with Danes at uni. I’ve met a few Danes in some of my courses that have a lot of internationals, but, in one class I took that was about 90% Danes, I barely spoke with anyone. I just sat at a desk by myself. I tried to talk to them, and they did say “hello” back, but then they just went back to talking to the others in their group.

The first time I went out, I was surprised by the way people looked and acted. People couldn’t care less whether you have make-up on, or if you’re wearing jeans and sandals. I know that sounds like a cliché, but I think it’s so nice. I grew up in a culture where everything was about how you act and how you look; the way you dress and the way you behave in public. People here couldn’t care less about how you look; they’re interested in who you are.

Everything is so safe here. I feel safe when I’m out and about here, even at night, because I can be sure that, if I had a problem, someone would help me. It’s not like at home. There I don’t feel safe walking alone at night in my hometown or taking the train in Newcastle, where I went to university. Here, I take the Metro wherever I need to go, or I walk or bike home at night. I’ve never felt unsafe.

Biking isn’t much of a thing in the UK, so it took me some time to get used to it – hand signals, where not to ride etc.

The first time I biked during rush hour in Copenhagen I wanted to cry. I lived in Østerbro and had a class at Sønder Campus, in Islands Brygge, so I needed to bike across the city. It was terrible. I felt that I couldn’t keep up or that I was too slow or that I was too fast or that I couldn’t turn where I needed to. I hated it. It took me a week before I biked during rush hour again, but now I’ve got a handle on it.

Everything is super expensive here compared with back in the UK. There, I could buy enough food for a whole week for 80 kroner. I can’t even come close to that here. Transport is expensive here, too. Yeah, everything is really expensive. But, if I take into account how much more I earn here, it works out about the same.

I’ve been applying for jobs in law since I moved here. I’ve had one interview. I only apply for jobs that are in English. I applied to Danish jobs in the beginning, but I only heard back about the international jobs, so I don’t apply for Danish jobs anymore.

I’m planning on staying here permanently, if I can. There are so many opportunities here. There are at home, too, but I didn’t enjoy living in the UK. I miss my family of course, but I like the lifestyle here much better. I’m more relaxed, less stressed, more satisfied.

This article was originally published in Danish in Djøfbladet.