First Impressions

Apprehension, excitement, homesickness and nervousness were some of the feelings I experienced during my first week in Copenhagen. It also came with a lesson or two on Danish culture and some first impressions

- Morning rush hour, if you can actually call it “rush” is so peaceful. Walking to work is amazingly calm. I have noticed that sight is the only sense I actually use as I travel to the office

- When crossing the street, don’t look out for cars but rather bikes

- Never ask or order bottled water. Tap water in Copenhagen is extremely clean and you will actually offend the Danes by asking why they don’t have a water cooler or if you request filtered water

- There are rules on how to make your Smørrebrød. I am not sure what they are yet, but I am having fun exploring the unspoken rules and the idiosyncrasies whilst I enjoy one of the nations favourite dishes

- I have had to abandon my much loved stilettos and switch to more practical flat boots. The beautiful cobble stone streets and the bitter cold have made them oh so unstylish

- Danes are extremely polite and dealing with them is so effortless.

As I sit on a plane bound for London, I am wondering how my second week pans out and if  Copenhagen will win my heart.  I know I am excited about returning on Monday to discover more of Copenhagen and wondering where next week’s journey will take me.

By Renette Youssef • February 22, 2011

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An outsiders view

Copenhagen should go by the slogan “the liveable city”. It is almost impossible to get stressed going about your daily life. Traffic isn’t crazy, you can be spontaneous and just turn up to a restaurant without a reservation, public transport runs on time, and having a bike means you can avoid rush hour crush as you cycle to work through lakes and greenery. However, having spent more time in Copenhagen, I have realised what it is most that I miss about a big city.

I miss that people come from all walks of life, that there is always something new to do and you can feel as anonymous or as integrated as you want to be.

The majority of expats I’ve met in Copenhagen moved to Denmark to be with their Danish partner. This makes me wonder, do Danes not want to live anywhere else, after all it is a liveable city, or is being close to their family a top priority?

In one of my earlier posts I wrote how quiet the cafes and restaurants were during the week, that going out was saved for the weekends. I witnessed on more than one occasion, colleagues worry about telling their partners they are travelling on business and that Danes always seem to come in pairs. So I explored this with locals. “Yes”I was told, “being with our family is top priority”.  This was further amplified when a customs officer at Copenhagen airport huffed “stop travelling and go home and be with your family” as he flicked through my passport.

This got me thinking. If I was at home right now what would I be doing? What are the Danes doing? Are they actually sitting around talking, creating memories and doing new things? Or are they stuck in a routine of washing dishes, working late and watching the news? I know when I am out with my family or friends I am exploring new things. We are sharing an amazing or sometimes rubbish meal that we’ll talk and laugh about for days. I’ll be out with my best friends seeing a play, a gig, or sharing a bottle of vino de-stressing about our working day, having a laugh and a good gossip. Most importantly, we are talking and creating memories.

So I wonder, will my views about Danish living and priorities change as I spend more time here?

By Renette Youssef • June 19, 2011

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Eight weeks on

Eight weeks on…have my first impressions and observations of Copenhagen changed?

Coffee seems to be enjoyed at all hours of the day and evening. Unlike other parts of the world, coffee is consistently good in Copenhagen. If you are a coffee lover like me, head to:

- Coffee Collective: Every coffee loving Dane or tourist has heard of this little coffee shop found on rough and cool Jægersborggade. When it’s sunny, grab a bench outside and watch students mix with the trendy and the working class.

Latte

Amazing latte @ The Coffee Collective

- Old Mate: Run by an Aussie girl who spent a summer in Copenhagen and never left. Probably the only place in Copenhagen you can order a falt white

Whilst sipping your coffee, you will notice that fashion is less reactive and throw away than it is in London. I haven’t really notice anyone follow a trend or spend hours in “high street” stores.

On the weekend do as the Danes do and “brunch”.  Spend hours indulging in yoghurt, bacon, eggs, pancakes, sausages, fruit and smoothies all served on one plate. Brunching has almost replaced my love for the Sunday pub lunch…almost! Head to Kalaset or The Laundromat Cafe where locals mix with tourists.

Dirty Brunch

Dirty Brunch @ The Laundromat Cafe

Getting to know Copenhagen only really started when I got on a bike. Hire one from Baisikeli where all the profits and used bikes go to Africa.

I still maintain the Danes are very friendly regardless of some of the comments left on my previous post. However, service can be frosty and when eating out, be prepared for a lack of English menus. I think only once  have I been presented with options in English. And don’t expect the staff to have any patience whilst you ask what is what on the menu.

Whilst you are out exploring, sipping your coffee and brunching, you will also notice lots of eye contact. After living in London for over seven years, I am till getting accustomed to strangers making eye contact with me in the gym, on the metro or simply walking down the street. Starring and holding eye contact doesn’t seem to be rude in Denmark. I am learning to just smile back!

While the rest of the world is obsessed with being on a low carb diet, I watch the Danes indulge in bread and pastries every day like it is going out of fashion and yet maintain one of the least over weight populations in the world.

When the sun is out, grab an ice-cream and sit in the park or by the lakes. You’ll see queues for every ice-creamery you spot. Now go outside and enjoy Copenhagen…it is an amazing place to be when the sun is shining.

By Renette Youssef • April 23, 2011

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The Great Danes

Danes are famous for being tall, blond and beautiful. I’d also like to add from the experience I have had to date, they are also some of the friendliest people I’ve come across.

The Great Danes:

-  Will give you a wink or a friendly smile when you say sorry for bumping into them. More importantly it is never an issue

- Will smile or greet you with a “good morning” as you walk down the street regardless if you know them or not

- Have a unexplainable sense of sincerity, something I have experienced from everyone I have engaged with

- Will open doors and and wish you a good evening or day as they let you in

- Have allowed me to feel relaxed and comfortable regardless of my non existent ability to speak Danish. In fact, they have made me to feel welcomed as they try and impress me with their perfect English

- Have a humble, dry sense of humour  and quick wit which always lifts my mood

- Have an understated sense of style

- Will give you a firm and sincere handshake whenever you meet them for the first time

Even the removalists who carried my bulging boxes up five flights of stairs to my new apartment, puffed out and exhausted, shook my hand, looked me in the eyes and warmly said “welcome to Denmark” as if he was representing the country and the people he loved. A simple gesture that will probably stay with me forever.

By Renette Youssef • March 19, 2011

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Time

Time in London is so fast. You need to keep up and move quickly to survive. Time in Copenhagen seems to be more leisurely and something you spend on things that are important.

Time away from your desk at lunch is mandatory and eating in front of your computer is very “British”. I am yet to see anyone have lunch whilst working or on the go.

Time with your family is a priority. My working day is short compared to the long hours Londoners experience. The only people left in the office after “clock off” time are foreigners. Something I can get used to!

Closing time and getting on with your evening is more important than making money. I was shooed out of a store right on 18.00. I wasn’t sure if I was offended as a paying customer to be shown the door or impressed that store operating hours are strictly observed by the Danes.

As a Londoner who is used to spending at least four nights out in restaurants, bars or in pubs, I was surprised to see so many empty places as I walked around the city on a Wednesday night. Obviously spending time on leisurely activity is saved for the weekend and something I will have to get accustomed to.

With all this, my last couple of weeks in Copenhagen have gone so fast. Using the Underground in London this weekend makes me realise I don’t miss the chaotic journeys, the tut’s at the Oyster card readers when it beeps “seek assistance” nor the crowds on Regents St, aspects of London that used to make me feel alive living in a buzzy city.  Now returning back to Copenhagen, I am looking forward to taking the time to breath.

By Renette Youssef • February 26, 2011

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My Copenhagen

Renette Youssef

My Copenhagen is about my journey and the adventures I am experiencing whilst living in a new city. I am an Australian who moved to London seven years ago and fell in love with the city almost instantly. I loved exploring and discovering my now favourite places to eat, read, meet friends and spend time on my own. Now I am embarking on a new career which finds me in Copenhagen.