So, fellow blogger @marshallahmallow asked me, what I wished I had known before I came to Copenhagen and I decided to share my response (with contributions from friends) in this post.
Just to preface this as well, there are some generalizations and observations made from Americans in Copenhagen, so that may differ from that of a European coming to Copenhagen or Denmark in general.
- This might be indicative of the food industry of USA vs. Europe, but you won’t find sugary cereals that you’re familiar with back home. Kelloggs, General Mills, etc. are present in Denmark, but you will see different variations of your childhood cereals. Look for Frosties as your Frosted Flakes comparison!
- Grocery food items are smaller than the US (and many of us have thought this contributes to why the trend of meal prep is relatively unknown here in DK). For example, I’m used to a gallon sized milk cartons and the carton sized in the country is a quarter of the size. Leading to multiple grocery trips during the week.
- You won’t be able to find sweetened peanut butter!
- Related to restaurants and grocery markets, there is a lower sense of diversity in food than that of the States. The biggest tragedy my friends have expressed is that of great Mexican food and ingredients.
- When I say, Denmark is cold in the spring, I mean it! We’ve only recently started seeing the sun and shed our fur coats these past two weeks. That means invest in Vitamin D pills and make sure you buy gloves, hats, and scarves.
- That being said, when the weather goes to and above 20 degrees Celsius EVERYONE in Copenhagen come out in droves. Don’t be surprised if your commute becomes 20 minutes longer because trains and buses are abnormally full to capacity.
Cost & Shopping
- So, all of my friends and I knew this one, but we were still surprised by this one. Copenhagen is an expensive city and the whole of Denmark is no different. No matter where you go it seems everything is double or tripled the price than it is back in the states.
- Also, MAKE SURE YOU HAVE DANISH KRONER! I made the mistake believing that Denmark is completely cashless, but I was sorely mistaken and by the time I was in Denmark it was practically impossible to take money out of an ATM and not lose half of my money just on fees.
- Another important note! Danish pharmacies are completely different than that of the ones I’m sure you are familiar. They do not sell cold medicine or anything else found in your neighborhood Rite-Aid or Walgreens. You can’t get your medicine back home filled here as well. Similarly, the pharmacy stores have weird hours and don’t extend late into the night. I recommend bringing Day-Quil, Ny-quil, Z-quil, cough drops, seasonal allergy relief, and headache pain relief meds (or your personal equivalent).
- I’ve already talked about this on my blog before, but my friends felt this point was something every visitor or study abroad student should know about Danish history – their colonial history.
- With that, we have to come to the conclusion that everyone should know that racism and xenophobia are alive and well in Denmark. No matter how progressive Denmark seems and/or is there are drawbacks that students have seen or experienced while in this country.
- I’m here to let you know that yes Danes wear black, but no they don’t only wear black. Dark colors are a sign of a local, but I’ve also seen lighter colors as a part of their wardrobe.
- An aspect of their wardrobe norms that was foreign to me was the implementation of tights. Tighs under skirts and dresses are seen as both fashionable and functionally necessary for the weather.
- For the men out there, the Chelsea boot is a common footwear of the everyday Dane. So, if you want to prance around like a local make sure you grab a pair.
Danes – the people!
- Upon first glance, Danes come off super unapproachable on public transit, in bars, and even walking down the street. But don’t be put off by appearances, for the most part, every Dane that I’ve mustered up the courage to talk to are very inviting and welcoming.
- That being said, Danes have a different perspective on political correctness and have different social taboos to Americans. The best comparison is with Danish humor is similar to the witty and deadpan humor of the Brits. For an American, this seems off-putting because they generally are more straightforward and blunt with their opinions and takes on topics. Some of my friends who aren’t used to that kind of socialization have remarked that it has made them uncomfortable more often than not.
- I think this is self-explanatory or could be avoided, but make sure you know a little of the language. Many of the adult Danes are practically fluent in English, but it does help to bridge the divide between tourist and local. (Also, don’t be surprised if Danes don’t say “excuse me” (Undskyld!) everything that they do is with an implied “excuse me”).