University Post
University of Copenhagen
Independent of management


Why a German, a Frenchman and an American decided to call Copenhagen home

Copenhageners — FOMO in Berlin, stress in Parisian supermarkets and good-looking Danes - there are many reasons to return to Copenhagen after an exchange program is finished. Uniavisen spoke with three young people who did just that.

“In Berlin I’m constantly anxious about missing out on something.”

21-year-old Gina-Josephine Fischer sips on a coffee on Værnedamsvej on the border between Vesterbro and Frederiksberg when Uniavisen meets with her. In Berlin, she began her studies in “culture and media.” She was on exchange during the Autumn semester 2016, and after a brief stint back in Berlin, decided to return to Copenhagen. She is currently doing an internship at the Goethe Institute while writing her bachelor thesis.

Tell me a bit about where you come from

“I grew up outside the centre of Berlin, so it was about an hour-and-a-half into the city, which has always seemed very overwhelming to me. It’s so big – almost too big, and you end up spending a lot of money and time in traffic. On the other hand, it’s also really cheap in Berlin. So you can enjoy life on little money. The problem with Berlin is that so much is happening at once. There is always a concert to go to, a dance floor to dance on. That also makes it hard to find real friends, because they’re always busy with something or other. Too much partying, maybe. It happens so often, that I end up doing nothing at all. The decision is too hard. And then you end up feeling anxious about missing out on something.”

And you decided to move back to Copenhagen. How did that happen?

“It was actually pretty easy to decide to move back. During my Erasmus I made heaps of Danish friends – and also met my boyfriend with two months left of my exchange. He’s from Seattle but lives in Copenhagen, and we met at a Huset KBH event. We were the only two there dancing. We liked each other straight away and started seeing each other regularly. He studied in Copenhagen and already had his own apartment on Vesterbro, so it was obvious for me to come back and live with him.”

What makes Copenhagen a great place to live?

“Copenhagen is significantly smaller than Berlin, so you can easily get around by bike, and you quickly get to know the city, because the core is so small. The study environment is also really good, so I feel more productive here. I make videos, and I have experienced that I dare to challenge myself much more in Copenhagen because it feels like people support creativity much more. For example, I got a total of 12 friends to participate in a video that I filmed at Refshaløen. That would never have happened in Berlin, having someone dance on camera for free.

There are also so many interesting places in the city which still feel untouched. I love this place near Nordhavn, with a playground on the roof of some new buildings. [Konditaget Lüders]. You can see the whole city and the sea, and it’s really amazing. To be close to the sea and feel the wind makes me feel alive.”

What’s the hardest thing to get used to?

“What’s missing in Copenhagen are hidden spots around the city. There’s so many in Berlin, but Copenhagen feels very controlled in that way. There aren’t as many nooks and crannies to hide in. People are generally very rule-abiding and proper in Copenhagen, so I feel bad not always being that way myself.”

22-year-old Léo Tamayo was born in Paris but grew up on the small island of La Réunion off Madagascar. He has lived in several places in Europe, usually for six months at a time. His first visit to Copenhagen was a few years ago when taking on an internship. Leo liked the city so much that he decided to come back and take up his Masters in Migration Studies.

Tell me a bit about where you come from

“When I was younger, I lived in Montmartre with my mother but we had to move to La Réunion for her work. When I later moved back to Paris, I lived in a suburb with my father. Paris is very large, so the experiences you have in the city depend a lot on where you find yourself.  Where I lived was very multicultural, so I enjoyed that a lot. I don’t see that so much in Copenhagen, besides Nørrebro.

Many people in Paris are just naturally stressed – everyone is running around. People even run around the supermarkets. I like the fast pace, but it often becomes too much. Especially because there isn’t enough nature in Paris to help me disconnect. I grew up on a tropical island, so I miss nature and am sick of all the pollution in major cities like Paris.”

And you decided to move back to Copenhagen. How did that happen?

“I think just because my first experience in Copenhagen was so good. When I was out in the city, I felt at home. I didn’t feel like a tourist when I tried to express myself. I ended up applying for masters in several places, but Copenhagen was my first choice. I had a precise plan: I would study my masters and then find a job. The apartment was already in place. It’s near the Botanical Gardens. Truly Copenhagen-esque idyll.”

What makes Copenhagen a great place to live?

“The city is amazing. When I walk around the streets I think to myself: it’s so fucking beautiful here. There are also many parks and that was something I found I missed when I lived in Paris.

The city is really comfortable – everything is made and designed so that it is ideal. Danes also spend a lot of time indoors when it gets cold, so it’s important that there are really nice environments where you can cocoon.

Copenhageners also seem to have a lot of trust in each other. At first you think that maybe people are naive, but you then realize that it’s just because people behave nicely.

It’s also really relaxing that everything doesn’t have to be controlled, for example, due to terror threats, which is happening in Paris. You often have to show your ID card or something.”

What’s the hardest thing to get used to?

“It feels like there is no spontaneity at all in Copenhagen. Making a plan with Danes requires so much planning, because everyone is planning all the time. It’s a very rigid way to live if you have to make coffee dates 2-3 weeks in advance.

Nor does it seem like Danes particularly like eye contact. I often end up feeling impolite on the metro if I look at other people. I am not used to everyone taking their privacy so seriously. On the other hand, I love going out on the street without anyone contacting me.”

“Welfare means a more relaxed lifestyle”

24-year-old Josephine Cheng is sitting by the water on Søndre Campus. She was born in Macau, China but has lived in Seattle, Washington since she was 10. She studied part of her Bachelor in Denmark, and has now returned to study a master in “IT and Cognition” while working at Paper Island.

Tell me a bit about where you come from …

“Everyone drives around in cars in Seattle. Otherwise, there’s only buses and there tends to be too much traffic so I prefer to drive.  Seattle is a very relaxed city and the outdoors are very prominent, because it’s surrounded by mountains, so I tend to head to the mountains on the weekends and enjoy the serenity and fresh air.

Living costs are largely the same as in Copenhagen, but the big difference is eating out. Eating out can definitely be affordable in Seattle, so I often did that with my friends. In Copenhagen, you only do that on special occasions, at least if you’re a student.”

And you decided to move back to Copenhagen. How did that happen?

It was actually a really impulsive decision. I applied for a masters two days before I moved back to Denmark and I actually had a back-up plan to study in Los Angeles, but I decided to move to Denmark instead, partly because my friends really encouraged me to.

The structure of the education gives students a lot of freedom to explore themselves and the world, so everything seems a lot more relaxed, which is something that really draws me.”

What makes Copenhagen a great place to live?

“There’s a lot of good-looking guys. Copenhagen is a really charming city. It’s small, people seem trustworthy and the architecture is really beautiful – both the old and the new. Danes seem much more family-oriented relative to Americans, who in my opinion are much more money-oriented. I think it’s because welfare gives the opportunity for a more relaxed lifestyle.

The entire city is lovely, but my absolute favourite place has to be my collegium which is close to DR-byen. It’s the first time I’ve lived in a collegium and I have just been really lucky. One of my other favourite spots is Tivoli – especially in the Autumn, when they celebrate Halloween and you can see fireworks from my window. I am totally in love with it.

When I come back to Copenhagen after travelling, I always feel home. I could definitely see myself growing old in Copenhagen.”

What’s the hardest thing to get used to?

“It’s not actually hard to get used to the idea of having to live here permanently. I can always go back to Seattle if everything goes wrong. What I have been most puzzled by are really small, banal things like “Why do Danes run so much?” or “Why do Danes love rye bread and liquorice so much?” It’s also frustrating to get used to expensive restaurant prices. This means I have gotten significantly better at cooking, so I can socialise with food in a completely different way now.”