Donna in Svendborg: "Denmark has this big bike culture"

  • Donna in Svendborg
Published 2015-06-25 00:00
Donna comes from Melbourne. She settled in Svendborg eight months ago with her Danish husband after spending 10 years traveling around the world. She is currently studying psychology and learning Danish.


I'm an Aussie who's settle in Denmark with my Danish husband. Previously I've lived in Montenegro, Romania, Thailand & Turkey. My passions include SCUBA (Divemaster) & photography and I'm now studying psychology.

Where are you from, Donna, and what are you doing nowadays?

I'm originally from Melbourne, Australia. I've spent the last 10 years working and traveling to various countries around the world. I met my husband online while I was living and teaching in Montenegro and he was in charge of a company in Romania.

Why did you choose to move to Denmark?

My Danish husband decided, after 20 years away, that he wanted to go back home to study Ancient History at University.

What were the procedures to follow for an Australian national to move there?

I have dual nationality (British & Australian), which makes things much simpler in Europe, especially EU countries. I am here as an EU citizen rather than a foreign immigrant, so I basically just registered after I moved here. If I wasn't married to a Danish citizen, I would technically have to leave after 6 months if I hadn't found a job.

What has attracted you to Svendborg?

It was close to my husband's University and we were looking for something, near water, which we could afford.

How long have you been in the country?

We've been here for eight months now. Most of my family lives in Australia, so I don't see them as often as I would like. My husband's family lives in Copenhagen.

Are you currently working? What are the local labor market's features?

I'm not working for the time being although I'd like to, once my Danish improves. I'm currently studying three days per week in the State-sponsored Lærdansk skole. I am also studying Psychology online with an Australian University. Both take up a fair amount of my time. Besides, I've heard it is very hard to find a job in Denmark as a foreigner, especially if you don't speak the language well. Danes are quite insular and tend to stick with what/who they know.

Was it difficult to find accommodation there? What are the types of accommodation which are available?

Accommodation was not difficult to find. Before we moved, we honed in on several areas of interest and searched online. Then when my husband went over for University, he checked out a few of them and we picked one, and that was it. Unfortunately, we later discovered that the apartment was wedged between two disco's that like to start at midnight and finish at 6 am (if you're lucky). So we ended up moving, still within the same town but slightly further out with a nicer view and quiet.

How do you find the Danish lifestyle? What about expatriates living there?

There are very few expatriates here in Svendborg. I've only met one through this website and she lives in Odense. So we've only met up only once but stay in touch via social networks. There are quite a few foreigners coming to Svendborg as from this year, but that is because the Danish school moved into the town and brought them all with it. However, most are refugees, not expats. I have made a few friends from school which is nice, but Danes prefer to stick together for the most part.

Have you been able to adapt yourself to the country and to its society?

I love living in Svendborg as it's small and by the sea. But I do miss the hustle and bustle of a bigger town sometimes. Now that summer is coming, things are opening up and there are many more people around. In winter it's pretty dead. I had visited Denmark several times before I moved here, so I was a little familiar with Danish society. However, my poor husband, who had not lived here for 20 years, sometimes struggles with the changes that he doesn't feel are for the best, like the attitude of the young people and alcohol consumption which seems to be very high and noticeable everywhere, even in a small town like this one.

What does your every day life look like in Svendborg?

If it's a school day, I get up at 7.30 am, grab a coffee and head to school which is only a 10 minute walk away. I'm there until 1.35 pm. Then, I either go home and do housework before homework or take a walk in town. Now the weather is getting better (relatively). There are more cafes opening, concerts and general things to do outside. We have a garden for the first time in nearly five years, so we both enjoy relaxing outside. We are also not far from Germany, and it's nice to hop over the border for cheaper shopping, as clothing and shoes in Denmark are quite expensive with no real cheaper options. Unfortunately, my life revolves around study at the moment.

What has surprised you the most at your arrival?

I had in my mind the picture of a perfect country based on the stories my husband had told me. Apparently, many things have changed. I didn't expect the high level of smoking over here, and the fact that people (men in particular) spit. I find that disgusting and had only encountered that in Asia before now. Because I've lived in so many countries, not much surprises me anymore. I usually just go with the flow.

What is your opinion on the cost of living in Denmark? Is it easy for an expat to live there?

I suppose the cost of living is relative, but as we've just moved from Turkey, and before that Romania where the cost of living is low, in both countries, Denmark does feel expensive. But I don't think it is if you have a job or regular income. Food is rather cheap in Denmark, especially meat, but clothing and shoes are quite expensive. I've yet to find a hairdresser that doesn't charge a fortune.

How do you spend your leisure time?

We like to hang out at home, but we also enjoy just walking around discovering new things like woodlands, or what's new happening around the harbor. Now it's warmer. Some of the better bars with courtyards are opening and they have live bands which is a lot of fun.

Your favorite dishes?

I don't really have a favorite Danish dish but we're ODing on pork at the moment because it was so expensive and hard to get in Turkey. We're just enjoying eating things that are in limited supply in other countries.

What are the differences between life in Denmark and in Australia?

Public transport is better here than in Australia, but that's because Australia is such a big country where, unless you live in the city, you pretty much need to have a car. Denmark has this big bike culture, and I've just bought my first bike in 40 years. I haven't ridden it yet. I'm a bit nervous as bike riders tend to act like they own the road and the footpaths and make no allowances. So I'll be taking it easy to begin with. Other than that, I've not noticed a big difference between the two cultures. I think the sense of humor is also pretty similar.

What do you miss the most about your home country?

Honestly, I haven't lived there for so long. I've lived in some pretty wonderful places that, other than my family, there's not much I miss.

Would like to give any advice to soon-to-be expatriates?

It depends on what they're expecting. It's hard to make Danish friends here, even for a Dane, but the bars are good for that. Not the sleazy, nightclubs/disco's. I mean the comfy family type ones with courtyards. Once everyone has a drink or two in them, everyone is friendly.
Learn as much Danish as you can before arriving. The government-sponsored scheme is not that fantastic and a bit all over the shop. As an ex-English teacher there is plenty I would change. If you learn before you come over, then you'll build up a certain level of confidence which will help you use your Danish as soon as you arrive. Maybe join a few online chat groups that cater for expats in Denmark, although most are based out of Copenhagen or Odense.
I read a great book recently on how to live in Denmark. Both my Danish husband and I chuckled away, and it helped explain some of the idiosyncrasies that I thought only belonged to him.

What are your plans for the future?

We plan to stay in Denmark, at least until my husband has finished his degree. Then, hopefully, we may move to Italy or somewhere slightly warmer. I'm also a professional diver, but the waters here are not beckoning due to the cold, but who knows! We're both inclined to snap decisions so we could end up anywhere or just stay here.