First Experiences Arriving in Denmark

First Experiences Arriving in Denmark

July 20, 2020 Off By Awino Fredrick

I am not quite sure what your feelings are on the first day traveling to a new destination. Mine was a mixture of excitement, worry, anxiety, apprehension, and a general emotional rush. Honestly, I was not quite myself throughout the journey.

Arriving at the Copenhagen International Airport

A Dream Come True

I got in touch with the reality that the time to be in Europe as a student eventually came. For a long time the mention of “developed country” sounded to me just like any other. On this day, I was anxious to experience its true meaning. I was entering what anyone would call the first world. I mean coming from a developing country into a first world where efficiency meets industry is not a mean feat. As expected, it came to me with all manner of emotions. 

At the Airport

This may be surprising or it may be rather unworthy of mentioning. It was at the airport that I started to have a close, first-hand experience with the whites. Never before in my life had I been in a close-extended talk with people of white descent. Just to allay anyone questioning my exposure, yes I had interacted with the whites but only momentarily. It was my first opportunity to start learning the host community for a better experience as a master’s student.

Arriving in Denmark

First Impressions of Denmark

I was already getting pleased with how efficient the operations at the airport were. Every worker there seemed to understand their job and diligently do it to the satisfaction of the travelers. At the waiting lounge, I had a short talk with this charming white man. He was so curious to know about me, my country, and the reasons for my journey to Denmark. He immediately wanted to know my first impressions about Denmark.

My Conversation with a White Guy

The man first thought I come from Cameroon, Ghana, or Nigeria-because so many people from these countries live in Europe. I was taken aback that a white man would be interested in just exchanging pleasantries with. This man’s warmth and articulateness made me doubt the notion that Europeans are ever too busy. For once I thought that the promoters of this idea are just mean was mean.

My first Interracial Conversation in Denmark

Billund Airport

My air travel ended at Billund Airport which is a one hour fifteen minutes flight from Copenhagen Airport. Here, I started becoming a bit uneasy. I realized that everyone who attended to me at the airport mostly spoke Danish. Of course, they did so flexibly as long as the passengers understood Danish.

Language Barrier

Everyone I interacted with would begin the conversation with  the salutation “hej hvordan har du det!” Later on, after grasping a few Danish words, I realized that statement means  ”hey how are you!” This was a challenge posed to me already. It meant that upon settling for my studies tI had to dedicate some time to learn Danish. Properly learning danish would require that I register at the Danish language school.

Speaking with a Danish

The first assumption among most people in Denmark is that you know Danish. No wonder they will always initiate conversations in Danish. However, in my case, I noted something unique. I openly informed the Danish speakers that I could only understand and speak English. Interestingly, they apologized for being insensitive and quickly shifted to English. I was taken away with the way they could well speak conversational English.

An Hospitable Dane

I quite recall this woman who was courteous enough to show me where to locate the taxi pick up point. She did not explain where to get it but literally walked with me until the place was within my view. The amazing woman then walked away after telling me, “I wish you a safe stay in Denmark.” These encouraging words still reverberate in my mind. They keep me assured that the Danish are courteous people. 

From Billund Airport to Holstebro

I noted that public and private transport were readily available in their designated places right at the airport. Waiting to be picked up, I saw several motorists droving in and out of the airport. The taxis and buses plied the airport in a coordinated way. I watched patiently as they picked and dropped passengers so seamlessly. For a moment, I thought about how my country would be with such a good traffic system. The bus does not wait to fill up. As long as its departure time reaches, it has to leave even if empty. The taxis also have a wait time after which it has to go to another location. The mobility system operates in a conveyor belt pattern.

Temperature in Denmark

Just before I forget, I can also remember how the temperature outside was chilly. Having arrived in winter, the temperature was below 10 degrees Celsius and my light jacket could not keep me adequately warm. I still regret why I heeded to my sister’s information that I did not need to carry clothing for winter since she had some for me already. Just to remind anyone traveling to the subtropical countries, always be aware of the season at your destination otherwise you end up wearing poorly for the weather. 

Very Cold Winter in Denmark

Road Trip in Denmark

Soon we were on our way to Holstebro Kommune. It fancied me seeing the well-maintained asphalt roads. They reminded me of the great Macadamised roads I learned in my history class. The traffic was moving without unnecessary snarl-ups. The road signs had proper markings and drivers on the roads exercised great vigilance while driving. The speed warning signs could be easily seen by every motorist. This great signage kept the taxi driver informed of the allowed speeds along the long, broad, and stretching roads.

Highways In Denmark

Traffic Contrast between Denmark and Kenya

In my country, Kenya private cars drive at speed limits of 50 km/h in towns and 110 km/h outside of towns. The case was different in Demark. With the functional traffic lights at junctions and roundabouts, swell demarcated lanes, and road signs, the taxi driver enjoyed driving at speed of up to 130 km/h on the motorways.

My Apartment in Denmark

Despite the long journey one but the good road and traffic flow made it easy for us to move pretty fast. We drove past the Danish cities of Give, Herning, and Aulum. After around 1 hr. 45 minutes’ drive through properly maintained motorways and smaller roads, we finally arrived in Holstebro. The residential houses were not as magnificent as I had thought. However, they had a good spacing with enough car parking space, the playing field for children, and adequate orientation for natural lighting. 

Cost of a Rented House

Unlike the one-bedroom house I lived in the Capital city of Kenya which I paid $100 per month, my sister told me that she pays 7000kr (the equivalent of 106.287,21 Kenyan Shillings) for her three-bedroom residential apartment plus another kr 1000 aside for other services including water and heating. The house was a spacious one and properly lit by the natural light. 

Apartment in Denmark

With guaranteed accommodation, the worry about having a roof over my subsided. When you are unlucky to get a friend or relative to take you in initially, it can be troublesome finding suitable accommodation. Sometimes one can wait for a couple of days to get accommodation. this is the reason one needs to make such arrangements beforehand. With prior accommodation plans, you save yourself the burden of waiting to get a house from housing companies.

Emotional Rush on First Day

It was so cold, looking through the window, people seemed so busy. Everyone was up to their own things and I thought that unlike the woman who welcomed me at the airport, here in the hinterland, people had no time for each other. As I would later come to learn, I was partly right and partly wrong on this. Some people were apprehensive of foreigners while others were just very ready to help with simple things such as locating places, cycling on the correct side, fixing a malfunction pedal, etc.

Missing Home

Just to mention, I entertained the self-blame asking myself “why did I really have to come to this very cold place? What does this place really have to offer for me? Will these so many white people around be receptive of me every morning I leave my sister’s residence?” I guess this is exactly what would define my life in the country, shape my experiences, and influence my perceptions.  I bet this is the typical feeling of every foreigner… you move from a state of social insecurity, self-doubt, social disconnection, and then full exploration.

First feelings of Homesickness

Danish Civil Registration

When my visa and resident permit was eventually processed and issued to me by the Danish Embassy in Kenya, it was a sigh of relief. I had waited along with the residence permit processing bureaucracy for almost two months already.  At the back of my mind, a great flicker of hope was just beginning to shine in my enduring desire to pursue higher education abroad-to say that I was exhilarated at getting the residence permit and visa is an understatement.

Contents of a Residence Permit

My residence permit required that I get registered into the Danish civil roll register no later than five days after arrival. I could not quite understand this. To me having been given a visa and a residence permit felt like an adequate registration. Ah! I was mistaken. Civil registration in Denmark requires that upon arrival, I needed to present all my travel and residence documents to the municipality in which my residential address is.

Civil Registration in Denmark

Here, I have to be truthful with myself and anyone who is thinking about moving to Denmark or any Scandinavian country; getting through with the paperwork, residence documentation and registration is not as straightforward as you may think unless someone takes you through or have completely immersed yourself into reading the specifics about them prior to your travel (but even so, I doubt if self-reading alone will be sufficient source of information). In my case, it was easier because my sister was living in Denmark and came through to make me understand everything about what it meant to register residence.

Timelines for Registration of Residence

Since I had no prior experience as a foreigner in any country, days came fleeting and still felt relaxed to register my residence at the municipality. At this point, I already knew that civil registration was an important component of my stay in Denmark. Nonetheless, it was not until the fourth day that I went to the Kommune for registration. Needless to say, the process of registration was so smooth. In fact, I wondered why I had taken too long to come and get over it altogether. 

How Easy is Civil Registration as an Expat Student in Denmark?

Let me forthright that not all civil registrations as a foreigner in Denmark may be easy. I am aware that some may turn out dramatic especially if the person does not have the required documents. This does not mean that someone will forcibly hound you into a police car and whisk you away. I simply mean that without the requires documents, there is no help that the danish authorities can help you with. The Danes trust their system and will not help you to get around it without the correct documents.

Documents required to get a CPR in Denmark

There will always be a long chain of background verifications that the municipality where you are registering will have to do before they can help you. Later on, I came to understand that while my experience at the Kommune was easy because I had all the residence documents and met all the requirements straightaway. The requirements more or less included originals of residence permit, passport, residence address, and a guarantor.

Need for Guarantor When Getting a CPR in Denmark

The guarantor should be someone who has a legal status in Denmark such as a holder of a valid permanent residence, citizenship, or renewable temporary residence permit. I do not intend to imply that one should have a permanent residence to guarantee a foreigner. Ideally, anyone who has a legal residence could do it. Just to mention, people are so busy in Denmark that if you need any help with a guarantor, it is better to inform early so that he or she creates time for it. 

The NemID and CPR in Denmark

At the registration, I just gave out the required documents and biometrics. My civil registration number (CPR No.) and NemID were ready in a short time. The issuing officer emphasized to me that CPR) and NemID are key for me in getting any form of service in Denmark after that. From her explanation, I got the idea that the process was actually the gateway for me to experience Europe fully.

Residence and Health Cards

The attendant told me to now wait for the residence and the health insurance card in my post box within a week. Remember, I had first to give them a residential address before they could begin the registration. This is the same address to which they would send the two critical documents. 

The mention of the health insurance card comforted me. Most of the countries I had read about wanted people to purchase their own health coverage. So Denmark was doing this to me despite being a foreigner. CPR and NemID allowed me access to the citizen mail called borger.dk. It is in this digital mailbox that all forms of electronic public communications occur. 

Receiving the Yellow Card and Residence Card

Just like the attendant at the municipality had promised, the yellow card and residence card came to my address. I got the freedom to receive all the services such as opening a bank account and healthcare. 

Danish Health Insurance Card

I could not have first believed the possibility of having such a transparent, efficient, and friendly public service system. Amidst the worry of separation from family in Kenya and the chilly Winter, I began liking the Danish systems. 

Environmental Scientist
Fredrick is currently a student in Denmark pursuing Master of Science in Environmental and Resource Management. Originally from Kenya, Fredrick is the perfect observer to give you insights on how to become an expat in Denmark and what to expect as part of your student experience. He is passionate about learning the history of the greater Scandinavia; the wartime era, the establishment of post-modern cities, the Industrial Revolution, the great Vikings of Norway, etc. As a student of Environmental Science, he is also interested in how the Scandinavia has taken the lead in the Green Revolution, Sustainable housing, the creation of sustainable cities, and green buildings.
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