A week in Aarhus seen through the eyes of the austrian exchange student Clara
They cycle all the time and everywhere. They read on high speed. They can prepare delicious smørrebrød and drink Carlsberg. They are used to high prices and rainy days. They are Danes. I am an Austrian girl, studying in Aarhus for one semester. Life here is quite different, so I am pleased to introduce you to my Danish highlights during my first time in Aarhus.
FOTOS OG TEKST Clara Maier
After moving in to the dormitory and settling down in my new home one thing had by far highest priority: Buying a bike was simply obligatory, thus it was not easy to find! After spending hours and days on guloggratis.dk and dba.dk I finally found a couchsurfer who sold me his oldfashioned but well-working bike for 400 kr.
Next step was introducing myself to the Danish bike community! While I, an Austrian girl, is used to narrow, quite weak frequented cycleways besides the streets, my first bike trip from Risskov to Aarhus ended up on a real two-track „bike highway“ (rush hour at 7.30am included)! Also, I have never had a red-light-small-talk with ten other cyclers, nor have that many people overtaken me on my daily way to school. But once you get used to it, it’s just amazing!
My first class was about „Political Communication in New Democracies“, and I immediately realized that this course (as well as the others) would demand loads of my time in the upcoming semester. The preparations were tough: Tuesday I consumed more than a thousand A4 sheets (for printing the required articles for this semester), probably a whole black printer toner, a hole puncher that lost his life during my print orgy and about four hours of my time – well, the printing was the easy part though. Rushing through the required literature in the given time was much more exhausting.
While I was used to either sit two hours muted in class listening to a wise greyhaired professor or to do some small group projects, I now had to adapt to reading on high speed and being able to discuss the texts later in class. But: All together, it did, in fact, lead to interesting discussions! The interest in selfimprovement among Danish students is (according to my experiences from Austria) outstandingly high and it’s a pleasure studying with you guys!
Two times a week, two hours each session, I follow my Danish courses. One of the first things I learned from my teacher Hanne was: „Stop saying ‘yes, please’ or ‘nice to meet you’ – that doesn’t exist in Denmark.“ Well, ‘Værs’go’ (please) exists, but its use is by far not as common here as back home, not implying that Danes are unfriendly though! In contrast: Never before has a mum offered me the carrier of her bike to help transporting my heavy suitcase, nor have random people asked me if I needed help. Anyway, I still had to delete these expressions from my daily vocabulary.
Since I am living in the dormitory at the harbour, I had to use this unique chance and start my Wednesday morning with a run. It’s gorgeous to enjoy the sunrise while watching the sailing boats in the harbour and fresh air in the forest or along the seacoast (keep in mind that Austria has no access to the sea, it might help to better understand my enthusiasm about the sea). Breathing quickly got quite difficult though, since I tried to keep up with the average Danish jogging speed! Also other sports here are taken quite seriously as I found out later: After the first Danish fencing training, which was professionally really fun, my muscle hangover was insane!
Well, Wednesday provides a special motivation for all kinds of sports though – the success has later been celebrated with a delicious cold beer: Skål! Instead of just sitting in a common bar and sipping on a beer, we found something much more fun: The combination of pubquiz, karaoke and Carlsberg. We had an amazing night – although our vocal organs are not the best. Anyway, many people tried it, and I am seriously impressed how many Danes are brave enough to sing in public!
IKEA! Moving into a new apartment always requires a trip to IKEA, right? I went there on Thursday, and I was positively surprised how much furniture I got for only 190 kroner. In the afternoon I had my first stop in a bakery. Not only the Wienerbrød – which produced nice flashbacks to my lovely hometown Vienna (= Wien) – but also the rugbrød is just amazing. Thanks to my local friends I already knew that Danes know much more about bread than how to bake it: Starting from shrimps salat with lemon slices, they put all different kinds of food on top of the dark bread – chickenbreast combined with pineapple, beef with sauce or even fried fish with salat. First you think you get a fancy meal served, but that’s just until you find the little slice of bread below which enables the chef to call it „smørrebrød“. I fell in love with this bread and I will definitely recommend every exchange student to never leave Denmark without having tried this delicious bread from one of the bakeries. It’s worth it, although it’s admittedly a bit expensive.
Rain. Tons of rain. Friday convinced me that functional rain clothes definitely had to replace my lovely „Dirndl“ – a beautiful traditional Austrian dress. The black combination of jacket, pants and gummiboots was highly needed for my (dry) survival – the weather has been changing up to ten times a day: From foggy to sunny to pouring rain. Add a strong rainstorm to the daily weather mix, cycle back to the windy area around the harbour and you can easily feel as if the world is coming to its end.
The worst thing is that my body’s defences are definitely not use to it and I have already been sick in my first week here. But since I know that Danes have already survived quite a lot of these weather spectacles and people are not permanently down with influenza, I think I might be able to handle it in the future. And the (only one and honestly not very high weighted) good point on the crazy weather: It once enabled the sky to produce the most beautiful and biggest rainbow I’ve ever seen!
Start the fight against going broke: While I realized that preparing smørrebrød at home won’t empty my purse, Danish restaurants need to be treated with a little more caution. Going out can be twice as expensive as in Austria, while the price level in supermarkets in both countries is quite the same. Well, I still fought against ending up as a painstaking money-saving couchpotato at home and I found some affordable places. This Saturday was my friend’s birthday. We celebrated first at home and then went to Social Club and the Australian Bar: At both places the entrance is free until midnight and free beer is included between 11 and 12.
Additionally I got many hints for affordable spots from my friends and my lovely mentor about a beer-food-combination at Le Coq or an affordable three-course-menu at Kif-Kif. Apparently you just have to find the right spots, and you can still be able to enjoy meals and drinks when going out.
Sun on Sunday! Although a little hangover from Saturday night was unavoidable I found a perfect way to get over it: We jumped on our bikes and cycled down to the South of Aarhus, to Dyrehaven. After walking around, watching the kids clapping the deer and feeding them with carrots and apples, we found a nice spot to sit down, rest and soak up the sun (prophylactically, to be prepared for another tough period of raindays). On my way back I finally found my personal spot in the city, – a quite unspectacular bench at the harbour – and I got the feeling that settling down had now been completed.
While watching sailors come home from a daytrip, runners doing their daily workout or couples enjoying a nice walk, I realize that despite awful weather, high demands at the University and the expensive beer, Aarhus has a lot to offer, and it is in fact a quite nice place to stay.