Danish people, I have questions
May 4, 2015 3:18 AM   Subscribe

My partner and I potentially have the opportunity to relocate to the Aarhus area of Denmark for six months. This would be part of an exchange program based at VIA University College in Horsens for me and potentially a little more ad-hoc for her. We have a whole bunch of questions about Denmark, Jutland, Aarhus, accomodation, commuting and other things.

One of the things we are looking at doing is basing ourselves in Aarhus with me commuting to Horsens on the train. This seems to take only half an hour and so should be a normal thing to do, is it? Googling this hasn't turned up much other than there are trains. I haven't been able to discover if foreign students get cheaper travel yet.

Aarhus seems to be considered a university town. We aren't in our twenties anymore and would be looking to live with and socialise with people who are a little out of the student scene, or at least a little over 22. Is this likely to be possible? Related to this, how easy a place is Denmark generally for newcomers in terms of socialising and general social interaction? By way of comparison we are Australian (inner Melbourne) and are very familiar with Irish and British cultures as well. Comparisons to the US won't mean too much sorry.

What is the word we should put into google to find sharehouses in Aarhus/Denmark? This has been a bit of a dead end. Are there any big English language sites for this? What else do we need to know that we don't know to ask about?

I know that many or most Danes are likely to speak English. How much of life is conducted in English?

A long shot, but has anyone had experience with VIA UC? I'd love to hear about it.
posted by deadwax to Travel & Transportation (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I lived in Copenhagen for a year. Just about everybody is amazingly fluent in english and will switch if there is an english speaker present. That's all I've got for you!
posted by conifer at 4:07 AM on May 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

1) Consider whether it'd be cheaper to live in Horsens rather than commute back and forth. Train travel in Denmark isn't the cheapest. Commuting to university/work is normal, but a rail card can be expensive. Looks at rent rates before making any decisions. There are no discounts specifically for foreign students (as a Dane this question made my jaw drop a bit, actually!) but you can get rail card discounts as a student - you need to look into whether you qualify as a student if you are a post-grad or a post-doc.

2) Aarhus is Denmark's second-largest city, so it's not just a university town! It's a cosmopolitan place with lots of things happening. (Also, most Danes start university much later compared to their UK counterparts, but that's beside the point).

3) Yes, you will be able to get by just speaking English. You'll be in some of Denmark's most urban areas (no snickering from Copenhageners, please!!). You'll need to pick up a few words to get by (street signs and public notices are in Danish only), but people will be happy to help you out.

4) I have no earthly idea what a sharehouse is. I do know that your university has to offer you help with accommodation as you are on an exchange. You can try googling "kollegielejelighed" (apartment facilities in student accommodation) but, honestly, you'll be wanting to arrange accommodation through the Exchange office. They'll have flats or rooms set aside for this specific purpose.

5) Socialising is a big thing for Danes, but it's difficult to get to know Danes and most socialising happens in people's homes. You'll probably end up hanging out with other foreigners (this tends to happen to academics I know). Danes are very reserved and can be put off by too much enthusiasm or friendliness from strangers.
posted by kariebookish at 4:47 AM on May 4, 2015 [1 favorite]

Sorry, I didn't mean to suggest that foreign students would get a travel discount specifically for them, I was wondering if I would be eligible for the same discounts Danish students receive, particularly as I am over 25. At the moment I am finding the Rejsekort loyalty discount system utterly confusing - if anyone feels like explaining that specifically.

A sharehouse is a house you share with friends or other people that aren't your family - each of you with your own room but shared kitchen, lounge etc. It doesn't normally have any connection to a university or necessarily students. Very common here at many ages.

The reason for looking at living in Aarhus is that that is where my partner is likely to find work, rather than Horsens. Given that, Aarhus seems more sensible.
posted by deadwax at 5:08 AM on May 4, 2015

I *think * as long as you have a valid student ID, you qualify for Rejsekort, but you can try asking the DSB Ungdomskort team with your specific query (it may also be valid to ask if they need a Danish student ID?).

Ah, the equivalent of a sharehouse would be probably a "kollektiv" - I tried looking into those when I was a student myself but found it easier to get a sublet room in a flat (I was in Copenhagen, mind). It's not all that common to live in a kollektiv in Denmark - to me it's more a hippie-thing than a standard housing solution.

I don't know if this goes for Aarhus as well as for Copenhagen, but many older Copenhagen flats won't have their own bathroom but will either share one in the basement or have a shower unit in the kitchen. Thought I'd throw that one in there so you are not taken aback.
posted by kariebookish at 6:32 AM on May 4, 2015

I lived in Aarhus for a year or two. I was just there last week again, visiting friends from that time. I loved it. A++ would live there again. People say it's expensive, but compared to Australia it's pretty similar. The university helped us find an apartment, but we weren't looking to share so can't help you there.

Can definitely commute to Horsens and it would be cheaper to live there and commute to Aarhus.

Memail me if you has have more questions.
posted by lollusc at 6:38 AM on May 4, 2015 [2 favorites]

And yeah, god, what kariebookish said about bathrooms. We shared one in the basement with three other families! We had our own loo though.
posted by lollusc at 6:40 AM on May 4, 2015

I couldn't find any recent info but I found a couple of reports written by German students who spent semesters in Denmark in 2008 and 2010. According to them, international students do not receive a discount on travel cards. It might have changed in recent years, but don't get your hopes up.
posted by kinddieserzeit at 11:11 AM on May 4, 2015

Aarhus is a lovely place, and it is probably a lot easier to form a social network in Aarhus than in Copenhagen. Horsens is a town with a strong 20th century history and good schools.

The word you need for shared homes is "bofælleskab" - my impression is that it is not as accessible in Aarhus as in Copenhagen, because people have private networks for distribution. (google agrees)

Maybe you could look at Skanderborg - midway between Horsens and Aarhus. Skanderborg is a very beautiful town, with a rich cultural life and the best nature. It functions as a popular suburb of Aarhus but has succeeded in maintaining a specific local identity.
posted by mumimor at 5:51 PM on May 4, 2015

Yeah, Skanderborg is awesome. It has a beautiful lake and forests, and is something like 15 minutes on the train from Aarhus Central. My close friends live there because housing is so much more affordable and both commute daily to Aarhus. I don't know that you'd find a share house there, though, as it seems mostly to be families and older people. But you might be able to afford your own apartment there anyway.
posted by lollusc at 8:22 PM on May 4, 2015

What else do we need to know that we don't know to ask about?

Make sure you have PIN numbers for your credit cards, and/or that they have a security microchip. Danish shops generally don't use or even have magnetic card readers. Instead they use a portable machine with a slot for your card to go into chip-end first, and a standard keypad for entering your PIN.

What else do we need to know that we don't know to ask about?

Danish has no world for "Please"

I know that many or most Danes are likely to speak English

All Danes have had at least four years of English in school, and anyone under the age of 40 or so has spent his or her entire life watching English-language TV shows and movies. After the Dutch, they're probably the best non-native English speakers in Europe.

How much of life is conducted in English?

As much as is spent talking to someone who doesn't speak Danish. Aside from that, you're not going to hear English being spoken around you

how easy a place is Denmark generally for newcomers in terms of socialising and general social interaction?

Not easy at all. It takes years and years and years for Danes to become friends. You have 6 months, and don't even speak their language
posted by BadgerDoctor at 12:09 AM on May 5, 2015

Ok, we are here now, a few updates for those looking for answers in the future.

*Yes, commuting between Aarhus and Horsens is quite normal. Initially you can get a "Pendlekort" which is a discount ticket for when you are commuting a lot, anyone can get this. Once you have your CPR and NemID (see lower) you can get an "Ungdomskort" - youth card. You don't need to be a particular age for this but your course (ie. not you personally) must be eligible for SU, which is the Danish student subsidy. So non EU students do in fact get cheaper transport.

*Finding a room is brutal but doable. There is no trick. Pull in favours from everyone who may know someone's friends uncle. That's how we did it. Weirdly, second best bet is airbnb. The term you are looking for in terms of share housing is "roomies", as in you need to find someone looking for roomies. To us it's a twee and extraordinarily American term but everyone uses it.

*Register as soon as you can, this is super important and if you are Australian or from somewhere else that doesn't register people, pretty weird. In Aarhus go to iCitizen. Be early. You will end up with a CPR number and NemID, you will need them for all kinds of things.

*The Danes are not gregarious. I suspect we'll end up with a few friends though.

If you are going on exchange into a dorm you can ignore basically all of this.
posted by deadwax at 1:16 PM on September 1, 2015

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