Copenhagen, Expat life, Personal

New job, new country: Life in Copenhagen 1 month update

So, in lieu of my Sunday Musings (abstract overthinking?) series this week, I’ve decided to do a little update on how things are going in my life given that it’s been exactly a month since I moved to Copenhagen.

Where to begin? Hard to believe it’s already a month since I arrived, though it actually feels like a lot longer. At this stage, I’ve just about opened up a Danish bank account, in good time for my much anticipated, much needed first paycheck. I haven’t minded dropping basically all my savings on this move to Denmark, but all the spending I’ve done in terms of upfront costs have barely been sustainable for the month (plus I’m trying to live that good life over here, ha). I did get extremely lucky to not have any “gaps” between pay checks, but I genuinely could not live in Copenhagen making what I was making on my old paycheck, that’s for sure. I’ve also only just got round to getting a Danish number, after having the same number in the UK for 10 years. I bought a bike, though I’m riding very precariously at the moment and embarrass myself on the daily with my clumsiness. I mean I haven’t really cycled in a good decade – and especially not when I was living in Bristol, which is full of the most hellish hills.

I’m already a few weeks into my job now. Even though in some ways I have a lot more to accomplish in this job, I don’t feel like I’m tripping over myself to do my job properly – I don’t feel like a headless chicken. The work culture actually does make me feel like I’m doing “enough” for once, or at least that being the most productive as humanly possible really just isn’t everything. Even though I’m the first one in my office and the last to leave, I feel like I spend a very reasonable time at my desk. I still probably work a bit more than what I’m supposed to (oh, the joys of academia), but an actual 40 hour workweek is a welcome change from the ungodly amount of unpaid extra hours I was putting in my previous job.

I’m interested to see how my latent imposters syndrome develops, if at all, in this new role. Ever since I started my PhD, I felt like I had no idea what was going on, that I was being policed by my peers about how much I work (PhD competition is real – I really don’t miss that), and that anything I did accomplish was a fluke I didn’t deserve. All those feelings stayed with my even when I finished my PhD. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m pretty realistic about myself and I can definitely say all three of the aforementioned were and are true at points. It definitely feels like everyone else around me has done “more” than me, and I’m sure that feeling is not baseless. And it’s not like I suddenly “know” what I’m doing now, one year post-PhD (in fact, my new role involves research in a field that I did not specialise in). Moreover, there’s a very quiet but nagging voice in my head that tells me I objectively probably do not deserve the job I have now, even though I worked so hard to get it. But, well, who cares? I’m here, aren’t I? The difference now seems to be that it doesn’t feel like the end of the world even if it were true that I “could be better.” It’s just not a cause for despair anymore. My “incompetence” and “flaws” are part of a learning curve, which I get to experience in a tolerant and supportive environment, as far as I can tell. Talk about work-life balance and emotional well-being! I’m sure part of this newfound confidence is down to actually starting a new job and being really excited about it, but I’m definitely experiencing a trend towards having a little more faith and just trusting myself a bit more.

Collegiality seems to be a big thing in the working environment here, which is another positive. You don’t notice much of a hierarchy between the different “rankings” of academics. The difference between a PhD and a postdoc (that’s what I am) seems rather minimal, even in terms of pay grade, which is a good thing. In the UK I would say the difference between a PhD and a postdoc is basically a doubling of salary (with PhDs being underpaid, that is). That much should be explanatory of some of the differences in British and Danish academia. So yeah, when I got this job offer I already knew it was my dream job offer, but now that I’m living it, I can only confirm how happy to have this job, beyond all expectation.

The frustrating stuff about settling in? Not knowing the language. I mean it’s so easy to get away with only speaking English in Denmark, and sometimes you actually forget you’re in a non-English speaking country (well, bi-lingual at least). But for me personally, I’m not used to being in a situation where I cannot communicate or comprehend something perfectly. So when I go into a Danish supermarket or receive bank letters in Danish I’m reminded that I’m sort of helpless in that aspect, and that I need to be a lot more proactive about learning the basics. I mean, I’ve even avoided using my work desktop because it came with a Danish keyboard that I just could not get used to, ha.

Weirdly, though, I’ve been kind of enjoying the fact that most people I’ve met here assume I speak Danish (maybe because borders are still closed to most tourists) and will speak Danish to me first (before I respond in English, ha) rather than assume I am too foreign to speak the language. So all that’s left for me to do is to actually live up to those expectations and try to integrate a bit more.

I guess I’ll be back in another month with any progress 🙂

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Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark, Expat life, Travel

Valbyparken, Copenhagen

Goodness, this place was an amazing surprise. A big green park a mere 20 minute cycle ride from home, and with a beach? In the city? Yes and yes.

My cycle going there and back wasn’t very pretty – it was a hot sunny day, I’m very road-shy, I had no idea where I was going and had to stop and check my map every 2 minutes. I also haven’t quite perfected my cool cycle chic look. Regardless, I would definitely brave the trip again to revisit this park.

I’m guessing these are poplar trees?
Either way this long path lined with trees is a distinctive entry point into the park, and very nice to cycle down.
Loved the little peeks of water through the trees.
Plenty of folks windsurfing at this place!
It was an almost blindingly bright day.
I skipped on a few stones by the water 🙂
I can’t say I’ve ever seen people windsurf before, but it looks fun!
Clear water at the beach.
Just beautiful, isn’t it?
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Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Culture, Denmark, Expat life, Travel

Reffen, Copenhagen

This post is going to be super visual and truly drool-worthy…consider yourself warned!

The weather forecast wasn’t looking great, but my friend and I were determined to visit Reffen, a food market set up like a little village on the other side of the water from Copenhagen city centre. Thankfully it didn’t rain on the day we visited – we even caught a bit of sun. It’s a short trip up with the bike/bus/water taxi from town – we went with the water taxi, which would be a great option for a sunny day.

To my knowledge, this place is one of the few Street food markets in Copenhagen (apart from the fancy Torvehallerne by Nørreport, which is dangerously close to my workplace…) As someone who used to work in a food stall in multiple food markets back in the UK, I’m a little surprised that there aren’t more of them in the capital here in Denmark. But I’m not complaining – the selection is good.

Reffen has a bit of a grungy vibe with lots of containers around…kind of reminds me of the Cargo project in Bristol (my favourite Harbourside eating area in Bristol basically)
This photo says it all – everything is contactless and there are reminders everywhere to keep up hygiene.
I definitely don’t need to be told twice to get ice cream. The ice cream shop is called “BadHabits” by the way – very fitting.
Honestly, the ice cream here was really good.
Outdoor stalls and seating around the food “village.”
Love how colourful everything is!
More food, more containers…
Cute outdoor dining area right next to the water.
How very Danish 🙂 I did mention in a previous post how difficult it is to take photos here without some kind of a bike in it, did I not?
Now for some food! That’s freshly grated truffle – cost me an arm but it was worth it.
So many options…
There’s also some cute shops around that aren’t food stalls.
Me being an embarrassing tourist.
Hope you’re not too hungry after reading this, ha.
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Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Culture, Denmark, Home, Travel

Fredriks Kirke/Amalienborg, Copenhagen

This is another very photogenic area in Copenhagen at golden hour. What I just love about this place is that if you look one way from Amalienborg Slotsplads (the courtyard of the Royal residences) you get a majestic view of the rococo-style “Marble Church” Marmorkirken/Fredriks Kirke; if you look the other way, you get a view of the water and the very modern looking Copenhagen Opera House (Operaen) which was built less than 20 years ago. The opera house was built in alignment with Amalienborg. Take a look below.

Hope you’re all well.

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Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark, Expat life, Travel

Sundown in Nyhavn, Copenhagen

Yesterday evening I met up with a fellow photographer/hobbyist to take a couple of shots around town for golden hour. I can’t emphasise enough the fact that Copenhagen on a summer evening is definitely the place to be. The vibes are good: there’s food, there’s music, and the sun takes forever to set. I’ll leave you with some shots from the iconic Nyhavn harbour (which was relatively uncrowded thankfully – not so keen on the place when there’s big crowds)

The promenade down the harbour
Just look at these sun-soaked houses!
I adore all the colourful buildings around Copenhagen – they are everywhere.
Rainbow promenade.
Crossing…
How adorable is this outdoor dining set-up?
I think it’s pretty much impossible to get a shot in the city without bicycles making an appearance 🙂
Shimmering sunset reflected on the windows.
And some more bikes 🙂
And finally a photo with the water 🙂

Hope you enjoyed this photo-heavy post, have a great weekend 🙂

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Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Culture, Expat life, Home, Travel

First impressions of Copenhagen: Then and Now

I confess when I visited Copenhagen for a short weekend trip a few years back with a friend, I didn’t think it was anything special. There was the usual warnings of “It’s an expensive place”, of course, but looking back I think my enjoyment of the city was affected by the dynamic between myself and my friend. I was under the impression we were going to visit this city to explore together and have lots of fun. She didn’t really want to do much, and she spent most evenings texting and talking on the phone with other friends (I mean it was pretty much 24/7 – funny what you learn about your friends when you spend full days with them, I even struggled to vie for her company while we waited around at the airport). To top it off, we had a random but pretty big argument during the trip that soured our moods. All I did on that trip was visit a couple of really touristy spots by myself because I had already bought the Copenhagen Card which gave you access to all the touristy stuff. I thought everything was nice, but also very run-of-the-mill (probably something to do with comparing every European city I visit to the loveliness of Vienna, where I used to live). I probably wouldn’t have visited again.

How things change – and how I’ve changed! I would not in a million years have guessed I’d end up back here, for a job no less, or that I’d be this ecstatic about it. I genuinely don’t remember ever being this happy. I guess regardless of me ending up here in particular, I also just didn’t think I would secure my second academic job less than a year out of my PhD and that everything in my life would be accelerating so fast. This entire situation really is a massive surprise to me and I don’t know that I’ll ever get used to it – or that I will ever not feel like the luckiest person in the world.

And well, my ‘first impression’ now is that I’m totally obsessed with Copenhagen. I’m sure some of that magic feeling will settle down eventually, but I feel very differently to how I felt when I first moved to Bristol for example (my previous city). Bristol was a very slow and gradual process of nurturing a kind of fondness – and it was probably around the fourth year that I started really enjoying Bristol. In Copenhagen, I feel a bit like someone who is falling in love for the first time. It’s exactly the kind of place I want to be at this particular stage in my life, that’s for sure. It’s bigger than Bristol, which was starting to feel way too small for me. It’s a European Capital, which fulfils one of my life goals – to live in a European Capital as an adult. But it doesn’t feel massive or overwhelming. It’s a pretty modest size. It’s a good life. It’s a beautiful life. And it’s flat! I’ll happily walk 30-60 minutes at a time to get places (I don’t have a bike yet) since it’s so damn easy to walk around and pretty straightforward to navigate. I’ve been told there are a couple of seedy areas, but that hasn’t been a hinderance on my impression of the city so far – I feel safe walking around. I got lucky with my apartment as well, which is in a central enough location, in close vicinity to shops, cafes, and restaurants. There’s lots of natural light coming in, which makes me feel very comfortable at home. Obviously the weather, my workplace, and how I’ve been welcomed in my job has a lot to do with how I feel in the city as well, but I’ll maybe save the job stuff for another post!

Copenhagen is a pretty amazing place to be in the summertime, and even better if you live and work here as the wages should match the cost of living. I’ve already been begging my friends to consider moving over here since there are certain skills that are needed in the country which should make it possible to find a job (here’s a “list” of job shortages in Denmark, by the way – I went the researcher track but again I can write about that in another post). But I’m getting way ahead of myself. For now, I’ll leave you with some of my first snaps of the city:

My route to and from work.
You can ride on these “swans” in The Lakes, just avoid the real ones as they’re not friendly 🙂
I’d probably get to work 5 minutes quicker if I didn’t take photos on the way, but can you blame me?
I took this photo in Ørstedsparken, which is pretty close to The Lakes (the route I take to go to work)
One more from Ørstedsparken – I really like this park.
A beautiful sunset at The Lakes. Pretty sure it was already past 9.30pm by this point.

As you can see, there’s a sense of serenity and tranquility even in the city (though I’m not sure if that’s because less people are out nowadays because of Covid-19). Even in my limited knowledge of the place, I’ve been able to find plenty of spots to enjoy a bit of nature and found it very easy to avoid big crowds and so on.

More to come in the following weeks – let me know if there is anything you want to see or are curious about! 🙂

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Copenhagen, Denmark, Expat life, Personal, Travel, Uncategorized

My (very emotional) experience flying from the UK and into Denmark during Covid-19 restrictions

As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, I’ve been trying to fly to Copenhagen both because of my new job offer there and because my visa in the UK is about to expire. After several canceled flights with British Airways, I managed to book a route with Lufthansa which would take me from LHR (Heathrow) to FRA (Frankfurt) and finally to CPH (Copenhagen). I got up real early the morning of the 20th May – around 4.00 am – to catch my flight at London Heathrow.

As I was getting ready and gathering all my luggage I had a moment of dizziness – like of an existential kind. It suddenly hit me that I’m doing this all alone and that nobody was about to hold my hand and tell me everything will be ok. I’m about to self deport from a country I’ve lived in for almost 10 years and fly straight into a country I’ve never lived in before (and one with ongoing border closures no less). I’m leaving all my friends in the UK behind, and they wouldn’t even be able to visit me (for a good while anyway). My family are on the other side of the world and it will be a while until we reunite too. All this in the middle of a global pandemic. What if something goes wrong? What if I get stranded? It’s a lot of uncertainty. Obviously these were thoughts I had all along, but I guess in the lockdown state coronavirus has a way of making everything seem as if its on hold indefinitely, suspended in time, and really far away somehow. So I hadn’t quite grasped that what I was about to do, and had been meticulously planning for months to do (that is, to leave the UK and open a completely new chapter in life in Denmark), would actually happen. Like right now.

I’ve probably had two comparable moments of existential dizziness in my life – the first time was when I moved to Vienna as a child, with absolutely no knowledge of German or English. I was enrolled in an international school, and on the first day of school I begged my mom not to leave me in that strange environment – full of people speaking a strange language I didn’t understand (English, haha). I felt completely vulnerable, completely helpless, completely alone, and unable to communicate with either my peers or my teachers. Of course, after the terror of being dropped off on my first day of school in Vienna I never looked back. I made friends from every corner of the planet. I also didn’t just get good at English. I practically became a native English speaker within the same year. The person I became as a result of all those experiences led then to the second dizziness – the day I moved to the UK to study by myself at the age of 18 with nothing but a suitcase and a head full of dreams. I wasn’t sure what would actually come out of it in the end – only that I was going ahead with with the move regardless.

And here I am now, three degrees later and a lifetime’s worth of ups and downs to remember the years by. Needless to say, a lot really has happened in my life in the UK. Hell, I was set on getting permanent residency in the UK for the longest time, a ‘dream’ that I only recently gave up. The decision to go to Denmark only entered the picture, well, around the time I got the job in Copenhagen – right as coronavirus started rapidly spreading around Europe. It’s surreal to be uprooted and thrust back into the nebulosity of potentials.

Anyway – I sat quietly for a few minutes to compose my thoughts and emotions. Then I was off to the airport. A generous friend of mine drove me there, which was a lovely send off. I can’t imagine how people who need to do essential international travel actually get around these days without help – coach services to the airport are still not running and trains are a nightmare, not to mention expensive!

[The most beautiful sunrise ever keeps me awake for the journey.]

When I arrive at Heathrow airport, it’s very quiet. Everything seems a bit muffled. Facemasks are handed out at the entrance and there are signs everywhere reminding people to keep a minimum 2m distance from each other. Check-in was easy. I got asked if I live in Copenhagen. I said I “will” live there. I mean, my will to live there after all has been the one the thing that has dominated my life for the past couple of months.

[Quiet morning at Heathrow airport.]

I’m somehow surprised that my flight is still running and on time. Like, I’m so shocked about it that I feel like I’m in a dream or movie. Could it really all be going ahead this smoothly?

[Um…]

I can’t say I felt particularly comfortable on the flight leg from LHR to FRA. It was a fully booked flight and we were packed in like sardines. No social distancing measures whatsoever. I was surrounded by passengers on all sides. It felt more or less like a “normal” flight, except for the requirement that everybody wear a facemask for the duration of the journey.

We land in FRA even earlier than anticipated. I pass German border control (again dealing with the awkward “So do you or do you not live in Denmark?” questions) and even manage to do an hour or so of work.

[Waiting in Frankfurt – limited seating due to social distancing protocols.]

Then, finally, boarding for the FRA to CPH leg of the trip is announced. I still can’t quite believe it’s not cancelled or delayed.

[Pretty sure that’s the bridge between Copenhagen and Malmö.]

The pilot announces our imminent arrival in CPH. I look out the window. Sunny and blue. I think I start crying uncontrollably at this point – actual tears of joy. I didn’t dare to look at the passenger sat next to me and their reaction to my apparently random burst of tears.

I really bent over backwards to make this happen, after many sleepless nights wondering if my job offer was at risk due to Covid-19, what would happen to me if I overstayed my UK visa, ad infinitum. And in the end, I made it!

[It was a particularly sunny day :)]

The rest of my journey went really smoothly – no delays picking up my luggage. I had a folder full of official documents to show the immigration officers, but passing border control barely took a minute. They asked me why I’m entering Denmark. They then quickly checked over my work permit, work contract, and housing contract before waving me through. All in all, everything went as well as it possibly could!

[Copenhagen Central Station]

The train from the airport to the central station barely took 20 minutes and there was plenty of space in the carriages. When I arrived at the station I was greeted by fresh air, sunlight, and happy vibes all around – it was only a couple of days ago that Denmark opened up shops and started coming out of lockdown. Of course I had to try my best to avoid people and hurry straight to my new apartment, but even that short walk to my place was lovely!

And so begins my life in Copenhagen 🙂

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Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark, Expat life, Personal

Alive and quarantined…in Denmark

(featured photo is the last sunset I saw in Bristol – beautiful isn’t it?)

After 13 hours of transit from Bristol, to London, to Frankfurt, and finally to Copenhagen Airport – getting around by car, plane, train, and foot – I’ve now made it to my new apartment in Copenhagen. Lugging around two bulky suitcases and a backpack while dodging pedestrians like an awkward tourist in a sunny, beautiful city just coming out of lockdown was not a glamorous look. But I’m just so grateful my moving here to Copenhagen went so smoothly – it’s exactly what I’ve been trying to make happen for the past couple of months.

Since the Danish government asks incoming travellers to self-isolate for a couple of weeks, I’ll use that time to catch up on work that I’ve neglected in all the stress of moving. I’ve already got my work desk set up. Maybe I’ll even get some rest here and there, ha. I will also be posting some content here, starting with the story of my trip from the UK to Denmark (which will be up after this post)! I’ve got some past travel memories that I would love to share with you as well, so make sure you stick around and follow the blog 🙂

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Denmark, Expat life, Personal, Travel

Why I’m moving to Denmark from the UK in the middle of a worldwide pandemic

Days before Denmark became one of the first countries in Europe to close its borders and go on coronavirus lockdown back in March 2020, I received a job offer from Copenhagen for June 2020. I was delighted, of course – I accepted the job offer. My hope originally was to visit Copenhagen during Easter, scope out a place to live, move in the beginning of May, and be settled and ready to start by June.

But then, chaos.

Since the lockdown, questions from others that would otherwise be easy to answer (like if I’m going to travel by land or air) have, in this pandemic time, implicated sheer panic-inducing uncertainty for me. My most frequently used phrase in the past couple of months must have been ‘I don’t know’.

Last week I would have told you I’d be in Denmark by now, but my flight got cancelled last minute. I spent a small fortune booking another flight to Denmark (I’m supposed to fly in a couple of days, heavens willing) but who knows if this one will fly. So – I still don’t know. All I can do is wait and see.

Ok, back up. Can I not start my new job contract remotely? Why not just wait until travel restrictions are relaxed further before traveling/moving?

Believe you me, it’s no fun making travel plans during a global pandemic, let alone plans to up and move my entire life to a country I’ve never lived before under these exceptional conditions. I’m about a grand short due to travel and moving related expenditures at this point and don’t think I would have been able to sort everything out without savings. I’m also still juggling my current job (my contract in the UK expires the day before my new job in Denmark is set to start).

Here’s the reason it is imperative that I travel and move now (aside from the fact that I would like to start my job on time): my visa in the UK is about to expire. The UK Home Office is still only offering to extend people’s imminently expiring visas due to coronavirus (to those who are self-isolating due to illness or cannot book flights back home) until the 31st May 2020 – as if normal flight routes will be back up and running by then (?!)

Given the Home Office’s position I must make haste. 31st May 2020 is the absolute limit; after this date I would become an overstayer. It is on us ‘foreigners’ to travel out of the country, if we are able to so, by the end of this month, if we don’t want to risk repercussions related to our immigration status. There is no luxury of sitting back and waiting out the virus. It’s surreal to think about – despite getting my PhD in the UK, and having lived, studied and worked here for 9.5 years continuously, I am effectively forced out in the middle of a pandemic despite ongoing travel restrictions/disruptions because of my visa expiry.

Many people have incredulously indicated to me that, surely, the Home Office could not be that draconian – they wouldn’t actually punish overstayers and so on, given the pandemic. Hopefully not. But who actually knows? As a ‘foreigner’ with a precarious immigration status in the UK I find this kind of incredulity naive and frustrating. It’s easy for people to sit back and speculate about what they think human decency amounts to at the policy-level when they aren’t the targets of exclusion. I would love to believe that everyone gets treated in a reasonable way in the end, in whatever country they reside – but I’m wise enough to worry! Mind you, I’m speaking from a position of relative privilege. I’ve never made trouble in the UK, I can afford to live on my own abroad, my passport gives me international mobility, I don’t have dependants to worry about, I’m not stranded, I’m not fleeing a terrible situation in my home country, and so forth. Even so, I’ve had my fair share of Kafkaesque nightmares regarding immigration matters in the UK, and the psychological centrality of my insecure immigration status as a ‘foreigner’ is largely what makes me so eager to leave to a place where my permission to be there is not under threat.

But hey – I’ve made peace with the injustice of my relationship with the UK. I certainly don’t want to stick around to find out what happens to me if I stay here. My one beacon of hope throughout the uncertainty of lockdown has been the great competence and clarity I’ve received from Denmark. My experience applying for my work permit, enrolling my biometrics, and receiving the documents necessary to pass border restrictions in Denmark, has been unbelievably smooth, relatively unbureaucratic, and incredibly fast (I got my visa in 7 days). This has made a hugely positive impact on me during such an uncertain time. I will never forget it.

See you soon, Denmark, and thank you.

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Denmark, Personal, Uncategorized

Hej.

Welcome to my blog. You can call me Jiji. I am a professional philosopher (which is to say…I have a PhD in Philosophy and am somehow forging a career out of it).

I’m Korean, but I’ve lived in Europe for close to 20 years cumulatively.

For the past 9.5 years, I’ve been in the UK. I am imminently due to move to Copenhagen, Denmark, for work, which will be a huge life change for me.

I’ve always wanted a blog, and I figure now is as good a time as any to start one. It will probably be a space taken up by posts on my personal experiences regarding the whole process of moving and adjusting to my new life in Copenhagen. I’m also keen to share some travel-related posts and maybe even PhD or career-related stuff (if anyone is interested in that kind of thing), though probably nothing too formal! Do get in touch if you have any ideas for things I could share with you.

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