Where did the summer go? Actually, I know exactly where it went. It flashed by in a blur of light summer nights, conversations and celebrations with friends, visits from England, and the every day. But it’s not all bad – in fact, I think October might be one if my favourite months.
Our first summer in Copenhagen has gone by incredibly quickly, leaving a memory in my mind of big decisions, carefree evenings with the best people, hot afternoons on the balcony and, inevitable, some talk about bad weather. We are in Denmark after all.
But now I’m quite excited to be welcoming autumn. Last week the Danish weather treated us to a proper Indian summer. Almost hot enough for T-shirts in the middle of the day, blue skies as far as the eye could see, all the while trees are slowly transitioning from green to orange. But, it’s Monday and it’s all over, at least for a little while, as autumn makes its arrival with all-day rain, wind and grey skies.
It’s getting to the point where it feels like we have properly settled in now. Joel is working full-time and has been for several months, we’re buying furniture for the flat we now own and have almost managed to get rid of the last moving box (why is that always so hard?).
For me, autumn means delving into things more, spending time watching series (I have a huge backlog), reading books and spending time getting creative. And making plans. The change of season also inspire new beginnings, and for me, personal development. Whether I’ll actually get through all those books I have in mind, and the series I really want to catch up on or realise the big plans I have in my head, time will tell. But I’m going to give it a go.
We’ve now been in Copenhagen for just over a month, and we’re loving it so far. In a way, it still feels like a really long holiday, but on the other hand, it feels like we’ve been here forever.
One thing that I’m happy to leave behind, is the renting market in London. It’s the most confusing and stressful thing to have to deal with. Quite a few people came to view our old London flat before we moved out, and I really can’t say I envy the process they were about to go through. Evidence of income, bank statements, estate agent fees – it’s such a headache.
I’ve lived in London for 10 years, and I have lived in 9 different places. Mainly shared accommodation due to the crazy rental prices. The reason for the many moves is down to the housing market in London being based on contracts (often yearly), but also because some of the places were absolutely terrible, and I couldn’t get out of there soon enough. Maybe I’ve been extremely unlucky, but I really find the way the system works in England (and maybe particularly London) very frustrating. As a renter, you have just about no rights. That being said, it’s doable, and plenty of people successfully do it. And on the positive side, buy-to-rent is super popular, meaning there’s quite a few privately rented flats and houses available – the trick is to find the good ones, which can be super difficult.
Home no. 1: The Danish YMCA, Finchley Road
I arrived in London when I was 20, with two school friends. We had booked rooms at the Danish YMCA, as we thought we would only stay in London for three months, so it seemed like a good plan. Fairly cheap, safe, and straightforward. I ended up staying for 5 months I think, and had a good time there – if you are young, and don’t mind sharing your room with other young people, I’d recommend it as a good place to start.
Home no. 2: shared house in Stratford
What. A. Dump. Seriously, the worst kind of shared house you can imagine. The housemates were fine (apart from the crazy couple living upstairs). I think I stayed there for just about 5 months too. When the ceiling in the kitchen fell down, due to a leak in the bathroom upstairs, I kinda knew it was time to go (this actually happened, believe it or not).
Home no. 3: Turnpike Lane
I moved away from the Stratford house along with another housemate after the ceiling incident. We found a family in Turnpike lane that rented out two rooms in their family home. At the time, I didn’t see the downside of living with a family, but we quickly found out. The house was better, but the experience was still pretty horrendous. I only stayed for 1 month, and never got my deposit back from the family (I used to fantasize about creating an anonymous event on Facebook and invite all of London to a massive rave at their address to get back at them).
Home no. 4: Holloway Road
I moved into another shared house in Holloway Road. Nice and central. The house was outdated (imagine ugly carpets and funky wallpaper) but at least it was functional. And the housemates were nice, and we generally all got along really well (apart from a few hick-ups, which is to be expected). I lived in three different rooms in this house, and stayed for a total of four years. It was a two minute walk from my university, so pretty convenient. And, I made some good friends while living there. We did have mice though, which caused quite a bit of chaos. One of the incidents involved a bunch of mice-children living in an old cereal box. Ew!
Home no. 5: Bethnal Green
I clubbed together with two housemates from Holloway Road, and one other girl, and rented a house in Bethnal Green, creating our very own shared house. It was brilliant in the beginning, living with your friends. But, when you live together, it’s inevitable that you’ll start to get on each others nerves at some point or another, and it really is a strain on every friendship, no matter how much you like each other. The house was lovely though, and much nicer than any of the previous ones – and we had some amazing times.
Home no. 6: Walthamstow 1.0
Joel and mine’s first flat together, which was amazing. The flat, however, was anything but. We had the worlds worst upstairs neighbours, paired with a terrible building construction. Without exaggerating, we didn’t have a good night sleep for the 8 months we were there, and we got out as soon as we could. Our neighbours upstairs was a family with absolutely no concept of time or noise. They would come home every evening at 11pm, and stay up until at least 3am, having what sounded like a party. One night, they even decided it was perfectly fine to wax their carpets at midnight. We even had their little son knocking on our door once, in tears, asking us to make his mum and his aunt stop fighting. It was a mad house. On top of that, there were serious issues with mould, we had slugs coming into our kitchen, and our useless management agency refused to do anything about any of it. All in all, pretty hellish, and a perfect example of how bad rental accommodation can be in London, and how little responsibility landlords take.
Home no. 7: Walthamstow 2.0
After having lived in Walthamstow 1.0, Walthamstow 2.0 was a breeze. We rented a downstairs Warner-style flat. It was bigger, brighter, drier (!) and quieter. In comparison, at least. Our upstairs neighbour was a slightly angry elderly lady, who would listen to the same radio program, very loudly, every night. We also had a family living next door, who religiously would have BBQ’s every Sunday afternoon in their backyard. We still had slugs in the kitchen occasionally (I’ll never forget when Joel pulled what he thought was a mushroom out of the sink). Our landlady decided to sell the flat after we had lived there for a year.
Home no. 8: Walthamstow 3.0
Probably my favourite flat of them all. This one was split level, with a lovely view over London. It was in good shape, newly built, although perhaps slightly cheaply (like most newer London houses). Our neighbours were fine. We could regularly hear our next door neighbour snore (his mum spent half an hour knocking on his door once, while he was sleeping away) and our downstairs neighbour’s baby would cry occasionally – but nothing out of the ordinary. Our landlady was great, and we were very sad to leave when she told us she wanted to move back in when our 12 month contract ended.
Home no. 9: Walthamstow 4.0
A very small, but nice flat in the heart of Walthamstow Village. High ceilings, plenty of air and light. A fairly old building though, which meant bad insulation and leaky windows, which made for quite a cold winter. Especially the bathroom was freezing – we could literally see our breath at times. As it was the middle flat, it was also a bit noisy in terms of neighbours. Adding to that, there was just about no soundproofing (again, shout-out to cheaply build houses). We were generally happy there though.
My overall experience of having rented in London for 10 years, is that mould is always present. I’m not sure why, but for some reason buildings don’t seem to be able to cope with the temperatures and wet weather. I’ve never seen mould in Denmark to the extend I’ve seen it in London, an no-one seems to take it very seriously, despite the impact it can potentially have on your health. The amount of furniture and clothes I’ve had to throw away due to mould is incredible. I definitely won’t miss that.
If anything, I think the overall experience of living in London has made me stronger, more tolerant, but also more appreciative of how good the living conditions actually are in Denmark. I know that many people have given up finding a place to live in London, and at least I managed several times – If you are in that position, I previously shared my top tips on how to find a flat in London. I’ve got so many good memories from all the places though, and I wouldn’t have been without it.
After having moved to Denmark, I’ve felt a bit like I’ve leveled up in my adult life. Never before have I had to think about insurance, unions and the likes – not to mention taking serious grown-up loans in the bank to buy a home.
But, all of this was also one of the main reasons for moving from London to Copenhagen. Having the ability to actually buy our own home, wasn’t something we even considered in London because of the insane house prices (unless we wanted to live in zone 6, or in a tiny flat) and of course the work-life balance.
We’ve now been in Denmark for almost 4 weeks. Time has flown by! (Hence why this blog has been VERY quiet). We’ve settled in quite well, and things are slowly falling into place.
Joel has now received his residence permit, his CPR number (which is like a health insurance number, but in Denmark it’s used as proof of identity and is linked to pretty much everything you do). He is in the process of signing up for Danish lessons, making plans for studying and doing a lot of job searching. Spirits are still high, but realistically it’s not easy finding a job in Denmark when you don’t speak Danish. It’s not impossible of course, and as everyone speaks English, it’s still easier than it would be in other European countries.
But as I have a job we’ll be fine for a while anyway, so we’re not letting the stress get to us.
We’re both really enjoying being here. I’ve caught myself feeling genuinely happy – the way where you can feel it in your stomach – quite a few times. And I have been realising that I hadn’t felt like that for a long time in London.
Next order of business: bikes. You are not a real Copenhagener until you travel by bike everywhere, in all kinds of weather.
It’s our second full day as Copenhageners. We spent our morning at the State Department (Statsforvaltningen), submitting Joel’s application for a EU residency. It takes a bit of prep in advance. In our case, I had to prove that I have a job, and can therefore provide for the both of us until Joel finds employment. That means a declaration from my employer, my contract and bank statements – all no more than 14 days old.
But now it’s all done, and all we can do is wait for the residency to come through in the post, which hopefully shouldn’t take more than maximum 10 days.
On a more personal note, I think we’ve both found the move more challenging that we thought it would be. It’s strange when you have been planning something for so long, and then when it actually happens it becomes a bit of an anti-climax. Despite being positive and knowing it is definitely the right decision, it hasn’t been stress-free – for any of us. I think getting into a bit of a routine will help, boring as that may sound. At the moment we’re in this strange limbo between being on holiday, getting used to a new country, starting a ‘new’ job (me), looking for a job (Joel) and generally just trying to figure all this out and getting comfortable in our new home.