I first moved to Copenhagen from the UK in early 2008 and I loved the city as soon as we arrived. I still do. But I am very much aware of how my expat experience back then varies so much from experiences now.
Social media has made being an expat easier and less lonely. Photo: Colourbox
The development of social media and the internet is one thing that I believe makes relocation a thousand times easier now than when we first moved here. Join the right forums on Facebook and you have an immediate tribe of people willing to share information; follow the right accounts on Instagram and you know all the cool places to go; use your smartphone maps and access Rejseplanen and never get lost; use translate tools to read any complex Danish – all this quickly solves all the things that took me months to discover and work out. But I don’t know if that is better. I loved the exploration of the unknown, even the second day we lived here and we walked all the way from Frederiksberg to Vesterbro searching for a shop that sold light bulbs. We didn't find one but we discovered a lot about our area and had a fun afternoon.
Pony is just one of the many restaurants to find on Vesterbrogade. Photo: Marie Louise Munkegaard/Copenhagen Media Center
Today much of the restaurant scene in the city is centred on Vesterbrogade – you can practically find a restaurant to fit any taste there now. Rewind to a very cold December evening in 2007 the scene was very different. My husband and I were staying in a hotel in Sydhavnen for a pre-relocation exploration weekend. We headed into the city for dinner and decided that Vesterbrogade was the street to go to (clearly we had a premonition of the future). We walked from the main station all the way to Værnedamsvej and only encountered Chinese restaurants and felt that having a Chinese meal in Copenhagen on our first visit didn't seem right. Finally with growling stomachs and frozen extremities we had a pizza in a now long gone Italian restaurant on Værnedamsvej. The next night we ate reindeer at the hotel!
Even back in 2008 internet grocery delivery shopping was the norm in the UK. But upon arriving in Copenhagen, the question of how to get my bulky weekly shopping back from the supermarket without a car or a delivery man was vexing. Enter my cow print granny trolley bought from an website for €60. For over a year I wheeled this thing to my local Kvickly on a Monday afternoon, parked it by the tills (in the honest world of Denmark I knew no one would steal it), perfected the art of efficiently packing it, pulled it back home with stinging palms, dragged it up four flights of stairs and unpacked my shopping. Then Superbest started home delivery and my life changed immeasurably.
Kødbyen. Photo: Claus Randrup/Copenhagen Media Center
Vesterbro is now the watchword in cool. Defined today as one of the most hip of hipster neighbourhoods in the world, this was a completely different story only eight years ago. I had younger friends in language class who were partying in Kødbyen’s new underground clubs in what was still an area dominated by prostitution and hard drugs. They often come out to find their bikes stolen and certainly watched their backs when heading home in the small hours. It wasn't unusual to see drug users opening shooting up in doorways in broad daylight.
We were shown an apartment to rent just off Halmtorvet in 2008 and our relocation agent told us that the area was not so good right then but would be the place to be in a few years. We looked at the graffiti and suspicious characters shuffling around outside and decided to take his word for it. It seems he was right. I have mixed views on hipster culture but thanks to innovations such as the fixing room in Vesterbro and a change of vibe in this area, it is certainly somewhere I now enjoy spending time.
Torvehallerne. Photo: Robin Skjoldborg/VisitDenmark
These are just a fraction of the changes I have seen. Others include the transformation of Ørestad from a few new buildings, a shopping mall and a wind turbine to a whole new district. Likewise, a handful of fruit and veg stalls on Israel Plads turned into the bustling Torvehallerne.
I have also seen a change in myself over those years and a subtle move to more Danish behaviour — a little more forthright; sitting in the outside seat of the bus until I absolutely have to move over and happily using single duvets.
Melanie Haynes is originally from the UK and has lived in Copenhagen for seven years. She writes about life in Denmark on her blog Dejlige Days.