It has been a long grey month in Copenhagen.
To be fair, the sun is starting to make more regular appearances, even though they’re usually while I’m at work. While working at a small company has its perks, sadly “sleeping in the sunbeam on your desk like a cat” is not one of them. And even though the temperature here has yet to reach double digits (unlike pretty much everywhere else in Europe grumble), at least the thermometer in my room is no longer displaying a ghastly 12°C indoors when I wake up in the mornings.
Still, it’s getting frustrating staying in on the weekends or going straight home from work because the weather isn’t enticing enough to convince me to go out. Recently I realised there are just over two months left in my internship and I haven’t crossed a thing off my to-do list since I started my job. To make up for this, I promised myself I’d go out and into the city every weekend, so that I at least get to experience some of what I hoped to see when I decided to move to Copenhagen.
When I made up my mind last July that I’d be moving to Copenhagen, just as soon as my mom’s house was finished and all of my boxes were unpacked, I painted a picture of an idyllic city in my mind. To be fair, my biggest problems with the small-town German lifestyle were not having any friends my age, not working a job related to what I studied, and not having access to the kinds of restaurants and shops found in a big city. It wasn’t unreasonable to expect that these issues would be solved in Copenhagen – after all, it’s a city full of young people, a blossoming startup environment, and big enough for diverse eateries and major fashion chains to set up shop.
Of course, I didn’t anticipate any of the unfavourable things about Copenhagen – except maybe knowing how expensive it was and that I might be doing an unpaid internship. While I am so glad I’m no longer worrying about a swarm of flies sticking to my clothes while biking, I now have a poorly maintained bike path and plenty of reckless cyclists to deal with on my commute. And even though it’s great to have a wider variety of produce to choose from when I go grocery shopping, I suddenly struggle with finding something as simple as vanilla yogurt. (And wow do I ever miss Joghurt mit der Ecke.)
I’m describing petty problems, but they are all things that stand out when you know that there’s another place to live out there that has already solved these problems for you. I think that’s one of the saddest realities that can come from living abroad: eventually you don’t love any place completely, because you’ve been somewhere else where something, even just one thing, is better.
I’ve moved to a new country a few times now, and every time I encounter something I don’t like in the new one, suddenly all my memories of the old country are positive. When I missed Sweden while living in Canada, I was missing the parties, not the panic of getting to Systembolaget during its tight opening hours. When I missed Canada while living in Germany, I was thinking of barbecues and mountains and hockey games, not terrible drivers and pickup trucks. And now that I’m pining for Germany, it’s the small-town festivals and dinners with my mom and her friends that I miss, not the stress caused by people I didn’t want to talk to.
The more I think about places I’ve lived in and left, the more I reflect on things I should have taken advantage of when I was there. I should have gone to Lappland in Sweden. I should have gone to the mountains more in Canada. I should have taken more daytrips while in Germany. The beauty of travel means these opportunities will still always be open to me, but it seems silly that I didn’t appreciate them more when they were convenient.
I’ve been in Copenhagen for almost three months now, and I’m not yet convinced it’s the place for me. Of course, I’m not going to rule it out already. I’ve only properly experienced one season and I’ve been restricted in what I do due to my lack of income. Denmark hasn’t even officially acknowledged me as a person yet, since I still haven’t received my CPR number that allows me to do normal things like get a cellphone plan or a gym membership.
For now, I’m going to hunt down the things that I’ll miss once I leave the city, whenever that is, and be sure to take advantage of them while I can.
PS: To reassure everyone that Copenhagen isn’t just some cloudy, depressing moor with suprisingly happy people, here are some photos from the first weekend of spring, taken in and around Frederiksberg Have.