Expat Living: Melanie Haynes in Copenhagen Denmark
It’s been a while since we profiled an expat here on the blog, so I’m happy to introduce you to Melanie Haynes. Melanie’s from the United Kingdom (UK), has also lived in Berlin, and now calls Copenhagen home.
Expat Living: Melanie Haynes in Copenhagen Denmark
I’m from the UK, but I’ve lived in Copenhagen with my husband since 2008, with a short stint in Berlin in 2011.
I’m a freelance communicator, writing a blog and for various publications on a regular basis. In 2015, I launched a relocation and settling in service aimed at English speaking expats, to help them find their feet in Copenhagen. I ‘m also mum to a bright and exciting six year old.
Where are you from?
I’m from the UK. I grew up in Kent, known as the “Garden of England” but after finishing university in Wales, I lived all over the UK. When we moved from the UK, we were living in Basingstoke.
Where are you living now and how long have you been there? Do you plan on staying?
We’re now living in Copenhagen, having moved here in 2008 for an adventure. Circumstances meant that we spent 18 months living in Berlin when my son was two, but when we had the chance we moved back to Copenhagen. We love it here and are very settled.
Did you move there alone or with family, friends, a significant other or even a pet?
My husband was working for a well know mobile phone company in the UK and we took the opportunity to move to Copenhagen with them. A year later my son was born.
What brought you to your new home? Tell us your story.
I was tired of corporate life working as a head of communications for a not-for-profit. My life was a blur of meetings and budgets, and I was tired and stressed. We’d recently gotten married after almost 13 years together and it felt like the right time to try something different.
I agreed to move to Copenhagen having never visited but I fell in love with the city as soon as I arrived for the first time — it was Christmas and with all the traditional Danish sparkle, the big beers, a sprinkling of snow and a big dose of Danish hygge, I was sold.
What do you do work wise? Is finding work in your city easy? What are the visa requirements like?
As an EU citizen I don’t need to have a visa to be here or to work here. It really helps if you can speak Danish to get a job but increasingly it isn’t necessary with so many international companies here. I have always worked as a freelancer since leaving the UK and all my clients expect me to write in English for them — in fact this is what they pay me to do! I found setting up my own business very straightforward here especially I as I don’t have my own premises or paid staff.
How do you “blend in” and be accepted by locals?
As a white European it is easy to visually blend in here, especially if you adopt the favoured monochrome wardrobe of the Danes. I immediately found I had an affinity with the more private Danes but I’m still very outgoing, which they seem to like. Unfortunately, when I speak Danish people think I am Norwegian.
How did you make friends? Are you friends with locals or with other expats?
At the start most of my friend were classmates from my Danish language classes, which is a great place to meet people in the same situation as you.
In time I found other friends through people in my apartment building, a craft group I belong to and also through my son’s activities. I am something of an introvert-extrovert so I do enjoy my own company a fair bit too.
Looking to make friends in Berlin? Get tips about how to meet new people in Berlin.
What has been the most shocking thing you learned about the local culture?
Probably the amount of public nakedness you encounter! At first I found going to the swimming pool where all the women will be naked in the changing room, shower and sauna, a bit daunting for my delicate British senses. I’m now almost totally comfortable with this and have finally embraced the naked sauna.
Did you have to learn a language? What learning methods do you recommend?
I spent 18 months learning Danish at a language school. Once you’re registered to live in Denmark, you’re entitled to free Danish lessons. I personally find that classroom based learning motivates me more and I learn better. Watching children’s cartoons in Danish helps a lot as does reading magazines on subjects that interest you.
Duolingo is new since I moved here but I have tried it out with other languages I can’t already speak and I think it is a great way to get a head start on learning a language.
What do you love the most about your new home?
I think the biggest thing for me is the more laid back nature of life in Copenhagen. We bike most places and there are tons of open spaces and we are super close to the beach. It is certainly a more relaxed place than to UK or even Berlin.
What do you “hate” the most about your new home?
I think the winter has to be the toughest thing about living in Scandinavia. It’s long, (the last one was almost eight months), dark and gloomy. Nowadays we don’t even seem to get much snow, which was the saving grace of Danish winter for me at the beginning.
There are ways you can combat it — good winter clothes, a daylight therapy lamp, sitting in a sauna, vitamin D supplements — but it’s still hard. That’s why we’re outside at the tiniest glimpse of sunlight once the spring arrives.
Melanie’s Favourite Things in Copenhagen
There are tons of coffee shops in Copenhagen so it is hard to pick a favourite. One of my current favourites is Café Sonja in Vesterbro. This is a community run coffee shop and café and they’ve amazing croissants and coffees for the morning and hearty homemade dishes for lunch.
I love browsing in bookshops. Thiemers Boghandel just off Værnedamsvej has an interesting selection of translated Scandinavian novels. There’s an amazing English bookshop in Hellerup called Books and Company.
I love the Saturday flea market behind the town hall in Frederiksberg. It’s a must for the summer months.
Another tough one but I love the vintage interior store, Affår on Skydebanegade in Vesterbro.
The food scene is massive in the city and there are new restaurants opening all the time offer both traditional Danish food and an eclectic mix of other cuisines. I enjoy the modern take on traditional open faced sandwiches in Øl og Brød, washed down with a decent Danish beer.
Things to do?
I love exploring the different neighbourhoods in the city and I’d recommend that someone new to the city have a good wander around areas such as Vesterbro and Nørrebro once they’ve ticked off all the tourist sites. But the first thing I’d recommend to do, is the canal boat cruise from Nyhavn. You get to see all the main sites of the city in an hour and then you can really start to explore.
I also love the fact that it’s easy to get out of the city and enjoy forests and beaches.
Weird and offbeat attraction?
I’d say that the Freetown of Christiania is the most off beat place to visit. It is a hippie enclave in the centre of the city with really cool buildings, street art and a funky vibe.
For more ideas about what to do in the city, look at these top attractions in Copenhagen.
Get Social With Melanie
- Blog: https://dejligedays.com/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Dejlige-Days-260194377442105/
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/dejligedays/
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/Dejligedays
Expat Living Information
Did you like this interview with Melanie Haynes in Copenhagen Denmark? Yes? Then browse through our Expat Living section and read stories from other expats around the globe.
If you’re looking to specifically relocate to Berlin, check out my Berlin Guide.