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Aarhus vs. Sydney

Today marks two months since I took my first step on Danish terrain; a country that I now consider my other home. Of course, one faces challenges when assimilating to the unique customs of a different country. Each day that I have been here I have experienced something new and interesting that differs from the sentiment of my other home, Australia. Below are some differences between my two worlds (and a few that are quite similar).

By Sofie Wainwright  
Bachelor of Arts in Communication, Journalism
Studying at: The Danish School of Media and Journalism

The people

It could be argued that the stereotypical Australian is confident in social gatherings. The classic Dane differs in this respect, with most being quite reserved initially, however, friendly and quirky when someone else is the first to extend a hand. This has happened to me on many occasions.

On the first day I caught a taxi from Aarhus airport to my new dorm. The taxi driver (who had a similar appearance to Santa Claus) remained silent, however, became more open after I introduced myself and asked him questions about Denmark. Eventually his passion for Aarhus would not stop rolling off his tongue. He even paused the metre (not that I had to pay anyway, courtesy of Aarhus airport feeling sorry for a lost teen with no suitcase – yes, the airline lost my luggage) and he took me on a tour through the neighbouring streets, showing me his house and local shops.

On the same day I knocked on my neighbour’s door to introduce myself and tell him about my lost luggage. At first he was awkward, not knowing what to say or how to act around me. After about three hours he did everything he could to help me – called Scandinavian airlines, lent me his jacket and took me on a bike ride to the shops.

Similarities between the Aussies and Danes include: egalitarian, informal, modesty.

The weather

That is an obvious one. I left Sydney at a searing 32 degrees Celsius only to arrive to an arctic minus 5. When flying above Aarhus, I looked down through the window and saw fields and rooftops dressed in white snow. It was stunning. I could not stop smiling. This was the first time I had seen and felt snow. But beauty is pain right? It’s not so much the temperature that gets me; it’s the crisp wind that it’s married too. It whips you from the outside in. The best way to describe it is the feeling you have when there is a mint in your mouth while you suck a gulp of air. Imagine that feeling on the outside and inside of your body. Times it by three. My hands got affected the most. When wearing woollen gloves I often run inside my warm apartment with hands that feel burnt from the frost. But never fear, Spring is near. I now get excited when it hits 6 degrees – who would have thought?



The music

The songs that the Danes play in shops and some pubs are out dated but I love it; Australia’s top 100 by about seven years. Think Black Eyed Peas and Mikka. Also SClub7 – bringing back the childhood mems.

The road

In Australia, you know it’s time to cross the road when you hear the pole’s heartbeat and see the flashing man turn green. Not in Denmark. My friends and I call one crossing the ‘Crazy Crossing’ which is a long pedestrian crossing on a busy road that is broken up into four separate voyages. You only hear the faintest clicking when it’s time to cross and the flashing green man only lasts for around ten seconds. So by the time you actually realise it’s time to go you only end up reaching one or two crossings until you have to stop and wait for the man to turn green. I have finally mastered crossing in one go – running!


The public transport

It’s a pretty universal agreement that Australian public transport (well Sydney for the most part) is dreadful. Out dated, unorganised and unreliable. And, even when trains, buses and ferries do arrive on time most people still complain about them. In Denmark I wouldn’t say the transport is not any more modern. What is better is the organisation. I’ve taken taxis, buses and trains here. ‘A’ buses (the most frequent) in Aarhus come every five to seven minutes on the dot.

Fun fact:

Yellow buses = 2 doors = enter from the back and exit from the front
Blue buses = 2 doors = enter from the front to show your ticket and exist from the back

3 or more doors = enter and exist front or back.

Transport also drives on the opposite side of the road. Bike riders wear the pants in the traffic playground – something you don’t often seen in Sydney.

The food

The food is similar to Australian in the sense that there is no generic similarity between the national iconic dishes. Australia has Vegemite, meat pies, lamingtons, and witchetty grubs. As for Denmark it is mainly staples. Think porridge. Think potatoes. Think pastries. Think bread – opened sandwiches mainly. They love their hot dogs too, selling them on the go in 7/11 and other convenience stores. Let’s just say, carbs are celebrated here.


Chocolate for your toast

The diversity

From what I have seen, Australia is more multicultural than Denmark. Cultures from around the globe fill Australian streets and malls with their food and products. Here in Denmark I have seen a celebration of the US with McDonald’s (globalisation at its finest), China with Chinese take away, Japan with Japanese restaurants and sushi stands, Sweden with IKEA, Australia with the Australian Bar in town (I went to the Copenhagen Aussie bar – free beer between 11pm-12am is not bad) and Italy with gelato.

The language

In regards to the former however, the Danes celebrate diversity through their language. About 98% of Danes speak Danish but English is readily spoken. It’s clever, considering most Australians monolingual (according to ABS 2011, only 18% speak a language other than English). In shops and on the streets, Danish people initially speak to me in their native tongue so I often have to say, “Sorry I don’t speak Danish.” I’ve only had one experience where the person didn’t switch to English (she was old and was asking me for directions). I feel rude asking Danes if they can switch. I am in their country. I feel like I should be making the effort to be bilingual.

The celebrations

One of my friends turned 25 here. When one turns 25 in Denmark it’s a tradition to throw cinnamon on them. Not a little but a lot. Buckets full – literally. Luckily she only got away with a goody bag filled with  cinnamon sugar.

The drinking culture is also quite similar to Australia – drinking beer (a lot of it). It may be cold outdoors but this doesn’t stop the Danes from going out. Cold winters with a warm feeling – otherwise known as ‘Hygge’ (an important element of the Danish culture.) The word is difficult to translate, but I will do my best: a mix of having a good time with loved ones while eating and drinking.DSCF0026


The history

Australian indigenous heritage, dating back over 40,000 years ago, is written in our landmarks and the nature itself. As for Denmark, the Viking origins are evident in the streets, with symmetrical vintage royal looking buildings, and gothic churches and cathedrals at the heart of Aarhus CBD. The architecture is magical.



The Sport

Where Australia has cricket and rugby league, Denmark has handball. A group of my friends and I went to the handball semi finals at a local bar. A sea of red and white surrounded the five of us. Waves of people wearing Danish colours stirred each time the Danish team scored. It was fun and just as enthusiastic as any sport game back in Aus.

The cost of living

I would say it is expensive. Although I don’t know if this is due to my ignorance of living on my own without my parents paying for my phone calls and food. For a bus you are looking at 20 DKK for 2 zones – that is about $5 Australian dollars. Rent is a lot cheaper here. And if you are complaining about petrol prices, stop. Here, petrol is about $2.20 AUD per litre.

I love it here. I really do. For now, I never want to leave.

Twitter: @SofieJW

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