Expat Interview: Live in Reutlingen, Germany as an expat

Welcome to Expat Interview Series. In this interview, you will get to know what’s it like to live in Reutlingen, Germany as an expat. You can see Reutlingen from an expat’s viewpoint. Also, this interview covers the cost of living, wanderlust inspiration, tips, and advice for living in Reutlingen, Germany as an expat.

 

Where is Reutlingen?

Reutlingen is a city in the southwest of Germany and about 45-minutes by train to the state capital Stuttgart. This is a small city in Germany with the number of the population around 100,000 people. The city is traditionally famous for its textile industry and today is a home for Bosch, who is the biggest recruiter in the region. The biggest university in the city, Reutlingen University (in German: Hochschule Reutlingen) offers many programs for international students so each semester there will hundreds of international students coming to the city.

Reutlingen city

Tuan’s background

I am currently a senior in the major of biomedical engineering in Vietnam. Besides my study, I love reading books, hanging out with my friends and traveling. Last spring I spent a semester in Reutlingen, Germany as an exchange student. My exchange semester in Germany has brought me to another 4 countries, namely Netherland, France, Switzerland, and Italy. I love meeting people in everywhere I go and getting to know about the culture as well its people.

 

1. Why did you choose to live in Reutlingen?

In my third year, I decided to have some abroad experiences, so I applied for the exchange program at my university. After the admission and scholarship selection, I started my summer semester at Reutlingen University, Germany. I love Germany so I want to experience the life and study in this country. My university has only one partner in Germany, so I applied for it without any hesitation.

Reutlingen in the morning

2. How did you prepare to move to Reutlingen?

This was the first time I lived in a foreign country so there were many kinds of stuff I had to prepare beforehand. I had to do research about the city I live, some cultural aspects and of course learn the local language (i.e. German). Finding a place to live was my most concern as the dormitory is not owned by the university and the rooms are extremely limited. Hence, I had to apply early to make sure I can have a room in a dormitory, otherwise finding houses in the neighborhood is really difficult and also much expensive.

 

Difficulties & Challenges

3. How to overcome difficulties in Reutlingen?

I think the most difficult thing is the language because I live in a small city and not many people can speak English well. There are things like banking and residence registration which you can better go through procedure if you know basic German. As I learn some German beforehand, I find it somehow not difficult but I strongly suggest to know German to avoid misunderstanding and at least you know what you are reading before signing any documents.

Street in Reutlingen

4. Did you experience any discrimination in Reutlingen?

Not at all. The people are really friendly and helpful. There was a time when I had a problem with online banking and the lady who worked with me at the bank, though speaks little English, tried her best to explain me the procedure and helped me get through that as fast as possible, which I really appreciated.

 

About Reutlingen

5. What do you like about Reutlingen?

This is a peaceful city with beautiful landscapes and architectures.

 

6. Is there anything that you don’t like about Reutlingen?

The city is a bit boring in the evening, especially after 8 pm when all the businesses close. Also, there are not many options for entertainment.

 

7. What are your favorite things to do in Reutlingen?

Jogging and climbing the mountains, also shopping in the city center.

 

8. Where do you recommend to visit in Reutlingen?

One can come to the city center (German: Stadtmitte) for shopping and see houses with middle-aged architecture or explore the narrowest street in the world, for which the city is famous.

Reutlingen city centerThis is the city center (Stadtmitte) with different shops and restaurants around.

9. Cost of living in Reutlingen

If you rent a house, the cost will be around 300 euros a month or cheaper if you live in a dormitory. For other expenses, I believe 200 euros a month will be sufficient. In total, having at least 500 euros a month will secure your stay in Reutlingen.

 

Building relationships

10. Is it easy to make new friends in Reutlingen?

Yes, of course. As I have said earlier, the people are super nice but you have to be the one who breaks the ice. If you keep waiting for them to talk to you, there’s no chance you can make friends with people there. Moreover, as the German love beer, so having a beer together in a beer garden, for example, can bring people easily together.

 

11. Where are your favorite spots in Reutlingen to hang out with friends?

As we are students, the bars are super cool places to chit and chat. There’s a student bar on the school campus, which is quite cheap compared to the others and it often holds many parties throughout the semester.

 

12. What are your advice and tips for moving/ living in Reutlingen?

Be well prepared by researching carefully about the city. There can be practices like no plastic bags used in stores and trash separation that does not exist in your country or different types of renting houses you have to understand before looking for places to live. Another tip would be to learn basic German beforehand as there will be people who cannot speak English and you will have trouble working with them.

Trash separation in Reutlingen

Trash separation in Reutlingen, usually there will be bins for bioproducts (Bio), paper (Papier) and the rest (Restmuell).

13. Would you recommend others to live in Reutlingen?

The city is an excellent choice for students but if you are job-seeker, I suggest moving to a bigger city.

 

14. What have you learned from living abroad?

Being more independent and always showing up on time. The German is strict about punctuality.

Thank you for being a part of this interview 🙂


Read more interviews here:

I love everywhere but not Prague: Expat life in Prague

Expat life in Beppu, Oita

Living abroad in San Diego, CA

Living on the Marshall Islands

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I love so many places BUT NOT Prague: Expat Life in Prague

Welcome to Expat Interview Series! In each week, you will get to know what it’s like to live in a city as an expat. The purpose of this series is to help YOU to understand the city from an expat’s viewpoint. Last week, you got to know the expat’s life in San Diego. This week, Caitlin will show you what it’s like to live in Prague, Czech Republic.

 

Where is Prague?

Prague is the capital and largest city of the Czech Republic (now known as Czechia). It is centrally located in Europe and is only a short journey away from many other wonderful spots. It’s a beautiful city which straddles the Vltava river. Prague is home to some of Europe’s finest architecture including what is widely considered to be the most beautiful bridge in Europe, Charles Bridge. The cobblestone streets provide a beautiful backdrop for any tourist but when choosing it as a place to live, whether to work or to study, there is more to it that you must take into consideration.

Beautiful Charles Bridge

Expat Interview: Live in Prague as an expat

Firstly, let’s know a little bit about Caitlin!

Caitlin’s Background

My name is Caitlin. Originally, I’m from Vermont, USA but I’ve been on the road for about 6 years now. I teach English as a second language and while I enjoy the job I am trying to move into writing full time. Also, I love all animals and horseback ride as often as I can. I like hiking, yoga, photography, and cats.

1. Why did you choose to live in Prague?

I ended up living in Prague solely for the visa. It was never really on my radar as a place to live. I’d been previously as a tourist but that was it.

2. What was your moving procedure?

I moved to Prague in July of last year, 2016. I chose it based on visas. It’s the first move I made that wasn’t completely independent as I had a boyfriend along for the ride. He’s Spanish and I’m American so finding a country we could both work and live in legally was a challenge. The Czech Republic turned out to be our answer. He didn’t need a visa and I could get the trade license which is fairly straightforward and doesn’t need sponsorship.

 

3. How did you prepare to move to Prague?

Unlike some other moves, I’ve made I had a job almost entirely lined up before I arrived. I actually applied and interviewed for a few jobs before I arrived and I was offered one in Liberec, which is a much smaller city in the north of the Czech Republic.

Because of its size, we decided it was better to stick with Prague so my boyfriend would have better work prospects as he doesn’t speak Czech so he was relying on the tourist industry for work. We arranged an Airbnb for our first few nights and planned to apartment hunt as soon as we arrived. I had my final interview arranged for the first day or two I was in town as did my boyfriend. We prepared well. I also had started the process on my visa and was in touch with the woman (her contact is something I’d be happy to share one-on-one with someone) who would help. I was already well into my 90-day tourist visa so I needed to get the ball rolling as soon as possible.

 

Difficulties & Challenges

4. How to deal with culture shock in Prague, Czech Republic?

I don’t think it’s culture shock as the culture really isn’t that different than America. But I did struggle with some things, namely, the cold, dark, wet winters. Brrr.

5. Did you experience any discrimination in Prague?

I don’t know if I’d call it discrimination but definite unfriendliness. The Czechs are not known for their warmth and it’s sadly very evident just how cool they are once you start living there. I remember walking into a little tabac with my boyfriend, looking to buy a bus ticket, and before we’d opened our mouths, the woman behind the counter just looked at us and shouted ‘no’. It was hard to have this happen in our first days when we were trying to fall in love with our new home.

 

6. How to overcome difficulties in Prague?

Yes. I learned quickly that the English teaching world in Prague was very different than what I’d previously been exposed to in Sydney and Vietnam. It was oversaturated and most of the teachers were underqualified with only online TEFL and no teaching experience to speak of. So, I realized that I was going to end up being overworked and underpaid. In the first few weeks, I was there, I quickly started applying for more interviews. I cut down on the hours I was working for James Cook, the company I’d originally interviewed with, and started advertising for private students through a few online sites.

 

About Prague

7. What do you like about Prague?

I liked its architecture. There’s no doubt that Prague is a beautiful city. It has the astronomical clock, old town square, the castle, churches here and there. It did a wonderful job of staying intact throughout Europe’s dreadful history and all these amazing structures are still here for us to see today.

8. Is there anything that you don’t like about Prague?

The cold! And the fact that wine is sooooo expensive. I gained a few pounds from all the beer I drank! Actually, it’s a pretty expensive city to live in. It’s cheap if you’re coming with a dollar or a euro, but to live the cost is really high, as I’ve outlined below.

 

9. What are your favorite things to do in Prague?

Actually, my favorite thing to do in Prague is to escape it. I love the outskirts. There’s a little village to the south, which is technically still in Prague, called Radotin. It’s along the train line, just 8 minutes from the city, and it’s adorable. The river runs right through it, it’s calm, and green, and quiet. It’s a wonderful spot to escape the noise and business of city life. I love to grab a beer and sit by the river down there, especially when the sun is shining.

10. Where do you recommend to visit in Prague?

I had a friend visit earlier this year and we did a few of the standard things, old town, and the castle but I also took her to Letna park which is great for a warm day and a picnic but has stunning views all year long. My second go-to spot is Namesti Miru which is just a small square but it has an absolutely beautiful church which I love staring at both inside and out.

 

Cost of living in Prague, Czech Republic

Like I mentioned earlier, it’s not cheap. In fact, it’s really expensive. The currency is Crowns but I’m going to convert everything to USD to make it easier to understand.

My salary was between $10 and $16/hour

  • A liter of beer at a bar costs $2
  • A really bad bottle of wine at Tesco costs $3
  • A dinner out for two at a normal restaurant costs $12
  • A new pair of pants costs $10
  • Internet costs $20/month
  • Basic cell phone bill costs $16/month

Rent of a one bedroom apartment costs $630/month (this is the kicker-the market in Prague is very much a landlord’s market, the prices are exorbitant and nearly impossible to survive with this example, what my boyfriend and I paid, is very low.)

A years transport ticket good for tram, train, metro, and bus costs $165 (this is the best deal in town!)

 

Building relationships

11. Is it easy to make new friends in Prague?

Actually, I struggled so much with this in Prague. I have to admit that I was spoiled in some of my previous homes with a readily available group of super fabulous people the moment I arrived and that just didn’t happen to me in Prague.

Part of the reason was that my job was not in one place, I ran from office to office all day long teaching lessons at different locations. So, I didn’t get to know my ‘colleagues’ at all really. Often when you move to a new place work is your first port of call for new drinking buddies. I had to look elsewhere. I actually went on a number of friend dates. People I connected with on Facebook. Some clicked, others didn’t. I struggled and it was definitely difficult not to have a great support system in the city. I was lucky that I had my boyfriend but I wonder if that was also the reason I didn’t end up with lots of friends, I didn’t really need them, I had him.  

12. Do you hang out with locals or foreigners mostly?

Foreigners. I met up with a few Czech women and some of them were o.k. but none of them were interested in follow-ups (was it me!?) and the ones that were, were very difficult to get close to.

13. Where is your favorite place in Prague to hang out?

Prague just changed its smoking laws this spring, so last winter all the bars and restaurants were smoky and awful. I hate that. So, I chose cafes. There’s a little chain called Cross Café. I drink chai lattes and theirs are my favorite! Plus, they leave you alone for as long as you want to stay there. And no smoking!

Now that there’s no smoking I’d rediscover more bars and restaurants where I wouldn’t end up reeking of smoke!

 

14. Do you interact with any expat communities in Prague?

I went to a few events. I can’t remember exactly which organizations they were through but all were different things I found on Facebook just searching the events on there. Nothing really clicked through and I felt a bit awkward going to them, in all honesty.

 

Reflection

15. An unforgettable memory!

It’s hard to pick out one memory but so many of my memories revolve around the trams. They are just everywhere. We lived above a tram line (DON’T!) so we heard them running all night long. The trams are an awesome form of transportation when they work well but if they’re stuck, you’re screwed!

 

16. Did you change your perspective about Prague after living here for awhile?

Yes. Sadly, it went from positive to negative. I do feel so bad about it but people have reminded me that it’s o.k. not to like a place. I LOVE SO MANY PLACES IN THIS WORLD! But after living there, Prague simple isn’t one of them.

 

17. What are your advice and tips for moving/ living in Prague?

Do your research. I think if you make a good salary and you’re not struggling day to day you’ll enjoy it much more than I did. So, look into the cost of everything as compared to your salary. Will you have enough to enjoy your life? Also, be ready for the winter. It’s not only cold but dark and damp. Also, skiing or other outdoor sports will take some getting to, and the wilderness is not at your doorstep. If you’re content to sit inside and drink beer for a good chunk of the year, then you’ll be happy in Prague. If not, I can’t recommend it.

 

 

18. What have you learned from living abroad?

I’ve learned so much from living abroad. Before Prague, I lived in Ireland, Morocco, Vietnam, and Australia. Everywhere has its good and bad. I’ve learned to be open-minded and accepting. Also, I’ve learned to embrace differences but, especially in Prague, I’ve learned that we don’t all have to belong everywhere. I’ve learned heaps about myself really, and I’ve learned how much I’m capable of more than anything else and I think that’s an invaluable life lesson.

 

More about Caitlin

Caitlin

Caitlin grew up in the countryside of Vermont, USA before heading off to college in Maryland. Since then she’s earned her CELTA to teach English as a second language and with that has lived and worked in Ireland, Morocco, Vietnam, Australia and The Czech Republic. She became an expat in 2011 and has never looked back. Caitlin loves riding horses and is a lover of all animals. She loves photography, though she’s still learning. She loves hiking, yoga, the countryside and the city, knitting, and writing, which she does on her blog at Countryjumperblog 

Follow Caitlin on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter!

 

Read more interviews in this Expat Interview series:

Expat life in Beppu, Japan.

Expat life on the Marshall Islands

Expat life in San Diego, CA

Thank you for reading

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Expat Interview: What’s it like to live in San Diego, California as an expat?

Welcome to Expat Interview Series! In each week, you will get to know what it’s like to live in a city as an expat. The purpose of this series is to help YOU to understand the city from an expat’s viewpoint. Last week, we got to know the expat’s life on the Marshall Islands. This week, Michael will show you the expat life in San Diego, California, United States.

 

About San Diego

San Diego is a city on the Pacific coast of California and mainly known for its warm climate and beaches. Also, the city offers different beautiful parks and a big choice of museums. With its location nearby the Mexican border, it combines both the American and the Mexican culture like no other city in the world. Often San Diego is called “America’s finest city” due to its amazing weather.

 

Expat Interview: Live in San Diego

Hey Michael! Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

Hello guys! I am Michael, a freelance photographer and travel blogger based in Switzerland. Aside from that I also study here in Switzerland. I love to be in nature and capture special moments and today I will tell you more about my three months in San Diego, California.

Live in San Diego

Greeting from San Diego

 

1. When did you start to live in San Diego?

In September 2016, I moved to sunny California. It was my first big adventure outside of my country and it definitely took me some time to make the decision. I lived there for roughly three months.

 

2. Why did you choose to live in San Diego?

As I wanted to improve my English while enjoying a great lifestyle with a lot of possibilities to explore the region, I had a lot of choices such as New Zealand, Australia, Canada or California. At the end, some suggestions of good friends and especially my gut feeling were responsible for that decision.

 

3. What did you prepare?

I am not a person who plans everything perfectly. To be honest, I did not plan a lot. I booked an accommodation and my language school. Not more. However, I was quite curious how it would be there and read a lot of travel reports beforehand to really know the coolest spots to see.

 

Overcoming difficulties

4. Did you experience any difficulties when you first moved here?

Sure! The United States is extremely large compared to Switzerland and I had to adapt to that in my first days. Surprisingly I adjusted myself rather quickly and felt comfortable after a short time. It was certainly in my favor that I didn’t suffer a huge cultural gap. What shocked me was the huge accumulation of homeless people in the city. It made me really sad and sometimes I felt kind of sad when I walked past them. I really hope that the United States is able to change that problem in the future.

 

5. How about discrimination?

No, not at all. Most of the Americans I met in San Diego were absolutely friendly and courteous. They are very communicative and love to tell you their whole life story – even if you are just waiting at the bus station. You hear a lot about discrimination in the United States, especially against Afro Americans – though I never observed it with my own eyes.

 

About the city

6. What do you like about San Diego?

Honestly, San Diego has so much to offer! It’s called “America’s finest city” and I totally agree with that. There are several amazing beaches that you can visit the whole year. Combined with the great bars and some exceptional viewpoints you can just love San Diego. It’s not the biggest city but has its own charm and vibrancy.

Beach in San Diego

La Jolla Beach

 

7. Is there anything that you don’t like about this city?

As I already mentioned I didn’t like the situation with the homeless people at all. Sure we tried to support them from time to time with food but it doesn’t change the overall situation that is really concerning. Other than that you have to be very picky to find something bad about San Diego.

 

8. What are your favorite things to do in San Diego?

There were some activities I repeated over and over. One of them was beach volleyball. A relaxing afternoon at Mission or Ocean Beach with some rounds of beach volleyball. Absolutely amazing. Additionally, I really appreciated the Gaslamp Quarter (downtown) where we experienced some unforgettable nights. Furthermore, I didn’t mention my favorite place yet: Tijuana. The Mexican city is just a short bus ride away and amazing for a day trip – though even better for the parties at the weekend. In my opinion even better than in Las Vegas.

Volleyball in San Diego

Playing Volleyball at Mission Beach

 

9. Where do you recommend to visit?

Other than that I recommend everybody to visit La Jolla, where you can see seals chilling at the beach. Secondly, you have to see the Sunset Cliffs and the Adobe Falls. The latter is a hidden waterfall with a lot of graffitis on the stones next to it. Usually, only locals go there as it is not allowed to enter the property. Admittedly it’s worth the risk!

 

Cost of Living in San Diego

a) Accommodation

This highly depends on where you exactly stay and what kind of comfort you need. I personally lived in Little Italy which is pretty close to the center. As I lived in a student apartment it cost me around 1’000$ per month. If you live further outside or decide to have some more comfort the price can vary tremendously.

 

b) Food

The same applies to the food. If you plan to eat delicious food in Restaurants you will need a lot of money: Definitely more than 1’000$ – in my first month I almost spent 1’500$ in food, whereas I reduced it to less than 500$ in my second month. There are different great supermarkets to find cheap food. I can recommend you Ralph’s which is located in the city center.

 

c) Transportation

The transportation in San Diego is quite affordable. For most distances, I was able to walk or use a bus. However, I highly recommend adding “Uber” to your choice of transport. A ride from the city center to the beach was not even 10$ for example. Especially if you split the price with friends it’s a bargain sometimes. I personally didn’t need more than 100$ per month for my transportation.

 

d) Other costs

Surely this point depends on what you exactly need. Of course, you will need a mobile data contract. I had a rather expensive one (about 60$) which provided me with unlimited data usage in the whole United States and Mexico.

 

Building relationships

10. Is it easy to make new friends in San Diego?

To find friends shouldn’t be a problem at all in San Diego! Americans love to connect and it’s easy to find the connection with them. My favorite places to do so: Sports games, bars, and especially country line dance clubs.

Football in San Diego

Football stadium (Qualcomm Stadium) – now closed

 

11. Do you hang out with locals or foreigners mostly?

Because I visited a language school most of my friends were foreigners from Europe, Brazil, Asia or other countries. However, I also made a lot friends from the United States and Mexico. Usually, I went out with my friends and we met Americans there. One night I discussed with a group of Americans in a bar about politics and the next day they invited me to their own party. Really, if you like to connect with people you will love California!

 

12. Where is your favorite place in San Diego?

My favorite place to go out was definitely McFadden. It is a half bar, half club and located in the heart of the city. Famous for its “Thirsty Thursday” you can get beer for 1$ and enjoy an amazing time. Another hidden gem is the “In Cahoots” where they practice line dance and offer extremely cheap drinks on Tuesday. Definitely worth a visit, especially if you love to hang out with locals. Other than that it’s always a good idea to stay at the beach or in a sports bar where Americans like to watch the football games on Sunday.

 

Reflection

13. Memorable Experience

Me and one of my friends planned to do a skydive in San Diego and we also wanted another friend of us to join. But he was afraid of heights and didn’t like our idea. So we needed some help from Mexico: Tequila. After some shots, our friend wasn’t that reluctant anymore and we just booked our skydive – with him. The next day he thought that it was just a bad dream. It wasn’t. Just three days later we all jumped out of a plane – an unforgettable memory.

 

14. Did you change your perspective after living here for awhile?

When I first arrived there I didn’t know what I could expect. Still, my expectations were quite high and to be honest San Diego excelled them! The city became my second home and I love almost everything about it.

 

15. What are your advice and tips for moving/ living in San Diego?

My honest advice is: Go for it! If you have some financial reserves there is nothing to worry about this step and I can just recommend moving to San Diego. There is only one tip: Be open and enjoy the Californian lifestyle. You will find out rapidly if it’s for you.

 

16. What have you learned from living abroad?

Not only have I experienced another view of the world, also did I develop my character and think that it really helped me to grow to what I am today. In San Diego, I met a lot of amazing friends all around the world and decided to start on Instagram and my travel blog. No matter where – I recommend everybody to live abroad for at least some months to enjoy life and maybe find new paths that will change your life forever.

Thank you, Michael, for the Interview.

You can learn more about Michael’s experience on his blog Mscgerber Also, don’t forget to follow him on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest


Read more interviews here:

What’s it like to live in Beppu, Japan?

What’s it like to live on the Marshall Islands as an expat?

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Expat Interview: Live on the Marshall Islands as an expat

Welcome to Expat Interview Series! In each week, you will get to know what it’s like to live in a city as an expat. The purpose of this series is to help YOU to understand the city from an expat’s viewpoint. Last week, you got to know the expat’s life in Beppu, Japan. This week, Sara will show you the real life on Majuro, Marshall Islands.

 

Where is Majuro, Marshall Islands?

Majuro, Marshall Islands, have you heard of it? Most haven’t. If you were to look at a globe, I’d tell you to first find the international date line. Next, locate where that crosses the equator, now look up and to the left of that point and bam, you have found it. The country consists of 29 atolls, made up of well over 1,000 islands. Majuro is the capital city and the largest atoll of the 29. Originally known as ‘Jolet Jen Anij’, meaning gift from God, eventually, they were named after John Marshall, a British explorer who visited in the late 1700s. With a population of just over 50,000 people, about half live in Majuro alone. It’s a small island, where everyone knows everyone and knows everything. Anyways, you get the idea.

the Marshall islands from above

This was Enemanit Island, owned by one of the more prominent families in Majuro. A beautiful oasis from the busy Majuro.

 

Expat Interview: Live on the Marshall Islands

Firstly, let’s get to know more about Sara!

Sara’s background

Sara here. I am originally from Canada but have lived abroad on and off since 2009. I left Canada originally to go to school in Australia for teacher’s college. And it is teaching that has to lead me to live abroad on and off since. I have taught in Thailand, Canada, the Marshall Islands, Niger and am now currently in Vietnam. Although I used to teach elementary school, I have switched over to teaching High School English Literature. I have always wanted to be a teacher, ever since I was little. Though most fall into teaching because they want to travel, I fell into traveling because I wanted to teach. With no jobs for teachers at home, it was easier to just pick up and go.

 

1. Why did you choose to live in Majuro?

Honestly, my friend had mentioned the Marshall Islands casually in conversation one random Sunday, when I was actually looking into where my next destination may be. I decided to google schools there and I found that there was one international school. I decided to apply. Within a week, I had two interviews under my belt and a job offer to teacher Grade 5 for the coming school year. I had also had interviews for schools in South East Asia, like Singapore and Vietnam, but the intrigue of going somewhere I knew very little about won over the rest. I don’t know why the unknown always fascinates me more, but it happened again after Majuro, choosing Niger over Guatemala.

 

2. What is your moving procedure?

I was living in Whitehorse, Yukon, which is in Canada for those unfamiliar. I had been substitute teaching up there for the 2014-2015 school year. But I had recently been offered a job in the Marshall Islands. In order to move to the islands, I first had to pack up my car and move everything back home to my parents’ house in the Toronto area (where I was living before taking off for the Yukon).

Since I had to drive all that way anyway, I ended up on a (partial) solo road trip across my own country for 3 weeks. After that was over, I spent a few weeks at home with friends and family there and then packed up anything I would need for living and teaching in the Marshall Islands, and I was on my way. I left at the end of July in 2015. In order to fly to the Marshall Islands from Canada, or even the US, you have to fly to Honolulu, Hawaii, first. The only flights from this side of the world are run by United Airlines and fly from Honolulu. There are other airlines but some are just flights to other islands or fly down to Australia.

 

3. What did you prepare?

Before leaving for the islands, I was put in contact with current teachers at the school, to get more of an idea of what the islands were like. I asked them whatever I needed to. Usually, when you find a job with a school, they like to put you into contact with current teachers to help with that sort of thing.

I am more of a researcher, finding blogs, online articles and the like, to find my information. To be honest, at the time, there wasn’t exactly a whole lot of information, even online, about the islands. Especially not about what it would be like to live there. I started to do what research I could. Found out the customs, what is appropriate to wear to school, and in everyday life. The islands are conservative, and it wasn’t the kind of island you would find yourself wandering around in your bikini regularly. So making sure I understood what I should pack and what I shouldn’t, was important.

And me being me, I also looked up what airlines flew in and out of there, and where I could go for my holidays. I wanted to know what I was getting into, but there was literally one blog on Majuro at the time, and it just talked of how she dealt with a food shortage, living off rice. Which at least prepared me for that possibility.

 

Difficulties & Challenges

4. How to deal with culture shock?

I wouldn’t say it was the culture shock, per se. It was more of the shock of being in such an isolated place. You could walk the width of the island in a matter of minutes. And the length of the island, I never walked but I am sure it could be done. There wasn’t really anywhere to go and there wasn’t a whole lot to do. This hits you in bouts, not all at once when you get there, but periodically when you are there.

You realize how boring a person you are when you realize you can’t keep yourself entertained. I didn’t have too much a problem with it. I loved reading. And writing. And once I realized boredom was real, I figured out quickly how to keep myself entertained. Most of it involved throwing myself into my teaching job and coaching basketball.

 

5. Discrimination: Yes or No?

I was told that the island was conservative before I got there. Warning me that bikinis were frowned upon. Strappy dresses. Short Shorts. And so on. I was a little worried that I would be discriminated against a little because although I am respectful of culture, I am not a fan of perpetuating a controlling patriarchy. I also am skeptical of a dress code that is not even based on tradition but based on what those who colonized the island told the locals they should be wearing. Topless and grass skirts are traditional, look it up.

But I digress… I honestly never felt discriminated against by locals, and I felt that ex-pats, usual co-workers, were more concerned about what I wore than the locals. Also, I stand out anyways, with a half shaved head and tattoos, so I would be looked at regardless if I was covered head to toe in fabric, or if I walked about in my tank top and shorts. It wouldn’t matter but I never felt I was treated poorly by anyone because of my foreigner status, or even what I wore.

Arno Atoll was only an atoll away, provided a nice long weekend trip, as the boat was 1.5 hours across the ocean.

 

6. Difficulties

Everyone thinks island, and automatically thinks beautiful beaches and paradise. But there is so much that goes with that.

First of all, our apartments were on the ocean, hard not to be, no matter where you lived on the island, but there wasn’t really a beach, just massive rocks. Which served me well, as I watched the sunrise from them every morning. But it wasn’t exactly the paradise one builds up in their head. With ocean air, comes ocean rust and mold. My apartment was full of mold, which for my mattress and that, was easy to replace, but the mold that formed on my jewelry, not as easy.

And the rust! I was not prepared for. Things rust quicker than you think if you don’t take care of them. Something I wasn’t prepared to worry about. And with a small island, comes isolation. I found myself worried about making real friends while living there, with such a small expat community on the island. Luckily that didn’t last long.

 

About the city

7. What do you like about Majuro?

The people. The students really. They had hearts. It was hard not to love them. Even when they frustrated you. It was hard to leave those kids, and I was only there for a year. My boyfriend, after 3 years there, was a mess when we left. There’s just something heartwarming about the place. It didn’t hurt that we lived on an ocean, and I loved stand-up paddle-boarding. I regret not using that more while I was there.

 

8. Is there anything that you don’t like about Majuro?

I don’t like the oppression of women. Women are made to feel ashamed of their bodies. I tried my hardest to instill in my students that they had nothing to be ashamed about. Also, the underlying domestic abuse that they deemed as part of the ‘culture’. So many stories of it running rampant on the island, with not much being done about it. I wasn’t prepared for that.

It’s hard to wrap your head around, and not want to do everything in your power to help every single child, every single woman, going through it. But you do what you can. Give your students a safe space to spend their time. Give them your love and attention.
Also the garbage. It was a huge island wide problem. Trash was everywhere on the island, and often thrown directly into the ocean. It stems from the fact that their dishes used to be coconuts and leaves, so they are used to that being biodegradable. But there’s no excuse anymore. They have used paper and plastic, and packaging, enough now to know they need to change that habit.

Picture of the Pig, car and garbage

A typical scene at the side of the road between the road and the ocean, garbage was a huge problem on the island.

 

9. What are your favorite things to do in Majuro, Marshall Islands?

Watch the sunrise. I literally spent every morning (that it wasn’t raining) watching the sunrise over the Pacific Ocean. I would grab my headphones, and a coffee, and sit and fall into a meditative state watching the colors fill the sky. And when I had the energy and time, watching the sunset on the other side of the island. Nothing beats those mornings on the ocean.

Palm tress sunrise on the Marshall Islands

A typical sunrise sitting on the rocks outside my apartment in Majuro

 

10. Where to visit for the first time?

If my friends had visited me, I would’ve taken them directly to Eneko Island. It was an island that was a part of the same atoll, Majuro Atoll. It was only a quick 20-minute boat ride away. You could camp or stay in the bungalows there. And most of the time, you were pretty much alone staying there. Snorkelling and using my stand up paddle board were two of my favorite things to do there.

Stand-up Paddleboarding was easier at Eneko Island, on the lagoon side where the water was calmer.

 

Cost of living on the Marshall Islands

 

a) Housing

The cost of living is dependent on what you are doing there. I was a teacher at the international school, and as such, I was provided housing that is adjacent to the school itself. It would be hard to give you an estimate of the cost of rent as I was completely oblivious to that.I also wasn’t paid much over $1000US a month, which is not a lot and definitely makes you budget, even if you aren’t a budgeting person.

b) Food

The cost of food was definitely dependent on how picky you are. My boyfriend spent about $10-12 US a day on food, but he lived off of tuna (fresh and canned), cereal, apples, bananas, and oranges. I spent a little bit more a day, as I was pickier. It was hard to eat a healthy diet at all times, as when produce came, you had to eat it right away to make sure it didn’t go bad.
This is definitely not one of those islands with all kinds of tropical fruit growing. Besides coconut and bananas, nothing else really grew there. So produce was shipped in and would often go bad quickly, or just be sold out by the time we able to get there. And it was often expensive in comparison to US or Canada, as it was shipped in. To put it into perspective, a pack of strawberries was $14.99US. But apples, bananas, and oranges were fairly cheap. There was a 4% tax on goods.

c) Eating out

Restaurants were typical prices you would expect at any restaurant around the US. Taxis were cheap. $0.75 to get anywhere on the main side of the bridge (where most things were) but if you wanted to go past the bridge to Laura Beach or the Airport, it would be a couple dollars instead.

d) Transportation

I only really needed taxis for going to Laura Beach or the Airport, or when we were going to Eneko Island and had something to bring with you. You just flag one down and hop in, even if there were already people in it. There was really only one road it went back and forth on, so if it’s going the right way, you can jump in. I walked a lot though, and I didn’t bother having a cell phone for my time there. Normally, I used wifi at my work and home on my phone, but the cost of phone credit was not that bad for those who chose to do so. I felt like I could easily walk and knock on people’s doors instead of calling them personally.

e) Traveling around

A trip to Eneko Island was fairly cheap. It was $20 each for a boat ride (round trip), and then $40 for a single bungalow, or $45 for a double. There is also a new (and nicer) beach house offered for $150 for the first night, and $125 any extra nights. Booked through RRE Hotel, as the dock is just outside the hotel to pick up the boat. You have to bring all your own food though, as there is no food on the island. Also, no fridge to put it in, but there is a kitchen to cook in, so planning accordingly is always a good idea.

 

Building relationship

11. Making new friends in Majuro, Marshall Islands: Easy or not?

As a teacher, it’s easy. Co-workers become friends and family. But other than that, not as easy right away. Like I mentioned before, it’s a small expat community. If you wanted to meet friends, you could. My friends, who were my coworkers, were always meeting new friends, whether it be tourists, pilots, or whoever else. But personally, in my old age (I am not that old) I am picky with who I spend time with and it was a little harder for me, as I prefer to make friends with people I make true connections with.

 

12. Do you hang out with locals or foreigners mostly?

I definitely found myself hanging out with foreigners more than locals, on a friend basis. But I spent a lot of time with students too. A lot of basketball practices after school, one on one tutoring those girls who needed extra help after basketball and so on. Though my core group of friends was definitely foreigners.

 

13. Where do you usually hang out with your friends?

Restaurants weren’t exactly abundant. We did go to Tide Table often for food. Every other time I went I was unsatisfied with my food. But when they had all the ingredients, the nachos were so good. Marshall Islands Resort (aka MIR) was a lovely spot near the water. The pizza there was good. But to be honest, none of the restaurants would satisfy a foodie. Definitely not a destination you travel to, to try local cuisine.

Coffee shops weren’t in existence. Unless you count one spot that I can’t even remember the name cause it doesn’t count. We sometimes got coffee from the little stand/shop in front of our school, but it was just instant coffee most the time, and I can make that myself. So hanging out was usually done at each other’s places, or on weekends we would head to Eneko Island for the night. Sundays were spent on Enemanit Island, owned by a parent at the school.

 

14. Expat community

Teachers were the main expat community. Though there were others there. Even other teachers, such as teachers who were a part of the program World Teach. The island was small, even if you didn’t hang out with all the expats, you knew them and had seen them around. A lot of pilots working on the tuna boats, mostly from Australia, New Zealand or the US.

 

Reflection

15. Did you change your perspective after living here for awhile?

I honestly didn’t have any set expectations going in. I didn’t know much about it. It wasn’t an easy place to live but I miss it a lot. It’s hard to put into words the kinds of connections you make with the people on the island. For me and my boyfriend, it was the connections made with our students. It was a whole other world over there. I definitely worried when I first got there that I would have a hard time, but as you ease into the life where it becomes comfortable and familiar. You find things to do.

 

16. Any advice and tips for moving/ living here?

Do not look at pretty pictures from there and think that it’s all beautiful beaches and sunny days. Do not go with high expectations. It will change your life spending time living there but you have to go with ideas of ways to occupy your time. Make use of the ocean. Swim. Surf. Paddleboard. Do all the things. Climate change is real and destroying the islands, and they may not be there in 20-50 years.

Reading book on the Marshall islands

Eneko provided a beautiful escape on weekends to relax and read.

 

17. Would you recommend others to live on the Marshall Islands?

I won’t lie. I recommended a teacher friend of mine live there and I recently found out she left to go back home to the states early. It isn’t for everyone and I know this. But I would still tell people to go give it a try. I loved it. My friends and coworkers loved it. But that doesn’t mean I think everyone would. It is not a place I would recommend anyone go and settle down for a long time. But it’s definitely a place to go for a year or two and see how it goes.

 

18. What have you learned from living abroad?

What haven’t I learned? I believe that we are constantly learning throughout our lives, regardless where we are and what we are doing. It’s important to always keep learning, keep experiencing new things and growing. Each new place I move to helps me grow. I learn new ways of living. You learn to deal with things you may never have had to deal with if you stayed home in your hometown. I have lived in many different places and learned many different things, it’s hard to recount all of them. My mantra in life is ‘never a grown-up because I am always growing’. And that’s me, always adapting to new places, learning new things and growing.

Thank you, Sara, for the Interview. You can learn more about Sara’s experience on her blog The Life of a Solivagant. Also, don’t forget to follow her Facebook and Instagram as well!

You can read other interviews here:

What’s it like to live in Beppu, Japan?

 

Stay tuned for the next week Interview! XO


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Expat Interview: What’s it like to live in Beppu, Japan as an expat?

Welcome to Expat Interview Series! In each week, you will get to know what it’s like to live in a city as an expat. The purpose of this series is to help YOU, yes YOU, to understand the city from an expat’s viewpoint. Therefore, you can make better decisions before moving to a new place. In this week, I will show you real life in Beppu by interviewing Lissie, a Swedish girl who is currently living in Beppu, Japan.

Where is Beppu?

Beppu is a small coastal city, located on the southern island of Kyushu, Japan. The city is renowned for its abundance of hot springs, known in Japanese as onsen, and prides itself on the existence of different types of baths and hot spring experiences. The city is also the site for a university housing a large international student population. All in all, except for a high rate of hot springs and foreign students who have settled in the city for the purpose of studying, it’s a regular Japanese town, with vending machines around the corners and traditional buildings mixed in with newer apartment complexes.

 

Expat Interview: Living in Beppu, Japan as an expat

Firstly, let’s get to know a bit about Lissie.

Lissie’s background

My name is Lissie and I’m currently a senior student at a university in Japan. My favorite past times include taking two-hour-long naps and treating myself to some delicious dark chocolate. And not to forget, randomly exploring new places and vegetarian food restaurants.

 

1. Why did you choose to live in Beppu?

I moved to Japan, and to be more exact Beppu, about three years ago. Basically, I went through the common procedures for a student visa to Japan and subsequently found myself sitting in my university dormitory room about a year after I first decided to study in Japan.

The main reason I live in Beppu is that Beppu is where my university is located. I guess you can say I choose the university, but not the city really…

Statue of Kumahachi Aburaya

You will see the statue of Kumahachi Aburaya when you first arrive at Beppu

Photo courtesy of David Stanley

2. How did you prepare to move to Beppu?

Well, as I quickly realized that because of my limited (read non-existent) experience of Japanese society, it would be impossible for me to ever be totally prepared for the move. So, I mainly focused on sorting out my belongings at home and deciding on what to pack (as in finding out what I could not easily buy in Japan) and fill my suitcase with those kinds of things, while trying to teach myself some of the Japanese writing systems and reading up on university guidelines for getting to the dormitory.

 

Difficulties & Challenges

Here, you can find all the difficulties that you may have when you first live in Beppu, Japan.

3. How to deal with culture shock in Japan?

I think the one thing which has shocked me the most is a number of different types of packaging and plastic wraps and bags Japanese people tend to use, or in my personal opinion, waste, daily. As far as possible I’ve tried to limit my own usage by telling shop clerks that the small plastic bag for the tofu isn’t necessary, or ‘no I don’t need an extra plastic bag for the omiyage I just bought’…

 

4. What are the challenges of living in Japan?

The toughest part of living in Japan has definitely been the language barrier. I still remember one of the first days in Beppu, when I was going downtown alone and couldn’t understand a word of what was being said in the loudspeakers of the bus, or how to read the characters for the stops. That day, because I didn’t have a phone, I solved it by randomly getting off at a location that seemed suitable. Later on, I learned to make use of different apps to make not only traveling but also daily life in general, a bit smoother.

 

5. Have you experienced any discrimination in Japan?

I don’t think I’ve ever experienced direct discrimination or hostility. Most Japanese have made an effort to accommodate me, especially if I’ve also have been trying to communicate in Japanese. However, there are the small things which keep reminding me about being a ‘scary’ foreigner; the excessive spaces left on the train… a lack of eye contact or recognition of me being there, especially when I’m with a Japanese acquaintance…

 

About the city

Let’s get to know the real Beppu in Lissie’s eyes.

6. What do you like about Beppu?

Hot springs! Beppu is a hot spring town and I’m an onsen lover so being able to go to the local 100yen host spring whenever I feel like it is a wonderful advantage that comes with living here.

Blue onsen in Beppu, Japan

 

7. Is there anything that you don’t like about Beppu?

If I would have to point out something that I feel less enthusiastic about, it’d be the almost non-existent green areas. I grew up surrounded by a lot of greenery, both in and outside the urban areas. While Beppu is surrounded by mountains and forest, it lacks, in my opinion, parks and other green zones within the city. There are a few parks, but not by far as many as I’ve been spoiled with growing up, so the abundance of urban greenery is something I miss.

Beppu Park

Beppu park in Spring – Photo Courtesy of tomosang

8. What are your favorite things to do in Beppu, Japan?

My personal favorite is waking up before dawn, head out to the harbor and watch the sunrise from there. However, since I am a bit of a snoozer that doesn’t happen often enough. On the other hand, visiting the onsen doesn’t require any early mornings, so that’s something I love doing!

 

9. Cost of Living in Beppu, Japan

Food

It may cost you around ¥1,000 to ¥1,500 per day if you eat out three times a day. In case you cook at home, the price will be much lower.

Rent

With the rent, it will be around ¥25000 – ¥60000 depending on your accommodation.

Transportation

If you’re a student, you can get a yearly bus pass which offers 75% discount on April or October. There are triple tickets which cost ¥1,000.

Other Cost

You will pay ¥5000 for mobile service, and around ¥10,000 for extra things.

 

Building Relationship

Is it easy to make new friends when you first live in Beppu? Lissie will help you to answer!

10. Is it easy to make new friends in Beppu?

If you’re a university student and would like to make international acquaintances, you’ll find it won’t be too difficult by joining different activities, especially the ones connected to the university life. However, I think to make longer-lasting Japanese friends you might need to put a bit more effort into joining local activities and understanding their culture. Many Japanese people are a bit shy (or insecure) when it comes to speaking to foreigners, so taking the first step is of consequence!

On a regular basis, I hang out with my foreign friends, but there are occasions when I meet locals and partake in activities with them.

 

11. Where to hang out in Beppu?

I come from the country of Fika so coffee shops are a favorite, especially the smaller, hidden ones which are not part of the commercial chains. Also, because it would be such a shame to reveal the exact location of my very own ‘secret spot’ I’ll just let you know that it’s on a backstreet in Beppu.

 

Reflection

12. An Unforgettable Memory – Eating Udon

One of my first days in Beppu I was invited by some floor mates to go out with them for dinner. We ended up at 鳴門うどん – which is a popular udon restaurant among students in the area. This was my first time eating udon.

quan Udon

The Udon restaurant – Photo courtesy of joniuyen

While I was slightly concerned about my chopstick skills, I shrugged it off as unnecessary worrying. It was just noodles we were going to eat after all.

How wrong I was.

Upon seeing the menu, I realized that the noodles would arrive at our table served in a huge bowl – swimming in broth. With other words, I could not just mind my own business eating liquid-free noodles from a private bowl, but I would first have to fish the noodles out of the larger bowl and transfer them to my own. Now, I don’t believe this would have posed much of a problem if the chopsticks hadn’t been of the ultra-smooth, plastic kind, which allows just about anything to slip through if you haven’t got your chopstick skills down to perfection. Needless to say, I ended up spending the majority of the meal delicately gripping the noodles with my chopsticks, just to have them slip back into the broth seconds later. Splat, splat, and splat …

 

13.  Did you change your perspective after living here for awhile?

To be honest, at first, I found Beppu to be a bit small and dull. However, after living here for a while, I’ve found that it has an abundance of charm to share if you give it a chance. It might seem like you’ve seen it all after staying here for a year, but there’s always something new around the corner if you allow yourself the time to look for it.

 

14. Can you share tips & advice for living in Beppu?

Really consider whether or not you are a person who enjoys a bit more of a countryside life, or if you prefer a constant dose of urban adventures. If you fall into the latter category, Beppu might not be the optimal place to settle in.

Thank you, Lissie for your participation.

You can read other Interviews here:

Expat Interview: Expat life on the Marshall Islands

Expat Interview: Expat life in San Diego, CA

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Goodbye Vietnam…. and Hello Japan

It’s time to say goodbye to my sweet summer vacation in Vietnam and officially finished my exchange period in Denmark. I’m on the way to go back to Japan to continue my 4th year Bachelor at my home university. It has been a great year traveling around Europe and my home country – Vietnam. I will miss everything a lot for sure, but now it’s time to have a new experience! Besides studying, I will travel around many cities in Japan and learn more exotic cultures. Am I ready for it? 🤔

 

What have I prepared?

There are tons of things to prepare, but luckily I have planned things ahead and met my deadline. I have finished choosing my courses, bought necessary stuff for my trip to Japan. Also, I already have a new place to live, thanks to the help of my friend Youko (Yay!) It will be so difficult for me if I just start to look for a place after I get there, and have to buy lots of things for new places as well.

What will challenge me?

  1. Culture shock

The first thing I need to deal with is Culture shock. I will suffer from culture shock again, although I’ve already lived in Japan for 2 years. It’s difficult when you move around the world. Moving from Denmark to Japan is totally different, and having 2.5 months living in Vietnam in between won’t make things better. I will go all the procedures of culture shock again, feeling good and bad all again. The good news is that know how to deal with culture shock now, after moving around different countries and traveling intensively.

 

2. Japanese

Well, it’s kinda a nightmare to me! Probably I have already forgotten everything that I learned. I didn’t practice Japanese for 1 year, so my vocabulary, grammar and especially Kanji already said goodbye to me. Shame on me, huh? I finished the Pre Advance Japanese level before going to Denmark, and now I barely know basic words. So, I will need to learn everything again. I still love to travel around Japan and knowing Japanese is way better.

Back to old-time days with learning Japanese!

3. The Learning

Studying as an exchange student and a “real student” is totally different. All I needed was passing the courses and now I will need to do my best to get A+… Yep, things change if you are craved for high GPA.

4.My travel

Because it’s my 4th year, I need to focus more on my study and bachelor thesis. Does it mean I will stop traveling? Nope, not really. Since I live in a beautiful city, Beppu, which has everything such as mountains, hills, sea, and amazing hot springs, I still can enjoy my weekend by exploring the city and the surrounding area. However, I will need to plan things carefully in order not to crash all my schedules.

A beautiful place in Beppu, Oita, Japan

So how will it affect my blog? Any changes?

Guess what? You will see lots of beautiful pictures of Japan on my Instagram stories, and my Facebook page as well. So if you haven’t followed my accounts, don’t hesitate to do it!

Here is one of my recent pictures from my Instagram!

 

Also, you can expect my expat tips about living and studying in Japan, as well as inspiration and recommendations for traveling around Japan. Oh don’t worry, you will not be drowned with posts about Japan only, I still post about my adventures around the world. There will be tons of posts about my solo trips around Europe and Vietnam, so you won’t be bored. Do you want to be the first to read my post? Sign up for the email and you’re ready!

You can also check out some articles about Japan that I already wrote 🙂

Eat like a local: Top 10 Japanese foods to try!

7 Things you should try in Fukuoka

7 Ways to travel on the budget in Tokyo


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Top 10 most surprising things about Denmark that you should know

I decided to write this post when one of my friends asked me “What surprised you the most when you first came here?” As a Vietnamese girl who lived in Japan, Denmark is a whole new world for me. Denmark was the first European country that I visited. Let’s take a look at the 10 most surprising things about Denmark in this post. It’s not only useful for those who want to know more about this lovely country, but it’s also a good preparation if you have a chance to visit Denmark.

1.Toilet for both genders

You can see a lot of toilets for both genders if you’re in Denmark. So, don’t get surprised or shocked if a guy or girl comes to the same toilet with you.

Toilet in Denmark

I was so surprised at the first time when I was in this situation. I still remember the feeling when I heard a random guy’ voice outside when I was in the toilet, and I was like

“No way! How did I go to a wrong one? I remember I enter correctly?”

I was really shy and embarrassed at the moment, so I actually stayed in the toilet for a while. Waiting, waiting and waiting, but they didn’t go!

“Oh No! What should I do then?”

I had no idea and just went out as fast as I could. After talking to my friends, I realized that some toilets in Copenhagen are for both genders.

 

2. Hygge

“What is the most special thing about Denmark that you will show a foreigner?”, I asked my Danish friend.

“Hygge”, he answered.

I heard that Hygge is the way that helps the Danes survive in the cold winter, and I can confirm that it’s true! (After staying here in the winter)

So what is Hygge? Hygge is a very special activity in Denmark. It can be defined as having a good time with good people. If you walk around Copenhagen in the evening, you can see lots of people sitting together, having a cup of coffee or having a meal, with a small candle in between. As I heard,  too many candles for Hygge caused health problems in Denmark 🙁 

Hygge and coffee time in Denmark

What is better than a cup of hot chocolate in the winter?

Also, I was shocked when I knew it was common for Danes to leave their babies to nap in a stroller outside when moms “Hygge” inside. OMG! How is it possible ?? How can they leave the babies outside, even when it’s really cold and windy ??

I once asked my Danish friend about it, and he said “It’s really safe to do that because they calculate the wind direction, and the baby will cry if bad things happen. Also, no one kidnaps children here. It costs a lot to raise a child”. It’s totally different from other countries that I’ve been to.

 

3. VAT

Denmark is one of the countries has the highest tax in the world. The standard VAT in Denmark, or called Danish VAT “MOMS” is 25%. Therefore, everything in Denmark is expensive compared to other countries. In my first day in Copenhagen, I was shocked when buying a small bottle of Coca-Cola with 20 DKK. It is more expensive if you buy it in Seven Eleven or Fotex, compared to Netto and Fakta.

 

4. Super windy

I think the thing that I hate most in Denmark is the weather :/ It is way too windy. Sometimes I cannot even ride my bicycle because of the strong wind.

 

5. Flat country

Denmark is a flat country. As I read, its average height is above the sea of 31 meters. The article also said that the highest natural point is Møllehøj, at 170.86 meters. You cannot see any mountain in Denmark, only small hills. So, it is the best place for cycling, isn’t it?

 

6. Bicycles, bicycles, and bicycles

Because of the geography, Denmark is a perfect place for cycling. If you come to Copenhagen, you can see people bike everywhere. Danes love biking in every type of weather, even it’s rainy, windy or snowy. In Copenhagen, there are lines for bicycle only, and also traffic lights for bicycles. Bicycle thefts are very common in Copenhagen as well. So, watch out!

Bicycle in Denmark

 

7. Drinking culture

It’s very normal to see people walking with a beer or many beers on the street in Denmark. You can see people drinking on the street, public transportation, and public places. It is legal to buy alcohol everywhere too. There are many drunk people in the weekend in Copenhagen.

You can read about Danish drinking culture at Julefrokost here

 

8. Smoking

Another surprising thing to me is that many Danes smoke. You can see a lot of people smoking in the parties, bars, and clubs. They will go out for sometimes and then come back inside. I was once the only one left inside the house because other people were smoking outside.

 

9. Apartments in the inner city

a) Same floors

The apartments inner the city of Copenhagen have the same number of floors which are 3 or 4. The designs are also a bit similar as well. It seems to me that those apartments just have different colors and different window styles. I was lost at first days when I just came because I couldn’t find my way to similar apartments. 

Nyhavn in Copenhagen, Denmark

If you visit Nyhavn, you can see it clearly!

b) No curtain

I was surprised to know that some apartments do not have curtains on the windows :o! “How can they keep privacy then?” – I still wonder this until now… luckily my place has curtains already 😀

c) Only stairs

Also, most of the apartments only have stairs. 2 places that I lived, none of them has an elevator. I visit some of my friends’ houses and there are only stairs too. However, it’s a good chance to practice and improve your health, isn’t it?

 

10. Health care system

You can get an assigned doctor when you have a CPR number in Denmark. When you change your place, you have a choice to choose your own doctor. Also, health check-up is free. Feeling unwell? Just call your doctor and book an appointment. Unfortunately, the medicine price is pretty expensive, and the health care system does not cover your dental cost.

 

I hope you enjoy reading the 10 Most surprising things about Denmark! Which one surprised you the most on this list?

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How to deal with deposit scams in Copenhagen?

Housing scams have become a major issue in big cities, and Copenhagen is not an exception. I will share my experience about deposit scams in Copenhagen, which occur after you move out your place.

My Story: Deposit Scams in Copenhagen

Last month, while waiting to receive my deposit after more than 1 month moving out, I found out that my former landlord had blocked my Facebook.

1. Shocked

It was the most accurate word to describe what I felt that time. I thought that this could not happen to me because everything seemed really legit.

  • My apartment was checked monthly by the landlord’s parents.
  • I followed all the house rules.
  • I also kept in touch with the landlord until moving out date.
  • The apartment was checked carefully before I handed the key as well.
  • I have the contract and paid my rental fee through bank.

I was like “No way this happens to me!”, “It cannot right?”, “They were nice, weren’t they?”

In my overall impression, Danes are really nice and friendly. Therefore, I could not believe that my deposit was not returned.

So, I had DEPOSIT SCAMS!!!

 

2. Freak out

Yes, it was the second stage of my emotion!

As I paid quite a big amount of money for my deposit, I was freaked out that I might lose it!

It may be not that big compared to Danish people, but it’s big for me. I’m an Asian student without SU, which is a 5000 DKK scholarship for EU students. I’m also from a developing country. So yes, I already pay a lot to live in one of the most expensive countries in the world.

I can say that I’m poor 🙁 And yes, I was still cheated.

I kept asking myself  “Why? Why this happens?”, ” Did I do anything wrong?”, “What should I tell my parents?”

 

3. Feeling lost

I don’t want anyone at home to worry about me, but at that time, I was completely lost.

a) Lost my faith in the society
Worst thing is that I start losing trust on people, losing good image about Denmark that I had 
Moving from Japan, where I can just put my phone on the table, go and then come back, it is still there, to a country where some people are freaking rich but still be freaking greedy as well, was too much for me!

Hello, culture shock!!!

b) Lost my way

I did not know what to do. I was shocked, freaked out and scared. Also, I don’t understand about Danish law, and my Danish level is very basic. Also, Facebook was the only way to communicate with that landlord. And yes, it was blocked 🙁

So, if one day, you wake up and realize that you may lose your deposit. What will you do?


Solution

“Stay strong, Ha”, I told myself.

These are 10 steps to deal with deposit scams in Copenhagen.

1. Calm down

It’s the most important step. You cannot deal with anything if you cannot calm down.

You may give a wrong decision or provide wrong information because you’re freaked out. So take a cup of tea, stay away from your computer/ phone/ etc, and give you some time to think clearly.

 2. Search for ways

You can use Google search for solutions. You should choose legit sites as always.

3. Ask people

You can ask your friends first, especially Danish friends. In my case, my friends did not know how to deal with it, so I asked in an Expat group.

I had lots of help and useful instruction from the group Expats in Copenhagen. I’ve really appreciated all the help and I’m glad that I’m a part of that community.

4. Prepare all the necessary documents

  • Read your contract carefully to make sure that you know everything about it.
  • Gather all photos about the accommodation (if you have) before you enter and after you leave the place.
  • Record or save your emails, messages, phone calls. Sometimes you can record some valuable information which can stand against your landlord.
  • Prepare to tell what happens with your lawyer.

 5. Go to lawyer

a) Københavns Retshjælp

Københavns Retshjælp, or Copenhagen Legal Aid, offers FREE legal advice to all citizens, no matter your nationality, and no matter whether you live in Copenhagen or indeed in Denmark.  However, there are some conditions for receiving free legal advice. You can check here.

Address: Stormgade 20, 1555 København V

Opening time:

  • Monday to Thursday: 18:30 – 21:00
  • Friday: 18:30 – 20:00
  • Weekend: Closed

Email: [email protected]

Note:

You can only go there once a week. For example, if you go there on Monday, you will have Monday case. You cannot meet your lawyer on the other days.

Therefore, if you need any help or have new information, send to Københavns Retshjælp by email. Remember to include your CPR number and case number.

In my case, the lawyer sent the landlord an email indicated that he had to pay the money back to me in 10 days, otherwise they would take the next step. Fortunately, I received all my money back 🙂

b) Huslejenævn

If your landlord doesn’t pay money after 10 days, your case will be brought to Huslejenævn.

Huslejenævn, which is a local rent council, will provide advice and help in case of a rent level issue in court.

Note: You will need to pay 305 DKK, so they can start to investigate on your case. Also, because each community will have different Huslejenævn, you will need to contact the Huslejenævn where you sign the House contract. For more information, you can ask Retshjælp.

c) LLO

LLO is a tenant land organization. You can find more information at their page. You will need to pay money to be a member of this Union.

Address: Reventlowsgade 14, 1651 København K
Phone: 33 86 09 10
Mail: [email protected]

6. Be patient and wait

The procedure may take months to receive your money back. Therefore, you should go back to your daily life and wait for the good thing to come.

7. Don’t contact your landlord by yourself if you already came to your lawyer

Let your lawyer do everything.

Don’t let your landlord fool you. They know that you don’t know the law, so they may say fake things and you will think it’s correct. Again, just ask for your lawyer’s help.

8. Believe in yourself

You should believe that you can get your money back. You may feel really tired with all those things and want to give up. But, don’t do that!

9. Learn about law by yourself

In order not to let it happen again, you should understand the basic law of the country you live. It will be really useful. You can also learn much useful information at Borger.dk 

10. Celebrate

This step is only useful if you receive your money back 🙂

Tips:

  •  Don’t show your landlord’s identity to social media because it will violate the law. You may pay money for it.
  • Don’t contact or answer strangers: Your landlord may use fake accounts or ask friends to contact you to know about your steps or lead you to wrong ways.

What did I learn from my case?

  • Don’t trust landlords too much. They can take advantage of you and steal your money.
  • Take detailed pictures when you move in and when you move out. Remember to take the pictures closely and carefully in every small detail!
  • Bad people are there, but still, lots of good people are trying to help you.
  • Be brave and believe in yourself!

Everything will be okay. Stay strong and you can do it!

More articles about Copenhagen

10 Most surprising things in Copenhagen


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