Mafalda is 23 years old and loves our country more than anything. But she soon realized that the world and the life she wanted included much more than what she had in Lisbon. She always had a dream to travel, to learn different things and, especially, to live abroad and have her independence. In this regard, two years ago she applied for a master’s degree in Aalborg, in northern Denmark. It was not the master’s degree itself that made her decide to go, but the fact that Denmark offers one of the best education systems in the world, free of charge. This is her perspective on Aalborg:
What expectations did you have about Aalborg and Denmark before you arrived?
Before I came to Aalborg I was afraid. After all, it would be the first time I would live by myself, without having someone cooking for me, taking care of everything. I was super excited for the new challenge, but the fear of the unknown was terrifying. I came to Aalborg and I did not know anyone, although I had already a house to stay that I would share with other five girls.
I had several expectations. I didn’t even know Aalborg before I applied, so I was thinking that I was going to a really small city and, for someone that used to live in Lisbon, that could be a bit scary. I also thought about the people and about what everyone used to say about the ‘Nordic mentality’ and how everyone is cold and not happy. And, finally, because I love beach and sun, I was terrified about the weather, I could not even start imagining how sad it would be the fact that the days are short and cold.
What do you like more and what do you like less about Aalborg?
After being here for one year and a half I think the winter is extremely cold in comparison to the winter in Lisbon. Negative degrees are a reality that have to be dealt with in Aalborg. Now I laugh at my friends when they say that it is cold in Lisbon. I just think that they have no idea what cold really is. But, there are some positive aspects! The snow is magical and beautiful and I love when it snows! As a negative factor, the prices are really expensive. Going to the supermarket is insane in comparison to the Portuguese prices and also to prices in most of the countries I’ve been. For instance, if you want to buy cheese (the supermarket brand cheese) it can cost up to 5 euros for 20 slices. Additionally, the food itself is a bit tasteless. For instance fruit and vegetables don’t taste much and also fresh fish is quite rare in here. It is also extremely expensive to go out at dinner (around 25-50 euros per person) and also to go out at night (in a bar a beer can be around 4 euros) and cinema (16 euros). Of course that is because here the salaries are higher, but for a student these are quite expensive prices. As students we opt to drink at home before going out because buying drinks in the supermarket is way more affordable.
But, because there are also positive things about Denmark, I have to tell you how magical it is in the summer when the days have 20 hours and the night is only three hours. It’s amazing how there is also no night, just light all day! (However, in the winter is the opposite.) If you come to Denmark in the winter please remember that you should wake up quite early in order to have light and not feel depressed. I guess that is quite common for southern European people when they come to live in a country where there is almost no light.
What do you think about Danes?
Danes are extremely kind and nice, nothing like I would imagine. I mean, at a first sight, they do seem cold and unhappy and everyone’s is in their own life, not caring about the others. But, the second you ask some indication, they welcome you with the biggest smile they have. And, as a plus, their English is amazing. I can tell you that 10 year old kids can speak better English than myself, it’s impressive!
If people go to Aalborg what do you suggest them to visit?
Aalborg is quite a small city but that is why it’s charming. If you go out, it’s almost certain that you will meet someone that you know in the streets. If you would come to Aalborg there are a few places that I would recommend. To start, it is amazing to go to the fjord (lake), just in the city centre, and sit in there enjoying, maybe while having a few drinks bought at the supermarket, to save money. You should also go to the music tree park! This is an amazing park with loads of trees and all the trees have speakers representing each artist and when you click on the bottom they have loads of songs. For me, it’s one of the best places in Aalborg, for sure, especially because it is so unique. Then, in the other side of the fjord you should also visit the Vikings graveyard. It’s a quiet place where the Vikings lived and where they were buried and it’s quite peaceful and beautiful to see.
Apart from that, Aalborg has a few museums that could be interesting and has a good nightlife. Basically, there is this street called Jomfru where you have bars all over and it’s great for dancing. If you have the opportunity to choose when to come, I would recommend the end of May (27) because of the amazing Aalborg Karnival, where a lot of people from all over the world join to celebrate the carnival. It’s a whole day of parades and parties non-stop.
Another amazing thing that you should do in order to live as a Dane is to go to parks, in hot days take your bikini and your book and do it exactly like you are on the beach!
And where should we go for a bite in Aalborg?
In terms of restaurants, I would say that they are all quite expensive, but you can try Vaca, with Mexican food, or some sushi restaurants. A must-go café is definitely Penny Lane, just in the centre of the city, it’s the most charming place I’ve been in Aalborg. Yet, if you want to be a bit bold and spend more money in a good meal go to Café Ulla and order a burger because it’s just delicious!
Do you have any tips on how to save money?
A great deal is Thursday bowling, as you have free beer along with the game. Moreover, there is a great thing in the Scandinavian countries and also Germany that is all the bottles (glass, plastic, cans) are refundable, which means that you can go back to the supermarkets with it and you have some machines that give you around 2kr per can and around 6kr per glass bottle. In this way, there is also a lot of people collecting the bottles, so don’t get scared!
You cannot leave Aalborg without…
experiencing the sunset at the Fjord!
Thank you Mafalda and hope to see you soon!