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Exchange semester abroad

Charlotte on an exchange semester

Charlotte on an exchange semester

This is Charlotte from Berlin. She spent a semester abroad in Aarhus, Denmark. Swap Language was curious to find out how her exchange semester went!

Hi Charlotte! You are a native German and you speak fluent English. How come you decided to go to Denmark, where you didn’t understand the language?

I like going to places where everything is different! I speak both German and English which are languages that I can get by with almost everywhere.

I tried to prepare myself so I started learning Danish in Berlin, but it wasn’t that simple. I learnt how to say basic sentences like: Hvordan går det (how are you) and jeg vil gerne have? (I would like to buy). I knew that everyone in Denmark speaks English so I wasn’t afraid of not being able to speak Danish fluently. I could attend all the lectures and meetings because the classes were all in English.

Did you get hit by a culture shock when you came to Denmark?

YES! Actually I have 4 things that surprised me the most!

  1. The prices!

    I was surprised of how expensive everything was! The first weeks were very tough for me, because I was not OK with paying a huge amount for a cup of coffee. In Berlin a cup of coffee would normally be around 3.50 euros, where as to here, it was around 5 euros or more.

    So I had to accept that everything was more expensive than normal, and in the end I got the to the conclusion that WHEN I go out to have dinner, it’s OK to spend a 100 Danish kroner on a good meal.


    There are bikes everywhere. We have bikes in Berlin as well, but it is still quite a difference in the amount!
    During my first week on my exchange semester, I got run over by one of the crazy bikes. I was on my way to the university on the bus, and I was a little bit late. So when I jumped out of the bus, I didn’t pay attention to the “bike traffic”… So a good advice to everyone is, watch the bikes! When you get off the bus, you get off right in the middle of the bike lane!

    So I guess you could say I learnt how to look after the bike the hard way, haha!

“Luckily we didn’t hit anyone, and the police was not around to witness our crime, haha!”

  1. Another thing about the biking lanes!

    They are very big! My parents came to visit me during the summer, and my dad accidentally chose to take a right turn somewhere in the centre. Surprisingly there were no cars on this road. It took us a few seconds, and then we realized where we were. So, to get off the bike lane, we had to drive over the pavements! Luckily we didn’t hit anyone, and the police was not around to witness our crime, haha!

  1. Danes say thank you, but not please?

    Something that surprised me a lot is, that the Danes always says tak (thank you) but no one ever says please. After a while I found out that there is no word for please!

Haha, great observations and experiences you have gathered in Aarhus!
Did you learn some Danish during your exchange semester?

Yeah! I went to the organization Lær dansk twice a week. They offer free classes for all the exchange students. I learnt quite a lot, and I was able to have small conversations in Danish. For me personally, it was harder to understand Danish, than to speak Danish. I can say what I want, but it’s really hard to understand when a Dane answers back! But that is part of learning a foreign language I guess.

Related article: How to keep Danes from speaking Danish to you

Are there some phrases you found useful, that other students can use when on an exchange semester?

Here are my 3 necessary phrases while I was on exchange semester in Aarhus!

  1. Det var så lidt (You are welcome)

I used this when someone thanked for something. It was nice to be able to reply to a thank you.


  1. Tusind tak (A thousand thanks)

This one I used when someone did me a bigger favor, than usual, or if it was to people whom I didn’t know too well.


  1. Tak, I lige måde (Thank you, and you too!)

Every time I went to the supermarket, they would say: Ha’ en god weekend, and I would be able to wish them a good weekend back, haha!

I actually practiced these sentences with my tandem-partner, to feel more comfortable when using it in real life situations.


How was it to have a tandem-partner?

It was really good! I’ve had a few different tandem-partners, during my exchange semester in Aarhus! The first girl lived at the same residence as me, so we often cooked Danish food together. She was very busy though, so I tried to find a new tandem-partner on Swap Language, where I got two new tandem-partners.

“For me personally, it was harder to understand Danish, than to speak Danish”

Through this experience I found out that it is important to me, that my tandem-partner is almost the same age as me, to make it work. So I kept seeing with the one that was my age. I felt more comfortable with a person on my own age. I like teaching someone German, so for us, it was perfect that we both was beginners in Danish and German.

It sounds like you have had a tandem-partner before?

Yes, I had a tandem-partner when I lived in Ireland as well. That was the first time I tried having someone to swap languages with. And if there is a Danish person reading this who are living in Berlin, please contact me, I need a tandem-partner.

Did you learn something that you never would have learnt at a language course?

I learnt a lot about the equality between the rich and poor people in Denmark, the social gestures and other stuff. I feel like I had an insight to a normal Danish perspective of the society.
You could say that our meetings were focused on the language and the culture differences.

How was it to find a tandem-partner online and then meet first time somewhere in the city?

I was surprised how well it went! We decided to meet at the studenthouse in the café. We connected straight away, so we also ended up talking a lot together during my stay! It was lucky that I met Nanna!

Do you have any advice to the next exchange students who arrive to Denmark on an exhange semester?

They should really try to get to know Danish people. During the orientation week we heard that Danish people are hard to get to know, but that is not how I experienced it! So I think it was a shame that they gave us that impression of the Danish people. Don’t be afraid to make contact, just do it.

I only met great Danish people during my exchange semester.

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