I could not imagine I would be sitting here, in Copenhagen, in my appartment this day, 9.10. 2017, living with my Danish boyfriend, writing this text….when I moved to Denmark, Humlebæk on February 2016. I could also not imagine I would be speaking Danish so good after just 1 year and a half since I moved here.

I applied to become an EVS volunteer because I have a background in social sciences and I always wanted to work in an NGO and get some international experience. I got my EVS in Denmark, in a small city 40 minutes away from Copenhagen. Oh! I am moving to Denmark it is going to be so great, it is an organized country with really happy people and everybody rides bikes around there! They are so cool I cannot wait to move! But yeah, nothing is quite like it seems.

So, I bought my one-way ticket to Copenhagen and thought: let’s begin, bring it on long term EVS. I expected that everything was going to be so organized there and I expected a social utopia like Scandinavian countries are presented. I came to the airport and it was really gloomy and cloudy, so I took the train to Humlebæk where my Polish EVS coordinator was waiting for me with other EVS volunteers that became my friends. My hosting NGO placed me in a hosting family and that was not a good idea as I realized after and I found another family. Nobody in the NGO was Danish, there were few part time volunteers or workers that were Danish: the EVS program was sometimes disorganized but we managed because we had each other: me from Croatia, Oleksii from Ukraine, Alberto from Spain, Iako from Georgia, Pavel from Russia and Iount from Romania. They took 5 of us even though they did not have tasks or capacity for us… But in the end, all the bad was also all the good.  Our EVS coordinator got pregnant and left so we were kind of on our own… Except we had this amazing guy from Uganda working at the NGO and he took really good care of us and helped as much as he could.

We started doing workshops in local Danish school, talking about our countries and background, global issues and all kinds of topics, it was amazing to hung out with Danish teens. When there was nothing to do I stared writing a project that I finished and send to my NGO back in Croatia. Denmark was weird at the beginning, the language was like really weird, and people were weird… People were not making eye contact in public transportation, people were not talking to strangers, there is no small talk at the bus station, it is hard to invite somebody to have a cup of coffee with you like we do it in Croatia… So, I started meeting Danish people through couch surfing and that’s where I met my boyfriend who fell in love with “punjene paprika” and “varivo”, the best of Balkan foods…. plus me I guess :D. I started taking language classes and moved to another hosting family, two Danish pensioners that were amazing, helpful and friendly and I still keep contact with them, they became like my real grandparents that I never had. You have to learn with the Scandinavians, they are like coconuts, hard, cold and reserved from the outside, but sweet and soft from the inside. You just have to crack into them, sometimes it takes a lot of time, but when you manage to crack their core you will get a real connection and friends and you will find great milk inside the coconut. I learned a lot from Scandinavians, sometimes it is ok not to yell too much and be angry all the time like we sometimes do it in Croatia, sometimes it is good to shut up and not scream to other people’s faces, sometimes it is good to avoid conflict, sometimes it is great to not care about other people’s lives and respect other people’s privacy… Sometimes it is good not to put so much emotions into everything, and so much Drama. But then, Scandinavians should also learn from us Croats, and they did because I managed to get to them with my Balkan food, it’s not necessary to always be drunk to open up and talk and if you walk the footsteps of a stranger, you will learn things you never knew… and you will try the best food ever:

Punjena paprika (stuffed pepper from the Balkans) and a Dane:

I also learned that if you want to learn a new language you have to force yourself to speak it all the time, even if you say something funny or wrong… Sometimes I still feel like a little mermaid that fell in love with a blue eyed Scandinavian prince and gave up all the sun she had back in Croatia, but hey, if I am the mermaid I never shut up! I learn this unlearnable language and I am still learning! And I am forcing shy Scandinavians to talk with me! I even learned some Swedish! And I just stayed in Denmark after my EVS was finished, continued to learn more Danish and now I got a job at a Kindergarten that makes me really happy and I speak Danish all the time at my work.  Oh yeah, and I live with my boyfriend, who is still enjoying all the Balkan food.

I have learned how to write Erasmus+ projects… I have learned how to be alone and never give up when things get tough… I have found myself in all kinds of situations and crossed all my borders just to realize that I can. Did EVS change my life and gave me new perspectives? Make me experience things I never would if I stayed home? Of course it did.  Did I learn a lot from Scandinavians? Yes I did, but I am also teaching them J…. Because we can always learn from each other!

Have no fear, your life adventure and EVS are here!

Ines Virag

Izvor fotografija: Privatna arhiva