Alison O'Keefe moved to Copenhagen earlier this year. Photo: Submitted
What makes people move to Copenhagen without ever having previously stepped foot in the city?
For Alison O’Keefe from Ireland it was the desire to experience something new and to broaden her horizons by living in a new place.
“I moved here in the depths of February 2016. Despite the cold introduction it was actually a beautiful time to move because I got to see the city come to life after the long winter,” O’Keefe told The Local. “I wanted to experience something new and I chose Copenhagen because of how exciting and interesting this city seemed and the fact that I could get by speaking English.”
O’Keefe said that she was born and bred in Ireland to Irish and Dutch parents but always knew that she would eventually live abroad.
“I studied for a number of years in the Netherlands before travelling around Asia, moving back to Ireland and then moving here,” she said.
O’Keefe landed a sale job before arriving in the city. “I took a sales job with a tech startup before moving over here which turned out to be a lifeline that really helped to settle me and to have at least one box checked. There are enough stressful things about moving countries without also having to look for a job.”
But O’Keefe said that she soon discovered “sales was not [her] calling in life”.
Using her connections and her Irish background O’Keefe spent the summer working in the popular Dubliner pub serving tourists from all over the world. She still works there part time but has been lucky enough to land a job with Copenhagen Housing, a company that assists expats in finding a home in the city. Having been in that position just a few months before, she can appreciate how people feel when they come up against the competitive housing market.
“We find rental accommodation for internationals, be they students, expats or diplomats. Everyone has heard the horror stories of trying to find accommodation in Copenhagen so we try and make the nightmare slightly more bearable for our clients.”
Working two jobs offers O’Keefe variety in her professional life.
“As I don’t have a regular 9 to 5 job I find that I have a lot more freedom. I can plan my days how I like and I feel like I have a lot more time to do all kinds of things, even though most weeks I work more hours than a normal working week. It doesn’t feel that way though as I enjoy what I do so much.
“As most of my colleagues are also expats, we have a far closer bond than what I would have found in other jobs, where people are more preoccupied with their family or other friend groups. Here we are all in the same boat and this brings people very close, very quickly.
She said she has found the work atmosphere in Denmark to be very relaxed and informal, which she says leads to more openness and honesty amongst her colleagues.
When not working her two jobs, she finds plenty to keep her busy in the capital.
“There are so many things to love about Copenhagen! Especially in the summer, sitting out on one of the many amazing terraces, having some good food, coffee or drinks with friends is almost unbeatable,” she said. “I love how incredibly cool this city and its people are. I love the closeness of the expat community and how it forces people together in a way that you could never experience if you lived your whole life in your home country.”
Like many expats O’Keefe finds the level of taxes and the prices of everyday things something that takes getting used to but appreciates that the wage levels are a little higher to compensate and there are visible benefits to high taxes such as amenities, infrastructure and healthcare.
“I am still getting used to the reservedness of the Danes but I do really like the people here and the vibe in the city is friendly nonetheless. When I am being particularly friendly at the Dubliner and I try to make jokes and have ’banter’ with a group of reserved Scandinavians I had some funny looks but that is probably down to my weird sense of humour more than anything else!”