Pack your bags and move to the city

Young Danes are leaving their home towns and flocking to Copenhagen in record numbers

The rural exodus is hardly a new phenomenon. Cities have always attracted the ambitious, attractive and entrepreneurial – all searching for opportunity, education and excitement.

But a recent study by Statistics Denmark has revealed that the magnetism of the big city has increased greatly in recent years. Whereas in 2006 Copenhagen experienced a net increase of 5,644 people aged 20 to 30, in 2010 the capital city saw the age group grow by 8,541.

The Copenhagen Post spoke to three young Danes to discover what motivated them to leave their homes and family comforts to risk it all in the big city – and to learn whether provincial life is really that uninspiring.

Twenty-six-year-old Morten Bonde is originally from Sakskøbing on the southern island of Lolland. After moving to nearby Nykøbing Falster to complete high school, he made the move to Copenhagen when he was 21.

“Sakskøbing is a small city, so you have to choose what you want to do. You can either join the soccer team or local moped gang or you have to move to the bigger city to get some more action,” he explained. “It was a static environment. I’ve known since I was 16 that it wasn’t my kind of place and then it was just about getting high school done so I could move. I don’t have any friends down there anymore.”

An aspiring photographer and graphic designer, he realised he would have to leave the provincial town in order to realise his ambitions.

“My decision to move was an issue of creativity. People in Sakskøbing were just satisfied with their lives – they had partners at an early age and stayed down there. I needed a bigger platform to evolve and it had to be Copenhagen,” he said, adding that most of his friends from primary school who stayed in Sakskøbing ended up taking on work as manual labourers or in one of the local factories.

“I can’t imagine going back unless I’m 60 and I need to be closer to nature,” Bonde said. “But in that case I would definitely just move to the outskirts of Copenhagen.”

Just like Bonde, 23-year-old student Simone Kyed from the Jutland town of Silkeborg moved to Copenhagen to seek new opportunities – albeit at quite a younger age.

“I moved to a boarding school in Birkerød when I was 13 because my mom thought it would be good for me to move away,” she said. “Silkeborg has a small town mentality and it was really easy to get caught up in bad company. There were just a lot of people being bored together, just smoking weed and being mean to each other – people putting each other in roles that are hard to get out of.”

Kyed said she felt relieved when she moved away and that even though she initially moved to a boarding school, she found people to be far more accepting in the capital.

“It was easier for me to be me,” Kyed explained. “I had already visited my big sisters in Copenhagen and I met people through them and found out I wasn’t judged the same way as I was back home.”

After a year at the boarding school, a 15-year-old Kyed moved to Istedgade in central Copenhagen. For her, the capital offers the opportunity to live her life without judgement.

“In Copenhagen there’s more room for being yourself. In Silkeborg you could meet people where the farthest they’d gone was Aarhus. Of course there are Copenhageners who have never really left the city. But they get to meet different types of people than people in Silkeborg do. I think it’s about exploring the world and getting different opinions. If you’re with the same people all the time its hard to get new input.”

But not all young Danes find living in provincial Denmark inconvenient or isolating. Marta Julia Johansen, originally from Frederiksberg, followed her mother to the island of Bornholm when she was 17.

“Bornholm was such a big contrast to Copenhagen in the way peopleÂ’s relationships were to each other,” she said. “You spend so much time together on Bornholm which is different than in Copenhagen. We used nature and the environment much more – we were just much more connected.”

While she said the opportunities available on a small island were different, the lifestyle was more steady and predictable.

After moving back to Copenhagen for some time as a 21-year-old, she eventually chose to move to Randers and then Kolding on Jutland to study graphic design.

“Out in the country you don’t do anything except work on what you’re doing. You have the internet and that’s all you need.”

But despite deliberately choosing to study at Kolding School of Design, in a town of less than 60,000 inhabitants, she still yearned to be in Copenhagen.

“It wasn’t so easy to live there and for the first two years I wanted to go back to Copenhagen. But after three years I realized it was good. I was at the school all the time so I was working hard.”
Now 27, Johansen is currently living in Copenhagen and about to start a Masters degree at the Danish Design School. After spending so much time outside the city, she is happy to be back and start building up a network. But the countryside still beckons.

“If I had a job that I could do from home it would be OK to leave Copenhagen. I would think that once IÂ’m safe with my network and job opportunities then I could leave it behind and let them come to me – when youÂ’re good they will come to you. But you need to work your ass off first.”
While Jutland can attract young Danes with interesting schools – such as the European Film College in Ebeltoft or Kolding School of Design – the creative, social and career opportunities in Copenhagen are hard to beat. The question is whether we are watching a tipping point as more people watch their friends leave and want to follow, and if so, one can only wonder what the future holds for provincial Denmark.

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