My ♥ CPH: “My Dad used to say I was living in Wonderland”
When Nicol Savinetti is not working at the University of Copenhagen as a co-ordinator for a program called Asian Dynamics Initiative, or as a consultant for Living Institute, she is leading her own organisation: IMMART (International Migration meets the Arts) – a network striving to reduce inequality in the art world. It adopts a holistic approach to inclusion, so beyond migration it also concerns itself with people with different abilities, sexual orientations and gender orientations.
Born with both Indian and Jamaican heritage in the London district of Hackney, her life journey took her to Southend-on-sea, Barcelona and Berlin before landing in Copenhagen 23 years ago, after which she obtained a PhD in Social Policy from the University of Tampere, Finland. We caught up with her for My ♥ CPH to get her views on living in Denmark.
I first came to Denmark … in 1998. I was in my 20s. I was still not sure what I wanted to do, be and all those other big questions in life. But I was just restless in Germany and couldn’t see which direction to go, so I decided to change country. I was here for a year, and then I did a world trip. I was away for a year and a half and came back in 2000.
If you ask me if it was love at first sight … I would say in a way yes. I mean, how could it not be? Copenhagen is such a pretty city and all the biking. My Dad used to say I was living in Wonderland.
My favourite things about living in Copenhagen are … the biking and the security. I love the fact that you can go anywhere you need to in the city. If you’re on a bike you can get there within half an hour. It’s fantastic. And then the safety aspect … coming from England and Germany and being able to live somewhere where you can leave the doors open, just leave things on. People leave their children outside cafes! It’s quite something in this day and age to have this kind of security.
Jeg kan tale … flydende. I’m more or less fluent. I spoke German before I arrived here. And this is a massive assistance and the fact that English is my dominant language is also very big. I like languages and I actually read some old Danish once, and it’s basically a little sister of Germany. The old Danish is very, very similar to German. So that was a big help.
On an integration scale of 1 to 10 I would say I … want to say 10! Because I function very well. I have a huge network. I speak Danish . At the same time, there is a cultural gap that will never be filled. So, and I’ve chosen to accept that and just put it to the side. I don’t associate that necessarily with being integrated.
Most of my friends are … 50/50 between international and Danish. The international ones are quite recent actually: since I started IMMART where, of course, I work with a lot of internationals. I’m a foreigner who likes to be in the country that I’m in. So, I’ve always had Danish friends.
I think the best way of making Danish friends is … to get a job with Danish people in a place where you have fun! I can highly recommend working in a cafe or restaurant. It’s social work and you’re in a relaxed environment. Or maybe join a club. It’s a country of associations. So, this is a really good way to make Danish friends.
I would warns visitors to Copenhagen … about the rules when you’re cycling, as they’re different to other countries. Like signalling when you’re going to stop. It’s very advisable to do.
The best places to visit on a budget are … anywhere you can have a nice picnic – like the park. But be aware that as soon as the sun comes out, everyone is outside picnicking and having a drink. Seeing the people’s reaction to the sunny days like we’ve had recently, after a long winter, are really one of the gems of living in the city.
The three words that I think best describe Copenhagen are … outdoors, pretty (I know that it’s really simple, but it’s a really pretty city) and fun!
Nicol Savinetti is currently working on the next IMMART festival ARTIVAL to be held in Copenhagen from Monday 22 to Sunday 28 May. All five Nordic countries will be participating, creating more than 20 different partnerships.