Cafés in central Aalborg: A hyggelig place to take a break

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Fotor0106154538Coffee. The word conjures the smell of mornings as a child when my father made his first pot of many on any given day…the graceful swirl of milk and coffee in its iced form served in a transparent glass in Japan, where I first learned to appreciate the caffeinated beverage…a liquid boost with which I now greet each morning. Since my days at university in Evanston, Illinois, when the Unicorn Cafe opened on Sherman Avenue and started a much-needed café culture for students, I have sought interesting and quirky cafes in each city I have lived. New York City did not disappoint, nor did Chicago. Quito, Ecuador had a handful of surprisingly nice spots where I could get my fix and London, of course, provided a plethora of options. But these are all large cities where establishments cater to residents as well as tourists. So it was with surprise that I found a thriving café culture in the center of Aalborg, despite the city’s relatively small population. Danes appreciate their coffee and if the café is hyggelig, so much the better! Read the rest of this entry »

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Aalborg Public Library: A community hot spot

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The entry passage to the main library in the center of Aalborg

I have loved libraries since I was a child. My mother used to take my siblings and me to the library in downtown Moline, Illinois to pick out books every few weeks and we would lose ourselves among the shelves, exploring everything from detective stories (my brother) to ballet (my sister) to horses (me). On Saturdays I would accompany my father there to pick out art for our walls (prints, like books, could be borrowed for a month or so at a time). And as a teen I used the library as a quiet place to study and write.

I have visited and utilized the services of myriad libraries all over the world since childhood. Some have impressed with their enormous collection of materials while others have inspired me to read and write in their huge elegant study halls. And then there is the Aalborg Public Library, which belongs in a category all to itself… Read the rest of this entry »

International Citizen Service in Aalborg: A ‘one-stop shop’ for foreign residents

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The spring before we moved to Aalborg, we visited the city as a family. A prior online search had pointed us to an office called the International Citizen Service (ICS), where immigrants can register as residents of the Kommune (municipality), ask questions about job searches and taxes, and gather other information useful to living in Aalborg. So even though our moving day was months away, we wrote a list of questions and headed to the ICS armed with our queries on the first day of our visit.

ICS Aalborg's new office is located in the lovely, restored Aalborg Castle.
ICS Aalborg’s new office is located in the lovely, restored Aalborg Castle.

A friendly staff member greeted us when our number was called. Despite the fact that the waiting room was packed, she patiently answered all of our questions – handwriting names and addresses of offices where we could get further information, in some cases – and we left feeling much better informed and reassured that everything was going to go just fine once we lived here. (Inevitably there were hiccups but those are the subject of future posts!) Read the rest of this entry »

Welcome to Aalborg!

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It’s December in Aalborg. The air is crisp, the sky blue, and the streets in the center of town alight with Christmas stars and twinkling trees. It’s our second Christmas season in Denmark and I’m comforted by sights that have already become familiar: the big tree at Nytorv, ‘julehjerter’ hanging in the windows of many homes, and the seasonal market at Gammel Torv. Given that the sun doesn’t come up here until around 8:00 and sets before 16:00, lights and decorations go a long way in making the atmosphere both in and outside of the home ‘hyggelig’ (cozy, comfortable).Image

Aalborg is a hyggelig city. It is the center of the third largest municipality in Denmark, after Copenhagen and Aarhus. While the city proper has around 104,000 residents, the municipality boasts a population of over 201,000. Aalborg is also the capital of North Jutland, a region of nearly 8,000 square kilometers. Major employers in the area include Aalborg University, Aalborg University Hospital and Aalborg Kommune (‘Municipality’).

According to statistics kept by the Danish government, there were approximately 17,000 foreign nationals living in the greater Aalborg area in 2012, which represents 8.5% of the total population. As one myself, I have had to learn a lot about living in Aalborg in a short amount of time. Although I’m studying Danish, my ability to read official government web sites, Danish newspapers and the like in the national language is still limited. Of course there are translation tools online and many web pages offered in English but in general I’ve found myself having to piece together information from many sources to understand, for example, how childcare works here. This blog is inspired by the challenges I’ve faced and my goal is to provide useful information based on my experience as well as first-hand accounts from Danes who are experts on the topics I think would be of interest to my readers. I aim to write once a week on a major theme, e.g. daycare, going to the doctor, etc., and supplement with more frequent posts on local activities and events when possible. I welcome any and all suggestions, comments, questions. Welcome to Life in Aalborg!

Next week’s topic: the International Citizen Service.