I have lived in Aarhus, Denmark for two and a half years. I came here for my Master’s study, and I moved from Jakarta, while my hometown is in Yogyakarta. The municipality of Aarhus has around 320.000 population (according to Aarhus Kommune website), and it is the second largest city in Denmark. Jakarta province has around 10 million populations, while Yogyakarta has 3.5 million. So what’s the deal? Through the article that I write below, I will tell you how it feels moving from a big city into a small(er) city for my study.
- The first impression
I arrived in Aarhus by plane in August 2014. I flew from Copenhagen with a small airplane and arrived in Aarhus airport that is actually outside Aarhus city (more or less 40 minutes drive). The airport was super small, much smaller than Yogyakarta airport. We arrived in the afternoon, and the funny thing was all of the shops were closed and maybe there were only three flights arrived in one day or something. That means the airport felt so empty and quiet. I took a taxi from the airport to the house where I was going to live in Aarhus (and it costs super expensive, more expensive than the flight tickets from Copenhagen to Aarhus). In the journey, I passed by farms, many farms. My mum who accompanied me then said, “Nia, this is Europe, but this is a village.” There you go, I was shocked.
- No traffic jam, almost
The thing that I hate the most about Jakarta is the traffic jam, and I guess everyone would agree with me. When I began my journey from Aarhus airport to my future home, there was no traffic jam at all. So it was only 40 minutes drive, actually by kilometre it was quite far. In Aarhus, there is almost no traffic jam, unless in super few spots in few certain hours and the traffic jam was just like you add 15 minutes longer journey, not 2 hours. The traffic jam usually occurs in the morning before working hours and after working hours, but not more than 15 minutes longer than the normal duration. How do I feel? Freedom. Yuhuu! Getting stuck in the traffic is really miserable, I think. You would spend your day with frustration, exhaustion, and you are not moving. Here, less frustration and no cars honking. Seriously. People are super polite and patient. Having travelled to some countries in Europe, even I think that the Danes are one of the most patient and careful drivers. They are really chill-out.
- Where are the people?
One of the downsides that can be predicted is that there are fewer people or not that many people. This feeling would feel so vivid especially on Sunday when most of the shops are closed (supermarket and shopping malls are still open, luckily). Even when you go to town, this city feels so empty (it would get worse in the winter time).
- If nature is good, then it is good
Being a nature lover, it is important for me to see trees, beach, and maybe mountains in the place where I live (although Denmark doesn’t really have any mountains). Good thing that in Aarhus they have beautiful beaches and forest areas. Since there are not so many people, the development of new apartment buildings is not as massive as in Jakarta. This means, more area for nature and conservation!
- Less air pollution, definitely
Not so many people means not so many cars, and many people here commute by bike, especially students. This is something that I could really feel and compare the contrast feeling with Jakarta. I cannot feel air pollution here and no need to wear a face mask.
- Pay attention to the bus timetable
Compare to Copenhagen, Aarhus doesn’t have a subway train, so the only public transportation option at the moment is a bus. Since I don’t like biking, I should always check the bus timetable before I leave. I should also realise since there is no traffic jam, it means I really cannot be late in any appointments with anyone. If you live in a smaller city, that is really really small, the downside is the bus would be very limited and it might just depart one every half an hour or so (but not in Aarhus, some buses depart every 10 minutes). This just means that maybe it is better to take the bike or car when you commute.
- No need to worry when there is SALE
Different from Jakarta, in Aarhus, I don’t need to worry and feel if I won’t get the things I want when there is a sale, both for the sale in the shops and online. I am not a shopaholic, but the thing that annoys me is actually when I have to hunt for cheap flight tickets when I was in Indonesia. I had to open the website and finished booking the tickets maximum 5 minutes after the sale, otherwise, the tickets were gone. Meanwhile in here, just relax. As long as it is on the same day, most likely I will still get the tickets that I want. But on the shop, things can get sold out too, actually, when it is a premium brand and the shop had a super discount. Well, many people here will buy luxurious but cheap items, actually.
- Overall, peaceful feeling
Even though Aarhus has less population than Jakarta and Yogyakarta and I was quite shocked in the beginning (due to the super quiet state), it still has many attractions to see. Museums, shopping centres, cafés, restaurants, parks, beaches, even public libraries can become a tourist attraction and places to hang out. You can still find many quirky and cosy café and restaurants in Aarhus, so there are still entertainments and things to do. Even this year in 2017 Aarhus is the European Capital of Culture, so we expect to get more visitors, especially during the summer period. The difference is, being in Aarhus you don’t need to stress out with the traffic and you won’t get squeezed inside the public bus. I have got used to it and probably if I should move to a city with more than 5 million population, I would have a headache seeing too many people and cars everywhere, haha. Outside of the cold winter weather, life is more relaxed in Aarhus, I have tried 🙂