Independent University Newspaper
Copenhagen Business School

Popular searches:

Independent University Newspaper

Copenhagen Business School

Denmark taught me to smile😊

(Photo: Mette Koors)

Smiling was the first thing that I noticed when moving to Denmark from the Kazakh culture. I was shocked that everybody smiles at you and you automatically smile back.

Blog |   20. Sep 2018

Madina Balgabek


I would feel embarrassed and at first I didn’t even know how to make that easy smile on my face. I either laughed or made a suspicious smirk. It made me feel as though I was a bit stupid or a person with slight mental problems. I guess I need to explain this behaviour by describing where I come from.

What does smiling mean to you? Is it only happy moments or sad as well? Have you ever smiled back at a stranger’s baby in a café? Smiling is a powerful part of our nature. Smiling can hurt, cheer you up, allow forgiveness to spread in your heart forever or make you finally calm.

In Kazakhstan, smiling at a stranger on the street usually means you are about to pickpocket that person. As a person working in customer service, smiling is interpreted as unprofessional behaviour where people think you should save that attitude for your friends. Smiling at work means you are either being informal or even flirtatious.

Of course, it isn’t always a bad thing and there are acceptable situations (e.g. smiling at a stranger’s baby), but people just tend to smile much less in Kazakhstan than in Denmark.

Back in Denmark, people smile when they’re coming towards you on the street, people smile when they hand you your coffee, people smile at you if they catch your eye in the store, people smile at you even in the shower on your way to the swimming pool which used to freak me out (haha).

I spent couple of years discovering and learning this easy smile that all Scandinavians are so good at. To be honest, I didn’t notice this way of smiling in other places in Europe: not in France or in Italy, not in Germany or in the Netherlands, not even in Spain. Okay, maybe I should aim more south, but the point is Scandinavians seem to be happy all the time.

Integration into Danish society is going slow and with some midway bumps. This is most likely due to my personality. I find life in Denmark ‘too perfect’ and it can get a bit boring to some degree. I find it hard to integrate into a Utopia with bad weather but there are things about Denmark that I probably will never be able to let go.

I love that in Denmark I can have couple of debit cards in my tiny wallet and it is more than enough. I love that there is always an option between paying by card, MobilePay, FingerPay (at CBS) and cash – contrary to cash only at most places in other countries, including Kazakhstan. I am glad that begging is illegal, and it doesn’t make me feel constantly guilty for not being able to help with money every time. On the other hand, I can help the needy other ways – and there are so many.

My most favourite is to give away clothes and other items to a small cabin on Sønder Boulevard in Vesterbro. It can be a person who just likes the clothes that I don’t want anymore, or it can be a homeless person in need. It makes me smile each time I go there and see that the items I put there last time are gone. There were also couple of times when I took some cookbooks there. It is an example of the way the Danish community is and it warms my heart.

Another thing that a person with a non-standard body shape would love is the customer protection and return policies in the stores. I was so scared of online shopping while living in Kazakhstan – worried that if I ordered something that was too small, I wouldn’t be able to wear it. I am an online shopping guru now.

(Photo: Mette Koors)

I have a story of how Denmark protected my money from an unprofessional flower company in Kazakhstan. There is bank policy in Denmark that if you don’t receive the goods you purchased online or if a store withdrew a different amount than the price stated on the website, you have the right to get your money back. So, it happened to me and I was surprised how easy it was once I used my Dankort (Danish debit card).

I ordered flowers for my mom for international women’s day in Kazakhstan. But it became a fraudulent transaction when they took money but didn’t deliver the flowers and didn’t want to deal with me on the phone or by email. I wrote to Nordea and got my money back within a week. There were many people in Kazakhstan who wrote to me on Facebook, asking if the flower company ever returned the money to me because there are 10 people altogether now who are going to file a lawsuit against them.

The other positive thing in Denmark is no tipping at restaurants. I really don’t mind paying tips that are included automatically in the price of food and drinks, but I hate calculating it separately. I once overheard a waitress in the restaurant saying, “No, no please take your money back. Here in Denmark we have good wages”. Now that I think of it, I love that Denmark makes me feel that I like living here and I like feeling part of this circular system of high taxes that secures my neighbour today and secures me tomorrow.

So I am quite all right with paying 50% of my salary (36% as a student), having tuition-free university education, SU payments, free doctors, free insurance in the whole of the EU, and much more.

Music on repeat: Raise against – Ghost Note Symphonies (Voices of camera)


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Denmark taught me to smile😊by

  • News

    Staff layoffs: What happens if you’re fired

    The clock is ticking. On Thursday morning (5 October), CBS employees will know if they are up for dismissal or not. But what will happen on the day? What emotional stages are you likely to encounter? And who will be there to pick you up when you are feeling the blow of being laid off? CBS WIRE has talked to HR and the consulting agency Actief Hartmanns to provide you with answers.

  • News

    Network, network, network – CBS graduates advise on getting your first job

    There are many approaches to finding your first job. Three recent CBS graduates talk about how they landed theirs. Their approaches were quite different, yet they all highlight networking as a key element.

  • News

    A-Z of the dismissals

    In these final days of September, the fate of a number of CBS employees is being decided. The final amount of money saved on salaries via voluntary severance agreements (aka redundancy packages, Ed.) and senior agreements will be known.  After this, the actual number of employees up for dismissal will be decided by management – and then the individuals will be selected.

  • News

    Layoffs break the crucial trust between organisation and employee

    CBS is laying off a number of employees soon, which will affect our university in different ways. When employees are fired without having done anything wrong, it shatters the trust between the organisation and employees, while also taking a toll on productivity, according to a CBS expert. Layoffs also affect the ‘survivors’, who are forced to adapt to a changed workload and the loss of cherished colleagues.

  • News

    Here to help – at the touch of a button and at Campus Desk

    Exam anxiety? Lost student card? I’ve wedged my car between a Fiat 500 and a lamp post, can you help? You never know what you’ll be asked next. But that’s just how the Campus Desk team like it. And if they can’t fix your problem, they’ll know someone who can. CBS WIRE asked the team about the whole range of topics they advice on every day.

  • Gif of the week
  • News

    CBS Quiz Time: Unraveling the success story

    A successful university environment such as CBS is often associated with academic pursuits, but campus life extends far beyond the classroom. At CBS Quiz Time, a student society motivated by creative thinking and social engagement, students join in a refreshing range of creativity, excitement, and social interaction. CBS WIRE talked to Celine Møller-Andersen to find out about the society’s vision, strategies and the factors that are driving its rapid expansion.

  • News

    Why so sudden? The CBS financial crisis explained

    Employees and union representatives have posed many questions in the wake of the 17 August announcement of a firing round. In this interview, University Director Arnold Boon explains how Senior Management has been working with the budget and a change of financial strategy since the fall of 2022, and why layoffs are now necessary.

Follow CBS students studying abroad

CBS WIRE collaborates with

Stay connected