Within ten minutes, Ann Karring and João Pedro Copello Ruivo can be by the water’s edge at Vejle Fjord, where they love to be. The two young newcomers also like being within walking distance of the city's shops and restaurants.
A blue Citroën C1 heads towards Skyttehushaven in Vejle. Ann Karring and João Pedro Copello Ruivo are on their way to one of their favourite picture-perfect spots, with tall trees, flowers and waves lapping on the shore. They park their car and make their way through the park down to the beach, where they find a bench overlooking the Vejle skyline.
"It's alluring, right?" says João, while Ann nods in agreement. They both love the water - apart from the temperature of the bathing water in Denmark, notes João with a chuckle. Several times a week they go out into the nature of Vejle, seeking out places with a view of the water. They run or go for walks, and recently they flew a kite on the beach.
“We're a bit like two 10-year-olds who love to play,” says João, who grew up in the Brazilian city of Santos. Though he lived with his family in an apartment on the tenth floor, the beach and water were close by, so it was easy to get out and fly kites, build sandcastles and swim. Ann is from the east Jutland town of Stilling, where she often fished and rowed a boat with her father.
“It feels safe and nostalgic living close to the water. That's how we both feel. In a way, our appreciation of the water brings us closer together,” she explains.
Great to be within walking distance
The blue fjord and green rolling landscape weren't the only deciding factors when Ann and João chose to head south in the summer of 2022. Vejle is also close to LEGO in Billund, where Ann works as a designer, while João is within walking distance of the language school where he practices Danish daily.
“It's great to be able to walk to most things. I also like going to the supermarket, pharmacy and cinema,” says João, who also does voluntary work in his new city. He works for the organisation Wefood, where he enjoys spending time with the other volunteers while getting lots of new Danish words under his belt.
It was quite deliberate that the young couple chose to rent an apartment in the heart of Vejle, rather than rent or buy a house on the outskirts of the city.
“We have a car, but I only use it when I drive to work or when we visit my family. Otherwise, we go by foot, and it's nice having a drink in the Paladspassagen social dining hall without having to think about driving home,” says Ann.
'A cosy European city'
In 2015, Denmark and Brazil met during a Danish folk high school stay in Helsingør. Here, Ann and João became a couple, before parting ways – Ann to Aarhus and João to Sao Paolo to study at university. For the next six years, they continued what you would call a long-distance relationship, meeting up physically only twice a year.
João moved to Denmark in January 2022, where they lived together in Ann's mother's house in Skanderborg for six months. But when Ann got a job at LEGO, they knew that the distance from Skanderborg to Billund would be too great in everyday life. And so pointed the arrow naturally to Vejle.
“We could’ve also chosen to live in Billund, but it’s just too small for us,” says Ann, while João nods. When he tells his family about Vejle, he describes it as “a cosy European city with a good mix of historic and modern buildings”. He also tells them it's a city where things happen.
“I’ve been to both the Fjordfestival and Vejle's Folkemøde. At the folkemøde, it was a bit difficult to follow the debates in Danish, but it was nice being among lots of people on the pedestrian street,” says João, who has only one criticism of Vejle: He thinks the shops close far too early. In Brazil, João is used to shops and restaurants being open into the evening every day. Despite that, he’s happy the Vejle street scene is one filled with people.
“It feels like there's lots of life. And I like that,” he says, while Ann nods in agreement.
Translated by Tony Langford (Influentsy ApS)