In two weeks I am going to Copenhagen for three days. It will be my first time in Denmark and my first time in Scandinavia and I so excited to see this part of the world. There have been very cheap flights from Edinburgh to Copenhagen for several years now so many people I know have already visited the city and waxed lyrical about it, many proclaiming it their “favourite place in the world.” During the trip we are also planning to head over the famous Øresund Bridge (the actual bridge from the tv show The Bridge) for a day trip to Malmo in Sweden.
Despite having never been to Denmark, I feel like already know a lot about Danish culture. For the last few years it feels like there have been articles in the media almost on a daily basis telling us how hip and liveable Denmark’s capital is, how happy their people are, how to decorate our homes in the chic and minimalist Scandi style and how to achieve that elusive hygge. Loaded with so much information about Danish lifestyle, and halfway through the book How To Be Danish, it’s impossible for me to arrive in Copenhagen without a number of preconceived ideas. Here’s six completely cliched and unrealistic expectations I have about my upcoming trip to Copenhagen (written with tongue firmly lodged in cheek).
The People Will Be Really Really Good Looking
Here is an example of a Danish person. Here is another one. And another one. Danish people are Scandinavian and as everyone knows, Scandinavian people are really really good looking. Here is their former Prime Minister. She’s so attractive and charming even Barack Obama wanted a selfie with her. Women from all over the world visit Danish sperm banks because they want to give birth to blonde, good looking Viking babies. Someone who visited Copenhagen told me walking around the city they were constantly distracted by really good looking people on bicycles. “I didn’t even need to look for them – they were bombarding towards me,” the person sighed.
That It Will Be A Socialist Wonderland
One of the most fascinating insights I found from the book How To Be Danish was the chapter about the Danish welfare state and how much it is valued by its residents. To cut a long and no doubt more complicated matter short, Danish people pay very high taxes but they don’t care because they are rewarded with an excellent welfare state which takes very good care of them. Danish people enjoy free healthcare, free university (and get paid £700 a month to attend university!), free childcare and generous unemployment benefit. I was astonished to read that, so universal is its popularity, not one Danish political party opposes the welfare state! Critics say the system is gradually losing money and won’t be able to continue forever but so far it has worked brilliantly.
That Everything Will Be Really Expensive
The cost of this high taxation? Denmark is expensive, particularly for foreigners who don’t earn Danish wages and get the privileges from the welfare state. Scandinavia in general has a reputation for being very expensive, tales of going to a scruffy pub and paying £10 for a beer abound, but there are several articles claiming Denmark is not as expensive as its Nordic neighbours – in fact The Culture Trip claims many bars sell a beer for 25 Danish Kroner working out as £3 which is actually cheaper than the UK! I guess I will find out how justified Copenhagen’s expensive reputation is when I visit.
That Everywhere Will Be Super Scandi Chic
Those white walls and chic simplicity which seem to have taken up every Pinterest decor post and interior blogs for the last few years? We have the Danes to thank for that (well, not just the Danes, the rest of Scandinavia too. Although Denmark did invent the ubiquitous “egg chair” as well as those wooden low backed chairs you see everywhere). The whole world has spent the last decade rushing to Ikea trying to mimic that Scandi style but as Denmark helped invent it I expect them to display it effortlessly in every coffee shop, restaurant, hotel room and public space. I expect every wall to be white, every shape to be geometric and every room to be ultra modern and minimalist.
That Everyone Will Be Really Happy
For the last seven years Denmark has made the top three of the happiest country in the world in a yearly survey carried out by the World Happiness Report. So I’m expecting everyone in Denmark to be walking around beaming with happiness. And why wouldn’t Danes be happy? They enjoy an excellent quality of life due to their strong welfare state, ambition is not as encouraged as it is in other countries so they are free to experience the life they want without being sucked into the rat race, and Danes live their life ascribed to the culture construct that is… hygge.
That Everywhere Will Be Hygge
Ahh, hygge. A few years ago very few people in the UK could even have guessed what the word meant, now it is seen as the ultimate state of being, with countless books and articles instructing us to light candles, cosy up in loungewear and pause for a moment to appreciate our blessings. Hygge is a word which doesn’t directly translate into English, hence why there are so many articles telling us what it is, but it basically refers to comfort, warmth and togetherness and is one of the key reasons why Danes are so happy. As the rest of the world aspires to hygge, I am looking forward to seeing the real thing in authentic action, carried out by those who don’t need the instructions as hygge simply comes to them naturally due to the fact they are Danish. And although hygge is usually associated with winter, apparently it can also be seen in Denmark in summer too in the guise of shared picnics and a cold bottle of rose.
Have you ever been to Copenhagen? If so, what expectations did you have beforehand and were they met? Do you have any top Copenhagen tips for me?