Before I visited Copenhagen I had certain cliched expectations. I expected everyone to be ridiculously good looking, everything to be ludicrously expensive, everywhere to be super Scandi chic and for all things to embody the coveted concept that is hygge. These stereotypes were picked up from the ubiquitous articles in the media in recent years about Danish culture, instructing how to achieve said hygge and how to live like the happiest country in the world, proven time and time again to be Denmark. Now that my trip to Copenhagen has been and gone, let’s take a look back at my expectations and whether, from what I could garner in my three days in the city, there was any truth to them.
This photo of Copenhagen is available to buy from my shop.
Expectation: The people will be really really good looking
Reality: The people are even better looking than I expected
What I wrote: “Danish people are Scandinavian and as everyone knows, Scandinavian people are really really good looking. 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.”
What I found: This cliched expectation turned out to be completely merited – if anything, the Danish are even better looking than their stereotype suggests. On our first night there Paul and I quite often stopped what we were saying to say “God, look at that ridiculously good looking person” but after a while we got so used to it we stopped pointing it out. Even so, after a few days there whenever I saw a couple cycling past with matching blonde hair, tanned skin, long limbs and chiseled cheekbones I still couldn’t help pausing for a second to ponder how many good looking genes there were to go around in the world and how so many of them seemed to be centred in Denmark. It certainly was quite a contrast coming back to Glasgow.
Expectation: Everything will be really expensive
Reality: Yes, it is pretty expensive
What I wrote: “Scandinavia in general has a reputation for being very expensive, tales of going to a scruffy pub and paying £10 for a beer abound.”
What I found: It’s not so much drinks in bars that are expensive; it’s the little things. You would go into a shop to buy a bottle of water, a can of Diet Coke and a packet of crisps and it would be close to £10. We didn’t eat in any fancy restaurants, preferring to pick up a bite to eat at street food markets instead, but still, it was never less than £40 for a meal for two. The upside was that we were there in the height of summer when Copenhageners take their drinking out to the streets and most of the beers we drank were bought from corner shops rather than bars.
This photography print of Copenhagen is available to buy in my shop.
Expectation: That everywhere will be super Scandi chic.
Reality: Yep. The Danes have Scandi style down to a tee.
What I wrote: “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.”
What I found: I lost count of the amount of times in Copenhagen that a women walked past me and I took a mental note of her outfit. The Danes have minimalist style nailed; an effortless look of neutral colours and few accessories that look amazing due to their innate sense of style and the fact they are all so bloody good looking. The famous Scandi style of white walls and geometric shapes was everywhere to be seen inside cafes, shops and restaurants too, as well as on the city’s walls which were often painted with stylish street art.
This Copenhagen photo is available to buy in my shop.
Expectation: That everyone will be really happy
Reality: The people did seem pretty happy
What I wrote: “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.”
What I found: Of course such a mass generalisation can’t be concluded with only three days in the city. But everyone in Copenhagen certainly looked very happy. Everyone was noticeably polite and friendly. I saw lots of smiling faces and very few grumpy ones. Of course, I’m not saying people in Copenhagen don’t suffer sadness and anger, I’m not that daft. But the World Happiness Report has to count for something and the excellent quality of life the Danes enjoy due to their laid back culture and strong welfare state has to help.
This Copenhagen photography print is available to buy in my shop.
Expectation: That everywhere will embody hygge.
Reality: Copenhagen was a summer hygge mecca.
What I wrote: 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.
What I found: The aspirational Danish state of hygge is usually associated with winter; candles, open fires and blankets. But it can be done in summer too and when we were there it was present in the locals sitting on the pavement with a beer, jumping into the harbour on a scorching hot day and lounging the park with a picnic. Hygge is about about finding contentment and joy with your fellow beings in the natural environment around you which these Copenhageners seemed to be doing a very good job of.