I can honestly say that from day one, I am constantly amazed at this place. Everything about Copenhagen is literally awesome. The interesting, quirky differences that constantly pop up have been the biggest and best adjustment to being here. I feel like each day I get to observe and play within an entirely different world. The people, the culture, the lifestyle. Let’s just say, I’ve taken being observant to a whoooole other level. And this is what I’ve observed…
The people. Ohhhh the people. Truly the trendiest, most beautiful, homogenous looking human beings I’ve ever seen. The way I like to put it to all my friends back home is a bunch of Ken and Barbies…on steroids. And what gets me is that it all looks so effortless. From the outfits they put together, to the way they carry themselves. Everything about the Danes always looks so naturally “cool”. I know that sounds like a cliché way of putting it, but it’s the only way to describe the sort of vibe these people radiate. They’re all so incredibly trendy, 24/7. Even the 50-year old moms outdress me. I once asked a Dane why the heck everyone looks so put together all the time. He answered with, “Danes only buy stylish clothing…they rarely own sweats. And if they do, they won’t change into them especially after work or anything. I mean what if they had to leave the house again later?” Oh yes, GOD FORBID they leave the house in sweatpants! I’ve bought into this fashionable scene somewhat, and have definitely dared to try outfits I would have never at home simply because it’s fun and it seems as if anything goes here…parachute pants, cheetah leggings, you name it (all in good taste of course). But I will say coming from an American college student, there are some days where sweatpants are simply the only option.
Personality-wise, the Danes are pretty private people. They don’t believe in saying “how are you” just to say it. I’ve gotten a few awkward looks for slipping up on that one. They think casually asking that question as a greeting is fake…interesting perspective? I’ve noticed the Danes are generally quiet, too. I’m not from a city like New York back home, but the times I have visited, the subway is usually pretty noisy throughout the day. NOTHING like here in Copenhagen. Especially in the morning, when you could probably hear a pin drop on the metro. There’s even designated super quiet zones …that people take very seriously (learned that one the hard way). To put it bluntly, when my friends and I take the metro, bus, or basically any type of public transit, it is blatantly obvious who the Americans are on board. Once opened up however, Danes are some of the nicest, consistent, helpful, and welcoming people who I’ve found to really invest time in their relationships with others.
Food-wise, Copenhagen’s pretty diverse and whatever you’re in the mood for you can usually find. Traditionally however, they have some seriously delicious dishes here. The herring and smørrebrod I described in my previous post are a couple of the most popular Danish classics. And then there’s the pastries!!!!!! Which of course are all beautiful, addicting, and highly lethal. I’ve officially limited visits to my favorite spot Lagkagehuset to once a week. No more, no less. And we can’t forget the beer. Which is seriously cherished by all the people here, probably because it’s SO good. At lunchtime you’ll walk around and see a majority of everybody’s lunch, whether they’re age 20 or 85, accompanied by a verrry large beer.
Culturally, I think one of the most striking differences to me was the gender roles in Denmark versus the United States. For example, the parenting style here is toootally different. Danish men play a way bigger part in the parenting process. I see dads with their kids literally everywhere. Young dads too! And when I say young I mean at most a couple years older than my guy friends back home and imagining any of them pushing around baby carriages in the next ten years, let alone TWO is a scary thought. But young parents seem to be pretty standard in Denmark, probably because there’s no pressure to get married. In the United States you get benefits once tying the knot. Here in Denmark, even if you are married, you keep your individual benefits. With both parents working, the stay-at-home mom and working dad model is pretty rare within the Danish lifestyle. I think speaks to why this culture is so independent. When taken on a date, you’re even expected to pay your half (which could honestly just be due to the fact that everything is so ridiculously expensive here). Regardless, they’ve definitely put a different and more modern twist on chivalry.
The lifestyle: Fit. I officially think overweight people are nonexistent in Denmark. But with how incredibly fit the Danish community is, it definitely makes sense. For one, there’s a fat tax on all sweets. Aka all things bad for you are more expensive. Most families only indulge on Friday nights and some elementary schools even ban parents from packing sweets in their kids’ lunchboxes! Two, they bike EVERYWHERE. Whether it’s windy, bitter cold, or even pouring (no joke) they are forever plugging along on their bikes. Like I said in an earlier post, this is a very intimidating aspect of Copenhagen with its own “rush hour”, hand signals, and multi-taskers who have mastered texting and talking and even holding hands with each other… while biking. Despite the intimidation, I think I can now say I’ve become a pretty confident biker! But only to and from class. A small, but personal accomplishment 🙂
Simplistic. The Danes know how to live so large on so little. Considering the absurd tax rate here (around 60-70%), they simply have to. Their lifestyle is the opposite of excess and it’s really refreshing. I saw this first hand with my visiting family. This is a family assigned to me while I’m in Denmark for the semester who I keep in contact, spend time, and build a relationship with throughout my time here. It’s basically a source of family I don’t have in Denmark and mine consists of a dad named Per, a 20-year old son Christian, and two girls Thea, 10, and Julie, 7. They are some of the sweetest, warmest, and most welcoming people I’ve ever met and I am SO thankful to have them as my visiting family. Anyways, they live in a small apartment and most likely pay just as much for it as I do my house back in the United States. Point is- the Danes are forced to live under serious financial restrictions of high prices and taxes, but are still deemed through research some of the happiest and most satisfied people in the world. Hmm what does that say?
Open-minded. And when I say open-minded, I mean to everything including but definitely not limited to sexuality, lifestyle, nudity, politics, PDA, banned dinner table topics, etc. etc. etc. They are willing to talk about anything wherever, whenever. Censorship is seen as an alternative evil to the free-spirited progressive way of life often referred to as “frisind” (a term used to describe the liberal Danish attitude). To show you just exactly what I’m getting at, here’s a few fun examples- Pornography is openly sold in 7-11, I have probably seen more naked women in the locker room at the gym here than in my entire life, women casually leave their babies in carriages outside stores while shopping, unisex restrooms are common, and weed is sold legally just a metro-ride away in the “free country” area of Copenhagen called Christiana. The Danes let one another live their own lives in the way they choose and they just do their own thing. It’s sometimes odd and truly shocking, but at the same time fascinating. It’s an awesome type of lifestyle I could definitely get used to.