Aaah, summertime. Well, what passes for summertime here in Denmark anyway. Despite what my thermometer says, the calendar says June. That means the Euro 2012 tournament is here – for those of you into that sort of thing – the Roskilde Festival is just around the corner and the tourists are pouring in by the boatload.
One of the first takeaways of tourists and newcomers alike, myself included, is that people in Copenhagen look really, really good. At the risk of landing myself in the doghouse at home, the city seems to have an unfair share of beautiful women. Being secure in my own masculinity, I can also say that even the men here are a damn good-looking, if overly groomed, lot.
Seen from the outside looking in, Denmark is viewed as being home to nothing but tall, blonde beauties. It’s easy to see why, especially at this time of year. Now that the long, cold winter has finally given way to warmer weather, and the layers of trendy clothing have been replaced by copious amounts of flesh, it’s hard to deny that this is a nation – particularly in the Copenhagen area – that appears to be populated by rather attractive people.
But that Denmark enjoys the international reputation of being a land of hot, blonde Vikings can only be explained by the fact that the world at large hasn’t had the privilege of visiting Lalandia.
I, on the other hand, visited the Jutland waterpark recently, which is located in the town of Billund and just down the road from Legoland. While both places provided top-notch family entertainment and are certainly worth a visit, Lalandia firmly put to rest the notion that Denmark is immune from the obesity epidemic that’s infected most of the Western world.
This isn’t just to take a cheap jab at the Danes (I do enough of that in my free time), but as someone who is repeatedly confronted with Danes’ stereotypes towards my own country as being home to nothing but fast-food scoffng, cola-swilling fatties, I’d like to invite Danes to look in the mirror and examine the hard facts.
Recent figures from the national health institute Statens Institut for Folkesundhed (SIF) show that 46.5 percent of Danes over the age of 16 are overweight, and the number of Danes classified as obese has doubled since 1987. Yes, the figures are worse in the United States, but if the trends in Denmark continue, they may not be for long.
It’s disheartening, really. If there are so many overweight people in a country where everyone supposedly bikes to work – that is, when they’re not riding their high horse about how healthy their staples of rugbrød and leverpostej are – what real hope is there for the rest of us?
On the topic of cycling, I tried out the first of the Copenhagen area’s bicycle superhighways the other day. The route, officially called Albertslundruten, took me through Copenhagen’s Vestegn region on clearly-marked, picturesque trails and deposited me into the heart of the city. The superhighway initiative, a collaboration between 19 local authorities in the Greater Copenhagen area, deserves kudos. While I’m lucky enough to live relatively close to the first completed trail, eventually there will be 26 routes collectively measuring nearly 300 kilometres.
My 23km journey took me well over an hour – I’m a pretty slow biker – so I doubt it will be something I do more than on an occasional basis. But it is a tremendous option to have, and the groups behind the superhighway project should be commended for their efforts. One of the stated goals of the superhighways is to increase the number of people in Greater Copenhagen cycling to work from the current 37 percent of commuters to 50 percent by 2015. In addition to the environmental and traffic benefits that would provide, it’s also got to help somewhat in the obesity battle.
Finally, on the topic of summer, we are just three issues away from The Copenhagen Post’s scaled-back summer version. And I, personally, am scaling back even further. By the time you read this, I will be on paternity leave, not to return to my position as news editor until mid-August. I have no doubts that my colleagues will do just fine in my absence, but I will probably miss being a part of the weekly cycle of putting together The Post.
However, I am really looking forward to the opportunity to bond with my daughter and get a temporary break from work.
We have some exciting things in store for this space at the end of the summer: primarily, the expansion of our CPH Post Voices columnists from five to ten. I feel confident that with the new additions, we’ll be able to offer more varied insights into life in Denmark: the good, the bad and the ugly.
Until then, here’s hoping that the sun graces us with its appearance, that you get out there on your bike and that if you should find yourself at Lalandia, you’ll be duly prepared for the myth of the attractive Danes to be shattered. Good summer!
A proud native of the American state of Iowa, Justin Cremer has been living in Copenhagen since June 2010. In addition to working at the CPH Post, he balances fatherhood, struggling with the Danish language and keeping up with the ever-changing immigration rules. Follow him on Twitter here.