Proximity, quiet zones, harbour baths and 24/7 hangover cures

Catching up with the internationals who appreciate the elements that many Danes might take for granted

Some things are obvious – like the rain, grey clouds and the long winter nights.

It doesn’t require much empathy for most Danes to realise there are foreigners living amongst them who struggle with the climate.

Exquisite elements
But what about the less obvious elements – which Danes more than likely take for granted, but for internationals are truly life-changing.

Drinking water, for example, and swimming in it – even in the city harbour. And all that clean air – not only in the forests but also in most built-up areas. At the very least, it’s a great cure for hangovers!

A home from home
Moving to a new country is never easy, and sometimes the culture shock is immense.

But the things you miss can be outweighed by the conditions you like about your new home.

We caught up with a handful of internationals who have recently made the move to find out more about what they appreciate about living in Denmark.

Profession: Teacher
Years in CPH: 4.5
Previous home: Calgary, Canada
Nationality: Canadian

What do you appreciate about Denmark that many Danes might take for granted?
For me, Copenhagen is the perfect city – it has everything I could need in terms of culture, and yet I can walk across the city centre in just a few hours. I can drive across Denmark in four hours, and in that time I can easily fly to any European city. It’s hard to explain just how big a country Canada is to people who haven’t been there. If I drive for four hours from my home in Calgary on a day with heavy traffic I’ll have barely made it to the next city.

How is Denmark similar to Canada?
I think there are a lot of similarities between Canadians and Danes. We share similar notions of equality and of the importance of a social safety net for all our citizens. I also recognise the same tendency to value working together over hierarchical structures. Most Canadians would easily understand the Jante Law. And, of course, we are both northern countries and have very much the same experience of making the best of short daylight all winter and neverending daylight in the summer.

What unique Danish experience have you had?
I love collecting stories of interactions with Danes that exemplify how ‘the Danish way’ can be confusing to others. I’ll miss the way Danes are always so happy to answer questions, but only answer exactly what you ask. There was the time I gestured to the big crowds and asked the cashier at Østerport Station if there was a concert going on (Justin Bieber at Parken, it transpired), and she answered: “No, this is a 7-11.” Or the time I went to a store to ask for help with my phone plan and was told they couldn’t help me, and not that I was in the wrong store. Or the time someone asked how to get to Roskilde and the Danes answered: “You can’t get there from here”, but they didn’t add that you could get there from the next platform.

What would you miss most about Denmark?
It’s the little things that make life so great here. I’ll miss salted liquorice flavour everything. All the black clothes. Wearing skirts with running shoes.  Public nudity. The crazy things people carry on their bikes (big screen TVs, IKEA furniture, and even other bikes). Seeing window cleaners hanging out of the fourth floor with no safety gear. Mobilepay. The satisfying blip the Rejsekort makes when you check in. The warm glow of real open-flame candles through the long winter darkness. Clapping in unison at the theatre. Trying to get the Danes to understand my attempts to speak the language. I will leave a big piece of my heart here when I leave.

Profession: Editor

Years in CPH: 3.5
Previous home: Japan
Nationality: American

What do you appreciate about Denmark that many Danes might take for granted?
The nice thing about Denmark is that it is a fairly small country and it is not overpopulated, so even the ‘touristy’ places are not super crowded. Getting reservations at restaurants, the theatre and the cinema is usually not that difficult, and returning to Copenhagen after a weekend out of town does not mean hours and hours of sitting in a traffic jam like you would encounter in bigger cities.

How is Denmark similar to Japan?
I can see some similarities between the Japanese and Danes in their sense of aesthetics and design. The Japanese like minimalist spaces, clean lines and simple but sophisticated interior décor – and so do Danes. The Japanese are typically not loud and don’t like confrontation, and from what I have seen here, this is also the case with the Danes. People in Denmark who can afford to buy luxury brands do so without feeling guilty, and I feel there is a similar tendency in Japan. Many Japanese like to go out to drink after work, and so do the Danes!

What unique Danish experience have you had?
I was amazed to see people getting completely naked in public and dipping into the sea any time of the year. It was also very interesting to see that the Danes leave their baby carriages parked outside stores and cafes, with the babies still sleeping in them!

What would you miss most about Denmark?
I would miss the sense of hygge that you get in the winter, when even the clothing stores, restaurants and offices light candles, and people try to make the most of spending time indoors, with good food, friends and family, as the weather is so dreary and dark. I would also miss the excitement that you can feel in the air when spring finally arrives, everything turns green in a matter of days, and everyone takes every opportunity to spend time outdoors.

Profession: Property manager/mom
Years in CPH: 4
Last home: Mumbai
Nationality: French

What do you appreciate about Denmark that many Danes might take for granted?
Biking and walking. I was miserable in Mumbai not being able to walk and bike. Copenhagen is a small city compared to others – it’s very human-sized. You do not need a car to travel around the city easily – public transport works wonderfully. In fact, in my opinion having a car hinders me in Copenhagen.

How is Denmark similar to the last country you lived in or your home country?
It is similar in the way you can go out and do stuff. There is always something to do in the evenings and never a lack of activities.

What unique Danish experience have you had?
Everything you have for the kids. In Copenhagen there are so many parks, museums and restaurants that are family-orientated.

What would you miss most about Denmark?
If I ever move, I will definitely miss the culture of Copenhagen. The concerts, the ballets, the museums – everything is so rich in culture that I know I will miss it in any other city.

Profession: Professor
Years in CPH: 0.5
Places you last lived: Calcutta, New York, Switzerland
Nationality: American

What do you appreciate about Denmark that many Danes might take for granted?
The very smooth way that everything works. Most things take a predictable amount of time. I love the fact that I can look at my directions and know how long it will take me to get to a certain place and what time it will be. I feel I can take people at their word when certain rules and regulations are explained to me. There is not much fine print and I like that people do what they say they will do – the integrity. It’s a very anxiety-free life, for the most part.

How is Denmark similar to New York?
Surprisingly it is a melting pot like New York. It has a large expat community – or at least in Copenhagen as I do not know about the rest of the country. In a way it is also similar to India in that people like to socialise, and they also like to speak in their ethnic tongue like Indians do.

What unique Danish experiences have you had?
That it is so wonderfully quiet – even on a busy street. People respect each other’s quiet zones. I really enjoy waiting for the lights to change before I cross the street because in India the lights barely work.

What would you miss most about Denmark?
I think I would miss the quality of the food the most, the lack of noise and lack of pollution.

Profession: Digital marketer
Years in CPH: 0.6
Place you last lived: New York
Nationality: American

What do you appreciate about Denmark that many Danes might take for granted?
The food is super high quality, so I would have to say food. People are very conscious of food and I laugh because my answer was going to be carrots but then I expanded it to food. I think the carrots here are phenomenal, and they serve them at pretty much every meal. Like you get carrots at breakfast and grated carrots at lunch and they are so delicious. I went on holiday to the States for two weeks AND I missed my carrots. And clean water, both drinking and being able to go a few blocks and jump into the water, cause I’m from New York and you don’t really do that in the Hudson. And I think also because it’s a social democracy there’s just this sort of built-in social network and a feeling that nothing really terrible will happen.

How is Denmark similar to New York?
I think it is similar in the way that both Copenhagen and New York have a big expat community.

What unique Danish experience have you had?
Honestly I think it’s the way the cars respect the bike lines. A lot of people cycle in NYC but it’s a lot more dangerous because there is not the same respect for cyclists. And here it’s the other way around. The cyclists here rule the road. I am much more scared of the cyclists than the cars.

What would you miss most about Denmark?
All of it: the art, the bicycles, the beauty of just jumping in the water – it’s just so lovely and pretty. And of course the carrots!

Profession: Student
Years in CPH: 1.5
Place you last lived: Kolkata
Nationality: American

What do you appreciate about Denmark that many Danes might take for granted?
Well I’d say the level of safety in Denmark is something I think Danes would not think about. After coming from India, suddenly being allowed to stay out all night is very liberating. Also the level of freedom and respect that is given to kids and teenagers – they are all treated like adults. Another thing they don’t really see is poverty on an everyday basis, so I don’t think it’s big on the Danes’ radar.

How is Denmark similar to India?
The Danes, like the Indians, like to talk a lot. If you start a conversation with them they are very friendly. Otherwise I don’t believe it is similar to india.

What unique Danish experience have you had?
In terms of school, education here is very different, or maybe it is because I’m at an international school. It is very different in India. It’s definitely more pedantic in India, although I was at an all-girls Catholic school. The teachers over here actually ask me questions and most of the teachers are more enthusiastic about the subject than the students are, which is the reverse in India.

What would you miss most about Denmark?
I would probably miss how easy it is to get everywhere, because I bike everywhere. And I could never do that in India because I’d have to rely on others to get me places. The level of independence is very refreshing – something I did not get in India. The easy way of getting to places here by bike will definitely be one of the things I miss when I leave.

Profession: Data analyst
Years in CPH: 1.5
Place you last lived: India
Nationality: Indian

What do you appreciate about Denmark that many Danes might take for granted?
I think the Danes are really honest and direct people. They are very confident and they don’t have a need to sugar-coat what they want to say. They express their opinions freely and that is really refreshing because you don’t have to peel through layers and layers. I think they take directness for granted and expect it from everyone. People from other parts of the world often have a hidden agenda, but with the Danes it’s all out in the open.

How is Denmark similar to the last country you lived in or your home country?
In a strange way one thing that links a country with a very high population density and a country with a low population is that people get together. On the one hand Indians get together because they have to, while the Danes get together because they seek out people and comfort. People want to spend time with you: to talk about things with you to find out more about you. There is a need for actual human connection, which has absolutely nothing to do with ulterior motives.

What unique Danish experience have you had?
I have never experienced a language like this, in which three quarters of the consonants are swallowed and the remaining part of the consonants become another word. I know a lot of other languages: the Indian languages and I can get by in German and a little of French. But I feel there is no language that has such a wide gap between its  written and spoken form.

What would you miss most about Denmark?
I will definitely miss the spirit of the people, the climate, in as much as it challenges me, and the general sense of orderliness without there being a perverse extreme that is completely rule-based.