My ♥ CPH: “Even though it seems big, the capital is still a very small town”

Catching up with Finnish designer Mari Keto, a resident of Copenhagen since 2003

Hailing from Helsinki, Mari Keto moved to Copenhagen 20 years ago. Even though she has been here a long time, she is terrified of bikes. “I cannot keep up with the Danes,” she laments. Originally a blacksmith, she is now an artist who works with sustainable materials, jewellery and Louis Vuitton handbags. Her signature piece is a miniaturised skeleton with butterfly wings. In 2008 she was the winner of the Art Icon of Denmark award. 

I settled in Denmark because … I fell in love with a Danish man. It was love at first sight. I was very settled in Finland. I never thought I would move anywhere else. I was really grounded. But when I saw him, there was nothing I could do.

If you ask me if it was love at first sight or not I would say … Yes of course it was. It felt like an endless holiday coming here. To start with, it was wonderful, but it was not so easy. It was not without complications. 

The difference between Finland and Denmark is … since they are close to each other you would think that they are similar, but they are culturally so different. I grew up in a forest where I had my space and not many people around me. They like to put their houses far away from one another. Here the houses are very close to one another. In Finland, people do not have fences and they do not talk to strangers. Funnily enough, we also have rye bread, but it’s dry and harder. 

My favourite thing about living in Copenhagen is … is the size of the city. Even though it seems big, it is still a very small town. Where I live, I have everything that I need. I have my shops, I know people on the street. Especially when I was living in Nørrebro and has a gallery there, the shopkeepers made my morning coffee every day. There is this community, even though it is a big city. That makes me feel like I am in a small town again, and it makes me feel at home. 

Here in Denmark/Copenhagen I never get used to… the cycling. I do not bike because I get so stressed. I need to try to keep up with the others. I am not conditioned to do that. I’d rather walk and spend time with my thoughts. I use public transportation.

Jeg kan tale… flydende. I can also write, although I’d rather somebody check it over. I am prone to making up my own words, which make total sense to me. But other people are like: what on Earth do you mean? 

On an integration scale of 1 to 10, I would say … I would want to say 10. But I think it is gonna be 9  because I have never embraced the ‘hygge’ thing. I don’t really go to dinner parties. I don’t invite anybody to my place. I like my privacy. This might sound weird, but I have had a Danish friend for 20 years and she has never visited my home. We have always met in cafes and in galleries.

I have equal Danish and international friends in my social circle because … I feel Danes are difficult to get to know or at least to have as friends because they already have their circles. So then it has to be the people who do not have their social circles already filled up. If they have lived all their lives here, they do not have much space anyways. So that is why internationals are many times easier to bond with because they probably just moved to the town or something. But the Danish friends I have, I do consider them as friends. 

I think the best way of making Danish friends is … through school or work or something. I have one really good Danish friend that I made. But I really had to work hard on that too. 

If I should recommend a visitor to Copenhagen then I would tell them … don’t waste their time going to see the Little Mermaid. Rather see some art exhibitions or workshops. 

If I could choose two food and drink venues they would be … Alchemist. I think their concept is wonderful. They have not only food, but it’s also nurturing the soul – there’s a lot of art in there. The whole experience is really interesting. And then, Ruby cocktail bar: I like the experience of secrecy as you climb a normal kind of staircase and enter what looks like an apartment. It’s wonderful. 

The best places to visit on a budget are … graveyards like Assistens Kirkegård. It’s interesting because you might not know all the famous people who have died in this country. But just visiting that graveyard gives you a feeling of the country Denmark is. There are people having picnics between the graves and there are people taking the sun with their tops off. It shows how Danes deal with life and death. It’s part of their life and it’s used as a park, not only as a graveyard.

The three words that I think best describe Copenhagen are … similar to what I would say about jazz. And for me, jazz is surprising, cosy and safe. But it’s more than that. Because it’s also modern and so old-fashioned. It’s diverse.