One of the most common questions I’m asked when I meet someone is, “Why Copenhagen?” Why did I pack up my life and transplant myself somewhere so far from my previous Pacific Northwest existence?
It’s easy, in a place like Copenhagen, to throw out statistics because much of what you’ve heard is true. It’s rightfully an internationally acclaimed city with beautiful streets, easy accessibility, design industry icons, and world-renowned food. Indeed, the lure of Denmark’s crowned jewel is effortless. So while the decision to take the trans-Atlantic trek was a difficult one, I was made comfortable by the promise of a real utopia.
Yet, as is the case in any city, even Copenhagen has its faults—albeit fewer and further between.
When I moved, I decided to do so at the precipice of winter. Of a Danish winter. Being from Vancouver, our winters are atypical of Canadian stereotypes. It’s cold, sure, but not enough so to necessitate retreating underground like in Montreal, or to don a balaclava while walking the streets like my best friend does in Toronto. In actuality, Vancouver is rather mild. So to no surprise, I was unprepared for biking around in the wind, rain, hail, and snow. It’s a completely different experience than what most people see of publicized summer riders, and let me tell you, it’s awful.
As a collective, the Danes are a polite and kind bunch but don’t be misguided, they still play it rather close to the chest. Where it might be a common occurrence elsewhere in the world to strike up a conversation with a stranger, here the general response is one of apprehension. It isn’t the language barrier, no. Thanks to the rather impressive public schooling system, nearly everyone speaks impeccable English; it’s generally just the way it is.
As a freelancer, most days I waste away my time in cafés, wandering galleries, and simply sauntering about. Of the things about which I was most excited when moving was that this city is easy fodder for beautiful, clean, and well-designed spaces. While I’ll always appreciate an attractive café, shop, or dwelling, seeing the same hyggelige concept (the native idea of “coziness”) day in and day out does sometimes make it difficult to differentiate one place from another.
I say all of this though, not to be disheartening or slandering. There is no time that I’m hit harder with the reality that I live in a truly beautiful city than when I’m biking around it. One of my favorite views is the one seen when riding across Dronning Louises Bro. It’s one I doubt that I’ll tire of anytime soon. And having ridden in frigid conditions only makes me feel like I’ve earned my merit badge.
Soliciting conversation from strangers may not be the best strategy here but meeting people through shared interests is. Other writers, photographers, creatives, and the coffee and food obsessed—the friendships I’ve made feel substantial even in their early stages. As for the Danes that know I’m in the process of learning their difficult language, their enthusiasm and appreciation for my efforts is both endearing and encouraging.
And though sometimes I grow weary of that all-too-cozy café look, on any one of the many grey days we have, I’m reminded of how nice it is to retreat into. Nestling around a votive-lit table with friends in that lesser Instagrammed café or the local bodega feels like being in on a secret—one that bolsters the feeling of truly discovering this city and its inhabitants.
It’s really that all of these perfectly imperfect notions have made me appreciate this city in a rather unexpected way.