Those who know me ( but who else would be reading this?) know I go to Copenhagen A LOT. In fact, a lot more than even the biggest fan of Copenhagen should. The all too frequent trek to CPH, as my collegues like to call it, is part of my job. An unavoidable part of my job, I should say, for I take little to no pleasure in these trips. It is, by no means, the fault of the city, which is, overall, quite nice, peaceful in comparison with Paris, and oh sooo clean. But business travel and leisure travel are as night and day, and while I love the latter I’ve grown to dread the former.
The typical trip is as follows: wake up –> go to work: work a long full day –> leave work for the airport: do last minute work AT the airport –> fly in fear for your life –> land at close to midnight –> taxi to hotel –> get to the hotel where everyone on staff knows you by name–> reach your room: home away from home –> fall into comatose sleep\endure sleeplessness due to excess adrenaline–> wake up at 7:15 and go to work in the CPH office–> back to CPH airport (another home away from home) –> fly in yet more fear for your life—> reach home exhausted, close to midnight –> fall asleep like a log\suffer insomnia due to exhaustion–> wake up at the usual time and go to work again.
Of course, there is the alternative of catching the morning 6:10 flight to CPH and getting back to Paris at 11 pm, but, frankly, getting up at the crack of dawn or before is not my idea of fun. Nor is an 18 hour work-day.
So, for those who envy my living in Paris…think again! I only live in Paris part time, really.
So what about Copenhagen? Well, other than from cab to or from the airport, I have only seen the city once, in my very first months on the job, when I stayed on for the week-end.
It’s a nice city, probably very liveable. The central area is rather small, the main shooping street pretty, the famous Nyhavn canal beautiful but really tiny.
To be honest, Copenhagen feels a little provincial – this is not a metropolis: the current population stands at about 500,000 inhabitants. Everything is orderly and feels relaxed, not necessarily happy, but satisfied.
The one thing that stands out is the Danes’ passion for design: there are lots of little furniture design shops all over town. The Danish design style is simple, streamlined, progressive yet safe. Difficult to explain, really.
Denmark, in general, like all the Sandinavian peninsula, favours minimalism: apartments are sparsely furnished, restaurants have long communal tables, locals bike everywhere using the dedicated bike lanes that you will find on every single street, complete with stop signs and, apparently, subject to ‘biking rules’. I don’t know what the rules are, but they work.
Every morning from my cab I am privy to the most orderly biking system in the universe, I am certain. You can see whole families together merily biking away on their way to work/school…politely waiting for the bikes’ green light.
It often rains in Copenhagen so while few wear a helmet, they often wear some sort of rainproof coat.
The Danes are the descendants of the Vikings, those same Vikings that conqued Northern Europe and, reportedly, sailed across the Atlantic all the way to Canada. The culture in modern Denmark reflects, to a certain extent, their ancestral spartan ways. The Danes are raised in a culture that praises kinship, coorperation and equality, in a very fundamental way. Everyone is equal, in a minimalist, modest fashion. No-one can be better than anyone else. The Janteloven (Jante Law) rules all social behaviour, and society and culture draw roots from this pattern of tribal behaviour which negatively views individual success and achievement, deeming it unseemly and inappropriate. It’s almost the antithesis of the USA. In Denmark the school system runs eminently without punishment or reward, and there is no such thing as marks/grades. Later in life, at work, the company structure is flat and the salary discpepancy between the highest and lowest in the food chain rather small. People pay high taxes, more than 50% of salary in many cases. Social benefits are good, frankly, so good as only the Danish would still go to work. The answer to praise is not ‘thank you’ but ‘it is nothing’.
Consequently, Copenhagen is the capital of a uniform nation of happy equal souls perfectly content with their lot in life. At least in theory. In practice, I don’t know, as I have not apprached the subject with any of my Danish colleagues – probably not the thing to do. However, may I mention that the Danish invariably top the list of ‘most happy nations’, so, at least for the majority, Denmark is a happy happy place.
As for me…I wish it were sunnier. And that I saw it less frequenly.
….Food for thought: look up the 10 rules of Jante.