Denmark: Hunting Trolls and Happiness

A little while ago I wrote a piece asking why you might want to live in Denmark, which more or less lauded the place - my new home - taking into account a spectrum of criteria, from important things like crime, safety and tolerance levels, to questionably less vital things like the fact there's a restaurant in Copenhagen called Munter.

A little while ago I wrote a piece asking why you might want to live in Denmark, which more or less lauded the place - my new home - taking into account a spectrum of criteria, from important things like crime, safety and tolerance levels, to questionably less vital things like the fact there's a restaurant in Copenhagen called Munter.

Tolerance makes me happy, as does a restaurant whose name in English urban vernacular roughly translates to 'a proper ugly person', and it's all here in Denmark. Banded together with all the novelties of living in a new country, overall, you could say I'm pretty happy, which is what I hope the article reflected. And from the overwhelmingly positive feedback, I'm sure it did.

But it ain't no party without Cynical Susans and Naysaying Nigels, who arrive empty handed and bursting at the bladders to take a big, hot piss on the parade.

The article was called "naïve", and the country I'd chosen to move to slated as a number of things, from "depressing", "a disappointment", having "the worst winters ever" and even "less good than the Netherlands" (is that some sort of continental joke? Because, if so, it was lost on me).

Scandinavia is the land of the troll, lest we forget, and, although I'm reassured they live far away from human habitation, clearly they can access our Wi-Fi.

One thing I did - and still do - praise about life here is the over-arching sense that everyone is entitled to think and do and say as they please, so long as nobody is adversely affected. And in the spirit of this, I welcome all these opinions. I am here to learn, to share experiences and devour all the wisdom that those more experienced than I am are willing to share. So thank you. Plus, you can't win them all.

Then I thought, "why can't I win them all?" And wouldn't it be loads and loads of fun to write a follow-up highlighting why Denmark is such a bloody miserable place to live, neglecting to acknowledge altogether it's well-trodden footprint on the podium of world happiness? I mean, who gives a shit what the UN says anyway, am I right?

So here is a breakdown of the things I've learned in the short time that I've been here that make me believe that moving Denmark was a very silly choice indeed:

The Weather

Us Brits are WORLD FAMOUS for our uncanny ability to discuss the weather at frightening length, so it should come as no surprise that this comes top of my list. No, and fuck me the weather here is wretched.

It's only mid-November and I'm just picturing the impending months of icy wind, driving rain and days and days when you see daylight only for a few hours and only from the windows of your office. Horrible. No wonder Christmas was invented. And Tivoli, I'm sure that takes the edge off too, slightly.

Each morning I frown out the window for a couple of long minutes before sitting on the side of my bed, leaning forward and kicking myself as hard as I can for not moving somewhere with better weather, like, maybe, Sudan.

Don't even waste your time with an umbrella when it's raining, because mostly the wind will just blow it inside out and you'll be left carrying a sad, stainless steel skeleton with a drippy bit of nylon clinging to it.

Why is England reviled as being wet and miserable? Plainly not enough people from around the world have visited Denmark. Maybe the UK tourist board should develop a campaign along the lines of "Britain: Less Drizzle than Denmark", or maybe "DANSKE IS DANKER".

Take the Little Mermaid, for example. Where does she look happiest?

A) Miserable in the Danish mist, wishing she wasn't welded to a rock so she could swim and chill with Sebastian, Flounder and Eric.


B) Lolling about in French West Indies?

But bad weather is really just a bit of excess water and a little absence of heat, isn't it? I mean, look at Santa Claus. He endures lows of below 30 degrees and yet remains unwaveringly jolly.

The Boredom

"Nothing happens in Denmark" is something I heard more than one time and from more than one reliable source. But being pig-headed I refused to believe it, and now I'm living here, sitting alone, picking my nose and flicking whatever treasures I find into the gaping vacuum that surrounds me.

No art

Definitely no festivals

There is literally not one thing to do here. And when you're bored of doing nothing, there is not one single globally exported BAFTA award-winning TV show to watch on television.

I've heard "it's boring" here so many times that, frankly, I'm bored of hearing it.

And boredom is for boring people. Y'all know that.

Expats Hate It Here

It was recently pointed out to me that expats are having such a savage time in Denmark and struggling to make any friends, that the Government funds a website"specifically to create diversions (singles nights, English book clubs, flat landscape appreciation societies) to make living here more bearable" and presumably to stop non-natives making a big old mess at the base of the country's beautiful, steepled buildings.

Don't most countries that attract large swathes of foreign nationals have some sort of interweb-based facility in place to help people adjust, assimilate... survive. I'm fairly sure they do.

Cycle Culture

Bikes are rubbish.

If I had a car instead of a bike, then maybe my ride wouldn't have been stolen a few weeks ago outside a concert I definitely didn't go to. Maybe the one I had shipped over from London and really quite like wouldn't have had its back tyre kicked in just this weekend, if it were a car.

If my bike were a car, my hands and face wouldn't freeze to the point that they are temporarily unresponsive each time I step inside from the aforementioned cold and rain.

Can you tell I'm angry about having not one, but two, bikes essentially written off in just five weeks? Because I'm fucking fuming. Denmark should abolish cycling. Cars for everyone.

In fact, I've spent a cool £550 (approx. 5,500 DKK) on replacing the stolen bike, transporting another from England and having it repaired twice. Christmas is cancelled.


Some people hate conformity; others love it. People here actually stop at red lights. I love cycling through red lights and crossing when the little red man says 'no', raising a sly middle finger as I do.

And lots of people wear only black.

I mean, a place where people dress similarly and obey safety infrastructure sounds positively dire to me.

Despite Denmark's fourth largest island being called Lolland, I'm sure endless bad shit goes on here. I was so happy about beer loyalty cards, but what's the use when booze here is so expensive? And I'm contractually obliged to work fewer hours here than I was in my old job, which sounds good, but actually means more time sitting alone in the cold, dark void outside, doing nothing.

Do I believe Denmark is the happiest place? How the fuck should I know? Probably not. I've been here only six weeks. I couldn't even order a large plate of happiness if it were on the menu at Munter. Happiness is an emotional state; it is contextual and subjective - a mostly intangible product of our own circumstances, behaviour and beliefs. Plus But on the subject of menus, all I can say, nay reiterate, as I've said it before: there's no Nando's here and I don't know how a country without Nando's can even be satisfied, let alone happy.

But moaning and groaning and joking aside, in my humble - and yes, perhaps naïve, inexperienced opinion - Denmark is a not a bad place to look if happiness is what you're after, and an even better place to get your bike trashed or stolen.

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