It's been one month since I moved to Copenhagen, and last week following a piece I wrote about leaving London behind, I received a message from an unknown reader asking why I'd chosen the City of Spires as my new home.
Clearly she doesn't read Monocle, guffaw. Wait, I don't read Monocle either. Does anyone read Monocle? Don't people just drape it nonchalantly over coffee tables? IDK.
The publication voted Copenhagen the world's most liveable city two years on the trot in its 2013 and 2014 Quality of Life Surveys. You can see the films here.
Anyway, it wasn't the reason I moved here, but it gave me a good enough reference when I was fumbling to satisfy people's curiosity, not to mention quantifiable reassurance that moving to the relative unknown would ALL BE OK.
It's a good question and she certainly wasn't the first person to ask it. Many of my friends and ex-colleagues discussed it too: for those who had visited before, it was an obvious good choice; for others, Denmark was an odd one - a small country known for little more than low temperatures, high taxes, short days and long, unpronounceable words. Positively utopian.
Oh, and the Little Mermaid is a pretty big deal, given her diminutive stature, as are the pastries. Noma is supposed to be good too (I've not been but I'm receptive to invitations) and there's lots of swine-derived produce (fuck the WHO). All are great in their own right, but good enough reasons to haul ass away from my friends and family in London and endure all of the above? Probably not. So what else is there?
First and foremost, there was the offer of a job that seemed in equal parts stimulating, challenging and enjoyable. Very important. Tick.
But outside of work, with varying degrees of importance and in no particular order, these are the things that stand out the proudest as reasons to believe moving to Copenhagen was a good decision:
What did you do on Sunday afternoon? I cycled around the entire inner city. No Lycra and no gears even. The city is so small, flat and well planned that you can do this at a leisurely pace in about two hours, ticking off sights like the Little Mermaid, the Lakes, Strøget and Nyhavn while still having time to see the bottom of a couple of glasses of Mikkeller.
It almost takes longer to unlock and lock my bike and fix and remove the lights each end of the commute than the commute itself (approx. four minutes).
Copenhagen is navigable and manageable, with roads, landmarks and local businesses you can get to know very quickly, because when you're riding on the wrong (right) side of the road in a city as architecturally stunning as this, you really pay attention to your surroundings. It is a city designed for human interaction, to be used and enjoyed. Wandering or wheeling around you can kind of of imagine the city's planners of yore taking William Morris' famous line as their core thought:
Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.
But replace 'house' with 'city', obviously.
Do you like to eat?
Then you will like Copenhagen.
Food-wise, it's all going on here and not in a wanky - pop-up, no-reservation, angina-baiting burgers crafted with rehydrated breakfast cereal and deep fried frozen pizza buns, douched through your screaming innards with cocktails served from vintage light bulbs - sort of way, or dining concepts built around the real last requests of death row inmates. Remember? I don't think that happens here.
I'm all for innovation and eccentricity, but there's a slender line between offering a novel experience and serving shit straight from the hype machine.
No, the Danes are a gracious lot and I get the impression they know a gimmick when they see one, especially if it's put in front of them literally on a plate. Whereas in London the places that seem to garner the most attention are the ones you'd go to, check in on Facebook, take some #foodporn snaps for Instagram, enjoy it, talk about it a little and never, ever go back to, here are the kinds of eateries you could return to over and over without feeling like you'd 'done it'.
To reiterate, I've been here one month, so this is mostly unfounded speculation. But you pay good money to eat out in Copenhagen, so, rightfully, one would rather not be mugged off.
Drawback of note: THERE IS NO NANDO'S IN ALL OF SCANDINAVIA.
"Brit Abroad Does 1,500 Mile Round Trip for Cheekiest Nando's Ever"
I don't want to be that guy. So if someone wants to mail me a case of Extra Hot PERi-PERi Sauce, in return I'll send you all the liquorice you don't really like but you eat it anyway because that's all that's left in the packet and it is in every goddamn packet of sweets. Chuck a couple of bags of Sour Patch Kids in that case too, would you?
The crime rate in Denmark is low - lower than that of Saudi Arabia, even - with the conspicuous upside being that, in Denmark, people aren't governed through a chauvinist, doctrinaire system of tyrannical absolutism, or mutilated in public by way of example or deterrent. Quite the opposite.
And London is by no means Juarez, but bad stuff goes on, and whether you're plugged into the airwaves or not, somehow you're always made aware of it. This summer, within 300m of where I used to live, someone was stabbed nearly to death with a pair of scissors. Less than 24 hours later, before the crimson plashes of dried blood had even been power-washed off the pavement opposite, I watched a drunk middle aged man - without warning or explanation - have his skull broken into with a Kryptonite bike lock.
Nuff said really*
*Although on my eighth day in Copenhagen, in what can only be described as a prototypical example of 'wrong place at the wrong time' (Christiania, midnight, October 16th) I was indirectly tear gassed and had a bike stolen that didn't belong to me, all in the space of a few hours - my quota filled, hopefully, for the year at least.
On the subject of feeling safe, Demark is - from what I can glean - a super tolerant place, fierce almost in its liberalism. It was the first country in the world to legalise same sex unions on October 1st 1989 and an open-minded, 'à chacun son goût' attitude seems to prevail among its people.
I don't know about you, but these three factoids alone spell the kind of place I would quite like to live.
Language tuition for foreign nationals is free - five hours a week for up to three three years. Anyone who knows me knows that this is exactly the sort of shit I go for. University here is also free, and not just for Danish nationals.
Whoa whoa whoa. Edit edit edit...
*Opens Student Loan statement*
Drawback of note: Bye bye Monday and Wednesday evenings.
Drawback of note #2: Danish is a very difficult language. Try some pronunciation for yourself.
Drawback of note #3: Everyone speaks insanely good English.
Advantage of note: Everyone speaks insanely good English.
Then there are the little things that keep me feeling like I made a good choice.
Beer loyalty cards:
It's important to remember this is not bingo and you win nothing by completing one in a single evening.
Place names like this::
Tourists from the States love this, but I've yet to try Skank.
One for the Brits - I know my father would have enjoyed this.
Bloody Marys that look like this:
I take back everything I said about culinary gimmicks.
Wifi passwords like this:
Google some, have a listen and leave your comments below :)
Office breakfasts like this:
Being new, it's polite to try one of everything.
While writing this, I've been invited to some bars this Friday to celebrate J-Day, or Julebrug, which means Christmas brew. It's the first Friday of November when bars around the city serve free Christmas beer given by the local brewing powerhouses, Tuborg and Carlsberg. Free beer.
So, aside from leaving family, friends and Nandos, why wouldn't you want to live in Denmark?