This post is targeted to quite a wide audience, starting with me and ending with anyone who would like to visit this tiny, humane and often forgotten place on earth.
I skip all the boring preliminary introduction to Denmark, which you can find amazingly explained here, to get straight to the point.
Copenhagen has been so far the place in which I lived the longest (after Italy) and which I call proudly home because it reflects in most of its aspects the way I want to live my life feeling fulfilled on a daily basis (Ok, the weather sucks, but I will get back to that).
Wow, such a news right? Well, more than often we take for granted all the opportunities and facilities that the administrative center of a country can offer.
Examples? Flight connections, embassies/consulates, infrastructure, tourism, job opportunities, events, multicultural, universities and so on..
For its size, it almost feels like being in a town rather than in the hub of the country. If we compare it to many of the other capitals worldwide it can probably fit as an area, just like Chelsea in London or Venice in Los Angeles.
The population accounts for only half a million people in the city, while just about two million in the whole metropolitan area.
But why does it feel so human size? I’d probably say because of cycling, its areas, and its buildings.
I remember when, while traveling, I was visiting bigger and “more important” cities and the overwhelming feeling of having everything so huge around me. Buildings, skyscrapers, shopping malls, fast foods, restaurant chains, big roads, big cars. The bigger the better. Consumerism for the ignorant at its peak, while here, just like it was decades ago in many parts of the world, most of the places have an identity. Artisan shops increase in number as well as bars and restaurants with proper ideals and focus on quality.
I have never been in such a place in which the customers’ feedbacks is so important and requested in order to improve, and not to die.
Oh yes! Probably the reason number one of why I love this city and why it makes it feel so small, cozy and healthy. You can literally reach any point of the city, no matter where you are, in 25 minutes (30 if it’s raining or snowing). According to the latest statistics, there are more bicycles entering the city than cars on a daily basis, more than 390km of designated bike lanes and super Highways to and from the outer areas. Of course thanks to these, and many other facts, it was nominated best bike-friendly city in the world.
At this point, you might be thinking “yeah, but what about Amsterdam?” , and I tell you “just try!”. The beauty stands in.. the Danish way! Cycling here is nice, cozy, green, stylish, composed, civilized. In a word: Hygge!
As clearly defined city areas as here are rare to find anywhere else. Few days are what you need to recognize it yourself, but when living here it’s more like a way to express your identity than just simply hanging out on one or another side of the city.
Østerbro is synonym of residential/family-friendly, Nørrebro of multicultural/underground, Vesterbro of trendy hipster, Inner City of tourism and shopping, Amager of island/beach and if we want to go more into details, Sydhavn of “new expensive shit”, Frederiksberg of residential top end locally defined as “this is not Copenhagen!”, Hellerup of rich kids, Nordvest of dangerous (now recovering) and so on.
It certainly is something more related to the whole country than the capital region only, but it’s worth to be mentioned.
I am not the right person to explain what digitization is all about, but as a personal experience, I find extremely useful, quick and easy the workflow built in the whole society thanks to, for example, the digital signature (NemID) that allows you one same login to do your banking, tax files, healthcare system and etc… As of 2017, Denmark ranks number 1 in the Digital Economy and Society Index.
To learn more about it, here are some links: Digital Strategy DK 2016-2020, Digitizing Denmark, Digital Economy in Europe.
Whether you agree with it or not, Europe is still the best place to live in the world under all of the aspects. History, arts, food, cultures, diversity (in everything), climate, easy access to anything etc..
Architecture & Design
Danish architecture is cool. Danish interior design even more. Period.
But on top of being cool, elegant and enjoyable to look at, is also sustainable, environmentally friendly and useful in practical ways to the everyday life of the citizens.
Bjarke Ingels is definitely the name everybody knows, but along with him, there are many others such as Henning Larsen, Arne Jacobsen, Jørne Utzon and C.F. Møller.
Visiting Copenhagen will please your eyes, but living here will please your heart.
Sounds like a contradiction since the most talked topic in the everyday life is “how shit is the weather today?!”, but I needed to include it, because (maybe I am insane) it is also a way to appreciate this amazing city.
It’s generally cold and windy year round, the summertime is as short as possible and the difference in light between winter and summer flips your mood like a coin, from being first depressed and in bed for 20 hours a day to joyful and cheerful with a neverending satiety of beer.
What I am trying to explain here is that since I moved to Copenhagen I truly started to appreciate every single moment of life. Whether it is watching a movie, baking sweets or just having a cup of tea inside when it’s cold, or staying outside as much as you can just to read a book at the park or to party until late because no matter what it’s always bright in the sunny season, living here made me think of how many basic things we take for granted in our everyday life, due to a stable/predictable climate. In a sentence: embrace the darkness and resuscitate from it.
Only in the metropolitan area, I can count at least ten parks to be considered as such. Mostly used during the summer months, they are literally everywhere. Some have castles, others are actually cemeteries, others have lakes and some others have proper football fields in it, and due to the weather, the correlation with their usage gets stronger the warmer it gets. In fact, if in the dark months they can be considered “green deserts” in the warm months they get filled up like a beach in the Italian seaside in August, making you think “where have all these people been all this time??!”.
It is not until the year 2010 that a large number of people started to reach Scandinavia, and Copenhagen in particular, as a culinary destination, thanks to the nomination as number one of theworlds50best by S. Pellegrino of the restaurant Noma.
If there is a name to mention, that helped to completely change the way people now see Scandinavia food wise, that name is René Redzepi. The transition from an unknown place on earth to a culinary destination has its roots in the so-called New Nordic Cuisine. This was first brought up in the early 2000s thanks to the collaboration of Claus Meyer, and the above mentioned René Redzepi, among many other food professionals of the Nordic region, to discuss how to best elaborate a cuisine that could reflect the region in terms of freshness, purity, seasonality, simplicity and sustainability.
Years passed, and what we now see is an interminable array of international cuisines blended with one another in order to satisfy the hunger for new and diverse that is of the Copenhageners.
It is now common to see new opening restaurants and breweries with a touch of New Nordic style, reflecting both on the food and the environment those values of freshness, purity, and simplicity that characterize this place that doesn’t accept compromises.
People trust each other and care about what’s around them. Many are the organizations and initiatives run by volunteers, and they just keep on growing year after year promoting a more conscious approach to what directly or indirectly affect us, citizens. However, reasons for this can be attributable to the climate (winter=get together), a strong social cohesion and the Danish way of “questioning everything”.
I could not talk about why I love Copenhagen so much and leave out the most important aspect of all, even though is more of a Danish way than strictly related to the capital.
However, I just want to get this straight: there is no exact translation to any language for the word Hygge and most of all it’s a feeling that you only learn to consider and appreciate while staying for a long time in Scandinavia and/or with Danes.
According to the Oxford Dictionary, it can be translated as “A quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being” and it even made it to the words of the year in 2016.
Coming from Italy, the first thoughts I gave to this word was basically “it’s a way of being lazy and wasting time” since I strictly related it to the moments of staying of home and to just survive the winter months, instead of really appreciating every moment that truly brightens your heart and makes you feel pleased.
In order to have a wider view of what makes Copenhagen such a tranquil and admirable place I definitely recommend to leave on the shelf the usual tourist books but instead read:
The year of living danishly;
How to hygge: the Nordic secrets to a happy life;
The book of hygge: the Danish art of contentment, comfort, and connection;
North: how to live Scandinavian;
The 500 hidden secrets of Copenhagen;
The Danish way of parenting;
Guide to new architecture in Copenhagen.