The nostalgia I have for Copenhagen is constant. I fell in love with the city, with my bike, and with 4 a.m. shawarma.
I miss looking out of my window and seeing the crimson and olive houses set against a scarlet colored sunset, and listening to the rhythmic creaking of bike chains rattling against their rusted metal skeleton. I began to take for granted the lack of open container laws, and miss walking around with a Carslberg beer in one hand, and a “fancy” hotdog in the other.
Its been a little over a year since I left Copenhagen, and looking back on my experience, I’ve come to realize just how much Copenhagen changed me, at least for the time that I was there. Needless to say, I miss every part of it.
Assimilating to the Danish lifestyle is inevitable; here are 14 habits you’ll probably pick up while living in Copenhagen.
1. You’ll wear black tights and sneakers almost every day of the week
The Danes are fashionable. Very fashionable. They’ve nailed both style and comfort at the same time, and I’m not talking about glittery sweatpants. A lot of the Danes wear tights with sneakers, either casually or out at the bars. They make it work and make it look good. The color of the sneaker doesn’t matter, either. It can be black, or turquoise with pink rims; you’ll see both.
You’ll suddenly start to notice that you’re wearing black tights and sneakers, too. This combo is comfy, fashionable, and can be worn anywhere, any time of the year. This is one of the first habits you’ll pick up living in Copenhagen.
2. You’ll become an Olympic level biker
You’ll bike everywhere. You’ll master the art of holding 4 bags of groceries and biking. You’ll even master the art of lighting a cigarette while biking.
You won’t ride in a car for months. You’ll start to believe that cars are inefficient, and that biking is the way to go.
You need to be somewhere that’s 12 miles away? You could do that in your sleep.
Most of the Danish population bikes to school, work, and everywhere in between. If you’re in Copenhagen, you must rent a bike: it’s convenient, effective, and cheap.
After you get the hang of it, however, you’ll start to notice you may have the same annoyances you have when driving a car.
You’ll also start to learn the rules of the road, for example, slow bikers on the right, fast bikers on the left. No one wears helmets, and you have to walk your bike across the street when you’re going in certain directions.
You won’t even notice you’re following these rules. It’ll become so much of a habit, that you might even start dreaming about it.
3. You’ll use a fork and knife to eat your burgers
After a while, you may not even notice yourself surgically cutting your burger with a knife and picking up the pieces with your fork.
When you first started doing it, you were concerned that the delicious burger might not taste as good if you’re not shoving it into your mouth with your hands and letting the grease drip down your face. Finally, you’ve realized this is not so.
Eventually, using your hands becomes an unacceptable, barbaric way to consume a burger. Who does that, anyway?
4. You won’t think twice about biking in a full blown snowstorm
Biking in a snow storm? No problem.
The only thing you’ll be concerned about walking out of your door, into the blizzard, will be if your coffee will still be warm by the time you get to school.
You’ll master the art of biking on a few inches of snow and knowing exactly when to push the breaks incase you slide a few inches forward on ice. You’ll also master covering every part of your body except your eyes for maximal warmth when biking. You’ll barely spill any of your open coffee cup on your morning commute over bumpy roads and piles of snow.
This habit comes quite in handy during the long winter days and months.
5. You’ll start to like black licorice
It’s everywhere. The Danes love their licorice. The first time you tried it, you may have been disgusted and spit it out on the floor. How could anyone enjoy this? I’m sticking to red, thank you very much.
After a few tastes, you’ll come to love the bitterness, and even ask for the licorice shots when you’re at the bar. You’ll come to realize that you may be eating it too much, and wonder if you’ll suddenly develop an aversion to this interesting candy from eating it every day.
6. 4 a.m. shawarma becomes a ritual
You’ll leave the bars with your stomach grumbling, and make your way to one of the many late night shawarma shops in Copenhagen.
You’ll make love to the greasy lamb, white sauce, and pita bread stuffed with things brought down from heaven every time you go out. Maybe it’s the reason you’ll even go out.
7. You’ll wear black all day, every day
Colors? On clothes? Never. As I said above, the Danes are fashionable. Black is a part of their wardrobe, and you’ll start to notice that your clothes have shifted to mostly black. Even your underwear. Wearing black will become so much of a habit, that your friends from back home may get concerned, especially if you used to wear a lot of color.
You’ll start to praise black, and comment on how it goes with everything. You can wear black to any event, and can wear black in any type of weather.
You’ll start to believe that colors were only meant to be in nature, and black was meant to be worn.
8. You’ll keep to yourself more
Danes keep to themselves a lot. They’re private people, and would never try and pry you for information or try to get into your private life.
You may find yourself doing just that- keeping to yourself. While you’re on the metro, biking, or out in public, you may find yourself wanting to only keep to yourself. It’s quite a relief, actually, not having to worry about walking down the street and being approached by someone you don’t want to talk to.
9. You’ll find yourself shouting “skål!” when others shout “cheers!”
The Danish word for cheers is skål (it almost sounds like “skull”). It’s a fun word that I still shout to this day. You may find yourself shouting this all the time, even if you’re somewhere where no one speaks Danish. Who cares, though.
10. You’ll eat half of your week’s calories in pastries
Danish pastries are fresh, cheap, and delicious. You’ll find yourself at Sankt Peders Bageri every single morning, purchasing your daily pastry from the oldest bakery in Copenhagen.
The warm, doughy goodness makes your tastebuds tingle whenever you take your first bite. It may be cinnamon, chocolate, or vanilla, but whichever flavor pastry you choose, you’ll be lost in the aroma and taste for days.
11. You’ll start to drink beer all day, every day
Since there’s no open container law, you’ll find yourself drinking a beer on your way to the bars, drinking a beer on the way to dinner, and just drinking a beer to drink a beer. You know how to drink (now) and can hold your liquor.
You’ll start hanging out at the Studenterhuset around mid-afternoon, which is where a lot of the young Danes tend to relax. There are beer specials for students too, which you take advantage of.
12. You’ll become more punctual
Noon means noon. Not 11:59. Not 12:01. The Danes are punctual, and when they say a time, they mean it. You’ll start to realize you’re on time for everything; not a minute early or a minute late.
You’ll take pride in the fact that you’ve become more punctual. Maybe this will get carried over to your home country. Maybe it’ll even help you get a job.
13. “Hygge” will become a part of your winter
Hygge is a word that doesn’t have a direct translation, but it means coziness, warmth, and friendship. You’ll find yourself lighting candles, grabbing blankets, and hanging out with your friends in the wintertime as you wait for the long nights to end.
14. You’ll start to prefer a smørrebrød over a regular sandwich
The smørrebrød, or, the open faced sandwich, has finally found its way into your life. There are so many different toppings and sauces to choose from, you wonder how you survived off of the standard cheese and turkey sandwich for so many years.
You’ll start exploring new smørrebrød options, even the egg and shrimp one, which you’ll soon fall in love with. You’ll promise yourself that you’re going to ditch that extra piece of bread and stay true to the smørrebrød forever.
Copenhagen, I will be back for you one day! Until then, I will hold on to these small changes you’ve instilled in me.
If you’re visiting Copenhagen and looking to do something a bit differently, check out my posts: 10 Non-Touristy Things to do in Copenhagen and 10 Non-Touristy Things to do in Copenhagen (Part II)! And for those of you on a budget, be sure to check out my other post Copenhagen on a Budget: the Free and the Cheap, for even more things to do around Copenhagen.
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