The fourth in a new series of light-hearted columns about life as a foreigner living in the Danish capital.
Written for Euromech by Simon Cooper
It’s verging on midnight and I’m sitting in the arrivals area of Milan Malpensa airport, my flight in from Copenhagen having just swooped down onto the runway at the end of a descent as rocky as Silvio Berlusconi’s conscience.
Turbulence wasn’t just an outer-cabin ordeal, however; the Italians on board provided a pantomime, proving to be everything the Danes are not – outspoken, animated and downright emotional in public. A lady behind me was in tears; some young guys across the aisle were heralding their iPads like chimp archaeologists might do an excavated banana. All this whilst the Frenchman next to me peered around looking smug, as though he was the architect of the whole tragicomedy.
They say you can’t really truly judge a place or culture until you detached yourself from it in some way. Well, leaving Copenhagen is no exception. I also find it plain weird, especially after a two year stay. Naturally, any two foreign places have their differences, but jetting out of Denmark digs up
a certain feeling. It’s like I’ve had my soothing, Scandinavian social benefit-lined straightjacket unfastened and been let out for a stroll into the garden of the real world.
Gone is the governmental grip, the safe serenity and measured modesty. Now, in the stiletto-shaped land of the Latin, I’m met with vitality, urgency, positive and negative tension and a soap opera of characters crafted by centuries of art, theatrics and mismanagement.
I also spent time in Berlin, London, Vilnius, Krakow and Oslo (OK, Oslo doesn’t really count) last year, and in all of these culturally different cities I’ve experienced a similar pang of excitement, and a reminder that navigating a city’s streets ‘aint no picnic after all. Far from the aforementioned places being criminal hotspots, it’s just that I’ve needed to keep my wits about me; to be open to the highs and lows.
As anyone who has visited Copenhagen for any amount of time should be able to testify, the rosy reality of life in ‘The Happiest Country in the World’ can quickly and effortlessly take a hold of you, rather like some agreeable anaesthetic. Although, as a resident myself, I find the reverse also true: to head abroad is to see the sedative wear off.
And whilst that means the odd exercise in exercising caution, it also means I exit Denmark with a renewed, fresh perspective. Even if I’m looking forward to my return flight – and a lower level of melodrama at thirty thousand feet.
Born in London in 1984, raised in the English countryside and a graduate of journalism, Simon Cooper moved to Copenhagen in October 2009 where he has worked as an English language teacher, technical writer and freelance journalist – as well as barman and (very) occasional removals driver. “Learning Danish has been proving fascinating but difficult, and I’ve developed a penchant for sausages and the saltiest liquorice I can get my hands on. Then there’s the beer,” Simon laughs. He writes about food, culture and travel and has had articles published in English language newspaper The Copenhagen Post, in-flight magazine Baltic Outlook and American magazine Nordic Reach, among others.
The fifth instalment of the Living in Copenhagen Diary will appear on Euromech next week