How are you liking Denmark?

..is one of the question I got the most recently. It has almost been 1.5 years since I moved to Denmark. It has been a ride and a lot of learning, especially on why Copenhagen is so good.

#1 in EIU’s Global Liveability Ranking 2022
#1 in EIU’s Safe Cities Index 2021
#1 in Monocle’s Quality of Life Survey 2021 and 2022
#1 in EasyPark’s Smart City Mobility Index 2022 for mobility innovation of cities with population between 600k-3m people
#8 in Mercer’s Quality of Living Ranking 2019
#3 in Deutsche Bank’s Liveability Survey 2019
#4 in highest personal income taxes in the world

It boils down to 3 key factors, mobility, safety, and people.

Mobility

Bike bridge

Dedicated bike lanes in most of the city, not a lot of smoke, respectful drivers, AND functioning public transport system with good metros, buses, and trains? Sign me up anytime. Copenhagen’s one of the easiest place to navigate in the world!

I used to live in Jakarta and it was practically impossible to go around the city comfortably without a car. That meant traffic jam was inevitable as the roads are filled with too many cars.

The primary method of transport for most people in Copenhagen is bikes, and it has two fold benefits. First, getting to where you need to be quickly. Second, biking helps improve your mood and health, except when you bike in the rain, snow, or heavy heavy wind.. so roughly 30-40% of the year, but STILL! I love going to work on my bike as it usually kicks me off on a productive day.

Safety

No matter how late I am out and about or which area, there has been no instance of me being scared of getting robbed or murdered. Copenhagen’s position as the safest city in Europe is well-deserved! The only crime you would need to worry about is bike theft.

Based on my experience in other major cities in Europe, and a key difference is that the drunk people in Copenhagen are much less violent. I have had my fair share of encounters with drunk people, but never have I met drunk strangers that tried a pick a fight or shouted at me here. The few that stroke up conversation was more on “where did you come from and do you enjoy Copenhagen”, which, well, they just cheered when I said “yeah I enjoy Copenhagen”, and went on their merry way. And we’re talking post soccer game drunk and New Years party drunk here!

Another key reason why Copenhagen is so safe is because of the social support structure that is enabled by the high taxes everyone pays. There is a good social structure that if someone lost their job or got sick, they won’t instantly go bankrupt. When people do crime, it is usually driven from economic issues and is not because someone is inherently bad.

Denmark also has a narrower wealth gap than other countries also means that people are less jealous of each other. I once passed by the Prime Minister’s house in Hareskov, and it amazed me how it was not a gigantic mansion but a humble residential house on the country side. That was so much in contrast to people’s houses in Indonesia!

People

Maersk Pride Parade post-parade

My German friend once said “the shop attendants are too friendly and it makes me uncomfortable”. That sums up my experience with most people in Copenhagen. People are respectful towards each other and open to new viewpoints.

A lot of foreigners who work here say that people are unfriendly and are not open to making friends, but I digress. It is hard to make friends ANYWHERE and Copenhagen is no different. To make friends in Denmark, you need to first realize 2 things:

  1. A lot of Danes are in the same social circle since they were in elementary school
  2. Everyone only has a limited capacity to maintain close friendships, including you

That means you will need to find people that still have capacity to maintain friendships. Often, expats still have more capacity as they have a blank slate in the country, but as Copenhagen has much lesser expats compared to other cities like Amsterdam, it will make it feel harder to make friends.

If you ask me? It’s a lot of effort and luck. I got lucky and made a few friends that made my life here not lonely.

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