What’s wonderful about Copenhagen? Chris…

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November 8, 2013 by Matt

For the latest instalment of my CPH questionnaire for other expats, here’s Chris, a true gent who I have the pleasure of sitting next to at work, and writing the occasional piece for his excellent music blog, Scratchy Stylus. Over to you Chris…


Chris Lee and his girlfriend TrineI am…  a creative at an ad agency in the centre of Copenhagen – and one of Matt’s colleagues.

And I moved here in… (cue Prince) 1999. It was the middle of winter and I’d been living in Barcelona for six years. I had a suitcase of shorts and T-shirts: not a single sweater or coat. And the flat I moved into was under renovation: no heating, no hot water and ill-fitting windows. There were, however, plenty of warm and cosy bars in the neighbourhood – and plenty of good company.


Because… you know, I’d love to say that I wanted first-hand experience of the Scandinavian Socialist Model, or that I was on a pilgrimage to Kirkegaard’s homeland, but I guess I have to come clean. Like almost every other non-Danish dude I’ve met here, a Danish girl brought me to Copenhagen. And when she was ready to start a family, there was no way she was going to miss out on the benefits of bringing up a family in Denmark. Scandinavian countries are in a class of their own when it comes to supporting young families: Danish women can have a family and a career. And the guys live with happy, interesting women – who know how to knock back a drink or two.


Best thing about living here is… the people I’ve met: down-to-earth, creative and with a cracking sense of humour.


If you move here, you should… definitely try to learn Danish, especially if you like endurance sports. As languages go, it’s mental. I can still remember the first time I opened a textbook. Some of the words on the page looked familiar, even though there were a couple of comedy letters I’d never seen before. I thought, this is going to be a doddle. Then I played the ‘listen and repeat’ CD for that page. Jeez. Was it the wrong CD? Or was I having some kind of aural seizure? I flicked through the book, frantic to find something that matched the noise of this poor guy who sounded like he was choking on a raw potato. It was the right page. The right CD. Learning Danish is one of the toughest – and most satisfying – things I’ve ever done.


Living here is different because…  Maslow’s triangle is upside-down. People worry more about self-actualisation than putting bread on the table. If you come from an individualist society like the US or the UK, you might be baffled by the way they seem to be able to connect hyper-individualism and socialist collectivism in a circle: a strong collective organisation nurtures the potential of individuals, which then go on to express their individuality by making a life-long contribution to the collective. It’s a bit like supporting a successful football club – when you’re in the pub, everyone knows the songs and sings along.


And if I moved away, I’d miss… Well, everything. My life is here: kids, girlfriend, friends, bikes… it’s my home. I love the long summer evenings when the sun just dips below the horizon for a couple of hours, and the ‘hygge’ of long, dark winters spent indoors in good company with music, candlelight and over-indulgence.


If you’re just visiting, make sure you… soak up the atmosphere, notice the lack of homeless, destitute people, and see if you can get a feel for what makes this place special – and Danes the (allegedly) happiest people on earth.


In three words, Copenhagen is… sane, civilised… home.

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