Future Landscapes
Design, Visualization & Photography

Copenhagen +|-

The happiest nation on earth: is it too good to be true? Spoiler: yes. An architecture student’s experiences with those crazy Danishes in Copenhagen while studying at the Kunstakademiets Arkitektskole.

Shout out to people who came here because they googled 'Denmark Sucks'

Only 18 days in and already kind of tired of it.

Only 18 days in and already kind of tired of it.

Google knows it. You know it. I know it. So why does the whole goddamned world think the sun shines out of Denmark's ass? Let's debunk some common misconceptions about life in Denmark, specifically, Copenhagen.


Some of the suckage involves the openly racist attitude of the Danes towards People of Non-Danish Ethnicity. (Yes, such a term exists and is quite regularly bandied about).


*revised to add this gem* click here for Danish funniness


I for one didn't know that  being tall, white, alcoholic, and sort of dirty, pasty blonde  counted as an ethnicity but boy, those Danes sure proved me wrong. Because there is no other way to explain their inverted and stunted view of the world than to say that they all descended from a single, rather strong-livered Viking and his favorite stolen sheep, "Mette."


I kid, I kid. His sheep was named "Pernille."


Actually, compared to the Germans, Danes are lively and outgoingly friendly, in a small-town sort of way. Of course if you compare ANYONE to the Germans they will seem lively, but Germans have a severe amount of guilt that contributes to their already dour natures so you can't really blame them. In a way, if we were to see happy, cheerful Germans it would make you a bit suspicious.


The point is, it doesn't count as a meaningful friendship if it is based solely on getting wasted together. Sadly, that is what a lot of social interaction in Denmark comprises. 


The Danes have built up an image of a Denmark that is so perfect, it has actually infiltrated their reality and when combined with strong ale, the Danes are absolutely convinced that they live in the world's best country. They have even convinced other people outside of Denmark that Denmark is perfect. They are the only people whose worldviews never expand from travelling to other countries. Everything they see just confirms that Denmark is Number One.




Let's have this out, Monocle. Why are so many people googling 'Denmark Sucks' *from* google.dk if  Denmark is the Happiest Place On Earth?  Why is there  a plethora  of  expat-bloggers talking about  how terrible  of a place  Denmark really is? Do you really think that this is just a handful of people who are upset because they can't get marmite or cheap coffee?  Or is there legitimacy to expat claims?


[By the way, in 2009, the New York Times posited that perhaps the reason the Danish are so 'happy' is due to lowered expectations. How's that for a buzzkill?]




Typical foreigner response to Copenhagen:

I do not understand what the fuss is about. It is expensive, there is nothing in the shops, it is dirty and there is nothing to do except hang out with your friends. I wasn’t expecting another London or Paris. Maybe another Berlin or Amsterdam? At the very least another Hamburg. But it’s just… not. It’s not in Cardiff’s league. More like Wolverhampton.
— Confused Traveller

But by all accounts Copenhagen is the BEST city in the world! The correspondent Michael Booth who wrote about Copenhagen in the July / August 2012 Monocle says:

The UN rated the Danes as the happiest people in the world again in 2012, and you don't have to spend much time in their capital to understand why (clue: it isn't the weather).


There is a sense of ease to everyday life here, thanks in part to an ever-improving transport infrastructure (check out those bike super highways, the metro, the trains), and the increasing number of cyclists, but also to the Danes' approach to life in general.


Foreigners who move here to work always remark on Copenhagener's life-work balance--the shorter but more efficient working hours, the emphasis on making the most of the outdoors and on family life. The Danes are less burdened by the puritanical streak of other Nordic peoples but that doesn't mean they lack principles: just watch their capital achieve its goal of becoming CO2 neutral by 2025.

Well that doesn't quite add up, does it.


I don't know which foreigners the correspondent has talked to. Michael, did you have most of your chats with Danes? Did they tell you about their imaginary conversations with  imaginary foreigners, all of whom LOVE Copenhagen and wouldn't give up their lives there for the world?  Oh dear. 



You must be referring to the fact that the work-week in Denmark is just 37.5 hours and that they have more public holidays than any other country. Yes, that does sound fabulous, doesn't it! Too bad that means the country can't compete in a global market. They are too busy doing after work beers to notice though.


According to Frank Theakston, an English-Danish correspondent with 32 years in DK under his belt;


While Danes are currently squealing with indignation at the thought of giving up one of their myriads of public holidays, the people here [Paleochora] are at work literally from dawn to dusk and beyond, seven days a week – at least during the long tourist season. As in most southern European countries, especially outside the major metropolises, work is not seen as the antithesis of leisure.


Why would Frank write this, if Denmark were the work-life balance paradise that everyone makes it out to be? On sunny days, you'll find hoards of Danes sitting in the parks in the middle of the day, and you'll be thinking "shouldn't these people be at work?" but the truth is that most of them slag off because they know they will never be fired. 


All I've ever heard foreigners say in regard to the Danish 'Work-Life Balance' is how unproductive and unmotivated Danes are, because they know they are guaranteed an income whether they have a job or not. In fact,  they would rather collect unemployment benefits than work a 'low wage' job.

Danes do not feel financially pressured because they get so much help from the government. Perhaps we need tougher sanctions.


When Danes refer to 'quality time' with their families, they tend to mean passing off their children to the care of a government agency while they drink with their friends.  Sometimes it means leaving your children outside in the pouring rain in their strollers while you luxuriate indoors with your girlfriends and a steaming 35 kroner coffee. 


Either way, kids are not the parents' problem. The kids need to understand how free they are in their free freedom in Denmark, and to think all in exactly the same way, as opposed to those other bad and evil lands where People of Non-Danish Ethnicity live, and the state child care does an excellent job of this. Parents take on the role of marking ritual occasions like confirmation (I thought Danes were non-religious?) and  cleaning up after the kids graduate.  


OH, but the health care system is second to none, isn't it the best country on earth to have children in?


Over to you, google translate: Sophie was sent home four hours after giving birth and had to insist on having a bath at the hospital rather than waiting until she got home

The maternity services available in Denmark, are at best: basic. At worst: barbaric and insane.


You will begin to meet A LOT of Danes who are not at work because of ’stress’. Their job was too hard, they were unhappy, they were putting on weight.

Geez, you'd think that people who have such a reputation for being relaxed would have better health.


Maybe Michael is referring to the way Danes interact with people? Yes, I can believe they are laid back if you went to pre-school together and have been in the same nursery. Possibly if you are 'just visiting' or writing an article about how incredibly awesome Denmark is. I can imagine that Danish people would put on a pretty good show of being relaxed in those circumstances. Also if 'relaxing' refers to sitting on bare pavement with your friends and it is about 15 degrees out, and you are surrounded with trash then I agree the Danes are excellent at relaxing. 


More from Frank:

...whereas Brits in general can discern subtle differences in another’s behaviour and adjust their response accordingly, Danes see things much more in black and white. This would explain why Danes need a more formal framework in which to function socially.


The stultifying (to foreigners) ritual of any gathering, be it a birthday party or a wedding, is ample testimony to this need. Even relaxing with friends or family (apparently invented in Denmark and called hygge) has to be planned for and organised, preferably sitting up to a table with coffee and lagkage.




The Monocle must mean 'passing out drunk in the King's Gardens' or 'pissing in the city lakes'. The Danes definitely make the most of the outdoors if we're talking about it in those terms. Let's talk about the biggest outdoor music festival in Denmark, Roskilde! It's basically all the 'values' of Danish life put into sharp focus. What does it reveal? Danes like to drink and piss in public.  And they are absolutely revolting.

Q: Was the smell really that bad?

Mike: YES! After it rained heavily on Friday, we had to jump over piss-puddles to get from the camping area to the stages. Actually, I accidentally jumped right in the middle of one while wearing my canvas Vans, and had to wheel my bag through it on the way out of the grounds. 

Elise: I have my suspicions that there were some nasty things lurking in the sludgy mud – it honestly smelt like faeces.



That's putting it mildly.


As I've mentioned many times before, Denmark has a serious drinking problem.

re: high school graduation parties (and this ain't no safe-grad, people...)

Suggestions to the kids that they may be drinking too much too fast are met with something between mild derision or outright scorn.


“Look, I have been drinking since I was 13,” said Frank*, a strikingly handsome young teenager. “My mom is picking me up and she knows I am going to be wasted.”


The scene is one that is repeated numerous times around the country at this time of year, as young people celebrate finishing school with parties that include binge drinking. But the time-honoured tradition has met with headwind after a recent report showed that one in 12 young Danes between the ages of 15 and 24 have an alcohol or drug problem so severe that they should be receiving treatment.

So, here are some questions for you, Michael Booth from The Monocle.

  • Does this sound like a society that is happy? Does this sound like a society that is satisfied with its general existence?

  • Is severe substance abuse now a sign that society has reached the pinnacle of contentment and that their standard of living is so high, they no longer need to care for themselves?

  • When 35% of the working population has at some point in their lives been on 'stress leave' does that sound like a society that is healthy and happy?

  • Or does that sound like a society that is rotten from the inside out?

Could all that happiness possibly be.... smugness? Some Danes are are probably genuinely happy but can we really make a general blanket statement for the whole nation? I think that the general behaviors and attitudes bear out a different story. There is an entire culture awash with images of the Happiest People on Earth, but I don't buy it.


The best way to fact check is not to visit but to live in Denmark. Maybe instead of surveying the Danes, you should start listening to the people who have experienced more than one culture in their lives, and can give a more honest account of life in glorious Danmark?


Monocle, have you ever taken the time to translate a Danish newspaper? Have you ever spent a serious amount of time in Denmark, I mean, for the parts of the year where the sun didn't shine and you didn't have some over-enthusiastic Danbot leading you around to all the nice restaurants and pubs you can eat at if you make above 300, 000 dkk per year? Maybe you should try that before you declare CPH as the 3rd most livable city. Or at least give the following caveat to your article:



  • you are white and preferably blonde; if not blonde than at least attractive;

  • you are a foreigner but have at least one parent from Denmark;

  • you have more than 300, 000 DKK ($60, 000)/year income;

  • you are an alcoholic, but in a decadent barbarian sort of way;

  • you have a sun allergy;

  • you believe that sameness and consensus is more important than critical thinking;

  • you have an in-born fear of difference, culture, or people who are non-white.




The so-called 'environmental policies' of the Danish have given them the reputation of being green and ethical and bio and full of fair-trade awesomeness. Let's take a look at the photographic evidence to the contrary, shall we?

So there you have it.


The Danes and some select Expats have a favoured response to those who would argue that Copenhagen is not all it's cracked up to be:

In Denmark, It Is Just Like That. If You Hate Denmark So Much, Then Why Don’t You Just Leave?
— Every Dane who ever lived

I don't hate Denmark, I just think it's not the Greatest Country Ever in the History of Countries. Second, I *have* left. But that doesn't stop me from calling out the myths (that's called FREE SPEECH, Denmarkians, take note! I know how much you all love free speech.)


To conclude;

If this is the happiest place on earth then please don’t show me the saddest.
— :)