Everything I Need To Know I Learned in Copenhagen

Most of us have danced to this goodbye song before. Maybe your dancing shoes are so worn the heel is loose. Or maybe you’re still learning the choreography, trying not to step on any toes.

Don’t worry, we all stumble, even the ones who’ve have the steps down pat.

Perhaps you’re expat-ing or repat-ing, or simply coming to the end of a particular road: a job, a posting, a school. You’re moving up. Or out. Or on–but as you get ready to go you can rest easy–because everything you need to know you’ve already learned in Copenhagen.

Wherever you land, remember to put the little divider down on the supermarket conveyor belt.

You probably do it without thinking now, and really, why wouldn’t you? It’s a small nicety. And trust me, small niceties and innovations in hair removal are sometimes the only things which separate us from our primate ancestors. But, more than just separating your Lurpak from the next person’s laks, what you’re really saying is “I see you. I see that you are eager to put your six bottles of Tuborg and five tubes of remoulade and a packet of frozen frikedeller onto the belt. I see you, my friend.”

And sometimes it can be enough to know we’re seen. Putting that little plastic spacer down is a way of saying “You matter. I might not want your herring touching my cheese, but still, you matter.”

Remember to signal in the bike lane.

When you hold your hand up like Diana Ross, you’re not just signaling you’re about to back pedal break, you’re signaling you understand the rules we all live and ride by. You understand the role you play in preventing a Strandvejen pile up. We’re all pedaling down the bike lane of life, going at our own pace, dodging our own potholes and our own assholes. When we all play our part, taking responsibility and signaling our intentions, the system works better for everyone.


Remember to eat enough ice-cream during the summer to miss it in the winter.

Fill your personal bucket with joy when it comes along. Or mint-chocolate chip. We all have down times, when we miss what we used to have, or could have had. But…we wouldn’t miss it if we’d never had it in the first place. Fill your bucket with Paradis, and the next time it’s dark at 3 o’clock, remember that in a few short months, things will seem different. Pretty soon it will be time for that crazy ice-cream giveaway day and you’ll be lining up around the block to fill your bucket–and your belly–once again.  


Remember how impossible it seemed to understand Danish.

It’s hard to learn new things, especially as an adult. Trying to figure out how fifteen letters go together, swallowing half of them, and miming things to make yourself understood is no different. Learning to navigate a new place, or even an old one, new relationships, it’s tough. Don’t beat yourself up when you can’t do it the first time. Or the fifteenth. Or even if sometimes you give up and stop trying.

Remember there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing.

We have exactly zero control over what falls from the sky. You can plan and study DMI, pray to the sun gods, but as anyone who’s ever spent a summer in Denmark can attest, you can go from blazing beach day to golf-ball hailstones in the blink of an eye. Just when you pull out your summer scarves, you need to reach for the winter ones again. But if you’re hanging around for good weather, you’ll be waiting a long time–and missing out on a lot. So go for it, even when the skies are stormy.


Remember that three brands of toilet paper is plenty.

Those of you who were here before Normal became normal remember what it was like to have a choice of four shampoos. When choice is limited, you long for more. How many of you Brits have skipped down the crisps aisle at Tesco’s? If you’re American, tell me you don’t tremble at the thought of Target. The funny thing is, after a while, you realize that too much choice is not only unnecessary, it’s overwhelming. It turns out for most things in life, less really is more.


Remember to take your ticket and wait your turn.

We’re all in a hurry. Your hurry isn’t any more important than my hurry and when it comes down to it, it’s likely neither is very important, especially if you’re waiting in line at Joe and the Juice for a tuna melt. So take your ticket and wait your turn. Peruse what’s on offer. Stop and smell the kanelsnegl, my people. Pushing and shoving because you think your needs are more important than anyone else’s just makes you look like someone who wouldn’t signal in the bike lane or put the little spacer down. An ass.


Remember that eventually, the parking guy is going to get you.

We’re all in the wrong place at the wrong time sometimes. We all screw up, forget to set the parking clock, even if we’ve been religious about it for years. The point is, parking tickets happen, even to good people. It stings. I mean, that’s a lot of kroner, a lot of tuna melts you could be ordering at Joe and the Juice. But it happens…to all of us.  


And finally, remember that hygge is a mindset, not a fur throw and a cluster of candles.

Relationships need nurturing. Prioritize, carve out time, make the effort. Life is short. Eat the ice-cream. Buy the Lurpak even when it’s not on sale. Don’t worry about a little rain as you ride down the bike lane of life dodging the potholes.


You’re already armed with everything you need to know to go forth and live your best life. Now, go put on your over-priced Danish shoes and dance your way into the future.  







5 Comments Add yours

  1. vinneve says:

    Hi, are you leaving then? where to next?


    1. WandC(D) says:

      No, we’re staying put, but I read this one aloud to a group of parents who ARE leaving–sort of a commencement address 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Fantastisk. On what I call the “dog shit and cigarette butt” days, it will be good to remember these lovely life lessons. Tak for det.


  3. Cherry says:

    Oh you made me “homesick”…can I say that?


  4. All true…even outside the greater Copenhagen area! 😉


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