Living in Copenhagen: culture shock?

In Copenhagen, like in any other city, there are many things that are different here from what I’ve known elsewhere. If you are thinking of coming over for holiday, for your Erasmus, your job, for life, and even if you’re just curious about this city, then you’re definitely at the right place. Here are a few examples of the surprises – good or bad! – that I got when moving to Copenhagen:

  • It is truly a beautiful city! 

Honestly, when seeking for a new place to live, we were more concerned about universities and programs admission than whether the city looked nice or not. Of course, we had the postal card of Nyhavn in mind (the beautiful port with the colourful facades). So, what we didn’t really expect was that the whole city is actually beautiful! The architecture is especially attracting, all the buildings look great. Whether you’re walking in a small street or a big boulevard, there’s something nice to look at. There are plenty of green areas, cute squares, riversides to wander around, and it’s a real pleasure to do so.


  • Danes don’t have blood: they have beer! 

Danes are rather shy people who don’t really like to be put on the spotlight. But there is one miracle solution to their distance: beer! Their Carlsberg is sacred, and it is the best way to break the ice. Walking in the city center of Copenhagen on a Thursday or Friday night is quite an experience. You have these bike-beers rolling around, where 5 to 10 people pedal on a huge bike with one (hopefully) sober driver who is also the barman and serves beer to everybody to keep them entertained. The whole thing is of course accompanied by very loud drunk lyrics sung in Danish. Which leads me to my next point…

  • Pre-party is at 5! 

Back to what Danes love the most: to get drunk! Around 5-6pm, the bars get full of drunk people enjoying their night. Alcoholic, you said? You have to understand: when there is no sunlight after 4pm, you have to keep yourself busy until bedtime. That’s a while! And it looks like it’s a national passion, since giant advertisements for alcoholic beverage are regularly put up on buildings.

  • After trying Danish bars you’ll have a hard time enjoying any other bar!

Danish bars are pretty much all hygge. They all have this cozy atmosphere, with soft light, candles and comfy sofas. You can basically step in any bar and be surprised by the great decoration and intimate setting. Our favourite ones? Check out my article about it to find out!

  • Get ready for the rain! 

We knew it beforehand: we had read it everywhere, Copenhagen is the rainiest capital in Europe. But NOTHING prepares you to THAT! It basically rains daily. It doesn’t last the whole day (most of the time), but at some point, you’ll get some rain. It’s not even something we wonder anymore in the morning: we just assume it will rain. Rain, rain, rain.

GIF rain

  • The language: wth?

Danish is a very special language, that is really hard to learn. Half-way between German and Swedish, it has this particularity of kind of giving up on the end of each word. For example, “Gade” means street, which implies that most street names finish with “-gade”. And yet you’ll practically never get to hear it! Instead, you’ll hear “Gentoftegaaaaaeeeee”. It’s pretty simple: when reading a word in Danish, you can be sure it will actually sound nothing like what you just said.

  • But fortunately, they also speak English! 

Compared to countries that I know well (surprise: France and Spain), Danish people have a very good level of English, and they don’t mind speaking it. Actually, the only people I’ve met who didn’t speak English were other expats who had moved it for work and learnt Danish directly, without speaking English. Even the poor old lady on which I’ve dropped my groceries in the bus last week replied to my apologies in English – with a smile!

  • Be prepared for the bike revolution…

I know, you’ve read it a dozen times, Copenhagen is the city of bike, you got it. But trust me, you’re not prepared. I knew it too, and I wasn’t prepared.

GIF bike.gif

There are bike lanes absolutely everywhere, and you better mind them if you don’t wanna get killed! Danes take bikes very seriously, which means that you can receive pretty salty fines for not respecting the rules (in other countries too, but here, you actually GET fined). Bike lanes have traffic lights, stops, double/uni sense roads, roads for those who turn right/go straight, etc. You better start working on your Biking License!


So far we really find Copenhagen to be a lovely city to live in. Not everything is perfect (one day we’ll take some time to talk about the supermarkets), but we are really happy here, we feel largely welcome by the danish nation, and we do our best to integrate to their culture. We are now getting ready for our first Danish Christmas!

Of course, this article didn’t cover all the actual surprises that Copenhagen had for us. It’s a wonderful city that has so much to offer – great health care system, gender equity consideration, life quality – , but that would take another article.

Anything else that shocked you when you visited/moved to Copenhagen? Let me know in the comments!

Cover photo: ©Pixabay –
Architecture photos: ©Maylis Saigot –
GIF rain: ©bjblujay-
GIF bike: ©cali7-


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