If you ever have the privilege to speak to someone from Copenhagen they might modestly tell you, like some recently told me, how boring their city is. If you manage to reverse the hypnotism of their blue eyes, don’t listen to them. As I found out on a recent trip to Copenhagen and London, the city has something for everyone, and is far from overshadowed by its overbearing uncle across the sea.
1. The People
Go to any of London’s many airports (I went to Stansted, Gatwick and Heathrow) and you will notice how pale, overweight and bald many British tourists are. Go to Copenhagen’s main airport and people are, for the most part, tall, blonde and tanned. More important than how appetising the population is, is the far greater gender equality they have. The differences between the amount of dirty, sexualised language of Copenhagen and London is truly surprising. Women are more independent and commonly crack onto and pick up men in much of Scandinavia, a sight I witnessed multiple times. As one woman told me: don’t offer to pay for a woman’s meal. Copenhagen’s bars are also open much later (and are far less violent) than in the UK (or Australia).
Scandinavian design is famous throughout the world. Copenhagen’s many furniture/interior design shops have some of the most beautifully crafted objects you are ever likely to see. Unfortunately, the prices often reflect this fact. The light and pale colours of the city’s buildings are also striking. Buildings are similar in colour to Notting Hill or Brighton, but this is an aesthetic that is everywhere, not just in one suburb or town, and they are far better looked after.
There are a few reasons why Copenhagen has far less congestion than London. Firstly, it has a significantly smaller amount of people. Secondly, everyone rides. This is not by accident. All-day street parking around Copenhagen is comparable in price to a parking garage on Pitt Street in Sydney. Bike lanes are everywhere and are the same size as car lanes in many parts of the city. Riders also have right of way over pedestrians and cars, and some bikes aren’t even locked up on the streets.
No surprises here. Copenhagen is far cleaner than London. It takes you hours to find a piece of rubbish on the street in the centre of Copenhagen. It would take you half a second in London, which is not far away from the filthiness of Paris.
5. Public goods
The lowest income tax bracket in Denmark pays 40% of their total income. So, you would expect many public services of a high quality. However, as someone from the more ‘liberal’ side of the ‘modernized’ or ‘developed’ world (UK, US, Australia etc.) seeing and hearing about the provision of high quality public services is still surprising. Healthcare and education are, of course, the standouts – education being ‘free’ until you finish your master’s. The metro is also undergoing massive upgrades, with new lines and stations being built all around the city. Public goods and services (e.g. the metro) often have built-in extra capacity – unlike London or Sydney who are in a constant infrastructure catch up game (London far ahead of Sydney in public transport). Public goods and services also run efficiently, and are run better than many private services that used to be publicly owned. This is not a call for public ownership. Far from it. This is far from a call for public ownership, but rather is recognition that contrary to what we are told in the laws of economics, public does not always equal inefficiency.
Copenhagen airport’s rich, dark, wooden floorboards did not go unnoticed either. An airport that is not an unpleasant place to be in is always a nice way to start a trip.