This weekend I went to Paris to visit two of my friends from Boston University, and I learned A LOT about life in France and realized even more about life in Denmark. I have visited Paris before, but I had never lived in a European city that I could directly compare it to. Every time I travel I think about how cities do things differently than Boston or New York, and even after being in Copenhagen for only a few weeks I’ve noticed my strong ties to the city and its ways. There are three main things I noticed about Paris and, ultimately, about Copenhagen: size/transportation, diversity, and attitudes. The fourth thing would be the weather, but that will be incorporated into attitudes.
- Size and transportation. Paris is huge in comparison to Copenhagen. It’s population is almost twice the size, and it’s geographically 20 square kilometers larger. You can see from the metro maps, below, that Paris is much more challenging to navigate, with a complicated web of neighborhoods throughout the city. Copenhagen, in contrast, is organized into several neighborhoods, and as most people know, biking is a much more common mode of transportation than metro. Spending the weekend in Paris made me extremely grateful for this difference. Relying on the metro is both costly and time consuming, and even over the course of 3 days I found myself missing the cool breeze whipping across my face that you’re sure to get when walking anywhere in Copenhagen.
- Denmark is not known for its diversity. Copenhagen, the nations capital, is praised as the largest city in the country that attracts thousands of people every year to come study, work and live. However, the area is still relatively homogeneous, which has not gone unnoticed. While in my few weeks here I have become increasingly aware of the lack of color on the streets, in restaurants, even at the University of Copenhagen. Visiting Paris reminded me of what melting pot cities really look like, where you hear more than just 2 languages everywhere you go and see all different kinds of people on the metro. Since Denmark is praised as one of the most progressive countries in the world, I look forward to further exploring the true nature of race-relations in the greater Copenhagen area.
- The world’s happiest country. Everyone knows that! Denmark is the place to be when it comes to positivity. Beyond the buzz-word that’s gracing style blogs across the world (you know, hygge), Denmark is known for a generally happy society with satisfied citizens who enjoy living here. People smile when they walk down the street, ask the driver to wait for strangers they see running to the bus, and enjoy sitting outside even when it’s freezing cold. It all seems too good to be true, especially for someone like me who grew up in two of the notoriously “harsh” cities (Boston and New York). But it’s real, all of it. People are genuinely happy all of the time, even when the sun doesn’t shine for 10 straight days. Now is when I quickly comment on the weather. Seeing the sun in Paris was a much more emotional experience than I had expected. In Copenhagen people don’t complain about the weather, and I’ve gotten used to thinking positively about the sun coming up at all! However, in Paris, people do not want to help you with directions, or use the bathroom in their store unless you buy something. The contrast in attitudes between the two cities really is striking, and I have become very accustomed to the Danish lifestyle. You can see some of the beautiful Paris streets (featuring blue skies) below.
The last note I wanted to include in this blog post is a very short line from the new Father John Misty song that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. It’s carried me through stressful travel, social anxieties, and any other abroad challenge I’ve faced recently.
In no time at all, this’ll be the distant past.