I have been in Copenhagen for around a month and have developed an attachment to the Danish experience. It’s pretty neat! After a thousand cups of coffee and many pastries for lunch, I have to say I thought I had Denmark figured out. While staying in the Capitol, it was hard to remember that Denmark is more than just Copenhagen; it is a whole country. So when I went to Aarhus (Denmark’s northern, beautiful second-largest city), I was unprepared for what I was about to experience.
GOT YOU! It was not different at all! To me, the wide-eyed tourist, Aarhus looked and felt exactly like a little Copenhagen. Honestly, I thought it would be like the difference between New York and L.A.–immense–, but it was not. And that’s when it hit me: Denmark was much more uniform than America. Of course, there are still differences between the regions (especially the Capital Region, Hovedstaden, and Syddanmark, the Southern Region). Still, I wanted to discuss why I was surprised at my perceived uniformity.
So what did I feel was the same in Copenhagen and Aarhus? The architecture, the city vibe (although I must say that Aarhus was a little more relaxed than Copenhagen), and the availability of public services (by which I mean the trains I got on in Aarhus were as reliable as the ones in Copenhagen–very). I did feel like I stood out a little more in Aarhus, but I expected that because I did not see as many people of color in northern Denmark as I did in the Capital region. It hit me after being in Aarhus that Denmark was much smaller in size and population than America, so duh it was going to be a lot more uniform. Then, I thought to myself that many of the problems (especially the political ones) in America are impacted by the immense differences in geography and environment people experience. And suddenly, I was theorizing why Americans couldn’t coperate as easily as the Danes. Then I realized that I am not a genius because Tocqueville touched on this idea in Democracy in America. Annnnnnnywho, on to the differences:
What was different? Awesome question. For starters the people were a lot calmer in Aarhus (surprising because I thought everything was already calm in Copenhagen). There were a lot more people walking than biking and I think I saw a lot more people smoking cigarettes in Aarhus than in Copenhagen, though I could be wrong. Something else I thought I noticed was that people in Aarhus think people in Copenhagen are ‘too big for their britches,’ you know like how some one from suburban New Jersey looks at someone from New York City. Not with disdain, but more of a “you think you’re better than me?” attitude. I thought it was pretty funny because to an outsider Danes are supposed to be above all this petty bickering, so I’m surprised I noticed it.
Overall, traveling across Denmark has enabled me, for the first time in my life, to actually compare a country to the United States and go “Hmm, I see why America is not the norm across the world.” In fact, I am a person that takes a lot of pride in being an American adn being here definitely humbled me a little.