University Post
University of Copenhagen
Independent of management


5 things to avoid in Copenhagen

Blogger Mart Virkus from Estonia debunks the guide book myths with his own list of Copenhagen no-no’s. (This article originally appeared in 2010)

Recently I decided to take a look at the Copenhagen guide book I brought with me from Tallinn. it is still as touristy as the French Riviera. Among other things, the book lists 10 things to avoid in Copenhagen. I decided to elaborate on some of these guidelines, and debunk others:

1. Careless walking

»The Danes will never cross a street on a red light,« the guidebook says. And to a certain extent this holds true.

When I find myself facing a red light at a pedestrian crossing on a street that looks like it’s been abandoned since the dark ages, I find it stupid to just stand around and wait for the light to turn green. Having little to no regard for rules, red lights rarely stop me.

In those cases, the Danes occasionally look at me in horror, as if I had just run over a small child. Which I indeed may have done. Hey, come on – it’s not like I ever look where I’m going.

Crossing a bike lane however, is another story. Which brings us to…

2. Jumping in front of a bicycle

To a sane person this tip seems rather obvious, but the fact of the matter is that the easiest way to anger Danes is to cut them off while they’re on their bikes. They will, and I repeat, will unleash their sleeping beasts within.

Even drivers are not safe from the fury of a wounded cyclist. My bike was once hit by a car, and the latter quickly fled the scene, presumably leaving a trail of urine behind.

The driver probably still lives in a constant fear of me showing up at his door one cold and windy night, wielding a battleaxe in one hand and a big bag of vengeance in the other.

If you are the driver and you happen to be reading this: I WILL EAT YOUR BABIES!

3. Buying drugs

»Christiania’s drug business used to be tempting for younger travellers,« the guidebook states. »Today however, public sale of narcotics has been banished from the streets of Copenhagen,« it further lies with the tenacity of a politician.

As anyone who’s spent some time in Copenhagen knows, the Christiania drug business is alive and well.

While indeed you cannot purchase any hard drugs there, hash and marijuana are still widely and readily available. So yeah, Mr. Guidebook, why don’t you light-en up, uh-huh-huh. Ahem.

4. Saying nice things about the Swedes

As if the guidebook hasn’t discredited itself enough, it further suggests that the Swedes and the Danes are still locked in an epic life and death struggle.

Certainly, in the past Denmark’s relationship with Sweden has been a complex one. Or as complex as endless fighting can be.

Today things have calmed down a little. I for instance am sharing a flat with a Dane and a Swede and I am happy to report that neither has killed the other. Yet.

In fact, pretending to be Swedish has even gotten me a free bus ride in Copenhagen. Granted, it only worked because I boarded the bus along with these three Swedish girls and because they actually spoke Swedish. If you don’t speak Swedish then for the love of god, do not pretend to be one. The Danes will know.

5. Toasting without making eye-contact

I don’t think I’ve ever discussed this with Danes, partly because we have the same custom in Estonia (thus having a common ground) and partly because the Danes don’t want to be friends with me.

Estonians most likely will confront you if you avert your gaze while toasting (and might, in extreme cases, put a curse on you).

The only time this matter came up in Copenhagen was when I toasted with this Faroese sailor at Moose. He expressed his joy at our shared values of staring at each other while drinking. Or maybe islanders are just lonely.

See the blog ‘Metropolitan Heaven/Wireless Hell:Crash Gordon’s life as an ERASMUS student in Copenhagen’ here.

Stay in the know about news and events happening in Copenhagen by signing up for the University Post’s weekly newsletter here.