Culture shock moments in Copenhagen Denmark

If you saw my posts on social media, you will already know that our presence in Copenhagen, Denmark made a child cry – talk about melanin magic! That was not the only culture shock moment though during our visit.

These are 8 things that made me say, “oh my gosh,” while in Copenhagen, Denmark:

1. There are very few black people

You hardly see any black people. It’s a strange feeling especially coming from a country where 80% of the population is black. To ease the discomfort I started playing a game called “stare back till they stop staring.” The most shocking moment was when my mom and I were in an elevator and a mother entered with her young child. The child looked at us then started crying and holding on to his mother. Imagine!

2. I have never seen so many bicycles

There are bicycle lanes everywhere and the cyclists follow the rules of the road too. People of all shapes, sizes and ages cycle. They are so skilled at cycling that they multi-task. I saw people doing everything possible while cycling: cycling and eating, cycling and talking on the phone, cycling and texting, cycling in heels, cycling in a suit etc. I later learnt that cars are expensive and heavily taxed in Denmark and that Uber was shut down in Denmark earlier this year (2017) due to non-compliance with new taxi laws. Cycling, walking and using public transport are efficient and safe ways of getting around in Denamrk.

3. People follow the rules of the road

People only cross the road at the zebra crossing. And at robots, people only cross when the robot signals green for pedestrians. There were no random people taking chances and running across the roads, between cars. Seeing such discipline was so strange to me and made me feel as if I was in a movie. What is also interesting is that I found myself doing the same since everyone else was.

4. Cellphone data is so cheap

It costs the equivalent of R200 for 30GB of data in Denmark. I almost feinted when I heard this! It costs R150 for 1GB of data in South Africa. There must be something I don’t know about tech that explains why the difference is so big. We need answers. #Datacostsmustfall

5. Everything else is expensive

In a middle class restaurant, it costs 40kr (R80) for bottled water and 20kr (R40) for a glass of tap water with ice. That ice better have the answers to the high data price in South Africa! I learnt that the cost of living is high because tax rates are high but the citizens are happy to pay high taxes in exchange for high quality of life. Education is free in Denmark, including tertiary education. Health care and child care are also free. They say this is why Denmark is continuously voted the happiest country in the world.

6. They drive on the right side

Vehicles drive on the right side of the road. I thought this wouldn’t affect us as we were not driving while there but this is actually quite confusing as a pedestrian. We found ourselves checking the wrong direction when crossing the road. Escalators are also in the opposite direction – confusing.

7. Trust is a thing

At the grocery store there is a self service option where you can scan your own groceries and pay without a teller. I stopped and stared when I saw this to make sure that what I was seeing was real.

8. You can walk at night

On one particular evening we had planned to have dinner at the mall near our hotel. Our concern was that we would have to walk back after sunset. So, we asked a lady at the front desk of the hotel if it is safe for us to walk back at night. She laughed and replied, “Of course! Denmark is one of the safest countries in the world!.”

One of the great things about traveling, is getting out of your comfort zone and experiencing different ways of life. From my visit in Copenhagen, I can conclude that it is an organized, modern and impressive city.