Copenhagen – A small taste of Scandinavia

Published 10th January 2013
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I fancied going away to a cold country for a long weekend over the Christmas period, and since I’ve always wanted to visit Scandinavia, I thought that Copenhagen would be the perfect place to go!

My overall impression of Copenhagen was that it was much more ‘city-like’ and less ‘quaint’ than I had imagined (which is to be expected really as it is a capital city!) Having done very little research before the trip, the only image I had in my head was of Nyhavn (pictured on the left), the picturesque waterfront district of Copenhagen, so I expected the whole city to follow in the same style. In fact, Copenhagen is a modern, bustling city with lots going on and various districts, each with their own very different character. As you move from district to district you almost feel as if you are stepping into different worlds. For traditional architecture, Amalienborg palace, the Queen’s residence, and Frederiks Kirke, the marble church, are great places to visit. If you’re looking for something more modern then just across the water you can find the Copenhagen Opera House, one of the most modern opera houses in the world, which stands proudly on the harbour front. There are also some extremely quirky areas of Copenhagen, most notably, the freetown of Christiania, home to creative housing, street stalls, eco-restaurants and an altogether more alternative way of living. Then we come to the most well known part of Copenhagen (which also happens to be the most fun!), the Tivoli gardens. As the second oldest amusement park in the world, Tivoli is filled with rides, restaurants and green oases.

You can tell that the Danes like their food, there are restaurants and cafes everywhere and the food is delicious! I have to admit that I’m not much of a ‘foodie’ but even I couldn’t help but notice how good the food was. We stuck to eating in traditional Danish restaurants but no matter what type of food you’re looking for you’ll find it in Copenhagen.

Of all the countries I’ve visited and all of the nationalities I’ve come across, I wouldn’t hesitate in saying that the Danes are possibly the nicest people I’ve ever met, always happy to help and always smiling! Another thing to note about the Danes is their phenomenal language skills. All of the locals we met spoke perfect English! It’s impressive when anyone speaks a foreign language perfectly with a neutral accent, but for a majority to do so is pretty remarkable! Currently, 86% of the Danish population speak English. Danes start learning English in third grade at school and a minimum of B2 level English language skills are required to study undergraduate courses at Danish universities. Another thing which contributes to their advanced language skills is the popularity of American television programmes and a preference for subtitling over dubbing. German and French are also popular foreign languages in Denmark, with 58% of the population speaking German and 12% speaking French.

Learning just how high a level of language the Danes have achieved I felt quite ashamed to think that in Britain so few people are fluent in other languages. So many people claim to have no aptitude for languages…but with 86% of a population speaking English so well, I would venture to say that perhaps it is also a lack of drive to learn foreign languages that is preventing the Brits from doing so. Of course there is no rule to say that you must enjoy learning languages and some people may just prefer not to, but if we were relying on excellent foreign language skills in Britain as is the case in other countries, would we be so quick to say we cannot? What is the situation in your country? Do you feel foreign language learning is a priority? Should it be?


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