Finding My “Hygge”: Danish Culture Through the Eyes of a Mid-Western





Yesterday morning as I made my way to a local bank, I realized I feel more at-home in Copenhagen than I’ve ever felt in the U.S.

Saying it may sound odd to you (if you’re an American yourself), and I wouldn’t blame you if that is the case. To be honest, it feels strange to admit to myself, too.

These feelings of comfort and “hygge” (Danish word for cozy; pronounced “hue-guh”) are reassuring in times where I feel foreign even in my own skin. At this point in my life, with the identities I have, I believe I’m coming to terms with the fact that the U.S. isn’t what I want for myself. It’s not what I want for my future, either.

So what’s so much more different – and me – in Copenhagen than the Upper-Midwest, U.S.?

#1. Dane’s are unapologetic.

Personally, I don’t take this as a bad thing. This was one of the aspects of Danish culture that stood out to me almost immediately; if you are bumped into another person on the sidewalk, they (probably) won’t acknowledge you. Me, being the natural-born-and-socialized American, would go “Oope! Sorry!” (What can I say? Minnesota-Nice is a real thing! …And, so is “Ope”). Instead, it’s assumed that it was simply an accident, and it is too much of an inconvenience to stop and say “sorry”. It took me around a week to stop saying these things; but since then, I realized how liberating it feels to not have to apologize for my presence.

Growing up with a mild physical disability, I have had more times than I can count where I say sorry or feel like a burden for stumbling on my feet or running into someone by mistake. Not having to do that – and still being respected for my presence – has caused an uplifting shift in how I view myself. It’s helped me realize that I do not need to apologize for who I am.

#2. Dane’s follow rules and respect others.

I enjoy people-watching as a pass-time hobby, and it’s quite fascinating to do so in another culture. In Copenhagen, so many civilians stick to the rules – of both the biking and pedestrian-walking streets. In fact, Dane’s are so properly well-behaved that I have seen zero (you read that right – zero!) police officers or guards of any sort so far. I really enjoy this part of Danish culture because I’m the type of person who likes rules and structure (to some extent). I feel far more safe in this environment because Dane’s are more… predictable, I guess you could say! Whereas in America, the culture feels far more “loosey-goosey”. How I experience American culture, I don’t feel safe or respected with my identities as a transgender and queer man, who also has a mobility disability. People on the street tend to glare or stare at me because I’m “different. Because I take up slightly more space than an able-bodied person. But here in Denmark, I don’t recall ever having that feeling. I love this aspect of Danish culture because I feel as if I’m not rejected or a burden to those around me. Dane’s patience for others and their well-being is one of the biggest parts of why I feel so comfortable in Copenhagen.

#3. Dane’s are adventurous with their food.

Not only do they bike a lot, Dane’s also seem to enjoy a vast array of cuisines – ranging from practically two Shawarma restaurants on every corner, to seafood, American burgers, and Thai or Chinese food. I am quite the “foodie” myself, so I’ve jumped at the opportunity to try as much local food stands and restaurants as I I’ve taken so far are of food I’ve eaten (See? I really love food!). My favorite things I’ve eaten so far would have to be shrimp salad smørrebrød (open-face sandwiches that Denmark is famous for), the hot dogs, and the pastries. Feel free to see for yourself:


Shrimp salad smørrebrød on multi-grain bred – light and refreshing!
Hot dog from the famous Johns Hotdog Deli.
Chocolate croissant – so yummy, buttery and flakey! (alongside a chai tea latte)

Unfortunately, eating out here is pretty expensive, so I will have to exercise my self-control once and a while! I definitely plan on splurging a bit more on food here and there, but as you can see, it can be quite difficult. The variety of cultures and foods that exist in Copenhagen is almost overwhelming; yet it remains it’s small, “old city” feel – which I absolutely love. Charming streets, good food, and energetic people make me love this city more than I ever expected.

Well, that about wraps it up for this week’s update! Thank you so much for keeping up with my blog.

I hope you enjoy and come back soon!

Until next time,

Farvel/Goodbye! :)