The third in a new series of light-hearted columns about life as a foreigner living in the Danish capital.
Written for IceNews by Simon Cooper
The first language I hear spoken on weekday mornings isn’t Danish or even English – it’s French. Not because I make a habit of misplacing myself each night after litres of Carlsberg, nor that the natives enjoy going on strike and feel it would have more impact in the connoisseur’s lingo, but because my street – Værnedamsvej – is a hotbed for Copenhagen’s French community.
Each morning at around 8am, as I slump out of my flat into the auspicious grey of the morning, a gaggle of Gallic mothers are assembled outside Falernum wine bar at the foot of our building, furiously fumée-ing over espressos, having just taken their kids to the Prins Henriks Skole across the way.
Nearby, the Arabic kiosk owners ready themselves for the day, ducking with crates of fruit and vegetables from parked trucks that consume half of the five-metre wide road. In the middle, a spine of chic cycling commuters makes complacent crossing an uncomfortable task. That said, I love the vitality. It’s a rare instance of the ‘hustle and bustle’ of morning trade in the city.
Værnedamsvej is, arguably, the second most famous city thoroughfare after the endless Strøget (a street with as many alternative pronunciations as shoe shops – i.e, a lot). The guidebooks purr over it.
‘Little Paris’ was originally chiselled as a through route between the neighbouring Vesterbrogade and Gammel Kongsvej roads, and lies on meeting border of the gentrified Vesterbro and the affluent Frederiksberg districts, making it fly paper to middle class families and trendy young couples. The place is also toy town of Parisian patisseries and delicatessens, overpriced but fancy threads and designer dog denim. The latter coming in the form of a shop which takes care of everything from pooch manicures and coiffure to waistcoats, moonboots and probably shrugging lessons.
Said boutique is the cornerstone of my indifference towards Værnedamsvej as a place to actually spend time. I accept that it’s quality, and I love living there and walking through, especially during extremes of the day and night, but I can’t handle the pretentiousness. I’d also rather go around the corner to avoid having to pay 100 Kroner (13 Euros) for eight small beers. The price, and sometimes attitude, hike is blatant.
Yet the sheer location, my flatmates, and the fact I live above a bar (so handy in fact that one sleepless night I left my bed to go down and have a beer – without even stopping to put shoes on), make it sweet. All that, and the slight français madness of in the mornings.
Born in London in 1984, raised in the English countryside and a graduate of journalism, Simon Cooper moved to Copenhagen in October 2009 where he has worked as an English language teacher, technical writer and freelance journalist – as well as barman and (very) occasional removals driver. “Learning Danish has been proving fascinating but difficult, and I’ve developed a penchant for sausages and the saltiest liquorice I can get my hands on. Then there’s the beer,” Simon laughs. He writes about food, culture and travel and has had articles published in English language newspaper The Copenhagen Post, in-flight magazine Baltic Outlook and American magazine Nordic Reach, among others.
The fourth instalment of the Living in Copenhagen Diary will appear on IceNews next week