Navigating Copenhagen’s Neighborhoods Through a Cultural Lens

DIS fall student, Tracy Zhang from Wake Forest University, shares her project from her Cross-Cultural Psychology course

Often when DIS students first arrive to Copenhagen, they hear many preconceptions (visit this, stay away from this, etc…) about the multiple neighborhoods, before getting an opportunity to experience or understand the true essence of them.

We aimed to shed a greater light on these cultural variations and possibly disprove some, while doing it in a unique and interesting way. In our Cross-Cultural Psychology core course, we created a unique medium for future or prospective DIS students to gain a better understanding of the cultural differences between various neighborhoods of Copenhagen, Denmark.

Our interest in cultural variation led us to analyze three different neighborhoods of Copenhagen, namely, Christianshavn, Vesterbro, and Nørrebro. We chose these three in particular because they are among the most different from each other and are particularly prevalent with stereotypes despite their proximity to one another. These areas are also some of the most popular neighborhoods in Copenhagen and many students try to make their way there at least once during their stay. We thought about how nice it would’ve been if we could have had a better idea of the people and culture in different neighborhoods in Copenhagen when we first arrived.

With a camera, marker and notepad in hand, we set off into the neighborhoods to begin sparking up conversations with locals. We had specific prompts chosen beforehand, such as “My culture in Christianshavn is…,” “Culture in Vesterbro means…,” “Nørrebro affects my identity by…,” and others. We would approach a Dane or a group of Danes and ask them to finish the prompt on the paper and have their picture taken with it. It was not always easy to get people willing to talk to us. The weather was pretty cold and rainy, and we were worried that our options would be limited. Some thought we were selling something, or claimed they were “late for a meeting” and didn’t have enough time to talk with us. We also chose to talk to people who looked like they might be friendly or have more time to stop, like parents with strollers. When we stopped to ask more racially diverse people to speak with us, we found that, while their Danish was impeccable, their English was generally more limited and thus they were not comfortable participating. This happened with elderly people as well. These two conversation barriers contributed to a large bias in our project. But the others who were willing and intrigued by our project offered us incredible insight on these neighborhoods that we ourselves, had not previously explored. Through our searches for subjects, we came across hidden gems that we wished we had known about before, while also discovering those super cool coffee and specialty shops that you can find recommended on all of your favorite blogs. It was truly an awesome experience that we could have never predicted.

We hope these conversations offered an opportunity for self-reflection for our participants and will offer inspiration and insight to students and motivate them to explore these neighborhoods for themselves. While Denmark is a small, private country, there are many different types of people who inhabit these neighborhoods. Get to know the people, get to know the culture, and take advantage of all this country has to offer.


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Edgy. Upbeat. Diverse. Welcome to Nørrebro—a multicultural hub, where you will find a plethora of cozy cafes scattered between the main attractions: Assistens Kierkegaard, Superkilen, and Nørrebro Bryghus. Nørrebro boasts a large immigrant and student population. While Nørrebro may be the multicultural center of Copenhagen, this does not come without a few words of precaution from some. Warned that Nørrebro had a reputation due to the large immigrant population, we set out to talk to some of the residents to gain insight into what life was like in this bustling neighborhood. Walking through Nørrebro, one can easily see more variety compared to other parts of this city. Nørrebro residents and workers are very aware of the area’s diversity and those we talked to appeared to embrace this unique trait. We invite you to meet some of Nørrebro‘s residents.


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Located behind Copenhagen’s central station and home to the Red Light District, Vesterbro enjoys a large hipster population. Folks in Vesterbro appeared more laidback (maybe that’s what gives it hipster vibes). However the neighborhood is also one that has unfortunately been afflicted with hardships, and houses a large population of people who are addicted to drugs and alcohol. However, instead of shunning people, one resident described the importance of helping out. We stumbled upon a place called, Gang i Gaden, a community house/secondhand shop where they say, “come as you are-we do!” There were people from all over the world upstairs eating a lunch that smelled and looked absolutely delicious, while downstairs there were trinkets and books contributing to the authenticity of this little place. We talked to one of the members of the house and he said they accept everyone to come, except current drug addicts and alcoholics who were not seeking help. On the outside, we were so different from these people, we almost looked out of place in their shop, but on the other hand, we were comfortable. They accepted us with open arms, even inviting us to come back one day. This one stop gave us the cultural insight we had been running around all day trying to find.


As one local put it, future students can look forward to changes that will unfold as Christianshavn grows.


The artificial island of Christianshavn, home to Noma and the Church of our Saviour, designed with a Dutch style in mind, still remains reminiscent of maritime trade days as you stroll along the canals. This small community often remains mysterious for students. Locals praised it for its quiet atmosphere and high quality of living. This calm neighborhood is home to Christiania, and we were surprised to learn about the relationship the Freetown had with the locals. While some described their experience as minimal, others mentioned how they maintained friendly relationships with Christiania’s inhabitants.

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**Note: Our idea for the project sprang from three different sources: Humans Of New York, The Museum of Copenhagen’s Becoming a Copenhagener exhibit, and the work of Adam B. Cohen of Arizona State University. Humans Of New York is a constantly growing photo project in which a photographer of New York City takes pictures of interesting people he randomly comes across on the street, and posts them online along with short snippets of stories from their lives. This project has grown to have over ten million followers due to its ability to give its audience a greater insight into the daily lives of New Yorkers. At the Becoming a Copenhagener exhibit, visitors explore Copenhagen’s multicultural identities and how, while residents of Copenhagen may identify with the capital, many do not find identification with Denmark. Zooming further in, the work of cross-cultural psychologist Adam B. Cohen (citation), explored regional variations in cultural practices. These geographic differences exist not only at the country level but also within cities and can change the ways in which we think.

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