Understanding Happiness in Copenhagen

I’ve somehow already reached the halfway point of my time in study abroad, which is hard to believe. By my third week in Copenhagen, I felt that I had fully settled into the city, and I felt empowered to really make the most of each day. 

Here, I’ll talk about what I’ve learned from Copenhagen, some highlights from my third week, what I’ll miss about Copenhagen, and what I have to look forward to in the coming weeks.

What I’ve learned in the classroom

As I’ve talked about in previous blog posts, my Behavioral Economics class has challenged me in great ways, and it’s given me a new perspective on my major. One goal I had when joining DIS was to get some ideas for what I could study for my theses and scholarly projects back at Purdue; I can definitely see myself pursuing the behavioral side of economics now that I know what it’s about. 

In our final week in class, we completed and presented our experiments, which went very well. Our group concluded that the herd effect likely plays a role in the behavior of Danes at crosswalks and that Danes are less likely to jaywalk when they see others deciding not to jaywalk. Other groups ran experiments to see how likely Danes were to return a lost wallet, how well people make decisions under time constraints, and how people judge the taste of wine depending on how much information they are given about it. It was interesting to see how my classmates came up with these experiments and what their results said about behavior.

What I’ve learned outside the classroom

My best day in Copenhagen started when my roommate and I simply decided we were going to get donuts, but it became my most eventful day. After getting our donuts (which were amazing!), we decided to scope out a nearby basketball court. We found the courts, but we didn’t start playing basketball for another several hours because there was just so much going on in the area.

The first thing my roommate and I noticed was some kind of dance performance. It didn’t seem like a completely choreographed performance yet it was too good to be completely improvised. Dozens of dancers took turns dancing solo, in groups, or all at once, and it was one of the most unpredictable things I’ve seen.

After watching for at least an hour, my roommate and I decided to eat at a market called TorvehallerneKBH that was just on the other side of the basketball court. After looking through the market’s many shops, I had my best meal which was a chicken wrap with salted almonds. On top of this, there was also a flea market going on right outside.

After doing all of this, we finally played basketball—and it did not disappoint. In the five basketball games I played, I met locals, people from Germany, a man from Austria and NYC, a man from Pakistan who knew 8 languages, and more. It’s safe to say this was the most diversity I have ever experienced at once. But one thing that finally jumped out at me was the fact that I was outside playing basketball with people of all ages—something I couldn’t imagine doing in the states. This may just be me, but I feel that I rarely see adults doing physical activity for fun or even having free time in the first place. There really seems to be something about life in Copenhagen that gives its people a sense of freedom and an easy-going attitude. 

This realization I had is in line with what I learned in my class trip to The Happiness Museum. The Nordic countries have the best work-life balance in the world, and the spontaneity and freedom I’ve seen from Danes supports that. At The Happiness Museum, it was explained that happiness can be seen not just as a measure of positive joy, but as being able to avoid negative things like suffering and unhappiness. Because of this, my biggest takeaway about life in Copenhagen is that, because of its social norms and social safety nets, Danes can be happy knowing that they aren’t one mistake away from losing their livelihoods, which allows them to live with a mindset of abundance.

I’ll also add another thing that made me happy: Tivoli Gardens. Tivoli reminded me a bit of county fairs I had been to growing up, with a variety of cool roller coasters and rides, some of which give you amazing views of Copenhagen. If that’s not for you, going to Tivoli is still a great experience because it’s an impressive place to walk around; the fountains, gardens, birds, and performances are bound to catch your eye.

What I’ll miss

Now that my time in Copenhagen is over, it’ll be hard to move on from some things I became so used to.

Copenhagen’s metro system was my favorite way to get around, and I’m not sure I’ll find something as simple and efficient. Another thing I’ll miss that I’m only noticing in retrospect is the amount of small businesses. With so many options, there was always something new to discover. I’ll also miss being able to stumble upon great events and sights. As I’ve shown in these blog posts, the best memories I’ve made happened when I wasn’t even looking for something to do.

Looking Forward

As much as I’ll miss Copenhagen, there’s a lot to look forward to in Session 2. Some of what I found great about Copenhagen could also be found in Stockholm, where I’ll be taking Comparative Economics, a class that features a study tour in Athens, Greece!

In Stockholm, I look forward to visiting many museums, exploring nature, and continuing to learn. After having some experience navigating a new country, I feel that I can really make the most of what Stockholm has to offer.

Farvel København, og hej Stockholm!


Leave a Reply