A Danish Life Lesson: The Simple Joy of Sunshine

Sunbathing in Copenhagen

When was the last time you got up from your desk, stepped outside, stretched, paused and truly enjoyed a sunny day for more than a few seconds?  I’m talking about heading down to a park, or out to your back yard to lounge in the sun like a cat on a lazy afternoon?  If you’re like me you probably haven’t in a long, long time.

It’s no secret that Denmark isn’t exactly the world’s sunniest destination.  Located at a similar latitude as Newfoundland, Edinburgh and Moscow the summer days are long and the winter nights are even longer.  The city of Copenhagen is located on one of the many islands that make up the nation and like most coastal cities it experiences more than its fair share of rain fall.  In winter the Danes battle the inevitable creep of depression as they break out vitamin D supplements and sun lamps to offset the extended periods of darkness. Despite these challenges they’ve regularly been ranked some of the happiest people in the world and with good reason!

I recently relocated from one of the sunniest places in the United States. In Phoenix, Arizona blue skies and hot weather are the norms. So normal that even the periodic white puffy cloud can be cause for conversation.  Unfortunately, it’s something that I’ve only begun to realize we not only take for granted but also completely under utilize.

Sunbathing in Copenhagen

When a sunny summer day hits here in Copenhagen the locals are out en-mass. Streets are clogged by bicyclists, outdoor cafes filled past capacity, every park awash in half clothed bodies, and the harbor areas decorated by sunbathers and people out to enjoy the weather.  In Copenhagen the sun isn’t something that is ignored or tolerated. It is something that is celebrated.  When the weather is beautiful the people genuinely go out of their way to enjoy it.   I’m not just talking about pausing casually here or there. I’m talking about putting on bathing suits and heading to the park or stripping down to bras and shorts to lounge along the docks or in the city parks.

As I found myself meandering the city the positive energy and general approach to the sunny weather was intoxicating.  It truly WAS a beautiful day and the people not only knew it, but embraced it! I’ve spent years with more sunny days than I can count, but I don’t think I’ve ever been surrounded by people who made such great use of them.  Oh, sure we’d have the occasional day on the river and pool party in Arizona but even those were more about time in the water than enjoying the sun.  The real shame is that even though the summers are genuinely too hot to enjoy properly in Arizona everyone I know there lets that poison the chance to enjoy incredible weather when it does come during spring and fall. Arizonans aren’t alone it’s a similar mistake shared by people all over the world.

So, the next time you find yourself waking up to a bright sunny day don’t just hide inside or take it for granted.  Smile, roll up your sleeves, take off your shirt and head somewhere where you can enjoy it.  The sun and summer are things that should be shared so don’t just do it alone, make it a social outing and take a friend, a loved one or a family member with you!

For my part, now that I’m learning to slow down and smell the sunshine you’ll find me joining the Danes and relaxing in the sun.  It’s time I made up for lost time – life is good!

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Alex Berger

I am a travel blogger and photographer. I also am involved in academic research into the study abroad and backpacker communities.

11 Comments

  1. Laurensays:

    Wow! What a great post… I brought my laptop outside in the sunshine to finish reading and I think I’ll stay here for a while. :) Thanks Alex!

  2. Katesays:

    Agreed to all, except for the “smile, roll up your sleeves, take off your shirt” part – mainly because [sober] Danes still don’t smile nearly as much as one of the world’s happiest nationalities ought to (and partly because I think it’d be best if I not strip. lol)… In any case, yeah, I have to say I was pleasantly surprised/vaguely entertained to find that every park or patch of grass in the city is apparently a prime spot for sunbathing!

    • True, but if you smile at them they tend to smile back. They’re just usually intent on doing something and if they’re relaxing vs. going somewhere they seem to be in pretty good spirits/smiling! The usage of parks is definitely an awesome thing!

  3. I moved to Denmark (Aarhus) in December 2005–perfect time to relocate to Scandinavia, eh?–and it was a particularly brutal winter, one in which it snowed through the end of May. So some June 15 when the sun finally peeked its face out? Everyone came out of the woodwork to lay out in the gardens and parks and public spaces until well after midnight each night. It was glorious! All that (and now having lived in foggy, cold San Francisco for the past four years) definitely taught me to appreciate sunshine like nothing else!

    • Ouch! Yeah part of the reason I came over a month early was to get settled AND to enjoy the weather while it is good. Granted the two are totally different but what are you impressions comparing and contrasting San Fran and Aarhus? What is Aarhus like?

  4. There is nothing like sunshine Aussies love the sun and can be seen out in it any chance we get so I relate to this post

  5. As a part-time Tucson resident and your neighbor down I-10, I can relate to taking Arizona’s abundant sunshine for granted. I’ve read studies that suggest our bodies become addicted to bright sunshine. I notice the difference when I visit other climates. Perhaps that’s the reason the residents of Trondheim, Norway, were out on their balconies sunbathing in the nude on the sunny summer’s day that I visited. All kidding aside, your post is an important reminder that we should go outside, even if we have to take the laptops with us. Tomorrow? You’ll find me, at home, out on the back deck that overlooks Montana’s Bitterroot Mountains, computer on my lap. Thanks for the wake-up call.

    • I believe it! Especially when you think about how we adapt to process certain things and how essential the nutrients we get from sunlight are. I’m very curious to see how that aspect of things goes for me here in Denmark once it starts to get dark. As far as Trondheim, sounds about right! lol. Sounds like a gorgeous view and a great place to soak up some rays, even with your laptop in tow!

  6. Dansays:

    Totally agree Alex! Thats what we did in Washington too :)

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