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A Girl Abroad: History and Happiness in Copenhagen

PHOTOS AND STORY BY Karina de Jesus FOR THE STYLE LINE

Fairyland. The first word that comes to mind when

thinking about Copenhagen and its cobblestone streets and colorful buildings that have survived centuries. My friend tells me that some people still have communal bathrooms outside of their apartment that they are not allowed to change because the government is dedicated to preserving the history of the city. When we visit The Apartment DK, she also tells me that the top floor of the building was used to dry laundry and points out the stairway that was used by maids and the servant staff of the house.

 

“How do you know all of this?” I ask.

It may be my ignorance during the high school years, but it also feels like she knows more than the average person about the historical and cultural details of her capital. “The culture and history of our country are truly instilled in us,” my friend replies. “We just have so much of it. The Danish take pride in their roots.”

It’s true. And why wouldn’t they? From universal health care, maternity leaves, and a society that pressures you to have a life outside of the workplace, it feels that the Danish have it figured out. They have been recognized as the happiest people in the world multiple times despite almost never seeing the sunshine (it rained or was cloudy three out of the four days I was there) and paying up to 50% of their income in taxes.

It feels that this in-depth knowledge of their background and social well-being have translated into the Danish style as well. Everyone knows the Copenhagen girl: the girl that bikes to work every day so she will most likely choose sneakers over heels yet will manage to look chicer than many New Yorkers on a Friday night. She recognizes her beauty and captivating femininity so she will wear the flower dress and let her hair flow in the wind.

She doesn’t allow the cares of her life bog her down and she doesn’t take fashion trends too seriously – the Copenhagen girl will layer her Ganni in a way that we, the pragmatic U.S. residents, will not even consider. The Danish girl feels supported by society to lead the life that she wants.

This joyful and fun attitude towards dressing

makes me think that deep down all independent and strong women still want to feel feminine. As Gabrielle Chanel said, “The more feminine the woman, the stronger she is.” Our femininity is a powerful gift that, when tapped into, can change the world around us. Some may question the connection between the way we dress and the way we feel, but, in my experience, one cannot exist without the other. It’s about taking care of yourself and enjoying yourself. I think of busy days when I’ve chosen to run out the door without investing time in myself. Yes, it’s an investment.

On these days, I don’t feel good about the way I present myself which slows me down when dealing with what’s on my plate. And yes, I may not feel as supported by my society as the Danish girl but, I believe, my life depends on my choices.

And I’ve recognized that when I do take a little bit of time for myself, the day flows better, and I can actually benefit the people around me because I’m not brought down by insecurities.

Isn’t that something worth aspiring to?

A society of women that feel good about themselves and can possibly change the world around them? I’ll say so.

My friend and I strolled around the city, and conclude our afternoon with a glass of red wine outdoors. This is one of the days when it didn’t rain, and a fleece blanket is sufficient for us to enjoy the crisp fall air. The sun is setting and bouncing off the yellow houses around us. We remind each other that even if we are not living in the happiest country in the world, we can still be the happiest girls in the world.

It starts with us.

“I may not feel as supported by my society as the Danish girl but, I believe, my life depends on my choices.”