How to navigate the Danish summer
Ah, summer. It’s my favorite time of the year! After almost three years in Denmark, though, I’ve learned to manage my expectations a bit better. So here are some of my dos and don’ts for navigating summer in Denmark. The pictures are all from my Instagram – come follow me if you like!
DO: Adjust your expectations
Let’s start with a moment of honesty: Danish summer is fickle, and much like many other good things in life, not to be taken for granted. One year, we might get lucky and have the most beautiful weather from mid-May to early September (looking at you, 2014!), whereas this year, for example, felt like an endless March/ April, with 13-15 degree rainy weather and a warm sunny day as the rare exception. My very best tip for navigating the Danish summer is not to expect too much, and to make the most of what you’ll get. On a sunny day, head out there, sit in the park, take a swim in the ocean, grab an iced coffee with a friend! You never know, the rain might be back tomorrow.
DON’T: Complain to a Dane about the heat
Don’t get me wrong, it actually can get pretty hot here in Denmark. We’ve had a couple of days of sizzling heat, the kind that feels like you can only escape it by fully submerging your entire body in cold water for a couple of hours. However, I’ve noticed that the Danes don’t take kindly to complaints about the heat. If you utter the phrase “gosh, it’s really warm today!” to a Dane, you can be sure to get the answer “but we’re not complaining!”, like a reflex. I think it’s precisely because the Danish summer cannot be taken for granted that people are very careful not to complain about the weather, however hot it might get – “we don’t know how many warm days we’ll have”!
Instead of complaining, how about heading to one of the city’s many beaches (like Amager Strandpark or Bellevue) or taking a dip in one of the many harbor baths (Islands Brygge, Fisketorvet, Sluseholmen)? And, of course, ice cream is always a viable alternative. Check out my list for the best ice creams in Copenhagen here.
DO: Carry an umbrella
Get yourself a small pocket umbrella at Tiger and carry it around in your purse wherever you go. If you bike, buy a plastic poncho. Rain is a very real part of Danish summer, and often, it’s gone as fast as it came. It’s all about being prepared!
DO: Buy good blinds
One thing I love, love, love about Denmark in the summer is the endless hours of daylight. On the longest day of the year, we get an average of 17 hours and 32 minutes of daylight here in Copenhagen. Go ahead, tell me that’s not awesome! But if you’re a light sleeper, you might want to get yourself some good blackout blinds to keep out the light in the early hours of the morning and the late hours at night. At around 4:30am, it’ll already be bright outside, and at 11pm, sensitive sleepers might not be able to drift off due to the light.
DO: Host a barbecue
Okay, this may not be a strictly Danish thing, but who doesn’t love a good barbecue?! The Danes are definitely barbecue aficionados, too – as soon as the weather gets sunny, the supermarkets start to carry large selections of all sorts of grill sausages and marinated meats, and walking through a residential area on an early summer evening, you’ll be surrounded by the smell of charcoal and steaks sizzling on the grill. Many apartment building complexes have common areas, which also include benches or a larger grill, and you can find barbecue stations in many parks as well.
A couple of DON’Ts here, too:
- Don’t use disposable barbecues in parks directly on the grass. That leaves nasty burn marks. Also, take your trash with you when you leave!
- Don’t bury your coals with sand if you grill on the beach! They can actually stay quite hot under there and cause burns when people step on them.
- If you live in an apartment complex, don’t host rowdy grill parties until dawn on a weeknight, even if it’s the summer holiday period… Some people still have to work! (Unfortunately, very few of the families in my house seem to understand this common courtesy.)
DON’T: Work too much
Especially July is the quietest month of the entire year. Many smaller cafés and mom-and-pop stores will simply close their doors, for a couple of weeks or even the entire month. Office buildings feel either like ghost towns (I swear I saw a tumbleweed the other day!) or like kindergartens, as a lot of parents will bring their kids to work for a couple of days during the vacation period. In most industries, the summer is very, very slow (my friend got an email reply saying something along the lines of “we’ll get back to you in six weeks, when everyone is back from vacation”), so you won’t work yourself to death.
DO: Go shopping
Summer sales in Denmark are actually real sales. With big discounts. On good stuff, too! So if you have some spare time on your heads, you should go on a little shopping tour and see if you can get your hands on some bargains. You’ll also find a lot of “lagersalg” (warehouse sales) to make room for new collections. Be prepared for it to be crowded, though, since everyone is on vacation and has ample time for shopping escapades!
What are your best tips on navigating the Danish summer? Do you take your vacation with everyone else or sit in an empty office? Let me know in the comments below!