Working hard for an easy life.

10 Minute Read
Art & Culture
Written by Angie Fay

Lately, I’ve been thinking that I might’ve been doing life wrong. For the last few years at least anyway. Though potentially maybe all of it. I’m still working that one out.

Of course, I want an easy life, who doesn’t? But it seems that for a long time now I’ve been running with the notion that you have to work hard, really, really hard, all the time, to get a so-called easy life…

By putting the graft in now, and applying the extra effort, everywhere – I’ll eventually arrive at this landing point of zen-calm neutrality. Where, not only will I have got everything I ever wanted and needed (note to self: must remember to check in on what that actually is again…), but I myself will have evolved from being a ‘consistently slightly frazzled and generally ready for a sit-down’ being, into a vision of health, happiness and oneness.


However, I’ve been starting to debate this. Starting to question if this is the right way and the only option. Like, if I stopped trying. Right now. Just – let everything be. Less effort. Almost no effort. And just be with things how they are, as they happen and take more time and do what I actually want and less doing what I think other people want. I mean, what would happen then? What would life be like? Would it throw a massive curve ball on the path between this (quite hectic) moment right now and this imaginary future blissful zen-like state? Or would trying less, be the actual gateway to Zen? The fast-track.

I do attribute a lot of this hardwired, hard work ethic and relatively busy and occasionally complicated life to living in London. I mean, no surprise there. It is well known that it can draw a lot out of a person. And don’t get me wrong, London has so much to give back, it’s all there for the taking in exchange. The food, the culture, the architecture, the incredible sights and the amazing people. But sometimes you’re just so knackered from simply ‘being in London’, to even entertain any of that. Over last few years I have considered moving out of London (aka opting out, aka failing) for somewhere calmer, brighter, and more walkable. Somewhere on the whole, easier. I’ve spent time trying other places on for size. In fact, it feels like every time I leave the outer limits of the M25 I’m on some sort of recce for a life on the other side. A life more ordinary.

Denmark, or rather Copenhagen more specifically has come up. It’s been mentioned and suggested by friends and cohorts as ‘a good option’. It’s renowned as being one of the happiest places in the world to live, a very easy place. It’s safe, clean and beautiful. It’s compact and most people get around on a bike. Yes, taxes are high, but the Danish people completely trust their government on how to spend these taxes responsibly (imagine that!) meaning the less fortunate are supported. Healthcare is free and available to everyone, as is education through to university, meaning people can choose to study what they love. With an incredible welfare system to support them, they go on to careers they enjoy ( (yes I appreciate this reference is from the official website of Denmark, but I’m writing this retrospectively so I can vouch first hand for all of it). Public transport runs all night, they’re very keen on clubs (as in hobbies not dancefloors) which does even more for community connection and being active. And they have an incredibly strong pastry game. In a global context it has an extremely forward-thinking focus on that golden phrase; the ‘work-life balance’ and a vigilant emphasis on wellbeing. Danes value free time, and being with family and friends, which in turn brings contentment and satisfaction (Leap29). The way they organise their lives, in a mostly scheduled way carving out downtime, leisure pursuits, and the now world-renowned art form of cosy living ‘hygge’; means less thinking and more simplicity.

So basically a nice easy life. I’m signed up, for the weekend anyway and yes I’m excited and yes absolutely I’ll be taking lots of notes. Plus, by going to Copenhagen, I’ll feel like I’m stepping into the heart of East London’s design aesthetic. There can’t be many places left in the world now where you won’t stumble across a hotel/restaurant / co-work space/concept store that isn’t oozing that signature Danish look with clean, minimal yet cosy design, influenced by nature and functionalism. It’ll be like tasting Mr Kipling for the first time having only ever eaten a supermarket own-brand.

And so here I am, on happy turf in Denmark’s incredibly demur capital city. It’s an instant feel-good hit on arrival. I’m staying on the edge of Vesterbro which apparently is a bit of a sexy hotspot for bars and restaurants. My home for my stay – The Grand Joanne Hotel. And it does feel like home. Not my home, but a super nice, well well-designed one with neutral tones and natural materials everywhere. It’s a simple elegance that I feel just by being in, is making me stand up straighter and breathe slower. Everyone is incredibly nice and welcoming which feels genuinely, genuine. There’s gorgeous art on the walls – actual pieces, not just stock prints, individual handmade chocolates in the room, and window seats where I can have my Lost In Translation moment.


In an effort to embrace easier living, I opt for the hotel bar to christen my stay vs venturing out. The cocktail menu is written up on the back of a 12-inch sleeve, vinyl still inside and each drink is named after some iconic song. Some of the drinks sound totally mental, those appear to be the ones I’m drawn to. I go for a Beach Boys Kokomo – rum, sherry, chestnut liqueur, creme de cacao, amaro and angostura. I’m told by the hotel’s head bartender Dino that it’s an award-winning concoction, designed by him and the one he’s most proud of. I’m proud of Dino. The drink comes quickly and is served with a titanic-sized ice cube, complete with a small slab of white chocolate topped with edible bronze. A bronze top essentially, like a very posh larger top I guess. After this goes down incredibly well, I’m treated to a small sample of the Chris Rea – Driving Home For Christmas. Whilst I’m fond of all the separate ingredients; Hennessy VS Rum, Sherry, Amaro, Cinnamon, Lemon, Apple, Cream & Bubbles, I hadn’t been convinced of how they’d all work together. Enter Dino and those magic mixologist hands. Pure Christmas joy and ecstasy in a glass is what it is. This is a serious cocktail creation. An art form and sophistication. It makes a picante margarita look like something a toddler would knock up in a Fisher-Price kitchen.


The following morning, I saddle up on one of the hotel’s vibrant pink bikes, complete with the basket and the classic high-up handlebars that I’d hoped for. Setting off on my voyage of discovery I find cycling is very easy in Copenhagen. Yes, everyone does it. Yes, you look boss on the big Danish upright bikes. I’m also able to get across the entire city in about 10 minutes, which is about the same time it takes me to walk to my closest tube station back home. I ride my bike in London a lot. I like the exercise and a lot of the time it’s just quicker. But it is a big safety gamble every – single – time. And the relief of this ride, in a city dedicated to cyclists, is just lovely. My first ESSENTIAL stop-off is one of the first of many bakery break delights. I chose an obscene almond cream tower with marzipan filling and I think some sort of fruit was mentioned too. It’s so delicate and attractive that there’s just absolutely no way this can do anything bad to the insides of my body at all.

Buzzed up on dairy and sugar, I pedal onwards to Denmark’s Design Museum. There are a multitude of galleries and museums to choose from in Copenhagen, but for the sake of simplicity, I zoned in on just this one, aiming to hit the mothership of Denmark’s core values around creativity.  And it’s just very nice to be in a museum like this, where everything is so forward-facing, with such a strong sense of solution, adaptability and positivity. Yes, our world has issues and it is important to be reminded of these, so we can learn, act and prevent but this does mean that the future, at times, can feel daunting. Here though, there’s space for something else; this discerning and collective set of thinkers who become creatively invigorated by all the world’s problems and start planning the solutions. How things could look and how we can make it all work, how for example design can strengthen mental health, how research has shown the healing effect of spending time in nature and how pleasant surroundings can relieve loneliness, sadness and anxiety, all of which are on the rise across generations. Reflecting this more and more, the museum shows how designers are addressing topics like this in their work, by either bringing nature closer to us or creating projects and products that raise difficult conversations or break taboos, but with a means to move forward. It frames the future in a different way.  

Cycling around the various, captivating districts and streets of Copenhagen, I started to see how this positive relationship with design and function can have positive change. If your surroundings look nice, simple, spacious and calm you’re going to start to feel that too. I think back to those well-trodden streets of London, the chaos, the noise, the jumble of it all. And they’re fond thoughts. But yeah, I get this – your outsides are going to have an impact on what’s going on inside too. 


Onto Friday evening, which proves to be the highlight of the entire trip. No, it’s not Noma. I present to you, GoBoat. Electric boats you hire and get to drive yourself, totally unsupervised, just like a captain. Not only that, they pack you off with blankets, heated seats and a big hearty hamper of champagne and crisps for the journey. As I step aboard our vessel, gently rocking in the water, helmed with an LED lantern, I get a briefing on how it all works (very simply), the speed you must go (very slowly) and the route to take (very easy). It’s an evening voyage, and pulling away fully autonomous, I’m the captain of my very own little electric ship. The champagne cork gets popped, the crisps get cracked open, and I marvel at the incredible setting sun in the sky and immediately miss the first turn. Marginally panicked, I plough on through the water at a speed only slightly quicker than walking, and forge an alternative route through the waterways. It’s beautiful and quite surreal to just be gently whirring round the city streets in this way. I’m not saying that if I lived here I’d elect to do this every Friday night, but for someone who’s ‘reigned it in a bit’ these last few years, this sparks something new off about what Friday nights can look like, if it’s not clubs, bars and restaurants. After a polite yet slightly confused call from the personnel at GoBoat, ‘just checking in’ as I’m about 25 minutes later than expected which never happens as it’s almost impossible to go wrong, I find my way back and glide back into berth with something of an almost Swallows and Amazons style victory. I wonder how this would’ve all played out on the Thames, handing over a boat to a tourist with a bottle of champagne and sending them off into the night sky. 

The rest of the trip is effortless. I engage in various culinary delights with many many, many more pastries. I partake in Smørrebrød – open sandwiches that are a staple of Danish cuisine, making Pret an absolute embarrassment. I eat at Kødbyens Fiskebar in the meatpacking district, which is incredible and likely to go down as one of my favourite meals in history. Saturday, I head to the VEGA, one of Copenhagen’s leading live music venues, as well as another design showstopper. The building, listed within Denmark for its special architectural design is adorned with every inch of classic Danish design features with dark wood panelling, mahogany floors, geometric friezes, and inventive details of railings and lamps. It’s all deep tones and a time trap of mid-century allure. It’s atmospheric and the ultimate scene setter. The show – Fevery Ray, an arresting and utterly mesmeric performance turns out to be the most befitting reason to bring me to Copenhagen. Full report HERE

And with that the trip comes to an end. Will I be back? YES. Did I exceed an almost dangerous level of pastries. Of course!. Have I already started scrolling through Rightmove. Absolutely. Is Denmark an easy place to live? Well, obviously that’s totally objective and no one life runs in a straight line. But as a country it’s almost quite mindblowing to see the model that’s been put in place to genuniely look after its citizens, with said citizens appreadiciating and trusting this. The ease one must get from knowing they’re going to be looked after, that they’re mostly able to pursue life choices, careers and pursuits of their choosing because of this, does feel wildly different to so many countries. Ultimately it’s just quite inspiring. And with the news that gets pumped through to us, this can be so important. To just know there are better ways of doing big things out there. 

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