Helsinki & Copenhagen


A personal project on the cultural differences between two Nordic cities. 

Tool: Adobe Illustrator



The first official Bike City in the world from 2008-2011

Copenhageners love their bikes. Cycling is fast, convenient, healthy, climate-friendly, enjoyable - and cheap, although Copenhageners honestly love their bikes no matter their financial income. Even top politicians ride their bike every day to parliament.

Actually, only 29% of the households in Copenhagen even own a car. In comparison, there are more bikes than inhabitants in Copenhagen, 454 kilometres of cycle tracks and traffic lights that are coordinated in favour of cyclists during rush hour. While motorists sit in tailbacks, cyclists tend to sweep through the city.



“If sauna, liquor and tar don’t help, the disease is fatal"

This old Finnish proverb reflects well the importance of the sauna for Finns. The sauna was a place where babies were born, the sick were cared for and the deceased were washed before burial. When new homes were built, the sauna was often the first construction to go up and provided shelter until the main building was complete.

There are over three million saunas in Finland, and they are heated up regularly throughout the year. Finns like to heat their saunas up to almost 100 degrees Celsius, so it’s good to take regular breaks to cool down. The most refreshing way is to take a quick dip in a lake or the sea – in wintertime you can even take a dip through a hole cut in the ice. Alternatively, try rolling in the snow!


While Finn is well-known as the world's greatest coffee drinkers and coffee breaks in Finland are required by most workers unions, the coffee culture flourishes in Copenhagen with world-class baristas, hip coffee shops, own roasters and quality coffee. To be fair, the difference is not that noticeable, I just can't help to feel a bit in favour with Copenhagen's vibrant coffee scene :)

Again, a personal bias on the impression of Helsinki as a blooming hub for tech start-ups, while Copenhagen is often named as the hip city of Scandinavia.

Both are worldly famous for their success and are often referred as one of their country's signature products.

Alvar Aalto (1898 - 1976) one of the founders of Artek, was a Finnish architect and designer. He is recognised today as one of the great masters of modern architecture. His legendary Savoy Vase is one of the world’s most famous glass objects and remains a timeless staple for Iittala. [1] For many people the glass vase, with its asymmetric shape and freely curving tapering walls represents the quintessential qualities of Finnish design: originality, straightforwardness, and aesthetic sophistication. [2]

Arne Jacobsen (1902 - 1971) was a Danish architect and designer. He is remembered for his contribution to architectural Functionalism as well as for the worldwide success he enjoyed with simple but effective chair designs. With extremely simple and bold lines, the cutlery, designed for the SAS Royal Hotel in Copenhagen, was unlike anything that existed at the time. It was a departure from Georg Jensen’s earlier styles and made a huge impact in the design world at its debut. His Functionalist approach went on to dominate much of design in subsequent years. [3]




Another personal impression, for a foreigner Finnish intonation sounds quite flat and low, while Danish is a bit more "exciting" with more ups and downs :)

The reason could be that Finnish and Danish languages actually come from very different families: with Finnish being in the same group as Hungarian with Uralic root; while Danish, Swedish, and Norwegian belong to the same North Germanic family. 

More from The European Language Tree.

The two cities's most popular landmarks.


“Hygge (pronounced hue-gah) is a Danish word that is a feeling or mood that comes from taking genuine pleasure in making ordinary, every day things more meaningful, beautiful or special. Whether it’s making coffee a verb by creating a ritual of making it then lingering over a cup to a cosy evening in with friends to the simple act of lighting a candle with every meal.”



“Sisu is about taking action against the odds and displaying courage and resoluteness in the face of adversity. Deciding on a course of action and then sticking to that decision against repeated failures is Sisu. It is similar to equanimity, with the addition of a grim quality of stress management. The pertaining adjective is sisukas, “having the quality of Sisu”.”