The Geography of Happiness
This year has been one of transition for me. At the beginning of 2015 I left my employer after ten years, though I had been happy there much of the time. My role was changing – again – but the future was far too nebulous. I’m not a big fan of uncertainty. By some stroke of fate I happened upon a position with another software company that was almost a surreal fit for my skills, experience and interests. As though the job posting had been written just for me. That the company is headquartered in Denmark – with an office near my home – was of interest. But mostly a novelty. Having European co-workers initially just meant factoring in the time difference when attempting to communicate. The idea of our HQ in Copenhagen became much more relevant and real when I was invited to join the entire company for three days of team-building activities there last month. This seemed bizarre and generous, especially by American standards, but there are valid reasons the Danes are at the top of the UN’s World Happiness Report. And I’m learning more and more about Hygge – the art of enjoying the good things in life with good people. Now I’m so happy to have spent some quality time with my European colleagues. This 2014-2015 Corporate Social Responsibility report highlights what a great bunch of people we’ve got. And below is my personal take on our adventures together.
Some of my American colleagues headed to Europe early, for bonus sight-seeing, and were able to overcome their jet lag before our jam-packed itinerary kicked in. Others, like myself, were a bit discombobulated at first. I endured two layovers on my way to Copenhagen but thankfully had enough time to nap for several hours before our first event. We were amused to discover our company had rented a couple of double-decker buses to shuttle us all around, and had them vinyl wrapped with our logo. For the first item on the itinerary we were shuttled to an amazing evening at The Blue Planet, a cool vortex-shaped aquarium. We mingled with our colleagues, enjoyed some excellent catering and drinks and Europe’s largest school of piranhas and other ocean creatures.
Our second day in Copenhagen, and our first full day there – began with a lovely breakfast at the hotel followed by some presentations. Including an amusing and relevant talk by Colin Moon, about international and cross-cultural team building. Afterward we split into eight groups for an Amazing Race style scavenger hunt through the city. It was a great way to see some of the tourist-y landmarks I had planned to visit anyhow, like the Rundetårn – an old observatory with a spiral corridor used as a racetrack. And the Queen’s palace and some gorgeous parks. In the afternoon we headed to the beach for “The World’s Largest Blind Tandem Bike Ride” hosted by Siteimprove in conjunction with the Danish Association of the Blind to promote Global Accessibility Awareness Day. And we wrapped things up in the evening with a fun BBQ and home brew at the super cool Siteimprove HQ.
We were up bright and early and back on the bus for a day of sailing and hygge at Skovshoved Havn. I tend to motion sickness so I skipped the sailboats with the lightweight hulls in favor of the smoother riding schooner, which was most pleasant. After our time on the water there were push-up and planking contests (I only observed). Then we were served some delicious smørrebrød. After it was back on the buses to get some much needed clean-up time at the hotel, to make ourselves presentable for a gala at a castle! It’s hard to do the experience justice. We were treated to a tour of Kronborg Castle – where Hamlet was set – and then a lavish four course meal, paired with amazing wines. At the doorway to the banquet hall we each pulled a number out of a bowl, determining which table we’d be placed at and thus who our dining companions would be. I enjoyed the randomness of it. The event unfolded from 5pm until 4am. So much happened in that time span. Both magical and ridiculous. At one point I was standing in line at the bar, just to get more water, when a tall person near me was jostled and wound up depositing a full cocktail on my head. But it didn’t matter. Because I was in a castle! And I just went right back to the dance floor after chugging some water.
Saturday I intended to sleep in after getting to bed so late, but it was my last day in Copenhagen. I was sleep-deprived but managed to shower (I had to shampoo after having that mojito unceremoniously dumped on my head) and get down to the hotel restaurant just before breakfast was ending. Then some lovely co-workers joined me for a peaceful canal tour of the Nyhavn, with a most adorable tour guide. Afterward we enjoyed lunch at one of the many restaurants on the Nyhavn, and tried Danish Aquavit for the first time. Then it was off to check out Christiana but there wasn’t much going on. I had hoped to get there when bands were playing at the venue, Loppen, but the timing didn’t work out. So instead we set off for Tivoli Gardens to enjoy some rides at the amusement park with some more co-workers. Getting around by metro and bus was really quite easy but I would have loved to have my own bike with me. The bike lanes in Copenhagen are great! Separated from the auto traffic in the street by a substantial cement curb. But maybe biking there would be moderately terrifying just because of the sheer number of bikers, and how close to one another they get. Perhaps I’ll find out next time I visit.