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This week's How To Live in Denmark Podcast:


How To Live in Denmark
In the Media

‘Best of’ Podcast – Danish Names: Why Bent is not bent, and why it’s bad to be Brian

NOTE: I’m taking a couple weeks off from the podcast to work on the Chinese-language version of my book, ‘How to Live in Denmark’. I hope you’ll enjoy this ‘Best Of’ Podcast, which you may have missed when it was first broadcast.


Danish first names are very strongly stratified by age.

Ole and Finn and Knud and Kaj and Jørn and Jørgen and to some extent Poul and Per, are almost always over 50. Their female counterparts, their wives and sisters and secret lovers, are Inger and Karin and Kirsten and Ulla.

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Are you a good foreigner or a bad foreigner? How the Danes categorize newcomers to Denmark

Have you ever seen the movie The Wizard of Oz? It’s a classic. When Dorothy arrives in the land of Oz, the first thing she’s asked is – are you a good witch, or a bad witch?

I was having lunch with a friend this week. Over club sandwiches she said, its a shame there’s only one word for foreigner in Danish, when actually there are two types of foreigner here.

I got her point, even though I think there’s only one word for ‘foreigner’ in most languages. What she was really saying is, there’s no single way in Danish to say, Are you a good foreigner, or a bad foreigner?

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No skyscrapers, please, we’re Danish: Danes and architecture

Copenhagen is a modern international capital city – with no modern skyscrapers.

The tallest building downtown is still the tower on the Danish Parliament, which was built in 1928, followed by the City Hall, built in 1905. A law passed six years ago actually prohibits the construction of new skyscrapers in the central city. Most buildings in central Copenhagen are from three to six stories tall, and the law will keep it that way.

Skyscrapers simply aren’t popular here. It may be chic to live in a high-rise or a penthouse in Manhattan, but it’s not chic in Denmark.

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You wouldn’t think it, but China and Denmark have much more in common than red flags and a love for green technology. Bascially, the Chinese are helping keep three major Danish industries afloat. The first is the pig-raising business – pork is very popular in China – and the second is the wearable fur trade, since Chinese consumers still see fur as a mark of glamor and luxury. The third big industry China helps keep alive is the Danish royal family.


The 8:00 meeting is not an 8:05 meeting: Faux Pas in Denmark

I did a little crowdsourcing for this week’s podcast. I asked some of our listeners, and some people on Facebook – what were some of the small cultural mistakes – the dos and don’ts, the faux pas – you made when you first arrived in Denmark?

I got a whole selection of answers. Don’t keep your shoes on while entering someone’s home was one thing. Don’t arrive even a few minutes late was another. The 8:00 meeting is not an 8:05 meeting. Trying to bum a cigarette – not done in Denmark. Telephoning a friend after 9:30 in the evening or so – if you’re beyond university age, this is not done in Denmark. Dropping by to see a friend unannounced – not done in Denmark. Danes like to plan in advance – and they are proud of their homes, and don’t want you to see them messy.

One girl mentioned that she had eaten the last piece of cake on a plate. You should never eat the last piece of anything in Denmark, at least without asking every single person present. If you don’t want to do that, the proper etiquette is to slice the piece of cake in half, and take half. And then the next person will slice that half in half. And so on. In the end there will be a little transparent slice left to shrivel up in the middle of the plate.

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