Podcasts, Stories about life in Denmark

Danes and Spring: Hot wheat buns and highly-educated drunks

It’s spring in Denmark, and spring is by far my favorite season here. The wonderful white Scandinavian sunlight is back after the dark days of the winter, the flowers are coming out on the trees, and everybody’s in a good mood. The outdoor cafés are full of people again – sometimes draped in blankets to keep warm, but outside all the same.

April and May are often the best months for weather in Denmark, along with September. Summers can be rainy. And April is when Tivoli opens in Copenhagen. (Side note: when you see a man in Denmark with his trousers accidentally unzipped, you quietly inform him “Tivoli is open!”)

Tivoli is one of the world’s great non-disappointing tourist attractions – it’s constantly updated, with new shops, new rides, fresh flowers and fresh restaurants. And in the spring, it’s not as crowded as it is in the summer. You can hang out all day, have a picnic, ride the rollercoaster, even hear some bands play.

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Podcasts, Stories about life in Denmark

Danish Birthdays: Flags, Queens, and Remembering to Buy Your Own Cake


It has been said that Danish birthdays are the most important in the world. Adults, children, even the Queen of Denmark make a big deal about birthdays. And there is specific set of birthday rules and traditions for every age and role you play in life. Let’s face it, Danish birthday traditions are a minefield for foreigners. Get it wrong and you could make some serious birthday faux pas.

For example, if the sun is shining on your birthday, you may find Danish people thanking you. ‘Thanks for the sunshine’ they’ll say. This is because in Danish tradition, the weather on your birthday reflects your behavior over the past year. If you’ve been good, the weather is good. If you’ve been bad….well, then. You get depressing, grey, Danish rain.

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The How To Live in Denmark game show event: Aarhus

How to Live in Denmark Jeopardy

If you’re in Aarhus on Wednesday, May 27, 2015, join us for the ‘How to Live in Denmark Game Show.’

We’ll be playing the game show at the Lakeside Lecture Hall, Aarhus University, 17:00 – 19:00. Admission is free!

We use the format of TV game shows – which are popular around the world – to put participants at their ease and get them interacting with each other. ‘How To Live in Denmark Jeopardy’ is one of our most popular games.

The Game Show host

A former staff member at Danske Bank, Carlsberg Breweries and Saxo Bank, Kay Xander Mellish runs her own communications consulting business in Copenhagen, Denmark. She is behind the podcast series ‘How to Live in Denmark’ and is the author of the book ‘How to Live in Denmark‘, available in English and Chinese.

Corporate bookings

If you represent a corporate or business group and would like to have Kay make a presentation at your location, please get in touch via this site’s contact form for more information.

How To Live in Denmark intercultural events are designed to make international employees feel more comfortable in Denmark, help them understand the Danish mindset, and give them something to chat about with their Danish colleagues besides just ‘shop talk.’

Contact Kay via this site’s contact form for more information, or download a PDF flier about How to Live in Denmark events to share with friends and colleagues.


Book a “What is Danishness?”/”Hvad er Danskhed?” event

What does it mean to be Danish? Or, put in local terms, Hvad er Danskhed? In this intercultural event, Kay Xander Mellish will discuss Danishness from a foreigner’s perspective, and suggest ways that Danes and foreigners can understand each other better.

Kay Xander Mellish arrived in Denmark 14 years ago. A trained journalist and a former member of the communications staff at Danske Bank, Carlsberg Breweries and Saxo Bank, Kay runs her own communications consulting business in Copenhagen, Denmark. She is behind the podcast series ‘How to Live in Denmark’ and is the author of the book ‘How to Live in Denmark‘, available in English and Chinese.

Book Kay for your group

If you represent a corporate or community group and would like to have Kay make a presentation at your location, please get in touch via this site’s contact form for more information. Or download a PDF about How to Live in Denmark events you can share with colleagues.


Danes and Singing: Danish drinking songs, party songs, and foreigners who try to hum along


There have been very few international singing stars from Denmark, and that’s a surprise, because Danish people love to sing.

Joining choirs is very popular, and Danish schoolchildren often start the week with a song – in my daughter’s school, all the grades get together and sing something from the school’s common songbook.

There’s actually a kind of common songbook for all the children of Denmark, called De Små Synger, where you can find classics like Se Min Kjole (See my dress), Lille Peter Edderkop (Little Peter Spider) or Oles Nye Autobil, (Ole’s new car). Ole’s new car is actually a toy car that he uses to run into things, like his sister’s dollhouse. De Små Synger

In general, the Small Songs are a throwback to an older Denmark, a quieter Denmark where most people lived in the countryside. Many of the songs refer to green hilltops, or forests, or baby pigs or horses, or happy frogs that live in a swamp. And of course, all the humans in the Small Songs are entirely Danish – or ‘Pear Danish,’ as the local expression goes. One out of five children born in Denmark today is not an ethnic Dane, but there’s no such thing as Little Muhammed Spider or Fatima’s New Toy Car.

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In the Media

How To Live in Denmark in Politikken

In an article about whether the Danish reputation for being the ‘world’s happiest country’ helped attract tourists, Politikken asked Kay Xander Mellish what she thought.

»Jeg får mange spørgsmål fra folk i udviklingslande, og for dem er lykkemålingerne ikke så vigtige – de vil bare gerne til Danmark for at tjene godt. Men jeg får også mange spørgsmål fra folk i USA og andre lande, hvor mange i forvejen har det godt, og blandt dem er der stor interesse for, at danskerne er verdens lykkeligste folk«, siger Kay Xander Mellish.

Hun har netop udgivet en humoristisk guide til udlændinge om at bo i Danmark. Hendes forklaring på dansk lykke er, at man i Danmark har tilrettelagt livet, så mange har tid til både job og familie.

»I Danmark har man en balance mellem arbejde og fritid, som man slet ikke har, når man som jeg boede på Manhattan i New York, hvor alle konkurrerer med hinanden om alt fra jobs til lejligheder og kærester«, siger Kay Xander Mellish.

I sin bog ’How to Live in Denmark’ gør hun dog også op med misforståelser om danskernes lykke, som mange har.

»Især venstreorienterede amerikanere er meget optaget af, at sundhedsvæsnet og uddannelsessystemet i Danmark er gratis, som de siger. De sætter sig slet ikke ind i, at man faktisk betaler en langt højere skat og moms for at have det på den måde«, siger Kay Xander Mellish.

Read the Politikken article featuring How to Live in Denmark

In the Media

Go’ Morgen Danmark welcomes HTLID

See the video: Kay Xander Mellish sat down with Go’ Morgen Danmark host Ida Wohlert to discuss the How to Live in Denmark book and what it’s like to be a foreigner in Denmark.

Ida and her team had put together a ‘foreigner’s survival kit’ that included a bicycle helmet – to protect yourself against Viking Danes in bicycle lanes – plus some Riberhus Mellemlageret cheese and a hammer, since Danes love to talk about their home renovation projects.

Watch the Go’ Morgen Danmark segment featuring How to Live in Denmark

Book, Stories about life in Denmark

恭喜發財! The ‘How to Live in Denmark’ Chinese version is now available.

After a process that seemed to take longer than building the Great Wall, the Chinese version of ‘How to Live in Denmark’ is finally available, just in time for Chinese New Year. This is the year of the Goat, an auspicious year for creative enterprises. 恭喜發財!

Thanks to my Singapore-based translator, John Zhao, as well as the many Denmark-based Chinese speakers who took time to help me out! I appreciate it.

You can access the eBook version here on the site or via Apple’s iBooks store. (Due to an agreement with the Chinese government, Amazon does not support Chinese for Kindle Direct Publishing.) It’s also available via the Danish online bookstore, Saxo.com.

A print version of the How to Live in Denmark Chinese version will be available March 1.

Please contact me if you’re interested in a volume package to distribute to your student or work organization,  of if you’re interested inviting me to China (I would be happy to visit my old colleagues at the South China Morning Post) or having me stage a live ‘How To Live in Denmark’ event.


More Snow Tomorrow: Surviving Winter as a Foreigner in Denmark


Everyone suffers a little bit during the winter in Denmark. But I feel particularly bad for people I can see come from warmer climates, and are experiencing one of their first winters here.

In Copenhagen the other day, I saw a pretty young woman – she looked like a newlywed – wearing traditional Pakistani dress. A light chiffon tunic, soft pajama pants, little leather slippers – and then a giant parka over the top. All around her was grey, slushy snow. I got the sense that she was a new bride whose husband hadn’t really given her the full story about Denmark and Danish winter. She looked so cold and unhappy.

I also feel bad for the African migrant workers I see here. They’re often wearing kind of cool-looking leather jackets, which they probably get when they pass through Italy, and not much else in the way of winter clothing. I sometimes see one of these dark guys fighting his way through a white cloud of windy snow. And the look on his face is not full of love for Denmark.

Of course, immigrants to Denmark adapt to the cold after a while. I think Muslim women have it best, because they often wear a head covering every day anyway.

Danes, on the other hand, often go bare-headed all winter.

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