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Stories about life in Denmark

Driving in Denmark: Doll-size parking spaces and unexpected U-turns

While a car is useful for exploring the Danish countryside, a car in one of Denmark’s larger cities can be a millstone around your neck.

The traffic is terrible, the fuel costs stratospheric, the parking spaces doll-sized. Bicyclists own the road and often ignore traffic rules.

If you’re just visiting, don’t feel you need to rent a car when you land at the airport.

Even if the home or business you’re visiting is in the suburbs, there’s a good chance you’ll save money by taking a cab – and most Danish taxis are Mercedes-Benz or Teslas. (There is no Uber or Lyft in Denmark.)

Watch out for bicyclists
If you do choose to drive in the city, be very careful about right turns.

Several Danish bicyclists are killed every year because a car or truck took a right turn and the bicyclist (who may be drunk, grooving out to music on his earbuds, or simply not paying attention) continued going straight.

There is no legal right turn on red in Denmark, and even on green, the bicyclist has the right of way.

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In the Media

How to Live in Denmark in the Media

On TV2’s “Go’ Morgen Danmark,” Kay recently discussed the differences between US and Danish working culture in the context of the US 2020 election.

In addition, DR.DK featured Kay in a story about how Americans perceive Danish social habits.

Journalist og forfatter Kay Xander Mellish, der har boet i Danmark siden år 2000 og har udgivet bøger med titler som ‘How to Live in Denmark’ og ‘How to Work in Denmark’. Bøgerne er skrevet med en tilflytters perspektiv og kaster et kærligt-kritisk blik på danskernes vaner og uvaner.

– Jeg er for nylig begyndt at coache danskere i de kulturelle forskelle, de vil opleve, når de laver forretninger i USA. Her er en vigtig læring, at danskere generelt ikke bryder sig om at give positiv feedback, medmindre noget er virkelig sensationelt,

Kay also noted the difference in the way Danes and Americans handle social events, particularly dinner parties.

“Når du er til et middagsselskab i Danmark, forventes det, at du bliver hængende virkelig, virkelig længe. Det forventes også, at du bliver siddende på den samme plads hele aftenen og i øvrigt drikker store mængder alkohol,” siger Kay Xander Mellish.

“Når du er inviteret til middag i USA, så rejser du dig, når du er færdig med at spise, og går måske ind i stuen og ser tv eller gamer sammen eller går i biografen. I USA tolkes det som dårlig opdragelse, hvis du bliver hængende for længe og bliver en byrde for din vært.

“I Danmark tolkes det derimod som uhøfligt, hvis du som gæst tager tidligt hjem. Da jeg kom hertil, kom jeg til at fornærme mange danskere, fordi jeg ikke forstod denne kulturelle forskel.”

Finally, BBC.com quoted Kay Xander Mellish in its story The Single Word that Connects Denmark.

It quoted Kay as saying:

Heavily subsidised through taxes, Danish daycare centres foster social mindedness early in life. “Almost everyone goes to public daycare in Denmark,” said Kay Xander Mellish, author of the books How to Live in Denmark and How to Work in Denmark. “Even Prince Christian, the future King Christian XI, attended public daycare.” Every child born in Denmark is guaranteed a place in daycare from six months to six years of age where the emphasis is on playing and socialising – formal education doesn’t begin until age eight or nine.

A culture where everyone is well looked after fosters trust and a sense of all being in it together

“In the first few years,” said Mellish, “children learn the basic rules for functioning as a society. They learn how to sit at a table at lunch time, wait until it is their turn to be served, and feed themselves. In the playground, they spend most of their time in “free play”, in which they make up rules for their own games.”

Staff generally don’t lead play, she explained, which “allows the children to form their own groups and learn how to work together on their own.”

And Kristeligt Dagblad interviewed Kay about the role of alcohol in Danish life.

“”Jeg husker tydeligt mine første julefrokoster, hvor alle de gifte mænd pludselig var enormt interesseret i at blive venner med én og tale om, at deres koner aldrig forstod dem,” siger Kay Xander Mellish.

Hear all our How to Live in Denmark podcasts on Spotify and on Apple Podcasts (iTunes).

 

Get the How to Work in Denmark Book for more tips on finding a job in Denmark, succeeding at work, and understanding your Danish boss. It can be ordered via Amazon or Saxo.com or from any bookstore using the ISBN 978-743-000-80-8. Contact Kay to ask about bulk purchases, or visit our books site to find out how to get the eBook. You can also book a How to Work in Denmark event with Kay for your school, company, or professional organization.

 

 

 

 

 

Want to read more? Try the How to Live in Denmark book, available in paperback or eBook editions, and in English, Chinese, and Arabic. If you represent a company or organization, you can also book Kay Xander Mellish to stage a How to Live in Denmark event tailored for you, including the popular How to Live in Denmark Game Show. Kay stages occasional free public events too. Follow our How to Live in Denmark Facebook page to keep informed.

Stories about life in Denmark

Moving to Denmark: A few basic tips

Denmark is a lovely place to settle down for a while, or even permanently if you are ready to do battle with the immigration authorities.

Make sure you bring money. Denmark is an expensive place to live where you will own less stuff, but better stuff.

That said, there’s no need to bring much furniture, in particular if your furniture is nothing special.

You can easily purchase basic pieces from IKEA, either in Denmark or in IKEA’s homeland of Sweden, and there’s also the option of buying gorgeous Danish design furniture inexpensively at local second-hand stores and flea markets.

Clothing and beauty products
Bring lots of casual, warm, and waterproof clothing. You don’t need huge polar jackets – Denmark rarely goes below 0 Fahrenheit/-15 Celsius – but halter tops and suede loafers will see very little service.

When it comes to business clothing, blazers, sweaters, and trousers in subtle colors are usually your best bet. (Danes are not great fans of whimsy or eccentricity when it comes to clothing or jewelry.)

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Stories about life in Denmark

Denmark is not just Copenhagen

One of the things that surprised me when I first moved to Denmark is that there could be so many distinctions and divisions between fewer than six million people living in an area half the size of Indiana.

But the differences exist, and they are deeply felt.

Stopping by Copenhagen and saying you’ve seen Denmark is a little bit like stopping by Manhattan and Disney World and saying you’ve seen the United States. (And many Danes do precisely this.)

Dry humor in Jylland
While Copenhagen is both the capital of the country and its business center, much of the country’s wealth is generated in Jylland, the large land mass stuck to Germany.

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Denmark and the USA, Stories about life in Denmark, Working in Denmark: Danish Business Culture

Working with Danes: Tips for Americans – Get the book!

Working with Danes: Tips for Americans, Kay Xander Mellish’s new book, is now available in print and eBook form.

Denmark is a great place to do business. Infrastructure is superb, corruption minimal, and the Danes sincerely enjoy a good business deal.

Yet when Americans arrive with their burning ambition and enthusiasm, they sometimes experience tensions with the modest, calm, practical Danes.

This book is a companion volume to last year’s popular book, Working with Americans: Tips for Danes.

Working with Danes: Tips for Americans covers aspects like:

📘 Two words to better understand your Danish colleagues
📘 The sacred value of time
📘 Danish names
📘 Flexicurity and unions
📘 Americans, turn down the volume!
📘 Selling to Danes
📘 The Danish calendar, and holiday weeks to avoid
📘 Managing Danes
📘 Jante Law, and why Danes sometimes underplay their skills
📘 Rating systems, and why Danes and Americans rate things differently
📘 Denmark is not just Copenhagen
📘 Differing concepts of privacy
📘 Gender equality in Denmark
📘 Danish meetings
📘 Don’t say “let’s have lunch” unless you mean it

And much more.

The book also includes tips on dining, driving, and diversity in Denmark, plus tips on what to wear, how to give gifts, and why someone might put a Danish flag on your desk on your birthday.

It also includes a short section with ideas for how to prepare for long-term stays in Denmark.

The book is available on Saxo, Amazon, and directly from our webshop.

Or visit our Books about Denmark page for information about all our books, including How to Work in Denmark: Tips for finding a job, succeeding at work, and understanding your Danish boss; How to Live in Denmark: An entertaining guide for foreigners and their Danish friends; and Top 35 Mistakes Danes Make in English.

Stories about life in Denmark

Danish Music

If you’ve always wanted to listen to more Danish music, now probably isn’t the time: thousands of Danish songs recently disappeared from YouTube due to a copyright dispute.

Music isn’t one of Denmark’s most famous exports, even when it is available. While Danish housewares and furniture design are popular all over the world, most Danish music fans are local, particularly when it comes to Danish-language rap.

But that doesn’t mean Danish music isn’t deeply loved by its fans.

The overflowing back catalog of “greatest hits” from the past decades’ pop charts will get Danes on the dance floor at any party, particularly if they’ve been drinking.

You can pick out the internationals in the group by noticing who is still on the sidelines, looking a little bewildered and trying limply to catch the beat.

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Stories about life in Denmark

Danes and Boats

It’s a funny kind of summer this year in Copenhagen, without the usual swarm of tourists.

No blustering American cruise ship passengers looking for KONG-ens Nytorv (pronounced like the protagonist in “King Kong”). No groups of petite elderly Chinese ladies posing for pictures around the Hans Christian Andersen statue. No European families wobbling on their rental bikes and riding very, very slowly in the bike lanes.

Because of the coronavirus, only tourists from Norway, Iceland, and Germany are welcome in Denmark this summer, and they’re a lot like family anyway.

In a sense, we longtime residents have the city for ourselves. It’s rather nice.

Of course, there’s less to do – no Copenhagen Jazz Festival, no Roskilde Festival, no Distortion, and a lot fewer of the big family parties and graduation bashes that keep things lively in other years.

But there are still the parks, the gardens, and the water. There’s nothing more eternal in Denmark than going out on a boat.

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Stories about life in Denmark

Denmark and World War II: Thoughts on an anniversary

Anyone who takes a walk around Copenhagen is bound to run across one of the hundreds of concrete bunkers that were built to defend Danes from air raids during World War II.

There are a couple in the park near my house, huge slabs of grey concrete now partially covered by greenery. Many of the interiors have been renovated, and the bunkers are very popular with up-and-coming rock bands, who use them as soundproof rehearsal halls.

The bunkers were never used for their intended purpose.

The German occupying force rolled in by land, and Denmark surrendered almost immediately – the flat Danish landscape would have been no match for the powerful Nazi tank divisions of 1940. Denmark was occupied for more than 5 years.

Tomorrow evening – Monday, May 4, 2020 – many Danes will put a candle in the window to mark the 75th anniversary of the end of that occupation.

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Stories about life in Denmark

Animals and Denmark

Among the many cultural questions I ask audiences during my How to Live in Denmark Game Show is “Which animal represents Denmark best?”?

There never seems to be an obvious or generally agreed-upon answer. Sure, the bear represents Russia, the elephant Thailand, and the bald eagle the United States. But what about Denmark?

Denmark does have a national animal – the mute swan (Cygnus olor) – but an image of a swan doesn’t provoke the kind of immediate association with Denmark that, say, a koala bear does with Australia.

That said, mute swans are easy to find in Denmark. You can see them sailing down the quiet streams of the country’s historical parks, such as the vold in Fredericia or Utterslev Mose in suburban Copenhagen.

But these strong, individualist, and often angry animals are a strange fit for a country that prides itself on co-operation and peacefulness. They’re also not really mute – in fact, they have a noisy hiss that can signal an attack if they feel their nest is threatened.

Given that these muscular birds are about a meter tall and their wingspan can be twice that, you may feel threatened too.

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Stories about life in Denmark

Denmark’s Weapons Against COVID-19: Early Action, High Trust—and a No-Nonsense Queen

The worst-case coronavirus scenario is as terrifying in Denmark as it is everywhere else. There is no guarantee that the Danish health system will have the resources to help everyone who needs care. And the economy might be in tatters when the quarantine ends.

But for now, there is a certain pleasure in watching the gentle social machinery of the Danish state swing into action.

At the lakes in downtown Copenhagen—the city’s former moat—kindly city employees in safety vests make sure everyone runs or strolls in a clockwise direction, minimizing the chance of close face-to-face encounters.

The Danish police sent a friendly message to every mobile telephone in the country, reminding recipients to practice social distancing as you “enjoy your weekend.”

And Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen made an appearance on the Instagram account of Denmark’s top Gen-Z influencer, Anders Hemmingsen. She empathized with teens’ desire to go out and party, but encouraged them to stay home and tolerate their parents for a little longer.

I occasionally write for other media outlets and websites. The above is an excerpt for a piece about how Denmark handles coronavirus that I wrote for Quillette, an international magazine devoted to free thought.

Read the entire piece in Quillette here.


Hear all our How to Live in Denmark podcasts on Spotify and on Apple Podcasts (iTunes).