Stories about life in Denmark

US and Denmark: The enthusiasm gap

This column originally ran in the Danish tabloid BT on July 30, 2019.

While I love living in Denmark, I also enjoy returning to my home town in the US on vacation. Wauwatosa, Wisconsin is suburb of Milwaukee, a likeable but unglamorous city.

It’s wonderful to see family and friends and reconnect with American culture.

Such big cars! You see families out to pick up groceries in massive Ford trucks, each of its four wheels the size of a Christiania bike.

Such big supermarkets! You’ll have no problem achieving your 10,000 steps per day as you walk for miles past the gigantic exhibits of fresh fruits and vegetables arranged artistically by size and color, the acres of canned goods and breakfast cereals and ethnic foods, the in-store restaurants with hot soup and fresh pizza, and end with the vast selection of flowers by the cash register.

So many different types of Americans, from so many countries of origin. And despite a few incidents exaggerated in the media, they generally get along pretty well.

But the biggest difference is enthusiasm. Americans of all kinds are generally upbeat and enthusiastic, at least in public. This is, after all, the place that made a cheerleading a form of competitive athletics.

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In the Media

Tips for Danes Working With Americans on DR Radio P1

“Today I have in the studio Kay Xander Mellish, and she’s here to talk about her new book, Tips for Danes Working With Americans”, announced host Tore Leifer on DR’s Radio P1 the other day.

It’s always enjoyable to visit the DR studios on Amager – so enjoyable that I didn’t mind that Tore had misunderstood the name of the book, which is actually Working With Americans: Tips for Danes.

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Stories about life in Denmark

Tips for Danes visiting the USA: What I tell my Danish friends travelling to America

This column originally ran in the Danish tabloid BT on July 3, 2019.

As summer vacation season begins and some of my Danish friends and business contacts tell me they are heading to the US on holiday, I’m always pleased but also a little nervous. Oh, dear, I think to myself, I hope they have a good time, and get to see the good side of America and not the bad.

And I try to give them a few tips for Danes visiting the USA.

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Books, Stories about life in Denmark, Working in Denmark: Danish Business Culture

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

Working with Americans: Tips for Danes, my new book, is now available!

Many Danes work for companies that are US-owned or have US divisions. Others deal with American colleagues on the telephone or online every day. Some even travel to the US to meet customers, suppliers or colleagues.

Because Danes speak great English and are exposed to so much American TV, movies, and radio, they tend to think that they have a handle on the American culture and way of doing business.

As the great American composer George Gershwin once wrote, “It ain’t necessarily so.”

Working with Americans: Tips for Danes covers aspects like:

  • What should you expect in meetings and negotiations with Americans?
  • How can you make small talk with your American colleagues – and which topics should you avoid?
  • What do American employees really want from a manager?
  • Why do your US customers expect you to be available all the time?
  • Why won’t American employees go outside their job descriptions?

How to buy the book
You can buy the paperback book from Saxo.com, Amazon.com, or direct from our webshop. You can also order it from any bookshop using the ISBN 978-874-301-0111.

Contact me directly if you’re interested in a bulk order for your team. The book can also be branded with your company’s logo on request.

If you’d prefer an eBook, you can download it from Amazon, iTunes, or Google Play.

A companion volume, Working With Danes: Tips for Americans, will be published in 2020.

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.

Podcasts, Stories about life in Denmark

Summer vacation in Denmark: The agony and the ecstasy

Planning your summer vacation in Denmark is like playing the lottery. You could hit it lucky, with golden days and long, warm evenings, when you can sit with friends in the soft light and drink hyldeblomst cocktails.

Or you could get grey day after grey day, interspersed with a little rain whenever it is least convenient. The weather could be chilly, leaving your cute new summer clothes to sit disappointed in your closet while you wear your boring long trousers again and again.

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In the Media

My first vote in Denmark, Part 5: Lars and Me

This column originally ran in the Danish tabloid BT on election day, June 5, 2019.

If you’re fairly new to Denmark, as I am, Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen seems like he has always been there, like bike paths and rainy summer weather.

I do have a faint memory of the other Rasmussen prime ministers, Poul Nyrup and Anders Fogh, plus the tax and fashion scandals surrounding Helle Thorning-Schmidt, but for most of my time following politics Lars has been in charge.

Now as I vote for the first time for the Folketing, it seems odd to form an opinion on something I have taken for granted. But I since have not found another candidate I am enthusiastic about, it’s something I must do.

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In the Media

My first vote in Denmark, Part 4: Yes, Radikale Venstre *should* be my party – there’s just one problem

This column originally ran in the Danish tabloid BT on May 18, 2019. The next installment will run on June 5, 2019.

“You should be a Radikale Venstre voter,” one of my Danish friends told me. “They’re a multi-cultural party, but they’re also business oriented and practical.”

Since I’m still looking for a party to offer my first vote in Denmark, I spent a rainy Copenhagen morning last week reading through the Radikale Venstre website, newly designed with the bright yellow and pink colors of a Filur Is popsicle. I’ve never had to wear sunglasses to look at a website before, but the Radikale Venstre site brought me pretty close.

I was pleased to find some ideas I agreed with. For example, RV wants to simplify the rules for Danes who bring a spouse to Denmark. Instead of the tangle of rules that now greets lovers, the Danish half of the couple will simply be required to support the new spouse for five years. This seems like a solid test of dedication: I’m not married myself yet, perhaps because I have not met a man whose bills I am willing to pay for five years.

And I liked Radikale Venstre’s suggestion that people who are born in Denmark, grow up in Denmark, have no criminal record and pass the state school final exam should have the right to become citizens on their 18th birthday. It seems to me that nearly two decades of Danish culture and language immersion should be enough to pound Jantelov and selvironi into their heads.

When I was taking my own Danish language and citizenship exam, there were a lot of 18-year-olds in the testing room. Born in Denmark, raised in Denmark, they emitted the usual teenage grimaces and sighs as they took a test in something they already knew perfectly well and had been tested on dozens of times.

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In the Media

My first time voting in Denmark, Part 3: Red, Green, and Enhedslisten

This column originally ran in the Danish tabloid BT on May 8, 2019. The next installment will run on May 21, 2019.

As a resident of Copenhagen Northwest, I hear a lot about Enhedslisten. In fact, there are some people in my neighbourhood that would like me to hear only about Enhedslisten, since during the last election local hooligans ripped down all of the election signs for all the conservative parties and the Social Democrats, leaving just SF and Enhedslisten posters dangling from telephone poles and fluttering in the wind on the S-train platforms.

But I had never seriously looked into Enhedslisten before, despite my closest Danish friend having voted for them for years.

Weren’t they the former communists who didn’t believe in private property? Why would anyone who owned anything vote for them? And since I don’t own a house and don’t own a car, would I get half of somebody else’s house and half of somebody else’s car if Enhedslisten came into power?

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In the Media

My first time voting in Denmark, Part 2: Mette and Me

This column originally ran in the Danish tabloid BT on April 24, 2019. The next installment will run on May 8, 2019.

I spend much of my time travelling around Denmark helping foreigners survive and thrive in Danish society. I tell them never to turn down cake when offered, never to act like they are the smartest person in the room, and never to make enemies – because this is a small country, and you will run into those people again and again.

Perhaps Mette Frederiksen could have benefitted from that speech, because she made a minor enemy of me with her 2005 essay “Alle har et ansvar for at folkeskolen fungerer” (“Everyone has a responsibility for making public schools work”), suggesting that parents who sent their kids to private schools were letting down the community.

As a parent of a child in a small, creative private school, I remember that speech, even though I wasn’t much interested in politics at the time. I didn’t feel I was letting down the community.

I also remember when Mette chose later to send her own children to a small, creative private school. “As a parent, you need to make the decision that is best for your child,” she said at that point.

Yeah, Mette – me too. All the other parents too. You’re not the only one who thinks her kid is special.

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In the Media

My first time voting in Denmark, Part 2: Mette and Me

This column originally ran in the Danish tabloid BT on April 24, 2019. The next installment will run on May 8, 2019.

I spend much of my time travelling around Denmark helping foreigners survive and thrive in Danish society. I tell them never to turn down cake when offered, never to act like they are the smartest person in the room, and never to make enemies – because this is a small country, and you will run into those people again and again.

Perhaps Mette Frederiksen could have benefitted from that speech, because she made a minor enemy of me with her 2005 essay “Alle har et ansvar for at folkeskolen fungerer” (“Everyone has a responsibility for making public schools work”), suggesting that parents who sent their kids to private schools were letting down the community.

As a parent of a child in a small, creative private school, I remember that speech, even though I wasn’t much interested in politics at the time. I didn’t feel I was letting down the community.

I also remember when Mette chose later to send her own children to a small, creative private school. “As a parent, you need to make the decision that is best for your child,” she said at that point.

Yeah, Mette – me too. All the other parents too. You’re not the only one who thinks her kid is special.

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