Stories about life in Denmark

Stories about life in Denmark

Danish summer: Why you should run outside, now

(Editor’s note: This was my very first podcast, back in the summer of 2013. It’s also the first chapter in my new book, How to Live in Denmark: 2017 Edition.)

When I first arrived in Denmark during the summer – summer 2000, for those who are counting – one of the things I immediately liked about it was that there was no air conditioning. I had spent the past ten years working in tower blocks in Manhattan, where you are hit by an icy blast of air as you enter on a sunny June day, and with an oven-like blanket of heat when you exit.

In Copenhagen, the summer air is the same inside as it is outside, except perhaps a bit stuffier, what with Danish ventilation technology being somewhat less advanced than Danish heating technology.

That summer of 2000 was a good education in Danish summers, since the sunny weather never actually turned up. In June, it was rainy and cold, and people told me it would probably get better in July.

In July, the weather was also poor, but the Danes told me you could generally count on August.

August came, grey and drizzling, and people started extolling the general glory of September.

And so on. I believe there was some sunshine around Christmas of that year.

Summer herring

Despite the unreliability of summer, there are some well-known Danish summer signifiers. One of them is sommersild, which translates to ‘summer herring.’ There is indeed a lunchtime casserole called summer herring, but that’s not what I’m talking about now.

‘Summer herring’ is a Danish media term for a feature in which attractive young women on the beach or at a local park are photographed wearing not very much clothing as part of a news story.

The news story is generally pretty thin: this year, I have seen summer herring presented with the shocking news that ice cream bars cost more in corner stores than in supermarkets. This was illustrated by some close-up photos of the ice cream bars and girls in bikini tops enjoying them.

You could certainly get angry about this objectification of women. Alternately, you could spare some sympathy for Danish men, whose observation of the female form is limited to padded jacket and fleece-watching for eleven months of every year. (In 2000, all 12 months of the year.)

Beach Lions

There is also a male version of ‘summer herring.’ It’s called strandløver, or ‘beach lions,’ usually muscular blond types, although muscular immigrants are also represented. Beach lions don’t appear in the media quite as much, and they don’t test out ice cream bars, except maybe in publications directed at an all-male audience.

Anyway, even if the weather is bad during the summer, I still always enjoy a trip to Tivoli, the 150-year-old amusement park in downtown Copenhagen.

Tivoli has it all – roller coasters, rock bands, pretty gardens, and most of all great people-watching.

If I’m still in Denmark as an old lady, I plan to get a season pass and spend all day sitting on a bench watching the awkward teenaged lovers, joyful families, panicked single dads, and pretty children with their parents’ telephone numbers written on their arms in case they wander off. The restaurants in Tivoli are wildly overpriced, but you can bring your own food and have a picnic.

Blackberries by the train tracks

The fruit in Denmark is very good during the summer – fresh red strawberries in June, cherries in July, and wild blackberries in August. Even in downtown Copenhagen, you can still sometimes pick blackberries off the bushes by the subway tracks.

Eat them with crème fraiche, or as a companion to koldskål, the curious buttermilk dish that appears next to the milk cartons in Danish supermarkets the summer.

And, as always with Danish summers, I suggest you run outside as soon as you see the sun shining. You never know how long it’s going to last. There’s always the chance you might not see it until next year – or, in the case of the summer of 2000, not even then.

 

Moving to Denmark

Want to read more? Try the How to Live in Denmark: 2017 Edition book, available in paperback or eBook editions, or the original 2014 version of How To Live in Denmark, which is available 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.

 
Photo Credit: Denmark’s Royal Library, photographer Svend Türck, via Creative Commons

Stories about life in Denmark

How to Live in Denmark on Quora

If you enjoy my thoughts about Denmark and Danish life, you may be interested in following me on Quora, the question-and-answer site, where I write a lot about Denmark and other topics. You can also comment on my answers or ask questions of your own on Quora.

Some of my popular answers include:

What are some unspoken rules in Denmark?

What is bar culture like in Scandinavia?

What are certain things a foreigner should know before planning a holiday in Denmark?

What’s it like to study in Denmark for someone who is not very wealthy?

How does Denmark have more economic freedom than the United States of America?

Quora will let you read one or two answers before it asks you to sign up for the site, which is free.

Quora was started by two former Facebook employees in 2010 and is based in California. You can read more about it in the Quora Wikipedia entry.

 

How To Work In Denmark, Podcasts, Stories about life in Denmark

Why job titles aren’t that important in Denmark

When I do How to Live in Denmark presentations, I generally ask for just a few simple items – a screen, a remote, and a glass of water.

On a recent gig, I was provided with everything except the water. And since I had met several of the company’s employees when I arrived – handshakes with Mette, Søren, Nikolaj – I asked one of them to kindly get me a glass of water. I asked Nikolaj.

Nikolaj smiled, walked off, and brought me back a glass of water.

It was only after the presentation was finished and I was home making connections on LinkedIn that I found out that Nikolaj was Senior Vice President for Europe, with more than 650 people working for him and a salary that must have been in the 3 million-kroner-a-year zone.

But Nikolaj had never mentioned his title to me, because that’s just not done in Denmark.

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How To Work In Denmark, Podcasts, Stories about life in Denmark

Is joining a union worth the money? (And what’s the difference between a union and an A-kasse?)

When you first arrive in Denmark to work or look for work, the last thing you need is another monthly expense. So many foreigners “save money” by not joining a union.

And I was one of them. To be honest, joining a union never even occurred to me.

In the US, unions are either for hands-on workers – steelworkers, hotel maids – or for civil servants, like schoolteachers and cops. Knowledge workers and creative types are almost never unionized.

But that’s not true in Denmark, where engineers, doctors, lawyers, bankers, managers, and writers regularly join unions.

Unions can arguably be even more important for foreign employees than they are for Danes.

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Stories about life in Denmark

Moving to Denmark, a Guide for Americans fleeing President Trump

Moving to Denmark as an American has become a hot topic since Donald Trump began his run for President. Now that he is in office, I expect to hear even more from Americans interested in immigration to Denmark.

Since I’m selling a book called How to Live in Denmark, you’d think I would encourage as many Americans as possible to look into Denmark immigration.

But moving to Denmark with a U.S. passport isn’t as easy as just buying a plane ticket and a lot of sweaters.

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How To Work In Denmark, Podcasts, Stories about life in Denmark

Networking in Denmark – 5 useful tips for making Danish business contacts

I was at a high-level networking meeting the other day. Not on purpose, but because they originally asked me to be their speaker, and then decided they wanted somebody else to be their speaker instead and were too embarrassed to un-invite me.

So there I was in a vast room of men (and it was mostly men) wearing pretty much the uniform of the male Danish executive: blue business suit, pale shirt open at the collar, a few neckties – not many – and pointy leather shoes.

And they were all wandering around the room like children lost in a department store at Christmastime looking for their parents. They were all there to network and meet each other, but they didn’t quite know who to network with. So they mostly ended up talking to people they already knew. They did not expand their networks.

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How To Work In Denmark, Podcasts, Stories about life in Denmark

How to Work in Denmark Part 6: The secrets of socializing with your Danish colleagues

When you work in a Danish office, you’ll often find yourself invited to impromptu in-office social events with your Danish colleagues. Somebody’s birthday, someone’s having a baby, somebody has been with the company for 10 years, someone is going on vacation the next day. And they almost all involve cake.

Cake is very important in Denmark. Cake builds bridges. Cake makes friends. And when there’s cake on offer, as a foreigner, it’s a good idea to show up and accept it.

When I first started working in a Danish office, I made a big mistake. I said no to cake.
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How To Work In Denmark, Podcasts, Stories about life in Denmark

How to Work in Denmark Part 5: The Danish Art of Taking Time Off

My apologies that I haven’t been blogging for the past couple of months – I’ve taken some time off to promote my book Top 35 Mistakes Danes Make in English, which you can get on Amazon or Saxo.com, or at any Danish bookstore.

But taking time off is a very important part of Danish life – in fact, some people would say it is one of the best parts of Danish life.

The best example, of course, is the famous Danish summer vacation. When I first began working in Denmark, people used to start saying around April or May, “So – are you taking three or four?”

What they meant was, are you taking three or four weeks off for your summer vacation?

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Book, Stories about life in Denmark

Top 35 Mistakes Danes Make in English: Kay’s new book

If you’re Danish or have friends or family who are Danish, you may enjoy my new book, “Top 35 Mistakes Danes Make in English.”

For the past 16 years, I’ve made my living at least in part by correcting Danish people’s English at big companies like Danske Bank and Carlsberg. And I run into the same mistakes again and again.

Confusing ‘fun’ and ‘funny.’ Mixing up ‘customer’ and ‘costumer’. Spelling ‘loose’ with two ‘o’s and ‘see’ with only one ‘e’. Confusing ‘learn’ with ‘teach’ and ‘loan’ with ‘borrow.’ And saying ‘meet’ to mean the time one starts work. “You must meet at 9.” Meet who?

This book is an attempt to put myself out of business.

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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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