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Stories about life in Denmark

What’s it like to live in Denmark as an expatriate? Kay Xander Mellish has lived in Copenhagen since 2000, and her blog about life as a foreigner among the Danes includes a podcast as well as drawings and photographs. If you are moving to Denmark, studying in Denmark, or simply thinking of visiting Denmark, you may enjoy this blog about the experiences of a foreigner in Copenhagen.

Podcasts, Stories about life in Denmark

Books about Denmark from the second hand store

I love old books. I love the kind of old books you get at antique bookstores or on the Internet Archive. And I have a good collection of old books about Denmark.

I like old travel guides, most of which are still pretty useful because the Danes don’t tear a lot of things down the way they do, in say, Los Angeles or Hong Kong. In Denmark you’ll pretty much find most castles and monuments right where somebody left them hundreds of years ago.

If you want to see a famous church or square or the Jelling Stone, your Baedecker guidebook from 1895 will work just fine for you in most cases.

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Podcasts, Stories about life in Denmark

Gender equality in Denmark

Denmark has had two female prime ministers and about forty percent of the people elected to the Folketing, the Danish Parliament, are women.

But when it comes to private industry, Danish women have one of the lowest participation rates in management in Europe. According to the OECD, only 26.9% of managers in Denmark are female, compared to 40.7% in the US.

It’s not unusual to see a senior management team made up entirely of Danish males, with perhaps a Swedish or German male thrown in for diversity.

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Podcasts, Stories about life in Denmark

Danish beaches in winter: White light and bitter wind

It might seem like a counterintuitive time to talk about beaches, in the middle of a long, very cold winter.

But in these times of COVID, beaches are one of the few places in Denmark you are currently allowed to meet up with family and friends.

Beaches, parks, frozen-over lakes, these are the big social meeting points at time when cafés, restaurants, bars, shops, gyms, schools, theaters, museums, places of worship, and hairdressers, barbers, and nail salons are all closed.

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Podcasts, Stories about life in Denmark, Uncategorized

Dining in Denmark

Unlike the Norwegians, Swedes, and some Germans, the Danes don’t show their cultural pride by dressing up in 19th century folk costumes. (As a matter of fact, the first time I ever saw a Danish folk costume was at a festival in California.)

Instead, Danes express their cultural pride through food.

When visiting Denmark, you’ll be offered Danish cuisine, and expressing enthusiasm for it will go a long way towards generating harmony with your Danish friends.

Flæskesteg, Denmark’s national dish
The good news is, dining in Denmark offers something for everyone.

If you’re a carnivore, don’t miss the Danish pork dishes, particularly flæskesteg. That’s a crispy, fatty fried pork that’s often called Denmark’s national dish, served with sugary caramelized potatoes and braised red cabbage.

For people who prefer fish, there’s a great selection in this country surrounded by water.

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Podcasts, 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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Podcasts, Stories about life in Denmark

Practical tips for moving to Denmark

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. While I’m no expert on Danish visas or immigration law, I can offer a few practical tips for moving to Denmark.

First of all, 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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