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Stories about life in Denmark

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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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).

Stories about life in Denmark

Coronavirus and Denmark: A few thoughts

The first Danish Coronavirus case was diagnosed on February 27, and so many things have changed in Denmark over the past four weeks.

Most notable, of course, is the misery of the people infected with the virus, the pain of the families who have lost loved ones, and the Herculean efforts of the health care workers who care for them.

But daily life has changed for ordinary citizens as well, and not just because many of us aren’t quite sure what will be happening with our jobs and exactly how we will be paying the rent in the future, not to mention all that online shopping from home we’ve been doing during quarantine.

Schools are closed, with the kids (more or less) learning from home, and many of their parents are (more or less) working from home too. Cinemas, shops, gyms, and swimming halls have been shut down in an attempt to break the chain of infections. Concerts and sporting events are canceled.

Confirmations scheduled for the spring have been put off – a crushing disappointment for the teenagers who have spent the past 6 months in Bible studies with hopes of a big spring party.

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