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Stories about life in Denmark

Saving money in Denmark: How to get around for less

Along with food and housing, getting around is a big part of the cost of living in Denmark. In fact, the less you spend on rent, by living outside of the most expensive downtown zones, the more you’re likely to spend on transport.

And no matter what the tourist brochures suggest, you probably won’t go everywhere on a bike in Denmark. Bikes are great in downtown Aarhus or Copenhagen, or in a campus-type area like DTU in Lyngby.

But the further you get outside of urban areas, the more useful a car is. That’s why there are 2.5 million personal cars on the road in Denmark plus 0.5 million “business cars.” Three million cards on the road means roughly one for every two people.

Cars are brutally expensive in Denmark, and if you live far away from mass transport, you might be stuck buying one.

Otherwise, there are many ways to lower your cost of transport in Denmark by getting around for less, and it has a lot to do with how well you plan.

And the Danes are, in general, very good advance planners.

Incredibly cheap train tickets

My personal favorite way to cut the cost of transport in Denmark are the Orange train tickets you can get for incredibly cheap prices if you book in advance.

I was stunned to find that you can get from one side of Denmark to the other – from Copenhagen to Esbjerg, to be precise – for only 99 kroner.

That’s cheaper than a 10-minute trip in a Copenhagen taxi. And it’s 3 1/2 hour journey.

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In the Media

The Kvajebajer, or “Failure Beer”, and what it means for Danish work culture

Kay says:  It’s hard to understand the Danish style of working without understanding the kvajebajer. This is a word that translates roughly to “failure beer.”

It dates all the way back to the Vikings, but I see that a Danish brewery just introduced a whole new selection of Failure Beer earlier this year. No, I’m not getting paid to advertise it.

A failure beer is something you provide to all your colleagues when they’ve just seen you make a foolish or avoidable mistake.

If it’s working hours, you might opt for a failure cake instead. For example, I had a client, a small tech firm, that was three days late with an important delivery. When they brought the  delivery, they brought a failure cake along too.

Failure cake or failure beer is about an acceptance of human frailty. And it’s rooted in the Danish passion for equality. We’re all human, we all make mistakes, so let’s have a beer.

But this approach can be hard for internationals to handle. If you come from a very litigious society, like the USA, admitting that you made a mistake can make you feel like you’ll be the target of a lawsuit. Better to find someone else to blame.

Or if you come from an honor-based society, like China or Pakistan, you may feel that to admit you’ve made a mistake is a loss of face, a humiliation, a loss of honor.

But honor is not a big part of Danish culture. Surveys show that Denmark has the world’s lowest rate of gelotophobia, that is, fear of being laughed at.

The Danish way, if you’ve made a mistake, is to admit it, analyze what went wrong, plan to do it differently and, if time allows, buy everyone on your team a kvajebajer, or failure beer.

 

Book Kay for an in-person or virtual event: Read more.

See our video about how the 13 scale of grading affects Danish working culture.

In the Media

See the “How to Live in Denmark” podcast on YouTube

There are now more than a hundred episodes of the How to Live in Denmark podcast available, and a few of them are now also available as “lyric videos” on our YouTube channel.

If you’re not a native English speaker or just enjoy seeing the words to the podcast while you listen, the lyric videos (which you may be familiar with from your favorite pop songs) might be a good solution for you.

Check them out on the How to Live in Denmark YouTube Channel.

You can subscribe there, or on any of the most popular podcast services, including iTunes, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Castbox, or Gaana.

Podcasts, Stories about life in Denmark

Saving money on food in Denmark

Anyone who has spent time living in Denmark knows that it’s one of the most expensive countries around. That’s true when it comes to food shopping in Denmark, too.

One Dane who had lived in the US explained it this way: “In Denmark, every supermarket is priced like Whole Foods.”

For those of you who haven’t visited the States, Whole Foods is a high-end grocery chain nicknamed “Whole Wallet” or “Whole Paycheck.”

One reason is that unlike most Western countries, Denmark imposes a full sales tax on food items, adding 25% to the price of almost everything.

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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: A story of mixed results

Denmark has had two female prime ministers and about forty percent of the people elected to the Folketing, the Danish Parliament, are women, which one might think is a good indicator of gender equality in Denmark.

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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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 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.