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

Understanding your Danish boss: Less like a general, more like a sports coach

In an anti-authoritarian country like Denmark, being a boss is a precarious (social) position. Danish bosses don’t like to flaunt their authority.

In fact, when you enter a room of Danes, it is often difficult to tell which one is the boss. The social cues that point to a big cheese in other cultures – the flashy watch, the oversize office, the glamorous yet servile executive assistant – are considered poor taste in egalitarian Denmark.

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In the Media

Dansk kultur set med amerikansk øjne: HTLID i “Vores Villa”

“Dansk kultur set med amerikansk øjne” was the topic when Kay Xander Mellish was interviewed for Vores Villa, Denmark’s most popular interior design magazine with a circulation of more than 1 million homeowners.

In a light-hearted article entitled Sådan ser danske boliger ud – set med en amerikaners øjne, the magazine quoted Kay as saying ““I er et folkefærd, der går efter kvalitet frem for kvantitet. Jeg oplever, at danskere har færre, men gode venner og færre, men bedre ting!”

According to Kay, these are the “10 særlige kendetegn ved danske hjem”:

DE 5 FANTASTISKE:
🇩🇰 Færre ting giver mindre at fokusere på og gør det nemmere at slappe af
🇩🇰 Dansk designhåndværk – som fx Georg Jensens frugtskål
🇩🇰 Naturens farver spiller en stor rolle i danske hjem.
🇩🇰 Velholdte trægulve

🇩🇰 Gardiner og vinduer, der er designet til at lukke lys ind

DE 5 KNAP SÅ FANTASTISKE:
🇩🇰 Stor ensartethed, fordi der er en frygt for at sprænge rammerne.
🇩🇰 Isolation, der er designet til at holde på varmen – smart om vinteren, men upraktisk en hed sommerdag.
🇩🇰 Hårde sofaer og senge – og der er ikke nok puder i dem!
🇩🇰 Amatørmalerier på væggene, der slet ikke lever op til de smukke, dyre verdensklassemøbler
🇩🇰 Stole, der er rene kunstværker, men som man sidder elendigt i.

Read more in the article in Vores Villa.

 

Hear all our How to Live in Denmark podcasts on Spotify and on Apple Podcasts (iTunes).

 

Get the How to Work in Denmark Book for more tips on finding a job in Denmark, succeeding at work, and understanding your Danish boss. It can be ordered via Amazon or Saxo.com or from any bookstore using the ISBN 978-743-000-80-8. Contact Kay to ask about bulk purchases, or visit our books site to find out how to get the eBook. You can also book a How to Work in Denmark event with Kay for your school, company, or professional organization.

 

 

 

 

 

Want to read more? Try the How to Live in Denmark book, available in paperback or eBook editions, and 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.

In the Media

The How to Live in Denmark Game Show in Kalundborg

One of the most popular events for internationals in Denmark is the How to Live in Denmark Game Show.

We brought the game show to a group of newly-arrived students in Kalundborg, and the local press had this to say:

I Danmark kommer man klokken otte nul dut, hvis man er inviteret til klokken otte. Kommer man for tidligt, så venter man pænt i bilen, indtil klokken slår otte – og Gud nåde og trøste dig, hvis du kommer fem minutter for sent.

Sådan er en af de uskrevne regler for etikette og god tone her i landet, og det blev udlændinge bosat i Kalundborg torsdag aften klogere på, da den amerikanske journalist og foredragsholder Kay Xander Mellish holdt foredrag på vandrerhjemmet i Kalundborg.

Kommunens bosætningsteam var værter for kulturmødet, og de havde inviteret udvekslingstuderende på gymnasierne, udenlandske medarbejdere fra byens virksomheder, folk fra Sprogskolen og de nye internationale studerende fra Professionshøjskolen Absalons ingeniøruddannelse til at lære mere om normerne i den danske kultur.

Med glimt i øjet gav hun de fremmødte humoristiske eksempler på, hvad man gør og ikke gør over for danskere.

– Har I prøvet at sige godmorgen til nogen efter klokken 9? Den går bare ikke. Folk tror, I gør grin med, at de lige er stået op, lød det blandt andet fra den amerikansk foredragsholder.

Efter foredraget blev der leget lege – et jeopardy-spil om danske værdier samt en leg, hvor udlændingene skulle svare på, hvad de troede danskere ville svare til konkrete spørgsmål.

Et af dem lød: »Hvilken dessert er danskernes foretrukne?«.

Hertil blev der svaret »rødgrød med fløde« – så lidt har da sat sig fast.

See all our events for internationals on our events page.

 

Hear all our How to Live in Denmark podcasts on Spotify and on Apple Podcasts (iTunes).

 

Get the How to Work in Denmark Book for more tips on finding a job in Denmark, succeeding at work, and understanding your Danish boss. It can be ordered via Amazon or Saxo.com or from any bookstore using the ISBN 978-743-000-80-8. Contact Kay to ask about bulk purchases, or visit our books site to find out how to get the eBook. You can also book a How to Work in Denmark event with Kay for your school, company, or professional organization.

 

 

 

 

 

Want to read more? Try the How to Live in Denmark book, available in paperback or eBook editions, and 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.

Podcasts, Stories about life in Denmark

The Danish Flag: 800 years old and going out of style?

 

I’ve never seen a country that loves its flag as much as Denmark does – and that’s a big statement, coming from an American. But foreigners who come to Denmark can’t help but notice that the Danish flag is everywhere.

People love to fly Danish flags over their summer houses – the bigger the better. Christmas trees are decorated with little Danish flags. Cucumbers in the supermarket have Danish flags on the label to show they’re grown in Denmark. Whenever a member of the Danish royal family has a birthday, two little Danish flags are stuck on the front of every Copenhagen bus.

The Danish flag is closely associated with Danish birthdays. If you have a birthday when you’re working in a Danish office, one of your colleagues is likely to put a Danish flag on your desk. It means – happy birthday! You may see a birthday cake with tiny Danish flags stuck into it, or the Danish flag recreated in red frosting.

And if you’re invited to a party by a Danish friend – any kind of party – you may find paper Danish flags stuck into the ground to guide you to the right house.

The Danish flag is not really a statement of nationalism. It’s a statement of joy.

I’ve never seen anyone say anything negative about the Danish flag – until a couple of weeks ago.

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

Your free daily banana and five weeks off: Job benefits in Denmark

On-the-job benefits in Denmark come in three categories: the kind every Danish worker gets, the kind everyone at your company gets, and the kind only top dogs at your company get.

When you talk with a future employer, there’s not all that much room for negotiation, unless you’re coming in at a very high level or have a highly sought-after specialty.

In most cases, as American kindergarteners say, “You get what you get and you don’t get upset.” Fortunately, job benefits in Denmark tend to be generous.

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Podcasts, Stories about life in Denmark

Danish gangsters: Night-time helicopters and the risks of a knit cap

 

If you live in Denmark or follow the Danish media, you’ll know there’s been a lot of talk of gangsters over the past week. One Danish gang is trying to expand at the expense of another gang, and this summer there have been about 25 shootings in Copenhagen, generally in the northern neighborhoods – my neighborhood.

Somebody was shot outside my supermarket, somebody else was shot outside the school near my house, and a couple of people have been shot just walking down the street.

Most of the victims are other gangsters, but a few have been unlucky civilians in the wrong place at the wrong time. All have been young men, and the Copenhagen police went so far as to suggest that young men stop wearing knit hats. Knit hats can be a gang sign.

I should point out that this summer in Denmark has been so cold that wearing a knit hat in August can actually seem like a good idea.

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

Trailing spouses and working in Denmark

If you’re coming from abroad to work in Denmark, you may be bringing along your spouse. That can be great – it’s nice to have someone to shiver through the Danish summer with.

But unhappy spouses are one of the main reasons that people who come to work in Denmark end up leaving.

Denmark is not an easy place to make friends, given that Danish culture tends toward “respecting your privacy” by not striking up conversations with strangers.

It can also be tough for spouses to get jobs in Denmark, particularly well-educated spouses seeking jobs at their level of expertise.

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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.

 

Hear all our How to Live in Denmark podcasts on Spotify and on Apple Podcasts (iTunes).

 

Get the How to Work in Denmark Book for more tips on finding a job in Denmark, succeeding at work, and understanding your Danish boss. It can be ordered via Amazon or Saxo.com or from any bookstore using the ISBN 978-743-000-80-8. Contact Kay to ask about bulk purchases, or visit our books site to find out how to get the eBook. You can also book a How to Work in Denmark event with Kay for your school, company, or professional organization.

 

 

 

 

 

Want to read more? Try the How to Live in Denmark book, available in paperback or eBook editions, and 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.

Image mashup copyright Kay Xander Mellish 2018

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.

 

Books

Get the new, updated How To Live in Denmark 2017 book

The 2017 update of Kay Xander Mellish’s classic book “How To Live in Denmark” is finally here – with 8 new chapters, including “How I Finally Learned Danish”, “Danes and Singing”, “Danish Birthdays”, “Salaam and Goddag: Denmark for Muslims”, and “Cat Bites and Dental Vacations: The Ups and Downs of the Danish Health Care System.”

The eBook costs only US$7/DK49 to download from Amazon, Saxo.com, Google Play, and iTunes. If you like the book, please leave a review!

A print paperback will be in stores soon, or you can order direct and we’ll send the book anywhere in the world.

Why an update?
Kay says: “It’s been three years since I published the initial version of the book, and I realized that a few chapters had become outdated. One suggested that there was very little cybercrime in Denmark, something that has certainly changed since 2014: almost all the Danish government ministries have been hacked.

“I also thought it was important to talk about both the fashion for all things Danish that has emerged over the past couple of years, as well as the increasingly harsh tone the Danish government has taken against every kind of foreigner.”

Book Kay for your group
Kay is also a popular public speaker. If you represent a corporate or community group and would like to have Kay make a presentation about arriving in Denmark at your location, please get in touch via this site’s contact form for more information. Or read more about Kay’s other events.