Browsing Tag


Bicycling and Danish culture are closely tied together. In the winter when it snows, the bike lanes are plowed before the streets where cars drive. New immigrants to Denmark, particularly those from countries where bicycling is rare, are often given special bicycling lessons so they can get around.

Podcasts, Stories about life in Denmark

Equality and the Electric Bike

When I first arrived in Denmark, you could shut down any dispute in Denmark by appealing to the common good. Solidarity – solidaritet– and fælleskab, or community, or even samfundssind, societal spirit.

These were magic words, and they still are, particularly with the older generation that built Denmark’s welfare state. If you want to convince this generation of anything, just make a reference to solidarity and community and societal spirit. Works like a charm.

What about “Jante Law”?

I’m often asked if the younger generation is as dedicated to these principles as their elders, and if they still follow the Jante Law.

Jante Law is not really a law – it’s like a legend, in which people living in Denmark are not supposed to act like they’re better than anyone else, or smarter than anyone else, or know more than anyone else.

This, of course, is tricky if you actually are better than someone else, or smarter than someone else, or know more than someone else. But the idea is, don’t try to speed ahead of others. We all move at the same rate.

Young people aren’t too keen to put up with that, in particular in an environment where they are competing internationally.

For many Danish young people, the idea that all Danes are equal and we must all move together, at the same pace, seems outdated.

And one contemporary example is the rise of the electric bike.

Continue Reading

Stories about life in Denmark, Travels in Denmark

The Bridges of Denmark

I don’t do a lot of stock market investing, but if I did, I’d want to go back in time and invest in companies that build bridges in Denmark. This country is on a tear when it comes to bridge building. Over the past decade, there have been 5 new major bridges in Copenhagen alone, and at least one new major one is planned.

And because this is Denmark, and people love design, each bridge has its own special look. You can’t just put up a few bridge supports and a deck on top for traffic. You need style, and you need a colorful name.

Consider, for example, the multicolored Kissing Bridge in Copenhagen. It’s not named that because you’re supposed to kiss on the bridge, although you can if you like. It’s named that because it breaks in half on a regular basis to let ships through, and then it’s supposed to come together again like a kiss.

The Kissing Bridge has needed to visit a relationship counselor, however, because there have been constant problems getting it to kiss. It wasn’t quite aligned the way it was supposed to be.

It seems to work now, although it’s rather steep and a difficult ride for bicyclists, which is rather a shame, because it is a bicycle and pedestrian bridge only. There are no cars on it.

Bicycle Snake and Brewing Bridge

The Bicycle Snake and the Brewing Bridge a little further down the harbor are also just for cyclists and walkers, and so is the Little Langebro bridge.

The Little Langebro bridge is currently the newest bridge in town, just a couple of years old. This is a neighborhood I don’t go to often, and I remember coming home from a late night engagement to suddenly find a new bridge in front of me, all lit up and ready to serve.

Whoa! Unexpected bridge. It was like a dream.

Continue Reading

Stories about life in Denmark

The Christmas tree on the bicycle, and other stories of a bike-only household

Whenever the holiday season approaches, I always think about the time I brought home our Christmas tree on a bicycle.

It was a grey day in late November – we Americans like to start our Christmas decorating early – and my young daughter dearly wanted a tree for our Copenhagen apartment.

So we walked through the snow to the parking lot of a nearby Netto, where a cheerful fellow from Jutland was waiting with a good selection of sweet-smelling pines.

Being a very small girl, my daughter wanted a very big tree. The man spied our shopper bike and looked a little doubtful, but he went ahead and wrapped up one of the largest trees in white plastic netting, and helped us lift it onto the bike.

The trunk was on the baggage carrier in the back, and the top of the tree over the handlebars and into the basket. We walked the bike home that way, with my daughter holding the big pine tree at its center over the seat, while I steered the bike in the right direction.

Continue Reading

Stories about life in Denmark

Danes and Cars: Why Real Men Drive Bicycles

final_danes and carsUnlike their German neighbors, who are passionate about cars and driving, Danes have a slightly bashful relationship with cars.

There is a certain sense that the driver should be slightly ashamed to be driving a car at all. Real Danes drive bicycles.

This is partly a tenet of environmentalism – the Danish national religion – and partly because of an egalitarian conviction that no one in Denmark should have anything unless everyone else has one. The Danish government subscribes to both of these principles, and makes car ownership as difficult as possible.

Danes and cars
The purchase of a new car in Denmark sets off a 180% sales tax – in other words, a $20,000 sedan will cost you $50,000 to drive off the lot. This is the only tax you’ll ever hear Danish working-class people – greengrocers, carpenters, Page 9 topless models (who tend to be on the socialist side) – complain about.

Heavy gasoline taxes, which were recently increased, bring the price of a gallon of fuel up to around $8 a gallon, even though the country is largely burning its own North Sea oil.

Continue Reading

Stories about life in Denmark

Two-wheeled Vikings and why I own three bikes: Danes and Cycling

In a country where new cars are taxed at up 150% of their purchase price – that means a $20,000 car will cost you in the neighborhood of $50,000 – bikes are bound to be popular.

Everybody bikes in Denmark. You’ll see executives in grey pinstriped business suits on bikes, and pretty girls pedaling in high heels. You’ll see people toting their kids through heavy traffic in fragile-looking bike trailers.

You’ll see old ladies biking very, very slowly with a lot of people backed up behind them, and you’ll see me, trying to balance my fresh dry cleaning on my bike because I don’t have a car.

The fact that Denmark is relatively flat helps – nobody likes to bike uphill – as does the fact that the climate is temperate. Denmark is as far north as parts of Alaska, but it usually isn’t bitterly cold in the winter.

Continue Reading