When you think you’re talking to the authorities in Denmark, you’re often not talking to the authorities. If it’s about bus service, train service, unemployment compensation, homeless shelters, even fire protection and ambulance services – you will be talking to a private company hired by the authorities.
Denmark has a really high level of privatization. Of course, these companies get subsidies from the government to provide transport service, or to counsel to the unemployed, or to put out the fire you started while trying to barbecue, but their employees are not civil servants. They can be hired and fired and trained and promoted – they work for private companies.
If you enjoy the podcasts and this website, you may also enjoy the new How To Live in Denmark book, now available for download from Amazon, iBooks and Saxo.com.
The book is an easy-to-read collection of essays from the first year of the How To Live in Denmark podcast, which premiered in summer 2013.
It includes material from some of the most popular podcasts, like ‘No Planned Hangovers: Ways I will not Integrate in Denmark’ and ‘Tips for Dating a Danish man’ and ‘Tips for Dating a Danish woman.’
There’s also an extra essay with a little bit more personal information about me, such as how I first came to Denmark.
I got an email a couple of weeks ago from a Danish woman who now lives in Germany. She says that this podcast helps her keep in touch with life back home, but that she doesn’t really like it. She writes: “I have to tell you, that almost every story has a negative ring to it when you portray your thoughts on Denmark and Danes. I cannot shake the feeling, that you really deep down, do not like Danes or Denmark. I find this sad, as you have been living there now over a decade.”
We’re coming up on June 21, the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere.
Here in Denmark it starts getting light at 4 in the morning, and the sun doesn’t go down until 10 or so at night, then returns again around at 4 in the morning.
In between it never gets really dark, just like in December it never gets very light.
The light times can be annoying
During the long, Danish winter, I wait and wait for the light times to come. Sometimes I count – only 3 more months until the light times! Only 6 more weeks until the light times!
When the light times do get here, they’re actually kind of annoying. Sure, it’s great to have some sun, and some long, summer evenings to enjoy the rare good weather. Danish nature is at its best in the early summer: the leaves on trees are plentiful and a deep, dark, green; the grass is thick, and every bit of roadside is speckled with white, yellow, or purple wildflowers.
But with all that light, it’s kind of difficult to sleep.
Light pouring in the windows until 11pm can be exhilarating on a Saturday night, but not so great on a Tuesday when you have a 9am meeting the next day.
Denmark is a pretty good place to raise children.
Working hours are short, and it’s perfectly OK to leave work at 3 or 4 o’clock to pick up your kids. There’s a good system for early childhood health. A nurse visits your home when your child is a baby. Later, there are regular checkups with a doctor.If your child has the sniffles, you can take off work and stay home with her. The first two days are paid time off.
And, of course, there’s the day care system. It’s not free, but it’s reasonably priced, and it’s nice to be able to drop off your kid in a safe place with trained people while you go to work.
In some countries, there’s a lot of controversy about whether very young children should be in day care or at home with their parents. Not in Denmark. 97% of kids go to day care, even the children of the Royal Family. Even the future king, currently known as ten-year-old Prince Christian, went to day care.
Danish names strongly indicate the owner’s age group. Peter, or its variant Peder, used to be the most popular boy’s name in Denmark. To Danish children, Winnie-the-Pooh is “Peter Plys,” and Curious George is “Peder Pedal.”
But in 11 years living in Denmark, I have met precisely two “Peter”s under age 50, and none in my small daughter’s generation.
The trend for boys in her class is “M” names – Magnus, Marius, Mathias, Markus, Mikkel, or Malvin. And with globalization and the Disney Channel, no one bothers to rename cartoon characters any more. There is no Magnus Mouse.
Guess who you’ll be meeting
Danish first names are extremely generational, and cracking the code means you can pretty much guess who will be across the table from you in a business meeting or blind date without knowing anything else about them.
If the man you are meeting is named Flemming, Preben, Henning, or Bent, he is at retirement age or near it.
His wife, sisters or the lady-next-door-he-is-running-away-with will be named Bente or Birthe. His buddies are Ole or Finn.
Nobody involved knows what TikTok is.