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danish culture

Danish culture is a complex animal, a mixture of old traditions and modern expectations from the welfare state. Paying high taxes to finance the welfare state is an integral part of Danish culture, as is a strong sense of equality and quiet resentment of the elite.

Stories about life in Denmark

Moving to Denmark, a Guide for Americans

Moving to Denmark as an American has become a hot topic recently; I hear a lot from Americans interested in immigration to Denmark.

Since I’m selling books called How to Live in Denmark and How to Work in Denmark, you’d think I would encourage as many Americans as possible to look into Denmark immigration.

But moving to Denmark with a U.S. passport isn’t as easy as just buying a plane ticket and a lot of sweaters.

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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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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.

Flip Book Working with Americans Working with Danes

You can get this book and all of Kay Xander Mellish’s books, including the flip book Working with Danes: Tips for Americans/Working with Americans: Tips for Danes on our webshop, or at Amazon, Saxo, Google Books, Apple Books, Barnes & Noble Nook, or via our webshop.

Or follow Kay on LinkedIn.

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

Denmark is a boating nation, from the days when the Vikings built innovative ships to the present, when the coast is dotted with marinas for pleasure boats.

The country has won 30 Olympic medals in sailing – 12 of them gold. That’s more than it has won in any other sport.

And many of the comforts of the Danish welfare state were paid for by the (now reduced) profits of Maersk, the world’s largest operator of container ships.

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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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Podcasts, Stories about life in Denmark

Animals and Denmark – and which animal represents Denmark best?

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).

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COVID-19 in Denmark: A few thoughts

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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Podcasts, Stories about life in Denmark

Drinking in Denmark

Earlier this year, my daughter and I visited several Danish high schools to help her decide where she’ll continue her education. We looked at the classrooms, and at the laboratories – my daughter likes science. We looked at the athletic faculties, and we looked at the bars.

Yes, most of the high schools we visited had a bar, or at least a café where they serve the students beer on tap, or hard cider in cans, or alco-pops in bottles when they want to relax after class.

Now, high school students are usually 16 to 19 years old, and the legal purchase age for wine and beer in Denmark is 16, so it’s all totally legal.

It’s just a bit surprising when you come from anyplace where teenagers are encouraged not to drink alcohol to find a bar conveniently located next to the school gym.

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