When I first arrived in Denmark, it was common to attend a meeting in which Danes, Norwegians, and Swedes would each speak their own language and simply assume everyone else understood.
It was a proud expression of Scandinavian solidarity.
Unfortunately it never worked very well, and everybody ended up understanding roughly 80% of what was being said. In particular, the Swedes and Norwegians struggled to puzzle out spoken Danish.
These days, the addition of other internationals to meetings means these inter-Scandinavian conversations are now conducted in English, to just about everyone’s relief.
Getting to Sweden from Copenhagen is easy: you take a quick trip across the Øresund Bridge in your car or on the train. Getting to Norway from Copenhagen isn’t too hard: there’s a ferry that runs every day from Nordhavn.
Getting to Germany from Copenhagen, on the other hand, is a headache.
If you don’t want to fly or take the long way around through Jutland, you need to head for the little Danish town of Rødbyhavn, on the island of Lolland. Then your train or car or truck drives into the belly of a giant ferry. Then you get off on the other side in the little German town of Puttgarten and continue along your way.
The giant ferries are fun. Up top, they have duty-free shops and game arcades and restaurants where you eat very quickly, because it’s only about a half-hour trip.
But, as of 2029, the trip will be a lot quicker and a lot easier.
That’s when the tunnel between Denmark and Germany is scheduled to open.
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.
I run a small business, so often I outsource minor tasks. This week I outsourced the writing of some Tweets to Jessie, a college student in the United States.
Jessie did a good job, with one major exception: in all 100 Tweets, she confused the word Danish with the word Dutch.
Copenhagen Fashion Week – Check out the latest in Dutch fashion!
Stay healthy like the Dutch: Bicycling in Denmark
10 top restaurants in Copenhagen: Enjoy Dutch cuisine!
Now, don’t give me that stereotype about geographically dumb Americans. At least not until Europeans can tell me the difference between Iowa, Idaho and Ohio – and yes, there is a difference.
The fact is, confusing the Dutch and the Danes is understandable. They both represent small, peaceful countries with seafaring traditions. Countries which are today best known for healthy blond people on bicycles, rushing home to see their monarchs on TV and eat potato-based dishes.
The Dutch are known for their windmills. The Danes are known for their wind turbines. It’s an understandable mistake.