August in Denmark brings the first signs of fall: a crisp chill in the air, the changing color of the leaves, the annual posters warning drivers to be aware of small children riding their bikes to school for the first time.
And foreign university students in the local 7-11, asking that their buns be warmed up.
I saw a newly-arrived young American student in my local 7-11 this morning, asking that her newly-purchased bun be warmed. The 7-11 clerk told her sorry, but there were no bun-warming services available at that branch.
She wasn’t too pleased, but it’s always a mistake to expect U.S., U.K., or Asian-level concepts of customer service in Denmark: in this egalitarian country, nobody serves anybody, and if they do they are frequently grumpy about it. You and the store clerk are equals, and nobody’s going to warm anybody’s buns unless it was agreed to in the original deal.
Denmark is a small country, and Danish people tend to think small things are good. Small cars. Small homes. Small ambitions when it comes to international team sports. But one thing in Denmark is never small – a baby carriage.
Danes seem to believe that a carriage (or pram) for a new baby should be roughly the size of a hotel room on wheels.
Inside, baby will be wrapped up warm with a fat feather blanket – even in the summer. There will also be room for pillows, books, toys, snacks, diapers and extra clothes in the giant baby carriage.
Danish babies are like rolling royalty. Everything they need is at their tiny fingertips.
Have you ever seen the movie The Wizard of Oz? It’s a classic. When Dorothy arrives in the land of Oz, the first thing she’s asked is – are you a good witch, or a bad witch?
I was having lunch with a friend this week. Over club sandwiches she said, its a shame there’s only one word for foreigner in Danish, when actually there are two types of foreigner here.
I got her point, even though I think there’s only one word for ‘foreigner’ in most languages. What she was really saying is, there’s no single way in Danish to say, Are you a good foreigner, or a bad foreigner?
Copenhagen is a modern international capital city – but in its center, there are no modern skyscrapers.
The tallest building downtown is still the tower on the Danish Parliament, which was built in 1928, followed by the City Hall, built in 1905. A law passed six years ago actually prohibits the construction of new skyscrapers in the central city. Most buildings in central Copenhagen are from three to six stories tall, and the law will keep it that way.
Skyscrapers simply aren’t popular here. It may be chic to live in a high-rise or a penthouse in Manhattan, but it’s not chic in Denmark.
As some of you know, one of the other things I do for a living is work as a voiceover, and one of my regular gigs is with a Danish company that makes high-end microphones.
Frequently, they present their microphones to visiting customers from around the world, and my role is to be fitted out with six or seven different microphones at once – a headset microphone like Britney Spears wears, a necklace microphone like the ones on reality shows, a lapel microphone like TV newscasters, even an old fashioned tabletop microphone. Then I read a text while the company switches the various microphones on and off, so the customers can hear the difference between the different models.
When the customers are from China, I always choose to read a text from Hans Christian Andersen. Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales are extremely popular in China; they are frequently read to Chinese children.
There was no How to Live in Denmark podcast last week, and I apologize for that. I have been busy studying for my Danish citizenship exam. As some of you may know, Denmark is allowing double citizenship as of next year.
That means you’re are allowed to keep your passport from your home country – in my case, USA – while also becoming a Danish citizen. Personally, I’m a little concerned that this may be overturned if a right wing government takes power next year. Danske Folkeparti, which is now the biggest party in Denmark, is passionately opposed to double citizenship.
In general, Danes are not gossips, particularly about the sex lives of people they know. A few years ago, at a work party, I saw two co-workers who were married to other people leave with the party with their arms around each other. When I mentioned it to some other colleagues at lunch on Monday, their sudden silence made it clear that they felt the person who was behaving improperly – was me.