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Books, Stories about life in Denmark

Get your ‘How To Live in Denmark’ book at the Statens Museum for Kunst / Danish National Gallery

I do a lot of writing in the lovely, sunny cafe at the Statens Museum for Kunst, otherwise known as the Danish National Gallery.

This museum is free to the public and has a great collection of both historic and contemporary art.

Now I’m excited to say that you can get a paperback copy of the ‘How To Live in Denmark’ book in English at the Statens Museum for Kunst gift shop.

You can also buy a copy of the book at the shop at Denmark’s National Museum, at the Politiken Bookstore on Radhuspladsen, or at Made in Denmark on Brolæggergade 8. It can also be special-ordered from any bookstore in Denmark, although you may have to wait a couple of weeks. It’s also available in Aarhus at Stakbogladen near the university.

Not in Denmark? You can get the How to Live in Denmark Book sent anywhere in the world, or download the How to Live in Denmark eBook right now!

National Museum of Denmark shop book
Books, Stories about life in Denmark

Get your ‘How To Live in Denmark’ book at the National Museum of Denmark

Stop by the shop at Danmarks Nationamuseet /The National Museum of Denmark to get a paperback copy of the ‘How To Live in Denmark’ book in English or Chinese.

Denmark’s National Museum is located in downtown Copenhagen, and it’s got a great collection of Viking artifacts as well as a wonderful kids section where kids can dress up as Vikings and ride in a play Viking ship.

You can also buy a copy of the book at the Politiken Bookstore on Radhuspladsen, or at Made in Denmark on Brolæggergade 8. It can also be special-ordered from any bookstore in Denmark, although you may have to wait a couple of weeks.

Not in Denmark? You can get the How to Live in Denmark Book sent anywhere in the world, or download the How to Live in Denmark eBook right now!

Books, Stories about life in Denmark

恭喜發財! The ‘How to Live in Denmark’ Chinese version is now available.

After a process that seemed to take longer than building the Great Wall, the Chinese version of ‘How to Live in Denmark’ is finally available, just in time for Chinese New Year. This is the year of the Goat, an auspicious year for creative enterprises. 恭喜發財!

Thanks to my Singapore-based translator, John Zhao, as well as the many Denmark-based Chinese speakers who took time to help me out! I appreciate it.

You can access the eBook version here on the site or via Apple’s iBooks store. (Due to an agreement with the Chinese government, Amazon does not support Chinese for Kindle Direct Publishing.) It’s also available via the Danish online bookstore, Saxo.com.

A print version of the How to Live in Denmark Chinese version will be available March 1.

Please contact me if you’re interested in a volume package to distribute to your student or work organization,  of if you’re interested inviting me to China (I would be happy to visit my old colleagues at the South China Morning Post) or having me stage a live ‘How To Live in Denmark’ event.

Podcasts

Inequality in Denmark: Private Schools and Migrants Who Sleep in Sandboxes

 

I was on Danish morning TV recently, which isn’t really something to boast about. In a country of 5 million people, 10 guests a show, 365 days a year – you do the math. Just about everyone gets on TV sooner or later.

Some of my friends and colleagues mentioned that they had seen me, stumbling through with my imperfect Danish, trying to promote my book, How to Live in Denmark. But just some of my friends and colleagues. Specifically, it was my friends and colleagues who work in trendy creative industries – advertising, app designers, actors.

That’s because I was on TV at 8:45 in the morning, when people in those industries are just getting out of bed in preparation to roll into the office around 10.

My friends who have more conventional office jobs, like working in a bank, have to be their desk at 9am, so some of them had seen teasers – you know, coming up next, someone who doesn’t speak Danish properly, trying to promote a book – but they hadn’t seen the show itself.

And my friends who do real, physical work had no idea I was on TV at all. Airport tarmac staff, postal carriers, builders. They start work at 7am. Or even earlier, as you’ll know if you’ve ever had your deep sleep interrupted by a Danish builder banging on something outside your house at, say, 5:30 in the morning.

While there’s no official class system in Denmark, there is when it comes to working hours. And working clothing – people who work with their hands often wear blue jumpsuits to and from work, or painters pants, or bright fluorescent vests if they work outside in the dark. People in the creative industries wear aggressively ugly eyeglasses, and unusual shoes, and the men have chic little Hugo Boss scarves around their necks.

Different clothes, different starting times, that’s not big news, but recently other forms of inequality have been increasing in Denmark. In fact, according to the official Danish Statistics, the GINI coefficient, which measures inequality in Denmark, has been rising faster than in any other country in Europe. It’s now 27.9, compared with 22 at the turn of the century.

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Stories about life in Denmark

The Little Mermaid is four feet tall: Better options for tourists in Denmark

It’s summer in Denmark. The evenings are brighter, the winds aren’t quite as chilly, and the wild blue anemone flowers are bursting up through the grass. And the tourists are on the way. Understandably, Denmark attracts most of its tourists during the spring and summer, when you don’t need to pack heavy winter clothing. Although maybe you do – it depends on the summer.

Anyway, the tourists will be coming, and some of those tourists in Denmark may be related to you. What do you do with them? They want the Danish experience.

Based on my 14 years of showing parents, aunts, former colleagues, old college roommates and friends of friends around Denmark, these are my tips. They’re a bit Copenhagen-centric, but I think most of them can be applied throughout Denmark. And at the end, I’ll tell you about an amazing new museum I just found last week.

The Classic Tourist Day
OK, here’s the classic tourist day. First of all, start your tourists in the morning with a trip to the local bakery where they can pick out their own Danish pastry. Or two or three pastries. I know it’s called Wienerbrod – Viennese bread – but Danish pastries really are some of the best in the world. And get some coffee or black tea. Carbs and caffeine will set your tourists up well for the day’s busy program.

Once your tourists are energized, now is the time to take them walking. Walk them around the old city center, and past the largest, most visible historical monuments in your town. In Copenhagen, you can take them up the Round Tower or to the Queen’s Palace. In Aarhus, maybe tour the Gamle By, and in Odense visit Hans Christian Andersen’s home.

Now, part of this trip may take them down a shopping street. This is critical – don’t let them shop yet, or they’ll be carrying bags around all day. Or, if it’s your mom, you’ll be carrying bags around all day. Save the shopping for another time.

Lunchtime: Picnic or Restaurant
After you’ve seen the city and the major sites, it might be time for an early lunch. If the weather is good, a picnic in the park is great. Denmark has beautiful parks. Maybe buy some Danish open-faced sandwiches and some drinks.

If your visitors are elderly – or if they’re rich and will be picking up the tab – a touristy restaurant with Danish food is another option.

In Copenhagen I always recommend the Royal Copenhagen café, which is hidden in a quiet square right off of Amagertorv, the center of town. It has a nice atmosphere and some traditional Danish food made slightly fancy and fun in the form of “smushi”, a cross between smørrebrød and sushi.

Your tourists are now re-energized, so now is a great time for the local museum. I find that men are usually most interested in the Viking artifacts, you know, iron sticks with points on the end, while women are more excited about the art and glass museums.

My favorite museum in Copenhagen
Being a woman, my personal favorite is the Museum of Modern Stained Glass Art in Copenhagen. It’s also known as the Cistern Museum, because it’s housed in an old underground water tank, which means it’s the only museum in Europe with no natural light. So it’s dark, and the floors are wet, and there’s water dripping from the walls. Your voice echoes. But amid all this gloom is wonderful, bright stained glass in all sorts of modern forms. It’s really cool. It’s a one-of-a-kind experience.

But back to the tourists. If it’s late afternoon, now, they’re getting a little tired. I recommend a boat trip. Your guests can sit down with a chilled Danish beer and see the city from the water. In Copenhagen, these boat trips are a great way to see Denmark’s most disappointing tourist attraction, the statue of the Little Mermaid.

If you’ve seen it, you know the Little Mermaid is only about four feet tall – that’s 1.25 meters. You probably own pillows that are bigger than the Little Mermaid. But all the boat trips go right by it, so your tourists can get the photos they need for their Instagram or Facebook feeds. If they want, they can climb out of the boat and onto the slippery rock where the mermaid sits for a photo. That’s best performed before too many beers have been consumed.

You can round out the day at one of the local music festivals, or Tivoli if you’re in Copenhagen. Tivoli is a tourist attraction that actually lives up to expectations. The Copenhagen Zoo is open late in the summer and it is very nice, now that they’ve temporarily stopped killing off their animals. I’m afraid I can’t offer you any nightlife recommendations. Ask someone under 30 who doesn’t have any kids.

And while I’m not an authority on nightclubs, I am a bit of an authority on museums. When I was unemployed many years ago, I made a project of going to every museum I could. But there was one I did not know about until just this week.

The Danish Museum of Immigration
It is the Danish Museum of Immigration – it’s a whole museum about foreigners coming to Denmark. It’s in Farum, which is a suburb of Copenhagen. They don’t publicize themselves very well. I would never have known about it myself if I hadn’t had to use the ladies room at Farum City Hall.

The museum covers 500 years of immigration into Denmark, from 17th century German soldiers to 21st-century Syrian refugees. It’s a well-designed, modern museum, with some excellent visual exhibits. That said, this museum about diversity and inclusiveness in Denmark…is entirely in Danish.
 

Hear all our How to Live in Denmark podcasts on Spotify and on Apple Podcasts (iTunes).

 

Get the How to Work in Denmark Book for more tips on finding a job in Denmark, succeeding at work, and understanding your Danish boss. It can be ordered via Amazon or Saxo.com or from any bookstore using the ISBN 978-743-000-80-8. Contact Kay to ask about bulk purchases, or visit our books site to find out how to get the eBook. You can also book a How to Work in Denmark event with Kay for your school, company, or professional organization.

 

 

 

 

 

Want to read more? Try the How to Live in Denmark book, available in paperback or eBook editions, and in English, Chinese, and Arabic. If you represent a company or organization, you can also book Kay Xander Mellish to stage a How to Live in Denmark event tailored for you, including the popular How to Live in Denmark Game Show. Kay stages occasional free public events too. Follow our How to Live in Denmark Facebook page to keep informed.

Image mashup copyright Kay Xander Mellish 2019

Stories about life in Denmark

The Little Match Girl and the Fur Industry: China and Denmark

One of the many 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 newscasters wear, 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. Many Chinese read them as children. So, when I’m faced with a room full of Chinese microphone buyers, I usually read The Little Match Girl. The Little Match Girl, if you haven’t heard it lately, is a very sad story about a starving little girl on the streets of Copenhagen in the 19th century. She’s supposed to be selling matches to help support her family, but it’s winter and she’s so cold that she keeps lighting the matches to keep herself warm. In the end, they find her small, frail body frozen to death.

So, when I read this story, strapped into seven different microphones, I find that by the end these highly technical Chinese sound professionals are sniffling and sentimental, transported back to their younger days.

Photos around the Hans Christian Andersen statue
Hans Christian Andersen means a lot to the Chinese. Down by Copenhagen City Hall, there’s a statue of the man Danes call H.C. Andersen, and it’s almost always surrounded by Chinese tourists, taking one photo after another with the guy who wrote the Ugly Duckling. He also wrote the Little Mermaid, and the one time the famous Little Mermaid statue has been out of Denmark, it went to Shanghai, as part of a World Expo.

Denmark and China have a surprisingly deep relationship. Denmark was the first Western government to recognize the postrevolutionary Chinese government, in 1950. These days, China says Denmark is its top partner in Scandinavia, and the countries have a strategic relationship. Their leaders visit each other a lot – Danish prime minister Helle Thorning Schmidt was in China this week – and the two countries exchange thousands of university students ever year. You wouldn’t think it, but China and Denmark have much more in common than both having red flags and a love for green technology.

Basicially, the Chinese are helping keep three major Danish industries afloat.

The first is the pork industry. Denmark has millions of pigs – more pigs than people – and its other big growth market, the Middle East, is strangely uninterested in its pork products. China is interested. Denmark sells about 13 billion crowns a year of pork products in China.

The second industry is the wearable fur industry. In parts of the US or UK, wearing fur is controversial. It’s sometimes seen as cruel. I once wore a fur scrunchie in New York City – this was the 1990s – colleague said to me “Why do you have a dead animal on your head?”

In Scandinavia, fur is totally acceptable, as it is in China. As a matter of fact, in China, wearable fur is still seen as a sign of luxury. I was cleaning out my storage room last year and selling the stuff I didn’t use, and I found a ratty old vintage coat with a fur collar. When posted it for sale on Facebook, all the interested buyers were beautiful young Chinese women living in Denmark. The girl who bought it put it on and looked like a film star from the 1930s. It looked a lot better on her than it did on me. Anyway, mink skins alone account for about one-third of all Danish exports to China.

China loves the Danish Royal Family
The third Danish industry that China helps support is the Danish royal family. Some people in Denmark love the royal family, while others think they cost too much. One of the local newspapers calls Crown Prince Frederik Denmark’s biggest welfare recipient. But the Danish royal family is popular in Asia. Businesspeople in Denmark say that when it comes to making a deal in Asia, bringing along a prince really helps. That Chinese mogul who doesn’t have time to meet someone from little Denmark – oh, but the Danish Crown Prince will be there! Suddenly, the mogul has time for the meeting.

Actually, the Danish Royal Family has another significant tie to China. The Crown Prince’s brother married a woman who is partly of Chinese descent. She was the first Asian to join a European royal family. Her sons, who are 7th and 8th in line to the Danish throne, are the first people of Asian descent in a European royal line. Now, that prince and princess have since divorced and she’s been pretty much tossed on the junk heap, but that can happen to anyone – look at Princess Diana in Britain.

As an American living in Denmark, I have only one complaint about the Danish-Chinese relationship. It is almost impossible to find good Chinese food in Denmark. Denmark has good Thai food and OK Japanese food, but the only Chinese food available here is usually at greasy little grill bars in the bad part of town. So, having lived in Hong Kong for a couple of years, I generally make my own Chinese food at home. So we have an American, in Denmark, making Chinese food. That’s globalization.
 

Hear all our How to Live in Denmark podcasts on Spotify and on Apple Podcasts (iTunes).

 

Get the How to Work in Denmark Book for more tips on finding a job in Denmark, succeeding at work, and understanding your Danish boss. It can be ordered via Amazon or Saxo.com or from any bookstore using the ISBN 978-743-000-80-8. Contact Kay to ask about bulk purchases, or visit our books site to find out how to get the eBook. You can also book a How to Work in Denmark event with Kay for your school, company, or professional organization.

 

 

 

 

 

Want to read more? Try the How to Live in Denmark book, available in paperback or eBook editions, and in English, Chinese, and Arabic. If you represent a company or organization, you can also book Kay Xander Mellish to stage a How to Live in Denmark event tailored for you, including the popular How to Live in Denmark Game Show. Kay stages occasional free public events too. Follow our How to Live in Denmark Facebook page to keep informed.

Image mashup copyright Kay Xander Mellish 2019

Podcasts

Stories of a Salty: On Returning to Denmark After a Vacation

 

I’ve been away from the podcast for a couple weeks. I’ve been on vacation in the USA. But I’m back now, and it only takes a few minutes after I arrive at Kastrup airport before something happens to destroy the relaxing effect of 2 weeks off and several thousand kroner spent on spas, hotels and tasty dinners.

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Stories about life in Denmark

Danes on vacation: Searching for other Denmarks

This essay is from a series I wrote shortly after I arrived in Denmark. The line drawings are my own.

I must admit I envy Danes at vacation time.

Danes on vacation have so much time, and it must be so much easier to travel when your country hasn’t started any wars lately. But I have a lot of trouble understanding how they use it. They seem to be on an endless search for other Denmarks with better weather.

There is no Jantelov when it comes to comparing Denmark with other countries. I have seen Danish women furious when men in Italy and Spain flirt and flatter and generally act like Italian and Spanish men, instead of their wimpy Danish counterparts. If only men here respected women, like they do in Denmark.

Why can't they do things the way we do them in Denmark?

Why can’t they do things the way we do them in Denmark?

Danes shake their heads at drunks sleeping on the sidewalk in New York City – If only they had social workers to help them, like we do in Denmark – and at veiled ladies in Africa. If only they could wear what’s in the weekly ladies’ magazines, like we do in Denmark.

Quiet shock
In general, they feel a quiet shock and pity for anyone who can’t eat fried fish balls and watch Danish reality television. Why can’t everyone be tolerant and open-minded, like we are in Denmark?

So why leave Denmark at all? Well, there is the weather, although I have never understood why Danish people insist on traveling during the summer, in the only few weeks of the year when the weather in Denmark is any good. November in Copenhagen is dreadful, March is a misery, but in July, Copenhagen’s Ørested Park is one of the prettiest places on the planet.

But good weather in Denmark is an exception, and no one ever seems to suggest Danish weather serve as a model for anywhere else. In fact, it makes Danish tourists easy to spot during the winter months: they are the ones standing in the airport parking lot in Tenerife with their faces up to the sun, trying to get the last drops of light before they board the plane.

Popular Australia
This, I think accounts for the eternal popularity of Australia, which can be counted on to be sunny. It has other things in common with Denmark, too – lots of athletic, blond people, an endless supply of beer, and even its own Jantelov, in the form of a Tall Poppy Syndrome. (A friend of mine once tried to mail an important letter first class letter in Australia; “Only one class here, mate,” the postal clerk told him.)

Most Danes have been to the United States too, and I always quiver a little when they start to tell their America stories. Did they have a good time? Or am I about to have to apologize for something?

Fortunately, most of the time they’ve enjoyed themselves and my fellow Americans have been pleasant. In fact, most Danes seem pleased by the willingness with which Americans will strike up conversations, say, in the line at the supermarket, although they always seem slightly hurt that these supermarket-line relationships turn out to be so short-term and superficial. (“And then the checkout lady said, How are you today? But she didn’t really care about me.”)

Danish as a code language
I’ve actually enjoyed vacationing a lot more since I’ve come to Denmark, in part because I’ve learned Danish, a great a secret code language when traveling abroad. Incomprehensible to anyone but Norwegians and sharp-eared Swedes, it makes the communication of sensitive information easy and fun. “Do not buy that. That is clearly not an authentic ancient papyrus,” you can tell your friend in an Egyptian bazaar. Or, in a bar in Italy, “Buy him a drink if you insist, but conversation is all you’re getting. The man is clearly gay.”

Of course, this technique works a lot better in Texas or Tokyo than it does in London, and if you guess wrong about who speaks Danish you can easily get your block knocked off. Especially since, as an American, I am constitutionally required to speak very loud. But it’s a good concept all the same.

Secret language or not, Danish will soon be heard in the campgrounds of South France, on the beaches of Thailand, and in the supermarkets of Mallorca, for the Danish summer vacation season has begun. Danes will be opening their hearts and minds to exotic cultures (while hanging out with any Swedes or Norwegians they may happen to meet) and secretly checking out foreign newspapers in the hope that the weather is really bad back home.
 

Hear all our How to Live in Denmark podcasts on Spotify and on Apple Podcasts (iTunes).

 

Get the How to Work in Denmark Book for more tips on finding a job in Denmark, succeeding at work, and understanding your Danish boss. It can be ordered via Amazon or Saxo.com or from any bookstore using the ISBN 978-743-000-80-8. Contact Kay to ask about bulk purchases, or visit our books site to find out how to get the eBook. You can also book a How to Work in Denmark event with Kay for your school, company, or professional organization.

 

 

 

 

 

Want to read more? Try the How to Live in Denmark book, available in paperback or eBook editions, and in English, Chinese, and Arabic. If you represent a company or organization, you can also book Kay Xander Mellish to stage a How to Live in Denmark event tailored for you, including the popular How to Live in Denmark Game Show. Kay stages occasional free public events too. Follow our How to Live in Denmark Facebook page to keep informed.

Image mashup copyright Kay Xander Mellish 2019