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Stories about life in Denmark

Randers is not a joke

Every country, it seems, has a city or region that is the butt of jokes. The rest of the country makes fun of the locals’ abrasive accents and supposedly low-end behavior.

In the United States, it’s New Jersey. In Sweden it’s Skåne, the area close to Denmark that includes Malmo. I’ve been told that in England it’s Essex, in Scotland it’s Aberdeen, and in Ireland it’s Kerry.

In Denmark, it’s Randers.

Randers is a city in Northern Jutland, about a half hour away from Aarhus. It used to be bigger than Aarhus, and bigger than Aalborg too, but it was a manufacturing town, and when manufacturing fell apart in Denmark after the Second World War, so did Randers.

Today, the stereotype of Randers locals involves muscle meatheads, possibly criminal, possibly in some sort of motorcycle gang, with a rough, gravelly accent, and lots of tattoos and leather.

And that’s just the women. The men are the same, but with shorter haircuts.

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Podcasts, Stories about life in Denmark

On the Road: Copenhagen Northwest, beyond the cherry trees

It’s springtime, and the cherry trees are about to bloom in Copenhagen Northwest, which is usually the only time people who live outside Northwest bother to go there.

Northwest is a working class neighborhood, so much so that the streets are named after working-class occupations.

While other Copenhagen neighborhoods have streets named after kings and queens and generals, Northwest has Brick-maker street, and Book-binder street, and Rope-maker street, and Barrel-maker street.

But there are other things to see in Copenhagen Northwest besides the cherry trees, which have become a bit of a crowd scene since they were reported on by a national news network.

Old city, new neighborhood

Like many industrial districts in a post-industrial society, Northwest has become a bit of a trendy neighborhood. I live here, and when I first moved here ten years ago it was hard to find a café to meet up in. Lots of cafés and restaurants now, lots of young people, lots of activity.

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On the Road, Stories about life in Denmark

How to Live in Denmark On the Road: Copenhagen’s Harbor Bus, “Havnebussen”

One of Denmark’s cheapest and most colorful vacations is a few hours riding back and forth on Copenhagen’s big yellow harbor bus, or “Havnebussen”, a commuter ferry designed to transport ordinary citizens between downtown and the urban islands of Christianshavn and Amager.

For those of you who have no summer vacation plans yet, or who don’t have the cash to go very far, the harbor bus can take you from tourist trap to high culture to party culture, from shabby little wood shacks to neighborhoods of chic glass apartment houses with their own private beach.

All for as little as 14 kroner, or 2 euro, if you pay with Denmark’s popular rejsekort, or nothing, if you’re a tourist with a Copenhagen Card. (Beware – you cannot buy a ticket onboard, although you can pay with with the DOT Tickets app on your phone.)

You can start at any of the currently operational 7 Havnebussen stops, but let’s start at Nyhavn, in part because it’s the easiest stop to find if you don’t know Copenhagen well.

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Podcasts, Stories about life in Denmark

Danish beaches in winter: White light and bitter wind

It might seem like a counterintuitive time to talk about beaches, in the middle of a long, very cold winter.

But in these times of COVID, beaches are one of the few places in Denmark you are currently allowed to meet up with family and friends.

Beaches, parks, frozen-over lakes, these are the big social meeting points at time when cafés, restaurants, bars, shops, gyms, schools, theaters, museums, places of worship, and hairdressers, barbers, and nail salons are all closed.

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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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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, Stories about life in Denmark

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.

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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 many 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.

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