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Podcasts

Danes and Norwegians: Bitter envy and brotherly love

 

Danes and Norwegians were part of the same country for hundreds of years, and they’re still family.

Written Danish and written Norwegian are very similar – so similar that I once tried to find a Danish-Norwegian dictionary and was told there was no such thing. The spoken language is a little more different, but still Danes and Norwegians can understand what the other is saying.

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Podcasts

Summerhouse or dollhouse? What to expect if you’re invited to a Danish summer home

 

If you live in city or a big town in Denmark, you may notice that the weekends are getting very quiet just about now.

The streets outside my home in Copenhagen are empty. The streetlights just change from red to green and back again, but no cars ever pull up. Nobody comes to cross the street. It’s a little like a scene a movie right after the zombie apocalypse.

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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

Two-wheeled Vikings and why I own three bikes: Danes and Cycling

In a country where new cars are taxed at 180% – that means a $20,000 car will cost you $56,000 – bikes are bound to be popular.

Everybody bikes in Denmark. You’ll see executives in grey pinstriped business suits on bikes, and pretty girls pedaling in high heels. You’ll see people toting their kids through heavy traffic in fragile-looking bike trailers.

You’ll see old ladies biking very, very slowly with a lot of people backed up behind them, and you’ll see me, trying to balance my fresh dry cleaning on my bike because I don’t have a car.

The fact that Denmark is relatively flat helps – nobody likes to bike uphill – as does the fact that the climate is temperate. Denmark is as far north as parts of Alaska, but it usually isn’t bitterly cold in the winter.

So even in the winter, you’ll see Danish commuters pumping their bikes through the snow. In Copenhagen, the bike lanes get plowed before the streets do.

An extra, ugly bike
Most people in Copenhagen have more than one bike, sometimes three. One might be a sport racing bike, or a mountain bike, and the other might be a ‘shopper’ bike, with a big basket for bringing home groceries.

It’s also quite common to have an extra, ugly bike.

An ugly bike is a bike that gets no love, and often no maintenance. It’s a rusted, broken-down bike you use for short commutes and leave at the train station.

When I used to work at Carlsberg, the beer company, I’d take my shopper bike to the train station by my house, get on the train, get off at the stop near Carlsberg, where I had another bike waiting – an ugly bike.

It wasn’t a nice neighborhood, so I needed a not very nice bike, something that wouldn’t be worth the effort to steal.

I’d ride the ugly bike to work. At the end of the day, I’d ride the ugly bike back to the station by Carlsberg, leave it there, get back on the train, get off at the stop by my house, and ride my shopper bike home. Two bikes and a train – that’s a pretty typical Copenhagen commute.

Immigrants have better bike manners
If you want to live in Denmark, you will need a bicycle: bikes are an integral part of Danish culture.

Children learn to bicycle when they’re 3 or 4. Their parents stick a broom handle behind the back wheel and hold them upright until they can balance on their own.

Bikes are so important that the government actually teaches immigrants how to bike so they can get around.

Apparently it also teaches the immigrants good bicycle etiquette, because they have much better cycling manners than native-born Danes.

Gentle blond people turn savage
For Danes, bicycle lanes are the Vikings’ last stand.

Those gentle blond people, these people who will wait two minutes at a red don’t walk sign instead of crossing an empty street – armed with a bike, they turn vicious and brutal. They will lose their temper, scream abuse, lecture and start pointless arguments in the bicycle lanes.

They will ring their bicycle bell dozens of times if they think you are holding up their all-important trip to the supermarket.

Pedestrians out of the way
They also text while they’re cycling, talk on the phone while they’re cycling, groove to music through giant headphones while they’re cycling. They go through red lights and intentionally go the wrong way in bicycle lanes.

They ride straight down sidewalks, ringing their little bells to tell pedestrians to get out of the way.

Occasionally the police in Copenhagen do bicycle raids. They hide around a corners and watch Danish bicyclists do all the things they do on a daily basis anyway. Then they hand out tickets for DK750, which must be a nice little money-earner for the commune.

You know, now that I think about it, if they could write a ticket every time Danish Viking bicyclists did something aggressive or illegal, you could cut down on some of those notorious Danish taxes.

Or at least pay for a larger network of bicycle lanes.
 

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 2020

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 2020