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Stories about life in Denmark

Danish manners: Why everyone is laughing at you

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

Danes like to see themselves as a relaxed, casual society that doesn’t put too much emphasis on formal manners.

That said, there are powerful unwritten rules about Danish manners that will earn you sullen, silent disapproval if you do not follow them.

For example, when sharing food with the Danes, you may not take the last item on any given plate.

You may take half of it, and it is quite entertaining to watch the last of a plate of delicious cookies be halved, and halved again, and then halved one last time, so there is only a tiny crumb left – which no one will take because it is the last item on the plate. Someone will gobble it guiltily later in the kitchen during clean-up.

Bring your own birthday cake
If it is your birthday, your friends or colleagues will congratulate you heartily, and celebrate by putting a Danish flag on your desk, regardless of what your actual nationality may be. They will not, however, be providing any sweets.

That’s your job, and it is considered good form to bring a cake or fruit tart for the after-lunch period. If your workplace is particularly busy, you can just announce by group email that the cake is in the kitchen for whenever anybody has time. There, each colleague can cut his or her own piece, carefully slicing the last bit into tinier and tinier halves so you will have a small, nearly transparent sliver to take home with you at the end of the day.

When dining with the Danes, you should not begin to eat until the host or hostess says, “Værsgo og spise”, which loosely translates as “Come on and eat!” When you are finished with your Danish meal, you should say, “Tak for mad,” aka “Thank you for food” before leaving the table.

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Velbekommen!
Should you for some reason be eating when someone else is not – say, you’re having an early or late lunch while your colleagues are on their way to a meeting – Danes like to say “Velbekommen!”, or “Enjoy your food!”

They like to do this when your mouth is entirely full of pasta or some other volumuinous dish. I find this incredibly annoying. Just nod. You are not required to respond.

There is no word for “please” in Danish. Polite children are taught to say, “Må jeg bede om…” when requesting something, which translates to “May I beg for…”

You can also ask politely if people would “be sweet” and do things you would like them to do. When requesting that, say, your upstairs neighbor remove his giant oak dining table from the hallway where you bang your shins on it every day, you can say, “Vil du ikke være sød og…” or “Would you not be sweet and…”. Putting anything in the negative form makes it more polite in Danish.

#&%#/?!!!
English profanities are very popular among Danes, and children are sometimes permitted to say them as an alternative to their Danish parallels. It can be jarring for English speakers to hear small blonde children swear like battle-hardened Marines while adults stand idly by, but write it off to cross-cultural misunderstanding.

By the way, those parents will almost always go by their first names, as do teachers and doctors. The “Mr.” and “Mrs.” forms are almost unknown in Denmark, except for when airlines add them to your e-Ticket.

Since there is no “Ms” in Danish, airlines and sometimes banks will call all females over 18 “Fru”, the Danish version of “Mrs.” This is occasionally translated back to English, where all women – married or not – will find suddenly find themselves “Mrs” this-and-that.

You are not expected to address anyone with “De”, the formal Danish word for ‘you’, except perhaps people who are more than 80 years old, plus Margrethe, Queen of Denmark, who is in her 70s.

Her son Crown Prince Frederik is in his 40s and prefers the informal “du”, although his snobbish, jealous younger brother Prince Joachim still reportedly insists on “De”. Perhaps the only reason “De” is still taught in language schools is Joachim’s penchant for importing wives from abroad.

Selling is embarrassing
The most ill-mannered thing you can do in Denmark is to sell something, or try to. Danes are appalled by aggressive salespeople, and “car salesman” is a term of insult.
The car salesmen feel this deeply: when I tried to lease a car recently, I almost had to beg them to tell me about the different features and models. One salesmen sat placidly behind a desk. When I asked about specific features of the car I was interested in, he would come over and point them out, and then sit down behind his desk again until I had another question.

This principle also applies to job interviews. You should try to convince your potential boss that you would be right for the job without bragging about your past achievements, a balance that is difficult to strike. If you mention something you have done very well, make sure to qualify it by noting something else that you screwed up badly.

Self-ironing
This will demonstrate something called “self-irony,” a treasured Danish concept. It means not taking yourself too seriously.

“Self-irony” is at the root of what in my book is Danes’ most unhappy mannerism, which is laughing openly at others’ misfortunes.

Drop an watermelon onto your foot? Ho! Accidentally try to go down the “up” escalator while carrying a lot of luggage? Ho! Ho! Stumble while trying to balance a tray full of drinks from the bar, spilling $75 worth of pasta and cocktails onto the floor? Ho! Ho! Ho! No one will try to help, but everyone will have a smile at your expense. This is because you should not be taking yourself too seriously. You are everyone’s silent movie comedian today.

Danes don’t do this just to foreigners – they do it to each other. There’s an old fashioned concept called a “kvajebajer”: when you make a fool of yourself, you are supposed to buy a beer for everyone who enjoyed watching you. Ho! Ho! Ho! Ho!
 

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

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

Dating, Stories about life in Denmark, Working in Denmark: Danish Business Culture

The Danish Corporate Christmas Party

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

Americans can’t be prissy, can they? After all, we invented Las Vegas.

So why am I so shocked at the debauchery of a Danish corporate Christmas party?

It’s not the drinking that shocks me – God knows, Danish people do that all year – or even the sex. I think it’s the proximity of work and sex. In a land with few limits, Americans draw a firm line between work and sex, based on the (rather prissy) notion that no one should have to put up with sexual come-ons or even sexual talk in order to keep a job, and that anyone who does should be compensated with a hefty legal settlement. All I can think about at a Danish Christmas party is how much an American lawyer could earn off the proceedings. One stalk of corporate mistletoe, I am sure, would generate more than enough business for him to redecorate his office with the high-priced furniture at Illums Bolighus and his wife with silver from George Jensen.

Call a lawyer
This American concept of sexual harassment has been difficult to explain to my Danish male co-workers, who like to tell saucy jokes in the office, and whose hands have occasionally ended up attached to my hair, shoulders, and bottom until I threaten to call an American lawyer. For them, I offer this easy-to-follow rule: Anything I might want to discuss with, say, Danish heartthrob Nikolaj Coster-Waldau in a jacuzzi over two flutes of champagne, I do not want to discuss with you, married father of four, over six pages of computer printouts on letterhead. Anything I might want to do with Nikolaj by candlelight, I do not want to do with you by fluorescent light. It’s that simple.

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The overfamiliarity between co-workers is just one of the reasons Christmas partys are difficult for foreigners. The structure of the party, the long tables and the fixed seats, is a challenge in itself. At American parties, the format is loose and everybody mingles, which allows one to break free of a bore with a number of convenient excuses, such as Hey! Isn’t that my plastic surgeon over there? I must say hi. At a Danish Christmas party, you sit at a seat assigned to you by luck of the draw or cruel party planners and are expected to chat for seven hours.

Snaps, a Viking tradition
What do Danish people say to each other for seven hours at those tables? Of course, I know what two close friends say to each other, but what about people who have nothing in common but a copy machine? All of a sudden, those dull people from the back of the office, those people you’ve avoided all year, are your companions in fate for the evening. This is where snaps comes in. I feel confident that the tradition of heavy schnapps drinking at Christmas parties can be traced to a Viking forced to sit next to the dull guy from the back oars he’d been avoiding all year. Schnapps must be the only way to get through Hour 3 of hearing about a stranger’s pets, office feuds or summer-house redecoration.

Snaps is also just the beginning of an enjoyable program of Danish food. Question: do foreigners like Danish food? Answer: Is there a fast food chain with “Golden Ds” serving “Dyrelaegen’s Natmal” (pork paste and raw gelatin) to customers all over the world? Of course, the Christmas party has its own delicacies, most of which, taken off the table and reassembled like a puzzle, would form a large, live, and angry pig. Except, of course, for the parts which are herring. When you are a foreigner, Danish people thrill to making you try everything, the odder the better, and watching your reaction when you discover that there is an extra layer of pork paste underneath the bacon and mushrooms. If other foreigners are reading this, the secret is to take small bites of everything and smile a lot. When fellow partygoers are distracted, you can soak up the alcohol in your stomach with bread and butter.

Drinking songs
After the almond has been found in the ris a la mande and the snaps topped off with wine and aquavit, the Viking drinking songs begin. Drinking songs seem to be the only modern remnant of Viking culture, except for the way Danish people behave in the bike lanes at rush hour, where they will use their bells with all the ferocity of an ax if you don’t move into the right lane fast enough. At any rate, everyone but you will know all the words to these songs, and enjoy singing them enough not to notice you are sitting against the back wall looking confused. For foreigners, it is time to go to the loo and pretend to wash your hands for about an hour.

By the time you get back, the deejay will be playing. This is a mixed blessing, since from what I can tell, there is a paragraph in the Danish constitution that requires Danish deejays to play George Michael every five songs. But loud music means that you no longer have to pretend to talk to the people next to you, and, freed from your chair, you can shift around and talk to the people you actually like. A few courageous souls start the dancing, mostly women, along a few sad men in elf hats who don’t realize that apart from a bow tie, no garment cuts your score potential more than an elf hat. Every once in a while the deejay plays an old Danish Eurovision song contest entry, and then it becomes easy to tell the locals from the foreigners again. The Danes are the ones on their feet in ecstatic remembrance, while the foreigners are sitting down looking bewildered, wondering when George Michael will come back.

Ping-pong tables
By this point in the evening, those people who plan to score have chosen their target, and perhaps even their location. This, in particular, has always confused me – I mean, I’ve certainly dated people I’ve met in the office, but I’ve always dated, and slept with them, outside the office as opposed to within it. But Christmas party stories are always rife with tales about ping-pong tables, bathroom stalls and the boss’s desk. Some people leave together, but even at home and in bed, I have to wonder how much fun this drunken sex can possibly be. How much sexual technique can these snaps-soaked middle managers have to offer? For the women, it must be about as erotic as having the statue of Bishop Absaolm fall on top of you.

The real challenge of the company Christmas party is the first day back at work afterwards, when you are required to take the middle managers’ opinions on sales strategy and corporate downsizing seriously again. You’ll get little help from the managers themselves, who will be avoiding your eyes, knowing perfectly well that you saw them dancing in their shorts and elf hat to Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go just a few days before. Years ago, before my very first Christmas party, I was told that people would go wild at the party but then forget the whole thing the next day. That’s what’s supposed to happen. Somehow, nobody ever does.
 

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

Danish celebrities: Why I still can’t recognize any

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

To truly know a country, you must get to know its people. Not just ordinary people, the butcher and the baker and the sulking lady at the sausage stand, but its famous people.

On this basis, I am integrating very badly. I simply cannot tell Danish celebrities apart. Of course, the Royal Family and their troubles are familiar to anyone who stands in line for groceries, but the others all blend together for me in a sea of teeth and hair.

It’s confusing and isolating, being outside the local currents of fame. Magazines run in-depth profiles of Danish actresses disclosing their new, intimate secrets when I don’t even know their old, intimate secrets. The Big Brother celebrity house looked exactly like any other house to me. And out in public, I have often witnessed the Danish people around me are getting very, very excited by someone who looks to me like a well-dressed bus driver.

Secret magazines
I’ve tried to catch up. Recently, I did what thousands of Danes do every week – I bought one of the supermarket gossip magazines. (At least, I hear that thousands of Danes buy supermarket gossip magazines every week. I never see them reading them. In cafes and other places where people can see them, they always seem to be reading the very smallest print in the highbrow newspaper Information.)

Anyway, after flipping through the pictures and reading the rather short articles, I realized that apart from the Royal Family, the weekly magazines have three basic themes: pregnancies, premieres, and TV hosts. Sometimes they report on pregnant TV hosts attending premieres.

I didn’t recognize the hosts, since there is so much terrible American TV available in Denmark that I rarely watch terrible Danish TV. But I did learn a lot of interesting things from the magazines. Did you know, for example, that Birgitte Nielsen has had pretty much the same hairstyle since Ronald Reagan was president? (She also seems have been wearing the same black mini-dress – perhaps she uses that detergent advertised to keep black from fading.)
danish-celebrity
Furthermore, if Denmark ever faces attack from the air, we will all be able to protect ourselves with a shield made from Princess Benedikte’s fancy hats.

But the gossip magazines were no help with Danish celebrities who had been out of the public eye for awhile. Just the other day, my colleagues rushed to the window of our office building to see someone passing on the street outside. It turned out to be the former Danish foreign minister Uffe Elleman Jensen, who in person looks a lot like an elderly, balding man.

Modest, gentle celebrities
I think the main problem is that Danish celebrities are Danish – that is, they are modest, gentle, and eager to fit in. In New York, picking out a celebrity is easy. Someone like the rapper Jay Z can be counted on to have a car the size of a small yacht, be wearing at least a kilogram of jewelry, and be surrounded by an entourage of 60. If you were surrounded by an entourage of 60 in some small Danish towns, there would be no one left to admire you and your entourage.

It’s the same thing with Danish sports stars. American athletes look like living cartoons, the football stars as wide and thick as refrigerators, the basketball stars as tall as trees. Danish handball and badminton players look like ordinary Danish guys, if in slightly better shape.

In fact, when I first arrived in Denmark, some guy-in-good-shape tried to impress me by telling me he had once played for FCK. He didn’t look particularly impressive, I had no idea what an FCK was, and Americans don’t care that much about soccer. Anyway, I failed to fall off my chair with excitement, and Mr. FCK went away with his ball intact and his ego bruised.

This is one of the great ironies of celebrities everywhere. They say they want to be treated just like ordinary people, but they are horrified if you do. If you ever want to hurt a celebrity’s feelings, pretend not to recognize him.

Hi, I’m Suzie. Hi, I’m Michelle.
Which does not mean that they will return the favor. Since I do some work in the dance world, I have met choreographer Alexander Kolpin on at least six occasions. He can never remember having met me before.

After the third or fourth time of staring into his handsome, empty eyes, I began to play a fun game. Each new time I’m introduced, I gave him a brand new name. “Hi, I’m Suzie,” I’ll say. “Hi, I’m Michelle,” I’ll say the next time.

He has never noticed the difference. I plan to work my way up to statements like “Hi, I’m Nelson Mandela,” just to see at what point he realizes that there is a person on the end of the hand he is shaking.

To be honest, I am getting pretty good at recognizing Danish movie stars, assisted by the fact that the same six or seven people star seem to star in every Danish movie. I’m also getting good at recognizing Danish music. By the time Aqua broke up, I knew them so well that I was able to jump up and turn off the radio within the first two bars of any of their songs.

Now rap is big in Denmark, and tall blond men wear “do-rags,” designed to assist in the difficult maintenance of African hair. My friends tell me these men are very talented, but, frankly, I want to hear Danes rap in English about as much as Danes want to hear Miley Cyrus struggle her way through the Danish national anthem.

I thought I recognized him
Still, I was excited when I thought I had recognized one of the Danish rappers at a party. He was a handsome guy in his early 20s with blond dreadlocks, and the girls were wild about him. “Which record is his?” I whispered to one of them.

“He’s not a musician,” she told me. “He sells pants at Illums.”

“We all love him,” she added. “We make him bend down and get pants off the bottom shelf.”

So perhaps celebrity is relative. You can be known worldwide, you can be known in Denmark, or you could be known in the pants department at Illums. You could be David Beckham and be able to walk down the streets of Kansas City unnoticed. No matter how many people know you, there will always be some people who don’t know you.

After two years in Denmark, I can recognize both the Royal Family and the lady at the sausage stand, and that will have to do for now.
 

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

Dating, How To Date in Denmark, Stories about life in Denmark

Danish Men: Denmark and the Exotic Foreign Man

This essay is from a series I wrote in co-operation with the Danish tabloid BT in 2003, shortly after I arrived in Denmark. The line drawings are my own.

When one of the right-wing nut-cases from the Danish People’s Party recently went on a rant about how most foreigners in Denmark were criminals, my friends and I were furious. Here we were, foreigners, and we were clearly not getting our cut of the criminal millions being made on the streets of Copenhagen. All we did was go to work every day and pay Danish taxes. We figured we had better get started.

After considering a variety of profitable crimes, we decided on a male prostitution ring, with the idea that our workers could do internal projects on slow nights. But our male escorts would not provide sex: that was too easy to get in Denmark.

Instead, they would offer romance. Specially imported from Mediterranean countries, these Romeos would bring flowers, write poetry, and say things like “Your eyes are like the ocean.” In short, they would do things that Danish men wouldn’t consider even if it would give the local Copenhagen team an instant victory over the German national squad.

Longing looks and sweet words
Foreign men play a curious role in the world of Danish romance, since they can sometimes make a Danish woman realize exactly what she is missing: those longing looks, those sweet words, that masculine worship that makes her feel so wonderfully female. A man in Madrid once told me that Danish girls on vacation were easy. Well, no wonder. Nobody’s said anything nice to them in years.

Take a deep breath, everybody, but in the world outside of Denmark, florists are not just for buying a centerpiece for Aunt Bente’s Sunday lunch. They are for sending roses to your wife or girlfriend, and in France, to your mistress too. In foreign lands, men buy women jewelry and furs to win their favors: they open doors and carry furniture. Some even earn a lot of money and pay all of the household expenses.

Foreign man Danish woman
 

Sometimes Danish women capture these men alive and bring them back to Denmark, where the government punishes them by making them sit through infinite Danish courses and refusing to allow the couple to live in sublet apartments. I suspect that the new restrictions on marriage to foreigners are just Danish People’s party founder Pia Kiersgaard’s sour grapes about ending up with a Danish husband.

Longing looks and sweet words
Of course, there are already a large variety of foreign men available right here in Denmark. Many are tall, dark, and handsome, many are Muslim, and many are lovely people – one of my closest friends in Denmark now has a Pakistani boyfriend who treats her like a queen.

That said, one of the sad lessons of a multicultural society is that fools come in every color. I’m ashamed to agree with the Danish People’s Party about anything, but there are, unfortunately, some “new Danes” who cannot understand the difference between an ordinary blonde girl on the street and the blond bimbo they saw soaping her plastic breasts online. Some of them see Danish girlfriends as temps until their future Mrs. Muslim right comes along. I’ve fallen for this one myself; it took me a while to figure out why the sweet Muslim surgeon I was dating would never introduce me to his friends, and always wanted to sit at the very back of cafes.

I have met these embarrassments-to-Allah; I have occasionally removed their hands from my inner thigh on the dance floor at the Copenhagen Jazzhouse. (In one particular case, I handled the situation New York fashion, firmly grasping the gentleman’s hand and bending it back so far I almost broke his finger. He won’t try that again.) Anyway, these jerks do more than cause bad karma between “new Danes” and standard Danes. They get in the way of truly nice immigrant guys getting laid.

Kissing courses in France

Maybe, instead of importing romantic manpower, we could train Danish men to do better. Instead of those scuba courses they’re so fond of, Danish guys could be sent on kissing courses to France, or seduction courses in Italy. Since I like a man who stands up for himself, even when confronted with lunatics carrying lethal weapons, I might even suggest “misguided macho” courses in the USA.

In return, Danish men could provide exchange courses in the things they do well: housecleaning, meal preparation, child care. Forget Danish foreign aid – this is what would really win Denmark a place in the hearts of the world’s women. And, darling Pia, it just might cut the immigration rate. Plenty of men will choose another destination when they find out that in Denmark, they must help do the dishes.
 

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

Dating, How To Date in Denmark, Stories about life in Denmark

Dating in Denmark: Get Drunk and Find Your True Love

This essay is from a series I wrote in co-operation with the Danish tabloid BT in 2003, shortly after I arrived in Denmark. The line drawings are my own.

On my very first night in Copenhagen, I went with an American girlfriend to a downtown discotheque. I’m a blonde, and she’s an attractive black woman, so you could say we had something for every taste.

We sat at a table roughly the size of a pizza. Three men sat across from us, a distance of approximately 25 centimeters. For an hour. Without saying anything. I think Zulus or spacemen would have found some way to communicate with us, but this was apparently beyond the capability of three well-educated Danes.

Finally, fortified by gin and tonics, we spoke to them first, and they turned out to be nice guys. But that was a lucky night: Since moving here, I have been to many a discoteque where women shake their booty with their girfriends for hours while men watch with pretend disinterest from the sidelines, their eyes radiating invisible beams of desire: Please, miss, ask me to dance.

Dating in Denmark
How do Danish men and women meet each other? I know it happens; the streets are full of Danish babies. But much like other reported miracles, such as Christ walking on water or an American president delivering a speech he wrote himself, it’s something I’ve never seen with my own eyes.

For one thing, Danish people seem to think that talking to strangers is uncouth. Ask Danish men why they don’t chat up women, and they say that women don’t want to be approached. They’ll make fun of you; they’ll think you’re desperate. They’ll think you want something from them.

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What men want of course, is the same thing that has produced a world population currently approaching 7 billion. Most women want the same thing, although they’d probably like it to last longer than three minutes. Yet you see Danish men and women in parks in the summer, sitting alone on blankets, or in cafes in the winter surrounded by their buddies or girlfriends with their hair carefully gelled, lonely and horny but contemptous of anyone who dares to approach.

Extreme drunkenness is socially acceptable
The icebreaker of course, is alcohol, and I have little doubt that if it vanished from the Earth tomorrow Danes would never reproduce. It didn’t take me long to learn that in Danish parties and nightclubs, there was a window of time, roughly from 1am to 3am, where social interaction was possible. Before 1am, Danish men weren’t drunk enough to talk, and after 3, they were too drunk to talk.

Extreme drunkeness seems to be the accepted way to meet that special someone, as explained to me in the days when I still was seeking a Danish boyfriend.

“What you do,” a Danish girlfriend explained to me, “is you get trashed and go home with somebody. Then in the morning you decide if you want to be boyfriend and girlfriend.”

This one-night stand culture is very difficult for foreigners to understand. One-night stands certainly take place in the US, but it is something unusual and embarassing, like making a lot of money in Denmark.

What do we tell the kids?
Here, drunken sex with a complete stranger seems to be the hopeful prelude to a serious relationship, possibly marriage. If children result from this, it is hard to imagine what their parents tell them about the night Mom and Dad first met. My grandparents once told me that they met outside a Depression-era dance hall, since my unemployed grandmother didn’t have the 10 cents necessary to get in, but maybe I just didn’t hear the whole story.

Which leads me back to dancing. Here is what I have learned: in Denmark, it is bad manners to ask a girl to dance, but it is good manners to get very drunk, make sure she is drunk too, and ask her to come back to your place. She will quite likely say yes, if only in a misguided audition for the role of girlfriend, leaving you both a little sad and bitter the next morning.

Long ago, before I ever thought of living here, a Danish woman told me that her country was a place with a lot of sex but not very much love. I wonder.
 

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

Dating, How To Date in Denmark, Stories about life in Denmark

Danish Men: Not John Wayne

This essay is from a series I wrote in co-operation with the Danish tabloid BT in 2003, shortly after I arrived in Denmark. The line drawings are my own.

When I first came to Denmark, people kept asking me what I thought about Danish men. It seemed like a weird question. Why didn’t they ask what I thought about Danish weather (bad) or Danish food (bad), or, for that matter, Danish women and children? (very nice, in my experience).

I soon learned their interest in Danish men was a variation on the famous German saying: Man spricht uber das, was man nicht hat. (You talk about what you don’t have.) There are NOT a lot of men in Denmark, although there is quite a bounty of tall, timid boys.

While the culture of egalitarianism has done some great things for Denmark – where else will you see tattooed musclemen pushing baby carriages? – it has led to a terrific siphoning off of testosterone. Danish men seem too timid to do anything that makes men men, such as taking risks, taking initiative, or enjoying the pure thrill of the chase. Don’t return a Frenchman’s calls, and he will become intrigued and pursue you until the end of the Earth. Don’t return a Dane’s phone call (singular) and he will forget the whole thing.

Either that, or worse, he will sit home and sulk about it. Last year, I briefly dated a good-looking triathlete, a guy with a hot job and a fancy car, the kind of guy that in New York would have arrogance preceding him into the room like a bad after shave. Three days after a single unreturned phone call, I got a tremulous email from him.15-1

You haven’t called I wonder if this is because you don’t like me please , if I am bothering you, let me know.

For a girl used to American macho, this was about as expected like John Wayne asking for second coat of nail polish.

This is not to say that American men are perfect: they wear baseball caps everywhere but the shower, and their idea of child care often involves letting the child sit beside them while they watch basketball on TV.

But I’ve done a lot of traveling, and I must say that the relations between the sexes in Denmark are the strangest I’ve ever seen. The women do everything: they initiate, they seduce, they even get on top, and the men seem to expect it. “I want to be scored,” a drunken colleague once confessed to me. Imagine John Wayne saying that.

I know that when you choose to live in a foreign country, as I have, you must learn to adapt to local culture. I have learned that expecting a door to be held open for me is an invitation to get hit in the face with a door. I have struggled home with large packages while male neighbors just cheerfully wave hello. Wearing high heels and a skirt, I have wrestled my bike out from a pile of collapsed junkers while hefty workmen smoked cigarettes against the bike rack.

But I don’t know if ever get used to the timidity factor. Three months ago, my co-workers set me up on a blind date with a 36-year old man Danish man who had built a successful international company. We arranged to meet in a small cafe downtown, and since I was there a bit early, I got a cup of coffee and sat alone at a table near the door. Apart from the waiter and a group of elderly Swedes, I was the only one in the place.

My date arrived on time, and when I saw him coming through the door, I was pleased. He was a real looker, tall and athletic. He saw me, smiled, and went to the bar. Fair enough, I thought. He’ll order himself a cup of coffee, and then come sit down.

And he did sit down. He sat down at the bar, and took to looking out the doorway.

He sat there. I sat there. He sat there, staring out the door.

Could he not see me? Did he think I was late? Was he waiting for somebody better to come along?

Or, as I now suspect, was he simply waiting for me to make the first move? Was he waiting for me to get up from the table where I was sitting, walk across the room (carrying my unfinished coffee), and introduce myself?

Sadly, I’ll never know, because after the 15 minutes it took me to figure out what was required of me, Mr. Wonderful got up and left.

What do I think of Danish men? I have heard that they are wonderful, that they are warm, funny, thoughtful, and sexy. I hear that they are the prototype for men of the 21st century. I am looking forward to meeting one.
 

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