How to Live in Denmark

How to Live in Denmark

Living as a foreigner in Denmark, one of the world's most homogenous countries, isn't always easy. In this podcast Kay Xander Mellish, an American who has lived in Denmark for more than a decade, relates her thoughts about Danish current events, as well as offering tips on how to find someone to talk to and how to find something to eat.... Show More

Episodes

Planning your summer vacation in Denmark is like playing the lottery. You could hit it lucky, with golden days and long, warm evenings, when you can sit with friends in the soft light and drink hyldeblomst cocktails. Or you could get grey day after grey day, interspersed with a little rain whenever it is least convenient. The weather could be chilly, leaving your cute new summer clothes to sit disappointed in your closet while you ... Read more

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April 1st is April Fool’s Day – Aprilsnar in Danish – and each Danish newspaper will feature a clever but false story for the unwary to be fooled by. To some extent every day is April Fool’s Day in Denmark, because Danish humor is a rough humor. Danes show affection by making fun of each other. And, as an international, they might make fun of you too. This is a good thing: that means they have accepted you into the circle of Danish... Read more

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Motivating Danish employees is very different than motivating other groups of people because there are two big factors missing – hierarchy and fear.  We don’t like to talk about the fear part in our various countries of origin, but the fact is true that in the US, UK, China, India, and in parts of Europe, someone who loses their job can be in a lot of trouble. They may have trouble paying their bills, might lose their house, might ... Read more

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February 7, 2019 6 min

Denmark is a quiet country, even within the cities. Especially this time of year, February, when it’s too cold to do anything but scurry from place to place, when the street cafés are closed and no one wants to eat their lunch in the park. The Danes are hibernating in their homes until the spring. And especially when a blanket of snow covers the cities and countryside. Then everything around you will be beautifully, peacefully, tot... Read more

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January 9, 2019 7 min

As the new academic semester starts up, some of you may be planning to live in a Danish home. It could be you’ll rent a room in a household, maybe you’ll be part of a Danish host family, or maybe you’ll just be staying with Danish friends. I thought it might be useful to have some tips on living with a Danish family. First of all, if you’re used to having your parents or domestic workers do most of the household chores – things are... Read more

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Being alone for Christmas in Denmark can be tough – one of the downsides of Danish "hygge" is that people who are not inside the "hygge" circle can feel shut out and very alone. Here are our tips for having a good holiday anyway.

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Like so many other aspects of life in Denmark, gift giving in the holiday season comes with dozens of unwritten rules and unspoken expectations. Should you give a gift to your boss? What about your colleagues? Will you and your Danish friends exchange gifts? And why does almost every store in Denmark ask if you want a “gift sticker” when you buy something? Here are a few basic tips about gift giving in Denmark.

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Autumn in Denmark actually starts in mid-August, when the kids go back to school. Danish kids have a very short holiday – usually only about 6 weeks. By late August, you can definitely feel a little fall crispness in the air. By September the leaves start to turn color, and by the end of October many of the trees are already bare for the winter. But what really defines fall in Denmark is the slow fading of the light.

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This is a special episode, because this is the fifth anniversary of the How to Live in Denmark podcast.The podcast began in the summer of 2013; at the time I’m recording this, it is near the end of Summer 2018. We’ve had more than 80 episodes and around a million streams and downloads. Most importantly, I’ve received a lot of messages from people like you saying that the podcast and the books that have come out of the podcast have ... Read more

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Having a sense of humor about yourself – what the Danes call “self-irony” – is one of the most important elements of fitting into Danish society and the Danish workplace. In Denmark, if you drop the ball at work, drop your lunch entrée down the front of your business shirt, or make a fool of yourself for any other reason, you’re supposed to be able to laugh at your own bumbling. This can take a while to get used to for foreigners f... Read more

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Having a sense of humor about yourself – what the Danes call “self-irony” – is one of the most important elements of fitting into Danish society and the Danish workplace. In Denmark, if you drop the ball at work, drop your lunch entrée down the front of your business shirt, or make a fool of yourself for any other reason, you’re supposed to be able to laugh at your own bumbling. This can take a while to get used to for foreigners f... Read more

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Learning to speak Danish can be difficult, even if you speak its close linguistic cousins, English and German. While the written language isn’t too tough to figure out, the spoken language is a headache. Danes pronounce only small bits of each word and smash those small bits together. Even the Swedes and Norwegians have trouble understanding spoken Danish. If you’re only in Denmark for a short time, is it worth it to learn more tha... Read more

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There’s no reason to spend a lot on what you wear to work in Denmark. Danes, by nature, are not flashy dressers. In most Danish business environments, you’ll be perfectly well dressed in a fitted pair of business trousers, dark shoes, and a solid-color sweater or dress shirt. Male or female, you’ll never go wrong with quiet colors like burgundy, dark blue, dark green, black or - for the adventurous - beige.  Subtle good taste is th... Read more

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On your first day at work in Denmark, you may find a pretty bouquet of flowers on your desk to welcome you. (This terrified a Chinese acquaintance of mine, who was accustomed to receiving flowers on her *last* day at work. She thought she’d been fired before she ever sat down.) In Denmark, the bouquet is just a way to say “welcome” and to add some sunshine to an arduous day that is sure to include many handshakes and computer passw... Read more

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February 7, 2018 6 min

Many Danes meet their future spouses at work. Yet there are also strict laws in Denmark against sexual harassment. Where do you draw a line between harassment and two adults developing tender feelings for each other? -------------- Given the Danes’ fondness for alcohol, many inter-office romances start at the annual Christmas party. Ms. X and Mr. Y drink a bottle of wine or two, wiggle suggestively together on the dance floor, and ... Read more

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In an anti-authoritarian country like Denmark, being a boss is a precarious (social) position. Danish bosses don’t like to flaunt their authority. In fact, when you enter a room of Danes, it is often difficult to tell which one is the boss. The social cues that point to a big cheese in other cultures – the flashy watch, the oversize office, the glamorous yet servile executive assistant – are considered poor taste in egalitarian Den... Read more

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People visiting Denmark can’t help but notice that the Danish flag is everywhere. Christmas trees here are decorated with little Danish flags. Cucumbers in the supermarket have Danish flags on them to show they’re grown in Denmark. Whenever a member of the Danish royal family has a birthday, two little Danish flags are stuck on the front of every Copenhagen bus. The Danish flag is closely associated with Danish birthdays. If you ha... Read more

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On-the-job benefits in Denmark come in three categories: the kind every Danish worker gets, the kind everyone at your company gets, and the kind everyone at a certain level in your company gets.  When you talk with a future employer, you can negotiate your salary, but there’s not all that much room for negotiation on benefits. In most cases, as American kindergarteners say, “You get what you get and you don’t get upset.” Fortunatel... Read more

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If you live in Denmark or follow the Danish media, you’ll know there’s been a lot of talk of gangsters over the past week. One Danish gang is trying to expand at the expense of another gang, and this summer there have been about 25 shootings in Copenhagen, generally in the northern neighborhoods – my neighbourhood. Somebody was shot outside my supermarket, somebody else was shot outside the school near my house, and a couple of peo... Read more

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A generation ago, expat spouses in Denmark were mostly “cookie pushers” – stay-at-home-wives who supported their husbands’ careers with chic little cocktail parties for his business associates. They ran the house and the family while he ran the world. Spouses today are different. Most come to Denmark after finishing their advanced educations, and they are sometimes mid-career. A good portion are men. A lot of contemporary spouses d... Read more

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