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It’s hard to be a teenager no matter who you are or where you live, but spare a thought for the two teenagers of the Danish Royal Family. 16-year-old Christian - the future King Christian XI - and 15-year-old Isabella have to deal with family photo calls and media events, leaked Tik Tok videos, and a TV documentary this week accusing their boarding school of being a toxic environment.
Denmark has several amusement parks, including the original Legoland, but the ones I know best are the ones in Copenhagen - Tivoli Gardens and Bakken. Tivoli and Bakken show two different sides of the Danish character.   Tivoli is the sleek, confident, high-end image that Denmark likes to present to the world: it has exquisite flower gardens, fancy shops and restaurants, and a theater that hosts world-class performers. Bakken is more homey, more quirky, a little shabby, and a bit more hyggelig, under my own definition of hygge as “unambitious enjoyment”.  The differences between the two parks also illustrates the class differences in Denmark – even though Danes like to pretend there are no class differences in egalitarian Denmark.
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 a barrel-maker street.   But there are other things to see in Northwest besides the cherry trees, which have become a bit of a crowd scene since they were reported on by a national news network.
Newcomers to Denmark often complain that the locals aren’t chatty. Danes don’t want to converse on the bus, or on the train, or in line at the supermarket, or really anyplace that isn’t a designated social zone. Like the company canteen at lunch, or a dinner party at home to which they have invited a precise number of people to match the number of chairs that they own. In general, Danes rarely talk to strangers unless they are drunk, but there is one exception: Danish people over 75 years old. Danes over 75, or even 70 or 65, often live alone, and they are often eager for conversation. Some don't speak much English, which means that spending time with them is an ideal opportunity for practicing your spoken Danish.  Danish municipalities, sensing a match, have even set up special programs to bring internationals and the elderly together.
No matter how they feel about the institution of royalty, almost everyone likes Denmark’s Queen Margrethe, who is celebrating 50 years on the throne this week. Every New Year’s Eve, the streets of Denmark go quiet as the Queen makes her annual televised speech to her subjects. I find the speeches pretty much the same every year, they’re about being kind to each other, taking care of the environment, and such. The real entertainment is in the Queen’s wardrobe - she designs her own clothes, and often chooses rather un-Danishly bright colors -  and whether she’ll get her carefully written note cards mixed up.  Every year she thanks the Danish military for its work, and every year she makes sure to shout out to the Faroe Islands and Greenland, the farthest flung parts of her kingdom. And she ends every annual speech with “GUD BEVARE DANMARK” – God Save Denmark.  The Queen is the head of the Danish state church, and the Danish state – she still signs all the laws, including the specific law that made me a citizen.  But the Queen is also an artist. She paints, and draws, and has designed stage sets for the Royal Ballet.     
Drinking, and drinking heavily, is common in Denmark at holiday time. Whether it's the traditional "gløgg" - hot spiced wine with nuts, orange peel and a little brandy - or the specially-made (and specially-strong) Christmas beers, you'll be offered a great deal of alcohol at almost every seasonal social event. But what if you're a nondrinker, or a light drinker? In this episode we'll tell you how to enjoy Christmas in Denmark while avoiding alcohol. 
Denmark has a thriving second-hand economy, in part because people generally don't look down on second-hand goods here. The Danes are practical people – why should something be thrown out when it can be used again? And their passion for sustainability means it’s cool to reuse something that already exists instead of manufacturing something new. There is a network of “genbrug” (recycling) stations all over all over the country, where people can leave stuff they don’t want and other people can take it for free. And there's a thriving market for second-hand furniture in the classic Danish design style. 
Getting to Sweden from Copenhagen is easy: you take a quick trip across the Øresund Bridge in your car or on the train. Getting to Norway from Copenhagen isn’t too hard: there’s a ferry that runs every day from Nordhavn. Getting to Germany from Copenhagen, on the other hand, is a headache. But in 2029, a new direct tunnel will open between Denmark and Germany. The Danes are building it with very little help from the Germans, who originally weren't too interested in a tunnel that went through an obscure and neglected part of their country.  Thousands of construction workers will be required to build this tunnel to Germany, and many of them will be internationals. But what will this influx and money and people mean to the southern Danish island of Lolland, which is currently one of the poorest parts of Denmark?
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 visitors to Copenhagen - or residents who need an inexpensive adventure -  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, 2 dollars, or 2 euro. Enjoy this audio tour of 7 of the "Harbor Bus" stops - if you like, you can take it along and listen as you ride the waves.
When I mentioned going to Esbjerg for a few days off this spring, many of my friends in Copenhagen said - why? Esbjerg doesn’t have a reputation as a vacation spot, even though its fifth-largest city in Denmark and the youngest big city.  For Copenhagen snobs, Esbjerg is a fishing town, which it was 50 years ago but isn’t really anymore. It’s an oil and wind energy town, industrial but very modern. I like Esbjerg, perhaps because it is a very masculine town. If you’re a woman who likes men, if you’re a guy who likes men, really rough and ready type men, Esbjerg is your town, because it is the home base for the oil workers and windmill mechanics who work on the North Sea coast of Denmark.  In addition, all that oil makes for great museums, and Esbjerg is also a great base for visiting the Viking town of Ribe and Fanø, a picturesque fishing island turned tourist attraction. 
No matter what the tourist brochures suggest, you probably won’t go *everywhere* on a bike in Denmark. And along with food and housing, getting around is a big part of the cost of living in Denmark. Here are a few tips to save money on trains, buses, cars, and even bike maintenance.
Anyone who has spent time living in Denmark knows that it’s one of the most expensive countries around. That’s true when it comes to food shopping, too. One Dane who had lived in the US explained it this way: “In Denmark, every supermarket is priced like Whole Foods.” For those of you who haven’t visited the States, Whole Foods is a high-end grocery chain nicknamed “Whole Wallet” or “Whole Paycheck.” But there are a few creative ways to save money on food in Denmark. Danes hate food waste, so the prices of some food in grocery stores actually drops near the end of the day or right before the item's expiration date.  You can visit farmer's markets, or if you live near the border, go shopping in Sweden or Germany to save cash.
I love old books. I love the kind of old books you get at antique bookstores or on the Internet Archive. And I have a good collection of old books about Denmark. I like old travel guides, most of which are still pretty useful because Denmark doesn’t tear a lot of things down the way they do, in say, Los Angeles or Hong Kong. In Denmark you’ll pretty much fine most castles and monuments right where somebody left them hundreds of years ago.  If you want to see a famous church or square or the Jelling Stone, your Baedecker guidebook from 1895 will work just fine for you in most cases.  But I can also recommend two great old books on Denmark, which you can probably find at your local antique book shop, or on DBA, the Danish auction site owned by eBay. 
While I’m not an authority on the Danish visa or immigration systems, I’m often asked for practical tips about moving to Denmark. So here are a few things to think about when you’re packing your suitcases or, if you’re doing a corporate move, packing your shipping container. Number one, make sure you bring money. Denmark is an expensive place to live where you will own less stuff, but better stuff. That said, there’s no need to bring much furniture, even mores if your furniture is nothing special. You can often buy Danish design furniture cheap at local second-hand stores and flea markets, and for everything else, there's always IKEA - in Denmark, or across the water in IKEA's homeland of Sweden. 
Denmark has had two female prime ministers and about forty percent of the people elected to the Folketing, the Danish Parliament, are women.  But when it comes to private industry, Danish women have one of the lowest participation rates in management in Europe. According to the OECD, only 26.5% of managers in Denmark are female, compared to 39.8% in the US. It’s not unusual to see a senior management team made up entirely of Danish males, with perhaps a Swedish or German male thrown in for diversity.  That said, the majority of adult Danish women hold paying jobs. The Danish tax system makes it very difficult for a couple to survive on one income, even a hefty one. 
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.  But getting a small group together outdoors is still allowed, and the beach can still be a nice place to be – even if you have to put up with sand’s that frozen solid, slippery rocks, and bitter, bitter wind off the icy cold water.
Driving in Denmark

Driving in Denmark


I like to drive. I like to be on the open road, like in the American Southwest - Arizona, Nevada, Utah. Put your pedal to the metal, no one in front of you, no one in the rear view mirror. Just you and the road. You will not get that experience much in Denmark, a small country with a lot of people packed into a small area. There’s not a lot of open land here, not much living off the grid. Which doesn’t mean drivers don’t long for it. You’ll see those open roads in Arizona and Nevada in a lot of Danish TV advertisements. It’s frequently said about Denmark that it’s not a car country. You hear a lot of well-meaning internationals say that in Denmark you don’t need a car that you can bicycle everywhere you want to go.  That is true in the big cities - I don’t own a car myself. But most of my Copenhagen neighbors do. And cars are pretty much a necessity in the countryside. There are now 2.5 million cars in use in Denmark, roughly one for every other resident over age 18. 
When visiting Denmark, you’ll be offered Danish food, and expressing enthusiasm for it will go a long way towards generating harmony with your Danish friends. The good news is, Danish cuisine offers something for everyone.  If you’re a carnivore, don’t miss the Danish pork dishes, particularly "flæskesteg". That’s a crispy, fatty fried pork that’s the official national food. For people who prefer fish, there’s a great selection in this country surrounded by water. Curried herring and fried plaice are popular, and so are many types of salmon. Vegans can enjoy a wide choice of root vegetables, wonderful fresh Danish berries, or the sweet elderflower juice that is sometimes blended with vodka or champagne.
It’s a funny kind of summer this year in Copenhagen, quieter than usual, and more like a family event than a cosmopolitan city. Coronavirus came early to Denmark, the borders were shut down early, but they’re mostly open now to other Europeans. But the change came too late for many people to make summer vacation plans, so many of the usual tourist attractions are slightly forlorn.  There are a few Europeans around the Little Mermaid and the Royal Palaces, but not many. And there are no huge cruise ships full of Americans docking at Langelinie, or the busloads of Chinese tourists stopping to take pictures with the statue of Hans Christian Andersen. Copenhagen has become less of an international city than it was a year ago. Meanwhile, many Danes are spending their own summer vacations in Denmark, which has one major drawback - the Danish summer weather.
Among the many cultural questions I ask audiences during my How to Live in Denmark Game Show is “Which animal represents Denmark best?”? There never seems to be an obvious or generally agreed-upon answer. Sure, the bear represents Russia, the elephant Thailand, and the bald eagle the United States. But what about Denmark? Denmark does have a national animal – the mute swan (Cygnus olor) – but an image of a swan doesn’t provoke the kind of immediate association with Denmark that, say, a koala bear does with Australia. That said, mute swans are easy to find in Denmark. You can see them sailing down the quiet streams of the country’s historical parks, such as the vold in Fredericia or Utterslev Mose in suburban Copenhagen. But these strong, individualist, and often angry animals are a strange fit for a country that prides itself on co-operation and peacefulness. They’re also not really mute – in fact, they have a noisy hiss that can signal an attack if they feel their nest is threatened. Given that these muscular birds are about a meter tall and their wingspan can be twice that, you may feel threatened too.
Comments (1)

Ensieh Noroozi

Thank you so much for your detailed information about Denmark. Very useful and interesting! How will be for an Iranian pharmacist to immigrate Denmark?

Apr 19th
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