Hvad Hedder Det?
Tekst hier invullen...
Unfair, Unbalanced, Unauthorized
& Incomplete guide to
I wish you a Happy Denmark!
II Culture Club
III Danish History
IV Hvad hedder det?
VI Unspecified Denmark
VII How to survive getting married
VIII Baby in the house!
IX The Kingdom of Denmark
X Taking Danish liberties: "Friheden"
Copyright © 2019-2023Peter Frensdorf
All rights reserved by the author. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the author.
wish you a Happy Denmark!
Haves and Haves-not
The map of Denmark resembles a sad face, shedding a tear or two, leaking from the nose down. Yet Danes are ranking among the happiest people on the planet, in spite of being subjected to the highest taxes. How can this be?
We recognize Sexy Swedes, Nifty Norwegians, and Fickle Fins. But Danes, what do we know about them?
One could assume they are like the Dime-counting Dutch or Generous Germans.
But believe me;
citizens of Denmark are really something else...
I met my future wife in Phoenix, Arizona in 1988, a tall jubilant strawberry blonde, filled with unbeatable optimism, at times bordering on a surrealistic view on many subjects. Fearless and self-assured, the most wonderful companion anyone could wish for. Nearly always in a good mood, her only resentment was towards her fellow Danes who:
"Make my piss boil!"
According to her, Danes were: "Small minded, insecure, always talking about themselves, knowing everything better without a hint of insight towards the rest of the world!" But also ever-so scared to look foolish and just ignoring everything beyond their scope of understanding.
She would tell them about her adventures, as a young girl, travelling all alone from coast to coast in the USA. They would interrupt her with the announcement that they had also been away, all the way to Copenhagen. Which is an over sixty-minute trip!
The first film we saw together was "Babette's Feast" (Babette's Gæstebud). A must-see film to understand Danish attitude, providing you have a great eye for detail.
Everyone's issues were entangled with another in a sneaky way, pretty well hidden under the seemingly perfect surface. Friendly religious folks living a simple life, barely dreaming of greater things, surely never attempting to obtain them. They fear the unknown with all their hearts, but would rather die than show it. Oceans of hidden resentments only become visible after enough fine wine and port.
I fully expected to drive to Kalundborg one day, a tiny settlement with one post office, combined grocery store, asking everyone where the Hansen family lived. I would eagerly be pointed into the right direction by the local storekeeper.
As it goes with these assumptions, everything was quite different in real life. The town was flourishing then, a nice shopping street with butcher and baker, grocery store where the wine expert praised all wines as "kraftig" (strong). The record store offered the exact same cd's for completely different prices inside and outside the store. It was up to you how much you wanted to pay.
Clothing stores were doing really well too, and the prices were surprisingly high. Later I would find out that one family owned nearly all "brands", so they controlled the market. Stores, with different names, all carried the same kind of incredibly overpriced shirts and suits.
The Danish market was under control, there were just a few alternatives left.
Then there was this Ikea-wannebee telling everyone on TV with his nasal voice that he was a little bit cheaper than others. Beds, towels and smaller furniture was rotated on sale with 50-60% off, and he still made his fortune, even abroad at a later stage. Just like the Ikea owner, he flew cattle class on planes while opening on average one new store weekly. A real Dane!
Years later we moved to Denmark, and I was hit with reality. Because had bought the farm. Pretty much...
We had become the proud owners of a large "4 lange gaard", a four-sided farmhouse north of Århus, a very prestigious building from 1750 with a large inner court.
From the large piece of land there was a nice seaview, it was a most mesmerizing deathtrap.
Wealth among Danish farmers was measured by how many sides a building had, and how many chimneys.
Being on first name basis with a person, living in a house with three chimneys, was something to brag about. This was proven one day when we met a person bragging that he knew important people with unlimited money, doing some kind of fantastic business. He made the mistake to describe where they lived in great details.
My wife and I looked at each other and smiled:
"He's talking about us!" Which he then had to deny, egg all over his blushing face.
Well, this famous building of ours had four chimneys and just like the Titanic, the last chimney was just for show. Which should have been a warning of things to come. From the moment we signed on the dotted line, this real estate investment was already heading towards an invisible iceberg.
Yes, our idea of starting a luxury B&B soon turned into a dream, because that is what all nightmares are made of.
It started with the building itself, before buying we needed to know what state it was in, as it had been build in 1770.
Lucky for anyone but us, a family member happened to be some kind of building inspector, so we hired him to check everything out beforehand. After all, it was a very old building, straw roofs and wooden structure. So much could be wrong, we were not at all qualified to judge the state it was in.
That turned out to be a strange day, as he just walked around aimlessly and spoke very little. Based on his silence, my wife and I both assumed that everything was as it should be. Not a single fault was mentioned.
Much later we found out that there were numerous things amiss, but he had been too polite so say anything negative. Which happens to be very Danish.
After which he accepted our cash payment for his "services" very gladly, and as the saying goes: we bought the farm!
Then came the rebuilding part. The ceiling of the main house was too low, so the floors were ripped away, and we dug deep enough to place isolation and gain height. Soon became visible that the whole foundation was leaning on …. sand! Every step we took showed us a new problem that we had not counted on. Without experience, we needed professional help.
According to Danish contractors, there are Haves and Have-Nots. They are the latter, and any foreigner with enough money to buy such a huge money pit must be the first.
HaveNots are entitled, moreover, they must wrangle money from the Haves in order to divide it more evenly.
Yes, sharing is big in Denmark ever since the Vikings shared their wives with travellers. And maybe some bread and beer if they really had too much of it. I am willing to put a question mark behind this generosity. Was it because what was not given, would otherwise just be taken- and then some?
Would the visitor be thinking, wait a moment, what else does this man have that I'm lacking? Wife, sure. But also a house and pigs, sheep, maybe some silver? Who is stopping me from becoming a berserker? Which is not so much an occupation, but more a state of mind based on "going berserk".
I soon would get that feeling, too, of going berserk. Nowadays, Danish workers use a fork to calculate expenses to rebuild everything to the standard that sanity desires.
I saw my hard-earned banknotes fly towards five double guest rooms with private bathroom, two apartments, a restaurant seating fifty and a meeting room. The place was looking perfect after a whole year of rebuilding, and the bottom of our treasury chest had become painfully visible.
In other countries, you will be charged for working hours. In Denmark; from the moment the workers step out of their bed, thinking about work of that day. Driving to the place of work in such a hurry, they forget some tools, equipment like thingy-dings for the whatchamacallit.
Shorty after arrival they would find out these parts were of vital importance, usually drive off again, searching where it could be. I had to direct traffic between contractors coming and leaving.
We, The Haves, paid for every minute.
Plumbers charged us two hours labour unpacking their tools and an additional four to pack them in again. All perfectly acceptable and fair. Nobody should Have It better than others, Danes resent that whole heartily.
I was told by a motorbike rider how they were used to driving in between cars during traffic jams. They could do that anywhere.... but not at home! Their fellow Danes would open the car doors to prevent them from gaining such unfair advantage. If they were stuck in traffic, so were you!
Paying the highest taxes for food and automobiles is not just accepted, it is part of life. The other side of the medal; almost everyone loves accepting black money.
I know a person working every day of the week without paying one krone income tax. Everyone knows about him, nothing is ever done about it. It is perfectly normal to see contractors driving trucks and equipment around during weekends when everyone is free to work to make some extra cash. Because these commercial vehicles have another kind of licence plate, there is little mystery left. Sure, it is against the law. About as much as hash & prostitution in Amsterdam.
Private persons are legally protected in many ways, companies certainly not. From the moment you register and hire personal, presto! You've made the hit list. You are now officially wild game for anyone. Expenses will fill your mailbox from all angles, at all times. Your trusted insurance company will charge you a King's ransom to cover the straw roofs, which in case of damage will not be paid out because of their age. Not too old to pay for, mind you, but certainly not covered.
A contractor build a new roof on a part of the building which leaked more than the old one he had replaced. When we waited with paying his bill until the problem was solved, he reported us immediately to the credit bureau as non payers.
Silly us! The fact that his new roof kept on leaking did not mean that we were allowed to deny payment.
If we did not pay, we were reported to RKI, the national credit union. Once listed there, you could not run your business any more.
Kitchen staff demanded triple pay on holidays, and wanted to be free on busy weekends to be with their family.
One staff member was sick (or her children) on average two or three days a week. She parked her car conveniently next to the entrance, so she did not have to carry the loads she stole too far. Simply, everything that was not screwed to the floor or wall went missing. Pallets of sugar, salt, knifes, forks, food products. She stole for the stealing, because we were rich and she was not.
Another unexpected expense was water supply. The building received water from our neighbours well as long as anyone could remember. This had gone fine for decades. When we were getting ready to open for business, the new owner told us in clear terms that he would close off our water supply on opening day! That was more than I could handle after over a year of non-stop hard labour and expenses, and my answer was equally harsh. The result was that we had to pay to be connected to the main water supply, kilometres away. This huge bill was just added to the pile.
Upon opening our restaurant we became a great success, parties were booked, and we were often full in weekends.
On a specially busy day, one servant could not come to work because he was in jail. When he did turn up he imitated Manuel from Fawlty Towers really well, took in people without reservation and tried to push others from their table, to place them elsewhere.
Meanwhile, there is twenty-five percent VAT on food and drinks, and we were told that all class restaurants were losing money, they are a sure write-off by large companies. Just a flagship for their clients.
With money flying in all directions, I was getting worried, there was simply no end. For a previous Have to explain to everyone that they have now become HaveNots, that is impossible. The Danish brain is too rigid to allow huge changes like that.
They assumed we had a money tree in the courtyard where cash was falling out. We kicked and kicked our feet swollen, to no avail.
I met my wife's grandparents, they are titled according to which parent they belong. So Mørfar (mother's father) and Farmør (father's mother) and so on. Complicated, yet simple. In other words, totally Danish!
Mørfar, having been a farmer all his life, seemed a wannebee scholar, and scientist. He had left the motherland twice, highly praised three day bus trips to Germany and England. There he studied the non-Danish world intensely until it could hold no more secrets. All cultures on the planet were crystal clear to him after these extensive travels. However, the same could not be said for languages. As so many of his age group, he understood only his own dialect.
He was a short, stocky fellow without any waist. Square-faced, he narrowly eyeballed me with the appropriate amount of distrust that non-Danes deserve.
When my wife left the room, I discovered he was convinced that Danish was the only language in existence, and all others spoke some kind of sloppy dialect. They must be pretty retarded not to speak any Danish, you could see him think. Even small children could manage that! And if I did not understand him, maybe it was because he did not speak loud enough.
With a deep pleasant baritone he explained something he found funny, followed by a loud: "Bahhaha!"
When I signalled that I did not understand him, The Joke was repeated with raised volume. As far as professor Mørfar was concerned, foreigners were really ridiculous.
Mørfar and Mørmør, we once made the mistake of agreeing to have Christmas dinner with them. Once.
Food is for Danes more than a way to feed yourself, just like drinking has nothing to do with thirst. They eat, eat and eat and double that by drinking. A dinner can take up to six hours, easily.
Mørfar got so excited by the view of the duck being served that he started sucking air loudly.
I did not understand the meaning until one of his daughters hurried to cut off a leg (of the duck, not the grandfather) to bring it to his mouth. He slurped the meat off the bone and part of his neck tie with it. An appalling sight!
I had been raised to wait until everyone had been served before starting eating. But this part of courtesy is not big among Danes. They start eating when they have something on their plate that looks good to them. Viking table manners.
Do not expect a Dane refusing anything that is offered in food or drink. There is no place for: "No, thank you" when you get something for free.
"Would you like a turd with whipped cream gone sour last week?"
But in spite of lacking some table manners, politeness level in other area's is very high. They thank you for everything, afterwards.
"Thanks for the drink!"
"Thanks for dinner."
And the next time you see them:
"Thanks for last time!"
Foreigners like myself - because nobody can ever become a Dane if you are not born that way – will always appear terribly impolite.
Restaurants are expensive and service is mostly lacking because Danes do not understand why one person should serve another. As we are all the same.
The boy has eaten and paid his bill, he gets up from the table saying: "Tak for måd!" (Thank you for the meal.)
Whereas the servant replies: "Well bekomme!" (You are welcome.)
Despite his signs of gratitude, he leaves no tip because he also does not understand why he would do so. As we are all the same.
This typical Danish politeness led to the fact that going out for dinner in Denmark may be quite disappointing. For instance, some restaurants embrace "nouvelle cuisine" which the French were forced to drop decades ago. But with these high taxes, combined with the fact that Danes don't like to complain, it seems a great idea! To deliver as little as possible on a plate and making you wait eagerly for the next dish which will disappoint you at least as much, seems very smart business for restaurant owners. Whatever may be missing on your plate, is made up for on the bill.
They may well charge for tap water, or refuse to serve anything but bottled.
This can only be done if you can fool guests that they received some kind of value for their money. Usually this is accomplished by introducing every tiny part on your plate before you are allowed to taste.
I think that cooking can be like art, so how would you like it if Rembrandt would block your view of the Nachtwacht and insist to explain at length how he mixed yellow with red to create orange?
These restaurants still get many positive reviews. Because when Danes go out to spend their hard-earned cash, they feel they would have failed in their consumer duties if they admitted that the event was not worth it.
Therefore, the show is always 5 star, the comedian was always funny (if not, the Danes will still laugh loudly) and applaud in unison until their hands turn blue. Because if it was not good enough, have them been foolish to buy tickets? Surely not!
And this unison clapping?
I looked it up to solve that mystery. It seems that the habit sprung from former Eastern block countries. It is a sign of wanting desperately to belong, if not forced by some kind of ruler. In this case, Danes happen to be their own dictators.
Hundreds of years ago, Viking warriors sailed the seven seas to attack decent, hard-working people as punishment for making the mistake to be born as foreigners.
They raped our gold and stole our women. Which, as they found out, was the wrong way around. They sailed everywhere, we do not really know exactly where to. And neither did they at the time.
The explanation may lay in their huge alcohol consumption in the shape of beer and mead (honey based snaps). Because the water was so polluted, they had to drink beer. They were forced to, see?
These days that excuse has lost little power, as the water is fine, but you can still see Danes drinking beer from nine AM onward, often even earlier. This should not surprise anyone. It used to be custom in factories to handworkers a beer or two during lunch break before they went back to work, gladly with heavy & dangerous machinery. If they lost a limp or two, that was just deserving the term ulykke (accident). Lykke means luck, putting an u in front mean the opposite, they had been unlucky, could not be avoided anyway.
Which leads us to Danes being the happiest people on the planet. Could there be a link to their alcohol consumption? My view is that they were asked in the evening, after snaps for breakfast, a few beers for lunch, snaps again for dinner, then wine and a few beers in the bar. Ask Danes at eight in the morning and the outcome would be very different.
Instead of saying: "To your health!" as drinking toast, they scream "Skål!" when lifting their 12 ounce trunks into the air. What does skål mean, you may wonder? Danish health wish, maybe?
You should not have asked.
It means Skull, because Vikings used to drink out of the skulls of their slain opponents.
I want to make it perfectly clear, that this habit has gone out of fashion. When Danes wins a soccer match, they do NOT drink champagne out of the skull of the losing team.
So let's put this rumour on ice, right next to the heads of defeated opponents.
Viewing Italians of today makes me wonder how they managed to rule their Roman Empire, the same disappointment is a daily experience in Denmark.
There are very few fierce looking males left, but the majority of Vikings today are tamed housefathers, and they all look alike.
Bjørn today sprouts a weakish beard (as psychologists will tell you is a sign of insecurity) and has a rather pale look, like they had been repeatingly slapped in the face with a dead fish by John Cleese. Their willpower was completely broken down by the descendants of the females who should have been raped instead of brought home.
Because females rule with iron fist in Denmark. The last splinter of resistance broken, the men must live by their rules.
Helga wants children and does not want to marry before knowing what kind of male she allowed into her house. Women have jobs, so men are no longer providers, just housemates to order around, share sperm and expenses with.
If you do happen to see a married couple without children, they will hurry to explain why this strange event has taken place.
The rule is to have three or four kids, then after that lengthy test drive, they may or may not marry.
Helga wants to see how the offspring matures before accepting that his seed was really good enough for her. Otherwise, the marital commitment is too great.
Women are also great settlers, meaning that if they cannot locate the mate they really want, they just settle for someone less. No problem!
Yet religion is extremely important, at times anyway. Almost everyone pays gladly church tax and on top of one visit before Christmas, all children are baptized and confirmed in church before receiving lavish presents. Why marry in city hall when there are still these fine churches standing?
The gifts the offspring receive for their confirmation (or non-firmation for those who do not believe in God, only in presents) are staggering. Thousand kroner bills and the latest iPads are stacked on a table with the lesser gifts. Fathers rent lavish limo's or Ferrari's to drive their kid home from church. Daily life may be too expensive, yet nothing is too expensive or too crazy now.
Young Danish women are often very beautiful, with long blond hair and shapely bodies. After the first kid pops out, all this changes. She cuts her hair short like a man and start wearing sensible clothes. At a later stage in life, you may face a couple and just say hi, unsure who is what in their relationship. No matter, nowadays that question is a no-no anyway.
Perhaps because women are so scary, male bonding is strong among Danes, and their initial rough bear-like embrace gradually changes into more caring, almost loving gestures after the first twenty or so drinks. By then, males become quite incoherent and can be seen walking cheek to cheek and arm in arm. Especially at music festivals, you can witness this as it is all based on eating and drinking, not about music at all.
Some men are huge, in fact my brother-in-law is so large that at our first meeting I was sitting down and hesitated if I should bother getting up to shake hands with him. I decided not to, because it hardly made any difference in the distance between us. I could envision him as a Viking, turning a full-grown wild boar over a roasting fire. But he is an exception, most males are domesticated into smaller sizes, like a house mice.
Danes like to celebrate; Påske (Eastern), Jule Frokost, (Christmas lunch, anytime before or after Christmas), Sankt Hans (Burning of Witches), Grundlovsdag (constitution), TreKongen (Three kings doing something or another), February 2nd The returning of the Light, The Queens Birthday, Store Bededag (Big Praying Day), Mortens Aften (The Evening of Morten), Soldier Day, plus a few others. When authorities wanted to remove one of these holidays, Store Bededag, it was raining complaints and after that, the new rule was pretty much ignored.
Dishes must include Sild (marinated herring with curry, red wine or mustard dressing and hard-boiled egg on top), on rye bread. Graved Laks (marinaded raw salmon) with a sweet sennep dressing, Tarteletter (pasty with chicken and asparagus from a tin, may not be fresh!), flæskesteg (roast pig back), frikandeller (pork meatballs), svinemørbra (pork filet), Sylte (corned beef with beef replace by pork spare parts), Gammele Ole (very smelly cheese matured in old Ole's socks, a man not known for fanatic use of water and soap).
This cheese is served with white bread, sliced bell peppers, and tandsmør (butter smeared so thick that you can see clear teeth marks after every bite). More cheeses with grapes.
Then it is time for a filling dessert: Risalamande (rice cooked to pulp in milk, mixed with whipped cream and with warm cherry sauce). There is order in this chaos. One may only eat this on that bread, and you must know what to eat first, second, third, and so on.
Then sit down to eat for hours on end, drinking strong beers and ales joined by a wide assortment of snaps. Snaps, where to begin? Anything forty to eighty percent alcohol made from potatoes, different berries, many different labels on the soon-to-be-empy bottles that are supposed to be served ice freezing cold, or it will burn your throat. Instead, they serve at room temperature, so only real Danes can drink it. Others just die of natural causes.
When the feast is over, they sit down more comfortably for coffee and layercake.
But before anyone gets to eats cake they must first devour tasteless lukewarm white rolls with tandsmør because otherwise they would eat too much precious cake.
On Christmas Eve, everyone pushes the decorated tree to the middle of the room to light a real candle fire hazard. Then the whole family, also Gammele Ole, goes hand in hand dancing around the tree, singing songs about how expensive Christmas is.
Caroling is not reserved to the few with a decent voice, nor restricted to privacy inside the shower. Danes sing at all occasions and have songs for just about anything. If such a song doesn't exist, they just make one up.
You cannot go to any party and expect to escape with ears intact, no. There comes this frightful moment that papers are handed out. Beware! This often happens unnoticed in a sneaky manner.
This is your signal to rush to the bathroom for a lengthy break. You'll find me there, too.
To quote Tom Lehrer; they find forty-eight verses of: "On top of old Smokey" is twice as enjoyable as twenty-four. It does not need to make sense, rhyme or even be singable. Often you see people mouthing words with sad faces, going through the motions for the sake of the next person, who is just as sad. Singing is a must.
Then there must be speeches. Ticking with a knife against a glass, is an indication that a person wants to share something with all guests that cannot be said between the speaker and the subject.
Of course, this torture is not for the sake of the person that is celebrated, no. It is because the speaker dwells him/her self in the forced attention of everyone present. Even the shyest Danes are in need of attention at these events, a well that never runs dry. Some strangers rather show their feelings in everyday life towards the person in question. This has absolutely no value.
Names and faces. Picture me, looking bewildered at the mailbox of: "Preben and Bodil".
Then I regretted never listening when people are being introduced.
I was wrecking my brain, which was which? Both wore short hair. I concluded that Preben sounded softer dan Bodil so Preben must be the mother and Bodil the father. Which happened to be 100% incorrect.
Danes look always angry on old pictures.
Why do Antique Danes resemble "The Hole in the Wall Gang" after being arrested?
Upset, a bit surprised and angry? True enough, there was not much to smile about. Life was hard.
You are unlikely to catch Danes laughing hysterically at anything in real life. Nothing seems funny enough unless they paid for it.
Mind you, there is a lot of very loud laughter to be heard when Danes meet their most trusted friends, persons and bottles, but not because funny things are happening. It is a nervous high pitched laughter of shedding their almost constant insecurity.
Pay attention (if you can afford it), and you will notice the difference.
Money is unimportant. Let me rephrase that; money is very important. Both statements are true in Den Mark.
On the one hand they pretend money is just paper, meanwhile everything is ruled by cash.
My wife and I, after surviving the mentioned money pit are now living by the sea on a large piece of land. It is a challenge to find anyone who does not ask us how much we paid for it. Everyone wants - needs to know;
"How much did you pay?"
We just build an annex: "What did that cost?"
Why is the price so interesting? They are worried that you may be spending more, thus having more money than anyone else. They need to know what the damage is.
Dancing around the truth may be the only remedie, because there is no right answer.
Either you did not pay enough and took advantage of someone or you have too much money. Both are mortal sins.
Spending money remains a very scary ride for many Danes, who only the last twenty years were getting used to going out for dinner. I recall, some twenty-five years ago on Malta food was so cheap, that one could eat dinner for less than ten dollars including wine.
Outside a restaurant stood a group finger pointing the menu to the greatest detail for a really long time. They just could not make uptheir mind.
My wife; without hesitation: "Danes!"
And she was right. Mind you, my wife is always right and nothing can make me say otherwise.
For that reason, Danes do not saddle their horse the day they are riding. Contemplation regarding penge (money) takes time, really a lot of time. We bought our beach house in Denmark within three days after seeing it. Paperwork took longer, so about one month later we returned to take possession of the property.
Sitting in the sun, enjoying a drink to celebrate, we were interrupted by family of the neighbours. They came asking if it was true that the house was for sale.
"We just bought it."
The house had been on the market for quite a long time.
Taking quick decisions is impossible for Danes, and they will only buy what they need at the time and nothing more.
Special offers: "Buy more and pay less" may work everywhere else, but not here.
Once again we find ourselves on the first row to the sea (første række) and again this brand marks us as Haves.
Cutting some trees will set us back either thirty thousand dollars or just four, depending on the contractor. Some notice we do not drive Audi's or Mercedes, others just see we have two cars. No matter what needs to be done, we need to get 4–5 estimates because they always differ beyond decency and reason.
For instance, we cannot hire a gardener who lives far away. He must first drive even further to collect rented equipment. Then to us. He will charge us for the time to drive, pickup, drive again to us, deliver things back and then home again. Plus for the rental fees, the precious hours in between that he is here, and may actually get some work done.
He is entitled to tell us afterwards that the rent was 3000 instead of 1000, and expect immediate payment without having proof of either amount. Fair is fair!
By the way, anytime you pay for something, your money changes hands, the Danes demand that YOU sign that you gave it to them.
This is no attempt to cheat you, they just think the other way around. I tried explaining many times, but Danes refuse to understand that they have the receipt and the money this way.
So in the past, if you wanted to deposit money in the bank, you could not do it without signing first that you gave it to them. Then you were standing and waiting while they are getting your receipt.
Nowadays, the banks are cashless. They have no money and don't really want to accept yours. There are machines where you can do that, still. You will now have to pay to deposit cash, as well as getting change for stores. I guess this will all make sense one day, by the time we have meat-less butchers, but not quite yet.
Hvad hedder det?
Danes talk all the time because it cost nothing and all alternatives are expensive. Communistic countries like America have free ferries to Long Island. Why? Here a bridge was build from the main land to Sealand, and we had to pay every time we crossed it. The promise was that it would be free once we had paid for building it. It has been paid several times over- and we are still paying, and always will. So because talk is free, Danes simply love to chat about everything without taking any position that may be challenged by others who may know better. Safe conversations about nothingness.
You will see these small gatherings blocking entrances of theatre, museums and shopping malls, and of course everyone favourite, food stores.
Your dirty looks are wasted on them, because they cannot notice anything while speaking. That would be multitasking. Y
ou might as well expect them to lay eggs and fly at the same time. They can do neither.
Upon meeting they start blabbing about people you never met and do not wish to know, the dog of the neighbours, and the wild adventures of the nephew of the sister-in-law of the girlfriend she knew since childhood but recently moved away. That they are no longer in contact, this may be of interest to you.
Also on TV. They have long programs about music without a single note in them, just talking about people who make music and the ones who like to listen to what and why. Expect musicians to do anything else, like riding their bike or feeding their fish.
You may think that Nordic Fight-Night has something to do with boxing? No way! Expect hours of a well-chosen panel, talking about the noble art of self-defence, interviews with people who know someone who was neighbour to a person who has actually attended a match.
Warning. There may be short intermissions with two men actually inside the ring, just before- or after the bout. We are not showing the fight because you did not buy a ticket.
The weather report is hardly about weather. They will show people who do something in the weather, which is basically all of us. Here is a picture taken by Morten M. Mortensen of the sun coming up, thank you, Morten! Expect a roller skater, a sailor, or a farmer being interviewed. How was the weather yesterday? How about in India, or Brazil? If a tiny part of the program is predicting Danish weather, that part is usually untrustworthy. Yet the next day, they will announce just as optimistic what the future three weeks will bring us. By that time, everyone has long forgotten anyway. Besides, who is entitled to complain about the weather?
These days, they invite people to all news segments to explain how they feel about what is happening.
Schoolteachers are unhappy with their salary (løn) and go on strike. We ask Tina Maria Skytte Pedersen mother of Maria Tina Skytte Pedersen who is student in the school what she thinks of that.
You may notice that Danes rarely have just two names, just like singing, more is better. Men may be called Morten Jørgen Nielsen Mortensen and go by Mort, Jørg or Niels. The names seem to grow in length, five or six names are no longer rare.
Danes are so eager for gossip that several newspapers and magazine specialize in it, not unlike the UK, but friendlier. Big headlines with the wildest accusations, turning out to be hot air when you read further. Pictures of Danske celebs dressed up for some party or award ceremony, but also regular people get page long specials in which they let you know that they have no life and no ideas.
All this talking keeps the Danish language lively, and it takes no time for everyone to use the same wording.
Like using the dreaded: "Hvad hedder det?" (What is it called?) in nearly every sentence. The purpose of saying nothing is prevention. Because while you speak, nobody else may interrupt.
Variations: "Ellers, hvad de hedder..." and "hvad skall jeg siger?"
Even on TV, professionals who are called in to give advice on this, that or the other. Like this: "Dollaren er stigende, fordi <The dollar is on the rise, because> - Hvad hedder de – "uro i euroen." < unrest in the euro>."
They ask viewers what it is called that they are talking about.
Of course, we do not know, we are waiting to hear from them. Imagine these people getting excited the day before they will be on TV. They will tell their friends and family about it. And then when the time comes, they do not know what it is called, the subject they are talking about.
On the radio too, Danes who were chosen because they speak so well, and have such an impressive choice of words. They are getting paid big bucks to ask: "Hvad hedder de?" They are not called into the office of the director the next day to be reprimanded. Because the next time, they do it again!
Another disfavorite of mine: "Prøv hør her!" (Try to listen here) and its sister: "Prøv se her!" (Try to see here). They must think the listeners are deaf, blind, or both. In which case the conversation will be really limited. Professionals may use these three or four times in one sentence. This is totally allowed, and you should not get irritated by it.
Language is alive. When I was first in Denmark and hardly understood the language, the running expression was "Discoflot". Everyone used it all the time, and I wondered what disco they meant. Old as I am, because discos are called clubs now.
"De er så flot" (that is so beautiful).
So I did not speak Danish then. My wife often got really upset having to translate everything for me. Her father would give a speech of half an hour, and when I asked what it was all about?
Her answer was a short, irritated:
I was not amused at the time, she could at least tell me what he had been saying. Only now that I speak Danish, I can see that she was absolutely right.
Because she is always right and
nothing will make me say otherwise.
However, many Danes have trouble understanding dialects and only understand their own. One town further, they are strangers.
Which makes it extra hard for foreigners to be understood.
Luckily, the Danish language has some words in common with the Dutch. Less lucky is that they often have a completely different meaning. Especially Dutch tourists will find out that misunderstanding is also a form of understanding:
Dutch; LOKET (service window)
Danish JELLYFISH THAT STINGS
Danish; NAME OF SEVERAL TOWNS
Dutch: FALLING APART
Danish: OLD (not quite the same)
Danish: LOW CLASS HUMOR
Dutch: EVEN MORE FLAT
Danish: DECORATED PLATE
Dutch: TANKER (ship carrying fluids)
Dutch expression: FOOLING (in de maling nemen)
Dutch: PLACE WHERE YOU SPEND THE NIGHT
Danish: PLACE WHERE OTHERS SPEND THE NIGHT
Danes would much rather stay in prison than hotels because they are not presented with a hefty bill afterwards.
When arrest is out of the question (lacking police) they sleep in houses of friends and family. On the couch or the floor is just fine, as long as it is free. Hotels are only for holidays abroad where you have no family or friends. And for foreign fools.
We have been charged a fortune for one night in Århus harbour. Very few guests, car park nearly empty, but they wanted Danish King's ransom for one night anyway.
The hotel was simple and for the same price you could stay in Manhattan, this was an industrial area in the harbour.
Having no alternatives, we spend the night, at least until five in the morning when a ferry honked loud to make his arrival known to all. I guess we must make friends everywhere and sleep on their floor.
Our town has a police station that may be hard to reach in times of need. They are only open at relaxed office hours.
So, criminals must perform their occupation on these days between 10.00 to 16.00 hours. Otherwise, it will take at least an hour for the police to appear from the next town.
Services also include an emergency hospital, of sorts. But we once made the mistake to just go there and ask for urgent medical advice. As we found out, you must make an appointment beforehand. Otherwise, you will find no nurses or doctors there! That means, if you expect an accident to occur next week, make sure to contact them, so they can have staff ready. Or there will be nobody to help you.
Planteskøle: (plants go to school) a place where plants go to learn how to grow.
Danish pastry is called Wienerbrød in Denmark.
Hej-hej <hajhaj> is the most common greeting when leaving.
Boy and Girl-scouts are very prominent. People donate all sorts of goods which will be sold towards their travel expenses. Not to Norway or Sweden either, they travel all over the world!
Tres is 60 in Danish. Halvtres (half of tres) is 50.
Hun-Lo is not a Chinese disk with chicken and peas. It means "She laughed" in Danish. I wrote a letter to the Queen to have this changed, and I am waiting to hear from her any moment
Jantelovens 10 commandments:
"Du skal ikke tro, du er noget."
(You shall not believe that you are something.)
"Du skal ikke tro, at du er lige så meget som os."
(You shall not believe you are worth as much as us.)
"Du skal ikke tro, at du er klogere end os."
(You shall not believe that you are smarter than us.)
"Du skal ikke bilde dig ind, at du er bedre end os."
(You shall not believe that you are better than us.)
"Du skal ikke tro, at du ved mere end os."
(You shall not believe that you know more than us.)
"Du skal ikke tro, at du er mere end os."
(You shall not believe that you are more than us.)
"Du skal ikke tro, at du dur til noget."
(You shall not believe that you are good for something.)
"Du skal ikke le ad os."
(You shall not laugh at us.)
"Du skal ikke tro, at nogen bryder sig om dig."
(You shall not believe that someone likes you.)
"Du skal ikke tro, at du kan lære os noget."
(You shall not believe that you can teach us something.)
There is an 11th command:
11. Du tror måske ikke at jeg ved noget om dig? (You think maybe that I know something about you?)
This addition to 10th indicates that the author has some sense of humour, observing his fellow Danes. But it goes deeper. Envy, that someone may be better off than others, is alive and kicking in Danish society.
In advertising, nobody in his right mind compares goods or services with others, saying that theirs is so much better. It would only anger customers. They will not buy from someone breaking Jantesloven in such cruel manner. You may just hint that you are a tiny little bit better, or cheaper than others, or you will be labelled as "Blærerøv!"
Translated: "Bladderass" but the closest meaning is "Show-off".
The basics of Janteloven lays in the construction of sentences, dividing YOU from US. What Danes want you to know is that you are not and never will be one of us. What separates us can never be bridged.
I may have given the impression that Danes do not like foreigners. My excuses, hardly anything is further from the truth.
"A nice foreigner, roasted over an open fire..." No, there I go again, trying to be funny.
Danes have nothing against people from other countries. English is widely accepted as second language and we accept euro's from Germans who rent our summerhouses any time of the year.
There is nothing wrong with them or with me. Being foreigner is just a disability. I am not a Dane, from Viking stock like Harold Blåtand, Toke Barnenumse or Torsten Rødnæse.
Some Danes proudly give their children only pure Danish names. Even if, like Doctor Dick, it makes it hard for them to travel.
You will run into names like Njal, Aage, Roar, Aina, Aase, Ebbe, Malthe, Egil, Ditte, Gunar, Einar, Ivar, Kåre, Jerrik, Gro and Toke, Gru, Sif.
And Danes enjoy travelling because the prices are so much lower in other countries. They also buy holiday homes in Greece, Spain, Italy, anywhere really. However, no Greek, Spaniard or Italian or Dutch person should attempt to buy a summerhouse here!
This is Denmark, so only Danes are allowed to own them.
A far family member of Janteloven is an affliction without any name. The fact that Danes avoid confrontation at any cost. If you remember the "expert" that did want to say anything negative about the farm we bought? He is anything but unusual. We took another specialist to see a boat, and he did not want to say anything at all. We asked, and asked again, thinking that he misunderstood us. But no. We walked away without trying to buy and only when the seller was many miles out of hearing range, he told us what was wrong with it.
These days, Facebook shows it clearly. I cannot help myself and sometimes write what irritates me instead of showing a picture of a pussycat or a nice flower. Thumbs up at the latter, and zero reaction at the first kind. They do not want to take any position on anything, afraid to be attacked on it, lose the argument and look silly.
The wonderful Island of Samsø around lunchtime, it took some time before we were able to spot a small restaurant with a menu. No guests anywhere, because others eat at home like any normal Dane would. We are not normal and rather hungry.
On the menu: "Uspecificeret smørrebrød".
Smørrebrød, as you may know, is the Danish variation of a sandwich, a single slice of dark bread, lavish stuffed with fish or meat.
My wife explained to me that the chef decides what you get, so while it was far from cheap, it was also a gamble. I envision a guy with a white hat looking at expiration dates and picking the oldest items in the kitchen, but that's me.
In the Netherlands we eat sandwiches, but we sure would not accept that another person decides what we eat, and we pay for it!
In the USA:
"What kind of bread, white, whole wheat, rye? Salad or cucumber? Unions? Mayo or butter? Toasted or fresh?" And that was after you picked what you wanted on your sandwich.
Imagine an American on this innocent island, looking at this menu.
We ended up asking that IF we would order, what did they think we would find on our plate? We paid extra for the lunch. Fair enough. Because it was not unspecified any more.
I may have indicated that Danes are notorious anti-service minded. Many times we entered a restaurant only to find our way blocked by a servant demanding:
"Og du ønsker?" (And what you want?) in non-too-friendly manner.
The riddle of what people could possibly want in a restaurant may be clear. Maybe their vehicle was in need of new tires, perhaps they need dental care, or new eyeglasses. Then they had absolutely no business here. Waiters are in their right to be apprehensive and restrict entrance, certainly.
Afterward you ate, they would become a bit friendlier, and ask how I want to pay. My usual answer:
You know now that I had more bad meals in Denmark than anywhere else. The reason is clear. Danes are not in the habit of complaining. Stores can sell rotten fruit, nobody ever goes back to demand a refund.
Asking how your meal was means you must say that you liked it. If someone like me does not play ball, they get confused. There is no scenario for that option.
Some may ask details, others will just sigh and bring you the bill. Where-I guarantee it, every item is listed. In countries where inhabitants are more inclined to complain, they may decide not charge for dishes that did not satisfy you. Not where they have DK on the numberplates.
Very recently we ate in a restaurant and my wife received the tiniest piece of fish, maybe thirty gram. We said to the waitress that another piece would be appreciated, and she came back with: "Eight minutes!" Indeed, around that time had passed when she returned with another plate, with a slightly larger piece of fish. My wife - not a big eater my any means – ate it, and we assumed that they were so embarrassed by our complaint that they added the other stuff as well. Not so! When the bill arrived, they charged us for three main dishes, period. Incredibly, I wrote a nasty review, fully expected they would adjust this mistake. Again: not so!
HC Andersens: Kejserens nye klæder
Two dressmakers tell the emperor that only stupid incompetent people cannot see the fineness of his new treads, and everyone reacts by complementing nothingness because they are scared they are not good enough.... again; Danes' greatest fear.
Separating the Emperor from his clothes is since 1873 very much alive.
Back to 1995, the beginning of Dogme.
These films could only come from Denmark. The idea was embraced by reputed movie experts because they too were afraid to be called stupid and incompetent.
Danish design means simplicity, leaving things out. If you like nothing on your walls, you are halfway there. It cannot be too straight forward, too simple. Really expensive hotels can have brick walls in the hallways, so you can appreciate what kind of nothingness money can buy.
Note what is missing instead of what there is.
And if you are unable to do that, it may be because you are too stupid and incompetent!
Going out to a show, movie or theatre is hit or miss with very little in between. Some amateur performances can be surprisingly decent, and some high billed shows absolutely awful.
Danes are great at making movies & music and lousy at humour. The biggest comedians from the past were men dressed as women, this is always funny because they are men, not women at all. That is about the range of jokes, apart from stealing ideas from abroad.
According to Danes, pain and embarrassment are always funny, which brings me to the wedding night.
How to survive getting married
Danes are great pranksters, or so they think. While you are busy getting ready for your perfect day, friends and family members are preparing to spoil your night.
At my first wedding experience, I was dumbfounded zombie walking behind people who loved the couple so much that they broke into their bedroom to make sure the bed is filled with itching powder, closet stuffed with balloons, making sure it is very warm (I heard ice-cold could also do), hiding underwear, shoes, switching toothpaste with glue, anything they could think of to make their first night as husband and wife unbearable.
The day goes usually pretty much as planned, the wedding takes place in the church and there will be a lot of singing. Then a feast, dinner and wise advice, speeches from people you have never met before.
Danes feel so under cast in daily life that they embrace that moment everyone is forced to listen to them. And of course the sneaking around with rolled up papers containing home-grown songs, stuffed with sentences that don't rhyme and more Danish humour.
But not everything is negative. It is custom for the newly-weds to kiss when everyone stamps on the floor or rattles with utensils.
Sitting, standing, under the table and standing on the chairs, these are a must-do kiss moments.
At one time or another, while the groom leaves the room, all men run to kiss his new wife, then the bride leaves and the women do the same with the groom. These habits are funny and innocent.
More food, more skåls (one must drink when someone skåls with you) more speeches and many more songs. The strict protocol of these festivities has not changed very much over the years.
By the time the clock nears midnight, the couple is finally released to the dance floor, where a wedding march will be played. It starts out very lovely, they dance together surrounded by a circle of all guests, nearing them more and more.
It becomes crowded, then the bride is harshly pulled away, and the groom will be attacked. His shoes removed, and often in a struggle they cut off the front part of his socks. Why? The reason makes no sense. It seems that it symbolizes that he now has a wife to perform sock repairs. They are happy to break off such a pleasant moment into a thousand pieces to make that point.
This ordeal must take place before the clock strikes twelve, or the couple will get worse luck than is awaiting them already. Because everything possible has been accomplished to make sure they have an awful night. The newly-weds leave the place, running away from a rain of hard thrown rice that stings where it hits. Rice throwing may not really be Danish, but the force they use is very Viking-like.
One might think there would be ample reasons to dampen some of the terror in case that one of the newly-weds happens to be a foreigner. And one would be wrong.
In case you succeed in remaining married, you will be in for more role playing after 25 years.
The day before the celebration, friends and family members gather to hang up an extensive construction of branches and flowers around your front door. And the next morning at exactly seven in the morning, bright and early, they will start singing. You must appear after the first 24 songs in nightwear, looking surprised and sleepy.
Everyone know this will take place, planned months or years beforehand, yet the couple MUST pretend not to expect anything. Like the woman on the picture!
Yes, you saw that right. The Queen herself participates in this early wakening and acts surprised in order to avoid a revolution. Next to her, the Man Who Would Be King. Because he had to walk behind his wife, he decided that he did not want to be buried next to her. Out of spite!
And he got his chance, dying before her. The same kind of badly hidden relief that some members of the British royal family showed after Diana passed away, was visible here.
Baby in the house!
Driving on smaller roads, it won't take you long to notice these tiny three-wheeler bikes parked at the entrance of houses, just everywhere! It took me some time to figure it out.
You could ring on their doorbell to find out that there are zero kids living there. So why buy and park these tiny three-wheelers?
Are they showing the articles they are selling or buying?
Toddlers bought and sold here!
The Danes often converse like Japanese, in an indirect fashion that foreigners fail to understands. This little bike, what do they mean?
Every Dane is aware that their fellow man is telling that he thinks that you drive too fast on this small road.
Instead of asking if you would drive slower, they put out this sign that tiny Danes could be running out, under your tires, anytime!
The problem with this idea is that nobody believes it any more.
So IF you have small children, their life is in mortal danger all the time, even if you park their pride and joy outside day and night.
So even if you do not drive too fast, just ask anyone as long as it is my mother-in-law. While I was driving her, she started a conversation on this subject, of tiny bikes parked everywhere. What did I think was the meaning of that? Instead of commenting that she would really like me to drive slower. Because that was what she was trying to tell me!
Talking about babies. Danes are frantic about the dangers of electricity and have added a weird protection. Outside, you will struggle to stick anything into the plug because you must first wriggle it with great force. Introducing the most irritating feature of all, the shut-off knob.
And here it is, the most irritating and useless Danish invention.
Danes are worried that you may leave the toaster or coffee machine on, so above they placed an on/off button above the socket. In normal countries, one assumes that if you plug any electrical device in, you want to use it. In Denmark, you may be wondering why the toaster doesn't start or the vacuum cleaner shown absolutely no indication of sucking. Is it plugged in? Yes! Is it broken? No!
You must click on the knob above it, which you assumed has another use. I will never learn, I want to toast some bread and walk away, only to notice after my return, nothing has happened. My wife shuts these things off, all the time, and when asked, she will insist that she has never touched it.
The Kingdom of Denmark
Denmark has Queen Margrethe as ruler. She is extremely popular and travels on her beautiful ship named Dannebrøg (Danish Flag).
It is a stunning white vessel with a crew of about eighty youngsters polishing every shiny bit of it 24/7. Their sleeping quarters are in rows of three above each other.
In a documentary, her Majesty explained how hard her life is. She is often found sitting at the writing table after a stormy night when she did not get to sleep her full eighteen hours. There is a rumour that there are some rare photographs of her in private, without a cigarette between the lips. Collectors items, worth a premium. I have never seen one, just like the monster of Loch Ness.
Because Margrethe happens to be a notorious chain-smoker, I know a chef who had served her during a party, and she smoked herself all the way through dinner.
The popularity of this pastime has been declining a little based on the basis of unfounded rumours that it would be unhealthy. With the result that at official functions she has been forced to dampen her chimney.
Everyone in their right mind knows that smoking is really good for the lungs, as Sigmund Freud himself has said on many occasions before dying of cancer.
Kongeship Danneborg, length 80 meters
During days ashore, the Queen's gruelling schedule includes waiving and shaking hands with officials, even accepting flowers. Tireless, she steams from one island to another to stay in touch with her taxpayers, widespread as they may be.
As age and nicotine withdrawal catches up with her, she found the trip to Faroe Islands too hard. So she decided to take the plane to these islands. So the ship remains in port, the crew gets a few days off? Guess again! The plan was that Dannebrog would sail all the way, just like she was aboard, just to be parked there, so she would have a place to stay. Then she would wave from the deck to her subjects, jump on a plane to Denmark and later to Greenland, giving her ship time to get there first and repeat the charade. However, Fate got angry at this useless waste and the vessel got pissed-off in both engines, so the crew had to return to Denmark to have it checked out. Adding to the Queen's long list of suffering.
Once the Queen was interviewed by a young man who did not use the polite term addressing Her Majesty. Upon which she asked him if they went to school together. She could not remember that! He had taken a liberty.
Instead of answering that this was quite true, as he went to a school for taxpayer paupers that would have to work for a living, the reporter remained silent.
Husband Henrik, remembered as The Man Who Would be King, has passed away. Especially in his later years, he complained to everyone who wanted to hear - as well as many that didn't - how terrible it was for him that he was only a prince. Being under-cast to his Queen wife was a torn in his inflated ego.
Denmark is an unusual country in many ways. It has hundreds of islands, many uninhabited, and the capital city København itself is located on the island of Sealand. Ferries and bridges everywhere.
The Queen is getting on age wise, so she leaves more of her tasks to her son, Frederik Tudeprins and his wife Mary Crown-Savior.
Frederik Tudeprins owns his nickname to the fact that he cries a lot. Tude means crying. Before that, he was known for his many girlfriends.
There was a picture of him together with an underwear model, proudly on the beach. I assumed she would become Mrs. Tudeprins, a mistake that I shared with the girl in question. But no.
The girls on the other side of our planet are always greener.
In fact, one would be hard-pressed to find a society beauty from that period who had not been sitting on the future crown jewels.
"Oh, by the way, I'm the future king!" seems a perfect pickup line.
Frederik was such a busy boy that after he ran out of Danish girls, he married one from Tasmania. This cemented the notice that Danes were not good enough, Jantenloven again.
His younger brother Joachim (named after the Danish translation of Donald Duck's rich uncle) first married Alexandra from Hong Kong. After divorcing her, he remarried Marie from France. Even the "Man Who Would be King" was French. Zero Danes married into that family, you do the math.
In the Netherlands, Queen Beatrix abdicated in favour of her daughter-in-law Maxima from Argentine, to rule with faithful sidekick Willem.
Margrethe refuses to do make room for anyone, so every Christmas we can see her on TV, fumbling trough a bunch of papers, telling taxpayers what they are doing wrong.
One year we had to be corrected regarding Danish standoffish attitude towards foreigners.
We should know better than that!
As it happens, the Queen herself has had vast experience with diplomats, presidents and royalty from abroad, who visit her castles on many occasions for formal dinners. Also, when travelling abroad she met the likes of Saddam Hussein, Idi Amin, Vladimir Putin, and Gadaffi. None of them misbehaved! Taxpayers should be reprimanded, every one of us. And what better time to do it than on national television, when nobody can disagree with you?
Every part of Denmark is slightly different, and so are the people. On Sealand everyone talks fast, on Jutland every car has a trailer attached to earn more black money. On the smaller islands the pace is calmed down, and on Funen it always rains.
The Danish Flag is rumoured to be the very first in the world and is loved by everyone. It shows a white cross on red and is used for every celebration imaginable. You will see flags everywhere, especially during holidays and football matches, as well as other more disappointing events like funerals.
This Dannebrøg flag was rumoured to have fallen mysteriously from the sky onto the battlefield all the way in Tallin, when Danish forces were on the losing side once again. The sudden appearance of the flag twisted the outcome of the battle, so goes the tale.
Otherwise, Denmark rarely won any wars, not even the ones that they had started. Once, after the king declared war on Sweden, the Danish army did absolutely nothing, and viewed it as a formality. The Swedes disagreed and soon attacked from an unexpected side. Jutland, and Funen fell within days. Seemingly, the Swedish army was stuck there, as then forgot bringing ships to take Sealand. Winter brought the solution when Kattegat froze and soldiers just walked over to the other side. Then Sealand and even Copenhagen fell to Sweden. Upon which, Swedes - for no understandable reason - took the short way home. Many of these losses by Denmark may have been on account of lack of sober soldiers.
Denmark once included Norway and Sweden, parts of Russia nearly all the way to China, as well as some Caribbean islands.
Especially, giving up oil-rich Norway stings the poor Danes. I have from a reliable source that the minister who had to negotiate the borders of the waterways where the oilfields are located was pissing drunk when he signed. Norwegians knew there was oil and served a lavish dinner with drinks before talking business with him.
The losing battles resulted in changing borders with Germany all the time. The southern part of Jutland is constantly changing flags, so Danes who lived there had to read the newspapers to find out if they are Germans or Danes that day.
Not only HC Andersen invented fairy tales. During the second world war, the Danes would like you to know that their King wore a Jewish star on his breast to show his alliance with the Jewish population. And that everyone was active in the resistance, from the smallest child to old timers.
In fact, the resistance never killed more people in two days of liberation, May 4-5th, 1945. Unfortunately, they were their own. The lust for gossip lead to rumours that the enemy, Nazi police named HIPO's and sympathizers, were on the move.
Without checking details, an Odense group opened fire on their fellow resistance men, killing them outright several times.
One local paper reported proudly how the sneaky HIPO's in disguise had been unable to fool the cunning hero's. All over Denmark, several groups were shooting at each other, before finding out that they were aiming at another resistance team.
King Christian X may have wished he had been brave enough to side with the less than eight thousand Danish Jews. But just like the princess and the pea, it was all fantasy.
Proud as Danes are of the language, movies are usually not dubbed into Danish, but titles are. It makes it impossible for anyone else to understand.
So let's play:
Which movie are we watching tonight?
Elskede, jeg hader dig!
Vestens hårde halse
Jagten på den forsvundne skat
En verden udenfor
Et spørgsmål om ære
Den gode, den onde og den grusomme
Det bli'r ikke bedre
Manden der vidste for lidt
Jeg har aldrig fået noget
Here is room for you to write your answers. I did the first four already.
1 No idea
4 You're joking, right?
And so on.
These answers you would never have guessed:
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
One from the heart
Once Upon a Time in the West
Raiders of the Lost Ark
The Shawshank Redemption
A few good men
The good, the Bad and the Ugly
As good as it gets
The Man Who Knew Too Little
Are you still there? Now you have an idea how different the Danish language really is.
Being sexually active as a young teenager is quite acceptable, parents do not mind their young daughter bringing her beau home, gladly allow him to spend the night in her room. As reward for his efforts of the night, they will make him breakfast the next morning. I have never seen so much sexual freedom, and I am born and raised in Amsterdam.
Youngsters are celebrating becoming student for a whole week. They wear a white hat with a variety of ribbons indicating which study they are following. Then they are driven around on farmers wagons and open buses getting, pissing, pissing drunk, right in between the point of puking and dying.
The group then drives by the houses of every single student, drinking all the way. More drinks await them at every single stop, so they lose a few persons here and there that cannot stand upright any more, or have to go to the hospital for alcohol poisoning.
All great fun, fully supported by teachers and parents alike.
A typical sight once a year, teenagers, pissing drunk on proud display
Danish youths are world champion in alcohol consumption, and that does not decrease very much with age.
A celebration breakfast includes snaps, one or two small glasses of strong liquor. Around nine in the morning, what is better than a nice beer, served at room temperature? Because Danes swallow huge loads of alcoholic drinks, it is not unexpected that their driving leaves a lot to be desired. You will see many road signs battered into crash sites. Once in a while they are replaced and within a week or so, the same pattern is repeated.
Danes are on top of another list, they are among the most gullible people on the planet! Farmers seem to fall for every Nigerian trick in the book, widows feel forced to buy carpets while on holiday in Turkey that are hardly worth ten percent of their buying price, and so on. I mentioned how some restaurants re-invented putting almost nothing on your place and call it cuisine. Danes accept these events silently as unavoidable.
Some Danish artists are taking it further. A certain Jens Haaning told the museum in Aalborg that he wanted to create a painting showing annual wages of Austrians and Danes, and needed over a half million kroner to do so. In fact, he received 532.549,- in cash in Euros and Danish kroner. Upon which he delivered and two empty canvases and named his art: "Take The Money and Run!"
The museum found it funny at first, but after some time they demanded their banknotes back.
Jens refused, saying that: "It would not be art if I returned it!" He was quite right. However, some judge disagreed and sentenced him to return the cash, minus 40.000 dkk for his efforts. He had, in fact, created art, no argument there.
Another art form that may surprise some. It is a female artist who draws circles on the street. Only circles, nothing else. She seems to have gone to art school, and this was possibly all she could remember from that period.
Meet Molly the circle-Maker ;-)
And who would hire someone like that? The answer may surprise you because it takes humour to a level, never seen before or after!
It is the HC Andersen Art Center.
Yep! The very same Hans Christian Andersen who wrote "The Emperor's Clothes" is paying someone to draw circles and expects visitors to acknowledge this as art.
It does not stop there. They also hired a professional photographer to take pictures all day long. Because art like this must be recorded.
I went to the organisation and said:
"This is so funny, because I'm also an artist. I draw squares, only squares, so it fits very well with this art. Are you interested to hire me?"
I mentioned an amount of money, to make sure that this Molly was really getting paid. Instead of laughing, the woman asked for my card, which I handed to her. It may not to be easy to get me speechless, but they sure managed it!
A visit to København is not complete without thinning your wallet in the tourist trap named Tivoli. The full name (spelled fool) is Tivoli Friheden. Fri means free, which is in dispute with the charge of hefty entrance fee. In order to do what exactly? Well, there are rides that you have to pay for. And restaurants that you have to pay for, so of course you must pay entrance in order to do that.
Copenhagen is Denmark's lovely capital, and to add a pleasure park in the centre was a great idea. Yet with every footstep, you will be reminded you are only allowed inside to splash the cash. Granted, at times there are free performances that sell out the place even more than normal. Prepare yourself to walk hand in hand and foot to foot with complete strangers. Remember that this park that was the example for Walt Disney's moneymaking machine.
Tivoli offers all the fun of Disneyland without M. Mouse, D. Duck but lots of Goofy.
By the way, in the Netherlands, Donald Duck is just Donald Duck. Not so. Here he is named Anders And with Rip, Rap and Rob as little ducks.
The Tivoli restaurants offer the worst service and lowest quality food for the highest prices. You cannot blame them, as they are forced to pay huge rent there.
My suggestion; go to Bakken instead. Here parking cost money, but entrance is free and there is an authentic Danish atmosphere.
Rides cost money and restaurants may be a bit on the expensive side, but there is a small street based on the most famous Danish TV series in history: "Matador".
Actors play their part in between tourists, which can be great fun. In a small place named "Bakkens Hvile" are the singing girls, pretending to be working the harbour joints with slightly dirty songs. In Danish, of course. Also, very Danish is that they trigger listeners to buy them expensive drinks. These are served on a tray, they thank the giver, take one tiny sip and the tray is removed again.
Soon they will complain how thirsty they are, so another sucker can play big spender.
We cannot blame the Danish for Champagne Flushing because this originates from Sweden. Spoiled rotten kids came to show off how rich their parents are by ordering expensive champagne, only to let the waiter empty them in the sink. This "Sink it!" became fashion a few years ago to sign how dual the money relationship is for Scandinavians.
Many years ago, there was a man named Simon Spies, who owned a travel bureau. He always bought a seat for his walking stick whenever he went to the opera.
Danes adore such foolishness because it is over the top, and so anti-Danish. He wore a long beard and hired pretty girls to take care of him in every which way. Like his bollen damen.
Damen means ladies and the word bollen has a double meaning, it can mean a roll sandwich or a roll in the hay.
In his case, it meant both!
Another place to visit in on the mainland, in Århus. "Den Gamle By" (the old city). Here you will find buildings from seventeen hundreds to the nineteen sixties, also here and there actors pretending to live in that period.
However, when this leans towards a serious information book on Denmark, I have really gone too far.
Make no mistake, I love living in Denmark. I cook and live like any Dane, with the exception of beer drinking.
There is room everywhere, and the people are mostly friendly and willing to help with anything.
We have build a cottage next to ours, which is rented out, when we do not have friends or family over.
We live right on the sea, great views on the island Sejerø
I enjoy dealing a bit in antiques, coins and collectables so we have build a cozy cabin for that purpose as well. I am valuing items for Ældresagen Kalundborg on a regular basis, helping people to sell and buy- invest in unique items.
Nature is so present here. Deere and hares, all sorts of birds and even the odd snake, can make me jump. Stones on the beach, are just like the population; rough, some ancient, all different in shape and colour.
Moving them does not change anything. The next storm, all will be as it was before. So are the Danes. No matter what happens, they may sometimes be shaken, never stirred.
Come to Denmark, you won't regret it! Especially after reading this little book, full of lies.