Who is Holger Danske?
How to Live in Denmark
by Kay Xander Mellish
5d ago
Many countries have a fictional character who represents them. Uncle Sam for the USA, Marianne in France, Mother India. Others have a legendary figure, who was real at one point but is now shrouded in myth, like King Arthur in England. For Denmark, Holger Danske is both. He was probably real, although he didn’t live in Denmark. He was a Danish knight living in France in 8th century, serving Charlemagne and he appears in several of the epic poems of the time as Ogier the Dane. When those poems were translated into Old Norsk, he became Oddgeir danski, which gradually morphed into Holger Danske ..read more
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The white magic of the Danish graduation hat
How to Live in Denmark
by Kay Xander Mellish
1M ago
In June of each year, the streets of Denmark are suddenly full of young people wearing stiff white caps with bands of various colors - burgundy, midnight blue, light blue. These teenagers have just graduated from gymnasium, the Danish equivalent of high school, and the white hat is a sign of that accomplishment.  They wear the white hat everywhere they go for the two or three weeks after final exams, and it awakens a deep sentimentality in the usually practical and private Danes. It has a sort of magic.  When my daughter received her white cap last year, total strangers stopped her i ..read more
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The Danish Alcohol Culture
How to Live in Denmark
by Kay Xander Mellish
1M ago
Alcohol has a long history in Denmark. The Vikings brewed four types of beverages: ale, mead, fruit wine, and syra, a fermented milk – and for many centuries Danish babies have eaten øllebrød, which is a mix of old bread scraps and beer. Fast forward a few centuries, and alcohol is still part of almost every Danish gathering. Early in 2020, the EU Commission reported that Denmark placed an unhappy first in Europe in binge drinking and that it was one of the reasons Danes have the shortest expected lifespan in Western Europe. According to the report, 37% of adult Danes said they had “regular ma ..read more
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Debt in Denmark
How to Live in Denmark
by Kay Xander Mellish
1M ago
January, February, and March are some of the dreariest months in Denmark – it’s dark, with no Christmas lights to pep it up – and many people are dealing with a heavy load of year-end debt from traveling, parties, dining out, and gifts. Along with religion, personal finance is a topic that is rarely discussed in Denmark. But the country has one of the highest rates of household debt in the world.  And once you get into debt in Denmark, it can be very difficult to get out.   ..read more
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Making Danish friends: A few tips based on experience
How to Live in Denmark
by Kay Xander Mellish
1M ago
If you’re newly arrived in Denmark, making Danish friends is not easy – in fact, surveys show that one of the main reasons internationals end up leaving is the difficulty of building a network. The irony is that Danes are actually very good at friendship. Their friendships are strong, reliable, and deep-rooted. Friends can count on each other. But because Danes take friendships so seriously, they like to keep their number of friendships under control. They don’t want to take on more friends than they can keep their deep commitment to. The statement “I just don’t have room for any more friends ..read more
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Nudity in Denmark: The naked truth
How to Live in Denmark
by Kay Xander Mellish
1M ago
The relaxed approach to nudity in Denmark can be a surprise for many newcomers. It’s something they’re often confronted with at the local swimming hall, where a very large and strong attendant insists that they take off their entire swimsuit and shower thoroughly before going into the pool. Stripping off in front of strangers is new for a lot of internationals, and some try to place it a larger context of Danish morality. It hasn’t been entirely forgotten that Denmark was the first country in the world to legalize pornography in 1967. Some people still think of Denmark as a place whe ..read more
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What I say when I'm welcoming newcomers to Denmark
How to Live in Denmark
by Kay Xander Mellish
1M ago
One of my favorite types of speaking engagement is introducing Denmark to some of the smart, motivated young people arriving from around the world to study at Danish universities. Since the publication of my first book, How to Live in Denmark, I’ve been speaking regularly to audiences of new arrivals, and I probably learn as much from them as they learn from me. Among the things I’ve learned is that the aspects of Danish culture that the Danes are most proud of can be troublesome for newcomers ..read more
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Summer Vacation in Denmark: The Agony and the Ecstasy
How to Live in Denmark
by Kay Xander Mellish
1M ago
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 wear your boring long trousers again and again. I find that locals tend to base their decision about whether to stay in Denmark for the summer on the previ ..read more
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The sound of Denmark? Quiet. Very quiet
How to Live in Denmark
by Kay Xander Mellish
1M ago
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, totally quiet. This Danish quiet can freak out a lot of internationals when they first arrive. The Danes have a lot of respect for quiet. If you ask a Danish friend how ..read more
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Tips for Living with a Danish Family
How to Live in Denmark
by Kay Xander Mellish
1M ago
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 about to change. Danish families generally don’t have live-in domestic workers. A few wealthy families with small children have au pairs, and it’s common to have a ..read more
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