Life as an international in Denmark, one of the world's most homogenous countries, isn't always easy. In Denmark’s longest-running English-language podcast, Kay Xander Mellish, an American who has lived in Denmark for more than a decade, offers tips for enjoying your time in “the world’s happiest country” plus insights on Danish culture and how to build friendships with Danes.
Randers is not a joke
It seems as if every country has a city or region that it is the butt of jokes. The rest of the country makes fun of the locals’ unattractive accents and supposedly low-end behavior. In Denmark, that city is Randers.
Randers is a city in Northern Jutland, about a half hour away from Aarhus. It used to be bigger than Aarhus, and bigger than Aalborg too, but it was a manufacturing town, and when manufacturing fell apart in Denmark after the Second World War, so did Randers.
The stereotype of Randers today is...muscle meatheads, possibly criminal... possibly in some sort of motorcycle gang... with a rough, gravelly accent... lots of tattoos and leather.
And that’s just the women. The men are the same but with shorter haircuts.
Listen to hear more about Randers and how Danish urban planners ruined what was once a very nice medieval town into a paradise for very fast cars and Mokaï, a canned alcoholic fruit cider sometimes called "Randers champagne."
Find out how you can spend more than DK1000 on a pair of gloves in Randers, and how you can visit a full replica of Elvis Presley's mansion Graceland nearby.
The Bridges of Denmark
A country like Denmark, with so much coastline and water, needs a lot of bridges - and there have been 5 new colorful, stylish bridges built in Copenhagen alone in the past decade.
And because this is Denmark, and people love design, each bridge has its own special look. You can’t just put up a few bridge supports and a deck on top for traffic. You need style, and you need a colorful name.
Consider, for example, the multicolored Kissing Bridge in Copenhagen. It’s not named that because you’re supposed to kiss on the bridge, although you can if you like. It’s named that because it breaks in half on a regular basis to let ships through, and then it’s supposed to come together again like a kiss.
The Kissing Bridge has needed to visit a relationship counselor, however, because there have been constant problems getting it to kiss. It wasn’t quite aligned the way it was supposed to be.
It seems to work now, although it’s rather steep and a difficult ride for bicyclists, which is rather a shame, because it is a bicycle and pedestrian bridge only. There are no cars on it.
The Bicycle Snake and the Brewing Bridge a little further down the harbor are also just for cyclists and walkers, and so is the Little Langebro bridge.
On returning to Denmark: Swimming in Copenhagen harbor, picking wild blackberries, and admiring Danish law and order
After some time out of Denmark, Kay returns and finds a whole new list of things to love.
Swimming in Copenhagen harbour is a delight - the once-industrial waterway has been cleaned up enough to become a giant swimming zone.
The wild blackberry bushes are ready for harvest, and there are plenty in public spaces - like near the railway and S-train tracks - where the blackberries are totally free, first come, first serve. Wash them well and they make for a wonderful blackberry pie, a blackberry crumble, or even a blackberry smoothie.
And Kay even finds something to admire about the Danish cops, who are more likely to approach miscreants with sarcasm than with guns drawn.
Ballad of the Danish Royal Teenagers
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.
Tivoli vs Bakken: How two amusement parks show the two sides of Denmark
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.
On the Road: Copenhagen Northwest, beyond the cherry trees
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.
Plantenørd skal flette næbet
Wow en latterlig kommentar, tror vist du projekterer.
Elsker det her podcast, man lærer en masse om den danske kultur som jeg aldrig have tænkt på.
Really like the On the Road concept. Been here 15 years but never to Esbjerg; now on my list. Would like to hear about more interesting spots.
You are right in all comments. Very funny observations. I hear several times each episode 😄.