denmark, words, work

Learning Danish: Soft Ds and Red Porridge


Faced with the realization that I’d be staying in Denmark longer than I originally intended, I knew it was time to try and fully embrace the language I’d been half-heartedly hugging for over a year. It was time to learn the Danish.

Most Danes and expats tend to give the following advice to those moving to the country: there is no sense learning Danish unless you’re going to stay in Denmark for at least 5 years. This is absolutely terrible advice. Not only has learning some basics helped me in my day-to-day operations (ie. getting coffee, politely refusing a receipt, pointing at bread), more importantly it’s been a way to get even closer to a culture that tends to politely keep its distance.

Reading Danish is one thing. When it comes to that alone, I feel like a bonafide polyglot. Listening to Danish is really hard, but once you learn basic vocabulary like verbs, nouns, and numbers, you can pick up a fair amount during even casual eavesdropping. But speaking Danish is something entirely different. Speaking Danish makes you feel, for lack of a more refined term, like a total spazz.

Basically, nothing sounds like what it looks like. See a ‘g’ or ‘t’ at the end of a word? Just ignore them. That d? That’s a ‘soft d’, which sounds kind of like a ‘d’, an ‘l’, and a ‘th’ got together, paralyzed your tongue, and then used it as a breakdancing mat.

Here’s a great example of a small phrase the Danes say to make foreigners feel silly: Rødgrød med fløde. Forget the direct translation–red porridge with cream–which is a real thing people eat here. Trying to pronounce this ridiculous (but delicious) dish is like someone taking your language confidence, crushing it up into a tiny ball, and shoving it directly back down your throat. It’s fitting because that’s what you actually sound like – like someone crammed a ball into your mouth and then made you talk. It’s humbling.

All these ‘complaints’ aside, learning Danish is really fun. The Danes have some wonderful words and phrases that can’t be directly translated into English. Hearing them used and knowing what they actually mean only bring me closer to understanding this country and its lovely, mumbly-mouthed people. And sometimes I’ll get the rhythm and pronunciation JUST right and totally nail it. It doesn’t happen too often, but when it does the bright eyes and encouraging smiles from my Danish coworkers only make me want to keep on trying.

art & design, denmark, photos


FINDERS KEEPERS held their recurring indoor design market here in Copenhagen over the weekend. Nearly 300 booths from independent creators were packed with print, textile, jewelry, ceramic, furniture, and clothing design. It’s a cozy, if slightly overwhelming event, with food and music and tons of cool stuff to pour over.

Highlights for me were these wonderful sculptures from the studio of architect and visual artist Tina Louise Hunderup. So simple and clean in form, the shapes can be placed to sit on tables or hang on the walls, where they cast moving shadows when the light hits just right. According to Tina Louise, each sculpture is an abstraction of different architectural constructions and terms. I’m still kicking myself for not buying one.

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Another artist that caught my eye was photographer Helle Sandager. She was selling a bunch of bold, beautiful prints of photos from a series called Wild Nature. What I love about these is that it’s a pretty simple concept, but it has to be executed just right. Nature exposed and manipulated so slightly that it adds this kind of otherworldly, foreign layer on top something you’ve seen a million times.







denmark, eats, travel

The Danish Summer: Magic or Myth?

Summer in Denmark has an almost mythical quality to it. When will it come? How will it behave? Will it rain? Will it last? Will it even show its face at all? Since the moment I arrived in Copenhagen, I had been regaled with tales of a golden season that would magically materialize after all the damp and darkness. OR possibly not appear at all. Only time would tell.

So after months of waiting, and wondering, and staring up at the grey cloud cover that seemed permanent and immovable, it happened. Summer arrived in Copenhagen. And it arrived in style.

I can finally say with confidence that the Danish Summer is truly worth waiting for. The city becomes a bike and boat riding paradise. The sun rises at 4am and sets at 10pm – that’s 17 hours of daylight to soak up. You are surrounded by unpolluted canals you’re encouraged to jump into. You can barbeque meat literally anywhere, via disposable grills sold in supermarkets. At the beach, men wear thongs, girls over-tan, and grandmas lounge topless while grilling, smoking, and drinking.

Summer food specialities emerge as well. I was treated to koldskål or ‘cold bowl’ – which is basically like drinking a bowl of melted vanilla ice cream with small cookies thrown in. It’s delicious. I feasted on Danish strawberries – which for Danes are unparalleled to ANY other strawberry in the world. They signal the official arrival of Summer and should be eaten often – unadorned, or drenched in heavy cream.

Then there are the perfect temperatures and zero humidity, which seem impossible after living through 10+ years of swampy, sweaty, sanity-testing NYC summers. There is no air conditioning, or even fans really. Or screens on the windows. A fresh breeze is all you get, and for the most part, it’s enough.

Scarred by dreadful years of ‘no-show summers’ and the constant unpredictability of the forecast, Danes are super sensitive when it comes to the idea of a long, lasting season. Inevitably a cool, rainy day disturbs a stretch of near perfect weather, and Danes instantly quip “Ok, we hope you enjoyed the Summer, because it’s over now.” The best part, even if it isn’t true, is that you know it easily could be.