Hygge in Denmark

I must say I love living in Denmark and have not even considered moving back to Finland. There are many good things about Denmark and here are my top 3:

1. Hygge

hygge/ˈh(j)uːɡə,ˈhʊɡə/Lær at udtale

noun

a quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being (regarded as a defining characteristic of Danish culture).

Sometimes it feels like the purpose of life for every Dane is to have it ´hyggeligt´ all the time. And what is wrong with that? Nothing! I have learned to love the word and everything that comes with it.

Every now and then the Danes try to have ´hygge´ so much, that they get stressed. For example social gatherings: many are so busy to book all kinds of ´hyggelige´ social arrangements with their family and friends, that they get stressed, because they don´t have any weekends left for doing nothing. Well, now 2020-> we have had a lot of hygge at home with the closest family, so I am sure the entire country goes crazy, when the restrictions stop one day. Cannot wait 🙂

Working in Denmark

Denmark ranked high at OECD´s Better Life Index. Only 2% of the Danes work long hours (over 50 hours per week) whereas for example in France the number is 8%.

Copenhagen is also a Nordic metropolitan. Many companies have their Nordic headquarters here and the job market is good for people who can speak Nordic languages – even if you don´t speak Danish. Many companies offer nice benefits from free physical training, cheap lunch, recreational activities etc.

The hierarchy is flat and Danes are straightforward as managers and colleagues. For me, as a Finn, that was a relief. I changed my career completely when I moved from Finland to Denmark and did not know what to expect outside the school environment that I was used to. I adapted fine and have been enjoying working in a few Nordic and global teams for both international and Danish companies.

Laidback Danes

There are rules and laws, of course, in Denmark. But it is more socially accepted to break the rules sometimes than what it is in Finland. This irritated me so much when I moved to Denmark but now I appreciate the attitude of the rebellious Danes, who march to the barricades, if they think the government is not doing things right. Maybe not as much as in France but definitely more than in Finland. A good example of this all is maybe Christiania, the freetown or self-governing society, where they bend the rules.

At work the laidback attitude can often be seen in clothing, which is often smart casual, also in institutions, that are more formal in many countries, such as banks and consultancy companies. Meetings are not formal and everybody can freely express their meaning, despite their title. This is purely my subjective experience from the companies I have worked for.

Folkeskole

I come from a country that has one of the best school systems in the world. However, I still find the Danish system very good. I used to be a teacher myself in Finland, so I have experience from Finland as both as a pupil but also as a teacher. Here in Denmark, I can only see how my own kids are doing at school.

I could go on and on about this but I try to keep it short. When our twins started their school career, I was not happy about their academic challenges. I thought they were not learning enough.

The school is very focused on “trivsel”, meaning well-being at school. I can see now how important this is. The twins´ class is working so incredibly fine as a team, we have not had any problems with mobbing or somebody not having anyone to play with during classes. Both kids love their teachers and play fine with everybody in the class. This is so important also for the academic work. The class can focus on the learning during the classes and group work is never a problem, no matter how they create the groups.

I don´t know how I would feel, had one of our twins any learning challenges. Luckily they don´t and I think that this focus on well-being and group dynamic in school will benefit them the rest of their life. They are socially well-behaving and trust people and are content in social arrangements. This is so important also later in life – to know how to interact with people and how to respect all kinds of people and personalities. I am happy to have my kids in Danish school and can only hope the system in New Zealand is at least half as good.

Living in Denmark

I have lived in Denmark for almost 15 years. Have to admit, I am getting more and more Danish, every year. I wanted to go back in the memory lane and try to remember the things that irritated me in the beginning. Went through some old Facebook status updates to freshen my memories… And don´t worry, my next post will be about the the things I love about living in Denmark 🙂

Danish Language

I often heard comments in the beginning like “why don´t you speak Danish” or “you have to learn Danish if you are going to live here” etc. etc. Especially taxi drivers – who, by the way, had an accent and were certainly not born in Denmark. Would have expected a bit more understanding from fellow immigrants… Also my local Italian pizza place owner (Italian) wanted me to order in Danish, not English. I refused to go to that place after that episode (good excuse to make my husband to get the pizzas. They were the best in town and did not deliver – could not stop buying there..)

However, when I finally learned a bit and started to speak Danish to people, they looked at me as a big question mark, obviously not understanding what I tried to say, and started speaking English…

Today, I still have an accent – and will always sound foreign here. Danes often ask me if I am from Iceland or Faroe Islands (where they learn / speak Danish but have a notable accent). However, I still face some situations, where I cannot get myself understood. The other day I went to buy a medicine for my daughter. It is called Molusk. In Finnish we put the stress on the first syllable and as Molusk was a new word for me, I pronounced it in the Finnish way Mo´lusk. The apothecary looked at me in despair and did not know what I wanted. I explained him what the medicine was used for and he looked like having a revelation – aah, you mean ´Molusk! I was like, “really”??? I got home and told our twins that they are never ever allowed to be one of those Danes who don´t understand any Danish unless it is spoken with a perfect, native, Copenhagen accent. They looked at me like “c´mon, we listen to your Danish every day”… So one big plus for the twins – they don´t only learn two languages in our bilingual family, they also learn to accept accents in Danish!

Found this quora thread when I googled Danish and accents + attitudes. The quote below is one of the comments in this thread:

It’s true to some extent. Denmark is an extremely centralised country, and the Copenhagen/Rigsdansk accent is totally dominant. The result is that all ways of talking that differ from the Copenhagen/ Rigsdansk standard will be seen as strange/silly/stupid. That goes for both local Danish accents and dialects, and foreign accents. According to researchers Denmark’s is tied with France as the least tolerant country in Europe with regards to the national language. There is very little variation, and as a result a lot of Danes find foreign accents tricky.

Weather excuse

Coming from Finland I am used to severe cold weather during winter months. Here in Denmark, the entire country freezes for few days, if it gets below -5C and – God forbid – it snows. The trains are not running on time (if at all), there are traffic jams and accidents everywhere (as some idiots are driving without winter decks or are just bad at driving on icy roads). Even my bike stopped working one year – the oil could not tolerate the cold weather. After that incident my dad bought me proper bike oil in Finland and sent it to me.

If we are lucky, we might get snow enough for a day or two in winter to go sledging with the kids´. You´d better have a sledge in your storage – or act fast. The sledges are sold out in a minute, in case we have snow in Denmark.

Customer Service

The first customer service incident I remember was in the bank. We wanted to have a shared bank account with my husband (then boyfriend). I had my account, he had his – and we wanted a new one, shared, and delete the old accounts. He was able to move my money from my bank account to a joint account by writing an e-mail to somebody in the bank (he did not know this guy – had never even met him). I wrote to him that maybe next time he should not do this – maybe better to check with both parties first, at least. No answer… We are not customers in that bank anymore, by the way.

The other thing is (that annoys me insanely) that you spend time writing a service ticket to customer service, explaining everything as detailed as possible, and then you get the reply asking questions, that are answered in your ticket already. OR you get an answer to a question you did not place…

On the other side – when you do get good customer service, you remember those places and go back to them. And happily pay extra for the service.

DIY in Danish style

In both properties that we have bought in Denmark, we had this same issue – kitchen counters were put up so, that it was impossible to install a new dishwasher without destroying the counters or cupboards. Very nice. I was once discussing this with my colleague at work and he told me (he is a lawyer) that he had done exactly the same when renovating his apartment. I was speechless. But why?

It is expensive to have professional people like electricians or carpenters working for you here. And even if you had the money, it is not easy to get a professional when you need one – they are fully booked. That is probably why many people try to fix things themselves or get help from a friend who has done that before.. Something I was so not used to, moving from Finland. The country where men are supposed to build their own houses and do all the renovating by the book – best if you can do it yourself like a pro, but if not, then you definitely get a professional to do it. Not in Denmark – or at least in Copenhagen.

I have become Danish in this account. I cannot be bothered to stress about every detail in the house anymore. My dad gets nightmares every time he visits us or hears about our old windows or doors or heating not working…

Finns everywhere

There are Finns everywhere in Denmark, especially in Copenhagen. Do not expect nobody can understand you when speaking Finnish here.