Returning to Denmark to live has given me some time to reflect on things that must really stand out if you are either a foreigner or visitor to Denmark.
On the road
1/ Cup holders on bikes – yes, we use bicycles that much. Either this says something about how much time we actually spend on bikes, or it says something about our coffee habits (see point 5).
2/ People cycling with umbrellas (open!) – the weather can be notoriously shite, so perhaps this is not really so surprising. Still, cycling around with an open umbrella in the rain takes some skills!
3/ Child seats on the back, or front, of bikes – few places in the world are safe enough for people to bike around with their toddlers on the back of the bicycle.
4/ Bikers doing the correct hand signs in traffic (although Copenhagen does drag down these stats) – while living in New Zealand I used to see cyclists practically never complying with the highway code, resulting in all NZ drivers hating them like the plague. In Denmark, the cyclists largely follow the rules, and as most drivers also use a bicycle, we tend to tolerate each other well.
I just made four separate points involving bicycles. That’s how important they are in Denmark.
Food & Drink
5/ People drinking coffee late at night, right up until they go to sleep – apparently we’re the biggest coffee-consuming nation in the world! This explains the abnormal number of coffee-drinking occasions we have created. There is ‘morning coffee’, ‘late morning coffee’, ‘midday coffee’, ‘afternoon coffee’, ‘coffee-and-cake coffee’ and ‘evening coffee’. In other words, we have successfully created excuses to drink coffee all day long.
6/ Pots on the dinner table – if invited for dinner, you’ll likely sit down with all the pots and pans out on the table like a self-help buffet! We don’t bother much with putting things on nice dishes – we just slap it all on the table and people can help themselves!
7/ Organic produce in supermarkets – even discount supermarkets stock decent ranges of organic food. Go Denmark!
In the home
8/ Designer furniture in public institutions – this is becoming less common now, as they keep getting stolen. Perhaps the resurgence of classic Danish retro furniture has made this tradition too tempting. Danish design is an integral part of our history and once upon a time it wasn’t particularly expensive to acquire, as you could pick it up cheap at most flea markets – in those halcyon days before social media hyping. Alas, things change. You’ll still find designer furniture in public institutions, but it’s probably bolted to the ground.
9/ Candles everywhere – in Denmark you’ll find candles lit anywhere and everywhere … even during daylight. This peculiar habit is very much a central aspect of the now world-famous Danish ‘hygge’ concept.
10/ Single duvets – the Danes are world famous for our ability to share. But when it comes to duvets, we want our own thank you very much! Single duvets on a double bed are still more common than one large one! I guess it does makes for less fighting over it at night …