Interesting Things About Denmark, Part II

Some more observations from the edge of Denmark looking in:

  • Everyone obeys traffic signals. All the time. I stood on a street corner at 11:00 p.m. with no traffic around with three other swarthy looking guys for 4 minutes to wait for the pedestrian signals to change. Every other place I’ve ever been we all would have jaywalked across instantly. Olle says it’s because the whole interconnected bicycle, pedestrian, car system relies on predictability.
  • A4 paper. It’s not uniquely Danish, I realize, but this is my first experience of a culture where 8-1/2 by 11 does not rule. Everything I print out seems just that little bit too tall.
  • Unilingual transit. The transit systems in Bangkok, Bilbao, Dublin, Porto, Montpellier, Zagreb and Ljubljana all have instructions and announcements in the home language and English; although the automated ticket machines do have an English option, everything else is Danish-only.
  • Integrated transit. One ticket gets you access to metro, buses and trains. Think “use my GO Train ticket on the TTC, VIA Rail and Orillia Transit” if you’re in Toronto (who knows, maybe you can do that now). Today for our trip to Ljere I used the same 105 kroner ($19 CAD) “24 hours of travel in Greater Copenhagen” ticket to take the bus to the train station, the train to Ljere (about 50 km away), and the bus from the Ljere station to our destination — and back.
  • Dual action hand drying. Electric hot air hand dryers and paper towels in public washrooms.
  • Hello? To say “Hi!” to someone in Copenhagen you say “Hej!” Which sounds just like “Hi!”
  • The letter D. This is just weird. Olle, for example, lives on “Prinsesse Charlottes Gade” and I’ve been saying this (to myself, mostly, in my head) as “Princess Charlotte’s Gade” (rhymes with “Gatorade”). By it’s not “Gade” rhymes with “Raid,” it’s “Gade” rhymes with “Rail.” This is called the “soft d” in this [excellent] Introduction to Danish course.
  • Orange vs. Apple. The Danish word for “orange” is “appelsin.” I’m convinced this is just a joke at the expense of English speakers.
  • Pull flushing. To flush the toilet you pull up on a do-hickey in the tank’s top (in Portugal you push down).
  • Bicycles. Did I mention the bicycles. I know I should remember from last year, but I forgot: there are bicycles everywhere.

Want more? See Interesting Things About Denmark, Part I.


oliver's picture
oliver on June 1, 2006 - 07:32 Permalink

Regarding Danes calling oranges apples, don’t Francophones call potatoes apples? Apples are just the foundational edible spheroidal vegetable of Europe, I guess. At least they don’t call their computers apples.

Daniel's picture
Daniel on June 1, 2006 - 08:10 Permalink

Hi Peter, I loved the story about you and your son in that stoneage village freilichtmuseum. Here’s what I know about apelsin vs. orang. The linguistic borderline runs through germany as far as i know: orange stems from the latin/french word orange describing the colour. wheras apelsin, apfelsine (german) or sinasappel (dutch) is derrived from low german apple from china. In southern germany i figure, oranges probably came the trade routes over the alps, in northern europe they arrived through low german speaking harbours along the coast that today is netherlands and northern germany. What about the english’ orange then? Well, french was the predominant language in those classe who would be able to afford that fruit when it arrived in europe. I use both varieties btw, coming from a northern german family, but born and raised in the southern part.