Read The Tsar's Dwarf (Hawthorne Books)

Read The Tsar's Dwarf (Hawthorne Books)
"A curious and wonderful work of great human value by a Danish master." Sebastian Barry, Man Booker finalist (Click on the picture to go to the book's Amazon page)

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Denmark for Dummies: A Superficial Introduction to the Happiest Country in the World

This is the original version that won's blog prize, but you may want to go to the updated versions. The latest is from 2024.

All Danes are blond and gorgeous. And all of us have a cabin with a view of a lake. No wonder the whole world wants to be Danish, but don't get your hopes up. We're very protective of our gene pool.

You're smart.

You're planning to go to Denmark.

You've always wanted to visit our country because you know that it's the most exciting nation in the world. You tell yourself, "Why would I want to go to Paris, Rome or Barcelona when I can go hiking in Djursland?"

"Yes," you continue, "I'm trendy. I want to go to Denmark because the Danes are green, they ride their bikes like there's no tomorrow, they're innovative with windmills and herring, and most important, they're the happiest people in the world."

Yes, that's right.

What we Danes have known for ages is now official: Denmark has been named the happiest nation on the planet. And I'm living proof of that. Right now this Danish novelist is sitting in the middle of happy Copenhagen staring at the happy rain, enjoying the 53 degrees of happy summer.

Come and visit us, will you?

And please bring all your money because you're going to need it!


Here's a superficial introduction to my Southern Scandinavian Paradise. Everything you read here is the gospel truth and is not open for discussion:

Name: Denmark (Danmark)

Inhabitants: 5,5 million.

Capital: Copenhagen (1.5 million)

Ranking: Most livable city in the world (Monocle, British Magazine, 2008)

Other Top Rankings in the World That We Take Pride in Because We Should:
a) Commitment to foreign aid.
b) Pork consumption per capita.

Language: Danish.

Government: Constitutional monarchy.

Currency: Kroner. (5.5 DKK to a US dollar)

Religion: No, thank you.

Name of King: We don't have any.

Name of Queen: Margrethe II.

Name of Prime Minister: Always a Rasmussen.

Size: The 8th biggest country in the world if you count Greenland. (Always count Greenland).

Unemployment Rate: Always rising

Crime per Capita: Fourth lowest in the world.

Corruption: Second lowest in the world.

Average Consumption of Beer per Capita: Fourth highest in the world.

Great Danes Who Throw Up When They See George Bush on TV: 94, 3%

Great Danes Who Get an Erection When They See Obama: 53%

Big Boys Club: The European Union, NATO.

Famous Dead Danes: Hans Christian Andersen (fairy tale writer), Søren Kierkegaard (philosopher), King Canute (conquered England), Tycho Brahe (astronomer), Isak Dinesen/Karen Blixen (writer), Vitus Bering (explorer), Niels Bohr (physicist, Nobel prize winner), Jørn Utzon (architect), Carl Nielsen (composer), Hamlet (Shakespeare's boy toy).

Famous Living Danes: Lars Ulrich (founder of Metallica), Michael Laudrup (soccer), Helena Christensen (model), Peter Schmeichel (soccer), Lars von Trier (film director), Connie Nielsen (actress).

Danes Who Ought to Be Dead: Jante.

Famous Half Danes: Viggo Mortensen, Scarlett Johansson.

Danish Oscar Winners for Best Foreign Film: Gabriel Axel (Babette's Feast, 1987), Bille August (Pelle the Conqueror, 1988).
Biggest Danish Film Star of All Time: Asta Nielsen (from the Silent Age. Known as Die Asta by Germans, and other riff-raff)

Most Famous Danish Building: The Opera House in Sydney.

Famous Danish Companies You Probably Would Want to Boycot If You Were a Muslim: Arla, Lego, Maersk, Ecco, Bang and Olufsen, Danfoss, Carlsberg, Tuborg.

Daily Smokers: 10% of population. (All of them will be sitting in your outdoor café of choice)

Obesity Rate: 22% of population.

McDonalds Restaurants in Denmark: 25

Best Danish Food: Herring, herring (and hey, the herring is pretty good, too)

Denmark's Claim to Fame in Great Britain: Bacon.

Denmark's Claim to Fame in Spain, Greece, and Cyprus: Blond girls with herpes.

Denmark's Claim to Fame in the Far East: Badminton.

Most Important Danish Invention of All Time: The atomic bomb (Niels Bohr).

Denmark's Biggest Contribution to American Sports: Morten Andersen, the all-time leading scorer in the NFL.

Best Tourist Attraction If You're Into Knights in Shining Armour: 1. Frederiksborg castle, Hillerød. 2. Kronborg (Hamlet's castle), Elsinore. 3. Egeskov, Funen.

Best Tourist Attraction If You're Eight Years Old or Behaving Like It: Legoland.

Best Tourist Attraction If You're Eighty Years Old or Behaving Like It: Tivoli.

Most Overrated Tourist Attraction That You Shouldn't Waste Your Time With But God Knows You Will: The Little Mermaid.

Time of Glory I: When the Danish vikings conquered England in the 11th century.

Time Of Glory II: When Denmark won the European Championship in soccer in 1992 and the whole country behaved like we'd won the Third World War.

Biggest International Danish Hit of All Time But Please Don't Listen to It: Barbie Girl by Aqua.

Most Sold Novel Since the Days of Hans Christian Andersen: Smilla's Sense of Snow by Peter Høeg.

Worst Danish Accent by Great Actress: Meryl Streep as Karen Blixen in Out of Africa.

Most Beautiful Cities in Denmark: Copenhagen, Helsingør (Elsinore), Ærøskøbing, Faaborg, Ribe, Skagen, Svaneke, Århus.

Places to Avoid at All Costs:Strøget after midnight.

Best Months to Visit: June, August.

Best Month to Commit Suicide Because It's Dark, Dreary, and Everybody Wish They Were in Thailand: January.

Best Danish Traits: Tolerance, sense of humor, informality.

Worst Danish Traits: Intolerance, rudeness, pettiness, self-satisfied melancholy.

What You'll Miss the Most If You're an American Visiting Denmark: TV anchors with perfect teeth.

What You'll Miss the Most If You're Italian: Bread and Berlusconi.

What You'll Miss the Most If You're Norwegian: Norway

Most Beautiful Area of Denmark: The Silkeborg lake district in Jutland.

Celebrities Who Adore Copenhagen Because We Force Them to: Danny Kaye, Woody Allen, Bryan Adams, Per-Olov Enquist, Gwyneth Paltrow, John Cleese.

Most Stupid Thing to Say to a Dane: Now, which part of Germany are you from again ...?

Second Most Stupid Thing to Say to a Dane: I've just been to Sweden. It's my favorite Scandinavian country.

Enjoy your stay, but do bring all your credit cards.
Copenhagen is the third most expensive capital in the world, but hey, we mean well.