Danish conversations in the dark

Neither BBB or myself are fluent in Danish (yet).  Although one day we will be as the Danish government is paying for me to attend language classes for up to 5 years.  They have also set me the challenge of passing a Danish language test before March 2017. 

Both of these acts of kindness will ensure I start picking up the language soon.  Depressingly though, BBB will most likely still pick it up quicker than me.  In the meantime we’re having plenty of ‘conversations in the dark'.  Not dissimilar in theory to the Danish induction programme that I undertook (code for binge watching the popular Danish TV series Borgen) before moving to Denmark.  After every 60 minute episode I’d have a brief moment of self-belief that I was becoming fluent in Danish before allowing myself to remember the programme had subtitles.

If you haven't yet watched, Borgen.  You must.

Borgen binge watching was good practice for the many conversations in the dark BBB & I have now been having. 

And while we are on the topic of dark - Denmark currently has 17 hours and 19 minutes of daylight – per day.  Pause and do the maths on that one.  It leaves little over 6 hours of darkness.  Which isn’t particularly helpful when you’re trying to get 8 hours of sleep.  So with twilight at 10.30pm and light again at 3.30am sleep is currently proving a bit of a challenge for me.  Not helped by the Dane's allergy to blackout curtains.  Although BBB seems not to mind too much.  For a truly Danish experience I recommend setting your alarm clock for 3.30am and turning on all the lights in your house then try going back to sleep.  Go on.  Live like a Dane.

Sleep deprivation by sunlight in Denmark

Sleep deprivation by sunlight in Denmark

In the meantime BBB & I are mastering Danish (& sometimes German) non-verbal communication.  That’s the head nods, shoulder shrugs, smiles and eyebrow raises which form 80% (ish) of any communication.  Such fluency has been a great aid in supermarkets when BBB begins flirting and attracting elderly ladies.  It is also a great way for me to learn how to count to ten in Danish so I can answer on behalf of BBB how old she is.  I need to learn a new number every month.  We’re currently up to Syv (7). 

BBB flirting in Fotex

BBB flirting in Fotex

The Dane tells me I should just explain at the beginning of the conversation that I don’t speak Danish as most Danes speak very good English.  This is easier said than done.  My normal opening for more formal conversations is “Sorry, I don’t speak Danish but....”, however more casual conversations in the supermarket, on the bus or in a waiting room prove more difficult to judge the correct time to come out and announce our Danish muteness.  So I don’t.  I instead smile and imagine what the person is saying looking for clues.   I believe I have a high success rate of accurately knowing what the conversations are about.  In reality, I have a high chance of being that strange smiling women on the bus/supermarket/waiting room.

Things to remember when having conversations in Danish when you don’t speak Danish:

  • When the bus driver waves at you to stay where you are with your pram/baby instead of paying your bus fare, he doesn’t mean you can ride for free.  He just wants you to park the pram and settle baby first before rushing up to pay.
  • Conversations with strangers in the supermarket and a baby are universal
  • Conversations with a checkout operator at the supermarket are also universal.  Unless they introduce reward coupons and change their normal conversation.  Then you’re stuffed.


In the next few weeks the sun and the moon are working hard to create the longest day in Denmark.  On the 21st of June the sun will rise at 4.25am and set at 9.58am.  This will create the longest day of the year with 17 hours 32 mins and 11 seconds of daylight.  Which is the same amount of time it took us to fly from Auckland to Dubai on the World’s longest flight.

In comparison in New Zealand at the moment the hours of daylight is about 9 hours 18 minutes. 

Here's what never-ending daylight looks like:

Wish me luck as I continue on this road of sleep deprivation and conversations in the darkness.  And keep a watch for my post after the 21st of June, the longest day when the Danes burn all the witches and send them back to Germany.   Note to self:  Hide broomstick prior to 21st of June.

In the meantime if you would like to simulate your own Danish experience be sure to turn all your lights on at 3.30am, put some ear plugs in before going to the supermarket and wrap a sarong around your head when you go to bed tonight.  Or just click the 'like' button below to #livelikeadane