Crossing the Border

Posted on 30. Apr, 2015 by in Geography, History, Society

The INDGANG (Danish: entrance) to Poetsch shopping centre in Padborg, Germany.

The INDGANG (Danish: entrance) to Poetsch shopping centre in Padborg, Germany.

Vil du med til grænsen? (Do you want to [go] with [us] to the border?) When two friends offered me en plads i bilen (a spot in the car), I couldn’t miss the chance to go on my first ever grænsehandel (border trade [trip]). Not that I actually needed to købe (buy) anything on the German side of the grænse between Danmark and Tyskland (Germany)… But with so many people talking about their border-crossings, I too wanted to take a look…

Grænselandet (the border district) has always been a ”hot zone” between danskerne (the Danes) and their southern naboer (neighbours). At the ”foot” of the Jylland peninsula are the two old duchies of Slesvig og Holsten (in German: Schleswig und Holstein). At one point of history, they were ruled by the king of Denmark. Later on, they became German. (In 1864, Denmark lost a war against Germany [Prussia] over these territories – to commemorate the 150th anniversary of nederlaget, the defeat, Danish television broadcast the very expensive series ”1864” last year.) In 1920, the people of Nordslesvig (Northern Slesvig) voted to be reunited with Denmark. To celebrate the historical moment, King Christian X crossed the former border at the stream Kongeåen (King’s Stream) on a hvid hest (white horse).

Today, there is a small group of German-speakers in Southernmost Denmark, and a bigger minority of Danish-speakers in Northernmost Germany. The German Danes have their own skoler (schools), butikker (shops) and everything. They’re quite visible, for example in the city of Flensburg, where you find Danish restaurants with little Dannebrog flags, a couple of bilingual street signs, and so on. I think Denmark has been less respectful to its Danish Germans – for example, some days ago, people in Åbenrå tore down a new sign that had added the town’s German name (Apenrade).

”Dansk Softis” in Flensburg. In Denmark, the sign would’ve said ”Dansk Softice”.

”Dansk Softis” in Flensburg. In Denmark, the sign would’ve said ”Dansk Softice”.

So, back to indkøbene (the ”shoppings”): Just at the other side of the border, you pass some enormous warehouses with big parkeringspladser (parking lots). All the cars are clearly from Denmark. The billboards are in Danish. You choose a mall, grab an indkøbsvogn (shopping trolley) and hunt down goods such as øl (beer), slik (candy, sweets) and cigaretter. The lady at the counter speaks Danish.

Why are there so many Danes driving to Germany to shop goods that you can easily get in Denmark? One of my two companions told me it was just part of life for people in Southern Jutland. If you buy large amounts of something – such as dåseøl (canned beer) – you may even save some money: Goods are still a bit cheaper in Germany than in Denmark. But hey, even if they weren’t, nothing really tops the thrill of crossing grænsen, does it? :-)

Being Polite in Danish

Posted on 26. Apr, 2015 by in Conversation, Society

Things like wishing someone a good morning or shaking hands at meetings are also considered polite in Denmark. (Photo by Aidan Jones at Flickr, CC License.)

Things like wishing someone a good morning or shaking hands at meetings are also considered polite in Denmark. (Photo by Aidan Jones at Flickr, CC License.)

”Two fries and a cheeseburger!” If you hear someone saying this, they might be a forgetful Dane. Danish, you see, has no proper word for please. This has given birth to the idea that Danes are less høflig (courteous, polite) than other people. Well, actually, Danish has various ways of expressing høflighed (courteousness):

tak, of course, means thank you. It’s used literally all the time: tak for mad! (thank you for the food! – said to the host or cook when you’re finished eating), tak for sidst! (thank you for the last time! – said when you bump into someone you recently went to a party with), tak for i dag! (thank you for today! – said when you’re leaving an enjoyable company), tak fordi du kunne komme (thank you for being able to come), tak fordi jeg måtte komme (thak you for allowing me to come – a possible reply to the previous one), en kop the, tak (a cup of tea, please – notice how the idea of please can sometimes be expressed using other words), mange tak (many thanks), tusind tak (thousand thanks), tak skal du have! (thanks a lot, literally: thanks you shall have!) selv tak! (your’re welcome!)

undskyld [ONNskil] (I’m sorry) is often the word to use to get someone’s attention without shouting: Undskyld, men du står på min fod… (Excuse me, but you’re standing on my foot…) Undskyld, ved du hvor banegården ligger? (Excuse me, do you know where the main train station is?)

vil du være så venlig (would you be so kind) is a bit formal: Vil du være så venlig at vise mig vejen til Zoologisk Have (Would you be so kind as to show me the road to the zoo?)

venligst (most kindly) is a snappier variation of the above – it’s actually the closest Danish gets to please: Ryd venligst op efter dig selv! (Please tidy up your own stuff!)

Danes love being equal, so fluff like the courteous pronoun De(m)(You) and the formal titles herre and frue (Mr. and Mrs.) are hardly used anymore.

What are your experiences in Denmark? Are people generally polite or not so? Drop a comment. Please!

Going short

Posted on 31. Mar, 2015 by in Vocabulary

Photo by Ralph Daily at Flickr, CC License.

Photo by Ralph Daily at Flickr, CC License.

OMG! OK, it’s forkortelse (abbreviation) time. LOL. :-) BTW, YOLO, so let’s get down to it:

osv. = og så videre = ”and so further” = etc.: De købte is, chokolade osv. (They bought ice-cream, chokolate etc.)

m.m.  = med mere = ”with more”: Der var øl m.m. (There was beer and other stuff.)

m.fl. = med flere = ”with several”: Gæster: Susanne, Lasse m.fl. (Guests: Susanne, Lasse and several others.)

ca. = cirka = approximately: Der kom ca. tyve gæster. (There came approximately twenty guests.)

bl.a. = blandt andet = amongst other [things]: De spillede bl.a. ludo. (Amongst other things, they played ludo.)

kl. = klokken = o’ clock: De tog først hjem kl. 4. (They first went back home at four AM.)

gl. = gammel = old: Søger medarbejder, m/k, 18 år gl. (Seeking employee, m[an or]w[oman], 18 years of age.)

kr. = kroner = Kroner: Lønnen er på 80 kr. (They wage is at 80 Kroner.)

tlf. = telefon = phone: Skriv din tlf. og adr. her: (Write your telephone number and [postal] address here: – adr. is short for adresse.)

hhv. = henholdsvis = respectively: Der er to pauser på hhv. 15 og 35 min. (There are two breaks at 15 and 35 minutes, respectively. – min. is short for minutter.)

m.a.o. = med andre ord = in other words: Det er m.a.o. et stort problem. (In other words, that’s a huge problem.)

p.t. = for tiden (actually short for Latin pro tempore) = presently, at the time being: Der er p.t. ingen enhjørninger i Danmark. (There are presently no unicorns in Denmark.)

fx / f.eks. = for eksempel = for example: De kunne fx bo ude i skoven. (They could live out in the forest, for example.)

dvs. = det vil sige = ”that will say” = that is/that means: Der er plads nok i Danmark, dvs. ude på landet. (There’s plenty of space in Denmark, that is, in the countryside.)

P.S. There are plenty of other forkortelser, fx those dealing with units: 3 stk. til prisen af 1. Brug en halv tsk. peber pr. kg. = 3 stykker til prisen af 1. Brug en halv teskefuld peber per kilo. (3 pieces for the price of 1. Use half a teaspoonful of pepper for each kilo.)