Life as an international in Denmark, one of the world's most homogenous countries, isn't always easy. In Denmark’s longest-running English-language podcast, Kay Xander Mellish, an American who has lived in Denmark for more than a decade, offers tips for enjoying your time in “the world’s happiest co… read more
If you’re in Denmark right now, you’ll know that we’re coming up on the year’s longest day this week. June 21. You know it because it starts getting light at 4 in the morning, and the sun doesn’t go down until 10:30 or 11 at night and then you’re up again at 4 in the morning. In between it never gets really dark, just like in December it never gets very light.
During the dark times, I know that I wait and wait for the light times to come. Sometimes I count – only 3 more months until the light times! Only 6 more weeks to the light times!
When the light times do get here, they’re actually kind of annoying. Sure, it’s great to have some sun, and those long summer evenings. Green trees and the wildflowers are gorgeous. But with all that light, it’s kind of difficult to sleep.
Everyone I know has blackout curtains and wears sleep masks. They don’t always work, though, particularly when it’s hot, and people start to get a bit crabby after a few weeks of limited sleep. The fact that it’s light until 11pm is great on a Saturday night, but not so great on a Tuesday, when you have a 9am meeting the next day.
It’s hot now, and I love the heat, but Danish homes are designed to keep heat in, not let it out. There’s not all that much ventilation and never any air conditioning. So if you’re stuck inside, you melt, or just take a lot of showers.
In the summer you get to see your neighbors again, after ignoring each other all winter. The first time you see their kids after the winter, their kids look giant. The kids have been packed away all through the winter season in snowsuits and boots and hats and when you see them unwrapped, they’re entirely changed. The baby packed away last October is now walking and riding a little bike. The skinny twelve-year-old you knew before parka season is now a teenager with a deep voice.
This time of year is also home to my least favorite Danish holiday, Sankt Hans day. Sankt Hans – which I just found out today is the Danish name for St. John the Baptist - takes place on the 23rd or 24th of June each year. It’s Denmark’s version of the summer party that takes place in most country at some point – there’s beer, outdoor grilling, mosquitos. What Sankt Hans has that I don’t like is the burning of a witch.
Now, I’m not the most politically correct person in the world, I’m not the type looking everywhere for sexism, or insults to women. But even I find it problematic that Sankt Hans revolves around setting a woman on fire. It’s a straw woman, and the woman is supposed to be a witch. The highlight of each party is build a big bonfire, and when the bonfire is at its height, they put a straw witch on it. Danish people assure me that this is no problem whatsoever. It’s just tradition. I think – it’s a bad tradition! Anyway, I usually stay home for Sankt Hans day.
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