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LIVING IN DENMARK

Six useful products I discovered in Denmark

Denmark is well known for its tradition for high quality design, but which products make a difference to everyday life?

Six useful products I discovered in Denmark
A simple sticker can stop your letter box from overflowing. File photo: Liselotte Sabroe/Ritzau Scanpix

Inbuilt bike locks 

There’s no need to carry around a heavy and impractical chain to lock up your bicycle in Denmark, as these all come fitted (or you can cheaply add) an inbuilt lock on the frame of the bike.

The lock is the form of a circular bar which is released by a key and goes between the spokes of the back wheel, meaning it can’t be turned when the lock is in the fixed position.

This way, bikes can be locked while still standing freely – which is just as well, since there are not enough railings and bike stands in the country to accommodate the many, many bicycles.

Of course, a locked bike can, in theory, be picked up and carried away even if the wheel doesn’t turn and unfortunately, this does happen sometimes. But not enough to undermine the public trust in bicycle wheel locks.

Photo: Mads Claus Rasmussen/Ritzau Scanpix

Rain trousers

Rain trousers/pants (regnbukser) can be bought on their own or with a matching jacket as part of a regnsæt (“rain set”).

These waterproof pants are a novelty to those of us who don’t come from bicycle cultures, but after your first rainy day cycling commute leaves you at the office with drenched trousers, you’ll understand the appeal.

They are designed to fit over your regular trousers and can be stretched over the top of your shoes and held underneath them with a piece of elastic attached to the bottom hem.

While primarily designed for cycling, they also come in handy for walking around during Denmark’s regular spells of cold, damp weather.

Photo: Emil Helms/Ritzau Scanpix

READ ALSO: Essential rain gear for a wet Danish winter (and spring, summer, autumn)

The flatbed toaster

There’s something indefinably satisfying about putting two slices of bread in a toaster and waiting for the ‘ping’ as they pop up, warm and ready for spreading.

However, there’s no getting around the fact that toasters are a bit impractical when it comes to thick slices and rolls.

Of course, you can also warm bread in the oven, but it’s more hassle and not for quite the same result.

Enter the flatbed toaster. This device is much more popular in Denmark than the pop-up version and enables easy, simultaneous warming of several slices of bread of various shapes and sizes – including of course, the national favourite, rye bread.

Pro tip: turn the dial less for toasting the second side of the bread, because the element will already be warm. This way you avoid burning the second side.

Photo: Liselotte Sabroe/Ritzau Scanpix

The cheese slicer

Cheese products popular in Denmark include havarti and the Cheasy range from dairy Arla.

These are both soft cheeses and should be cut with an ostehøvl (cheese slicer), a quintessential Danish kitchen utensil.

There are two types of ostehøvl: a wire-based type and a version that looks a bit like a trowel, with a raised edge and a gap in the middle for the sliced cheese to pass through.

Cutting Danish soft cheese with a knife will turn the block into a crumbling mess, so in this setting you can’t really avoid using the specialised slicers. And while their usefulness is diminished for something like cheddar, there are plenty of softer cheeses in other countries that would surely benefit from being set about with an ostehøvl.

One thing to be aware of: injudicious use of the slicer can cause a “ski slope” cheese block, creating uneven slices and leaving one side of the block thicker than the other. Slice evenly.

READ ALSO: Why does Denmark produce so much cheese?

Foam washing cloths for babies

If you’re a parent and have found yourself struggling with a pile of dirty wet wipes or cotton pads after changing your baby, you may have found yourself wondering if there’s another way.

In Denmark, there is: the engangsvaskeklude (disposable washing cloth) comes in tightly-stuffed packets of 50-100 small, square foam cloths, around 20 square centimetres in size.

The cloths are made from thin slices of polyether foam, a type often used in sofa cushions. Manufacturers say it is better for the environment than other types, and the advantage against wet wipes is they are perfume-free.

They just need to be made damp with a splash of lukewarm water, then you’re ready to wipe – they tend to have a good success rate for picking up baby poo.

A sticker saying ‘no thanks’ to junk mail

We’re talking about physical junk mail here, not the type that goes into your email spam box although if there was a sticker for this, I’d be at the front of the queue.

The reklamer, nej tak (“advertisements, no thank you”) sticker can be ordered from FK Distribution, the company which operates Denmark’s tilbudsaviser (“special offer newspaper”) deliveries. These result in piles of paper leaflets, detailing offers at supermarkets, being pushed through letter boxes every day.

These leaflets are useful for bargain hunters, but many people take them out of their overfilled letter box and dump them straight into recycling containers. If you have a nej tak sticker on your letter box, you won’t receive any of the brochures in the first place.

You can also choose a sticker which says “no thanks” to adverts but excludes the offer leaflets, so you can cut down on the junk mail while still keeping abreast of good deals.

Have I missed any good ones? Let me know.

Member comments

  1. The sticker is not enough you need to register at their website to stop receiving the “reklamer”. It is usually teens that deliver so if you are on their list you will get them. Also you are not required to a sticker on, but it will help the person delivering a lot.

  2. Allow me to add the ‘Swansneck’ (svanehals) fitting used to suspend a pendant lamp amuwhere you want it. It is completely unknown in the UK, and mine have been much admired. Someone somewhere could make a killing selling these in the UK!

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BANKING

Danish bank Coop refuses to open accounts for non-Danish speakers

Coop Bank has refused customers purely on the basis that they cannot speak Danish, according to a media report in Denmark.

Danish bank Coop refuses to open accounts for non-Danish speakers

Coop Bank has been turning away customers who don’t speak Danish, the Politiken newspaper has reported, citing the case of a Malaysian man who was told that he could not have an account because he didn’t speak Danish. 

Mohamad Haizam, from Malaysia, was told by a customer services agent that he could not have an account because he didn’t speak Danish.

“It shocked me and I thought, what kind of racist bank is this? I din’t understand it because a had a CPR [personal registration, ed.] number address, everything,” he told Politiken.

But when Politiken itself rang customer services, they were told the same thing. 

“Because we are a Danish bank, we have all our documents in Danish, we only speak Danish (…) I have not been trained to be able to advise others in English,” the agent said. “And that is why we have decided that we will not change that now. And that it is best to go that way and say, we only take in Danish customers,” the advisor is quoted.

Haizam’s situation in not the only example found by Politiken of Coop refusing customers who do not speak Danish.

Claus Haagensen, a representative for distribution firm Post & Medier, told Politiken that 80 percent the company’s employees had a foreign background, and he had been told by Coop that non-Danish speakers cannot have a bank account.

Anyone with legal residence in Denmark or another EU country has the right to a bank account and banks are obliged to offer basic accounts within 10 days of application.

Those rules are, however, not always complied with according to Politiken.

The Danish Financial Supervisory Authority (Finanstilsynet) told the newspaper that banks cannot refuse to open a basic current account for customers if they do not speak Danish.

But neither are banks obliged to communicate with customers in a language they understand, it said.

As such, a customer who does not speak Danish may risk being unable to understand communications from a bank which chooses only to use Danish.

Coop Bank CEO Allan Nørholm admitted that the bank may have been hasty in rejecting customers, in comments to Politken.

“We should naturally not generally turn away a customer who cannot speak Danish if we can confirm that the customer has access to someone who can help with translation. We will correct this,” he told Politiken.

“But we are a little bank and do not have correspondence in English or German and we have found it most responsible to offer advice in the language which we know customers can understand,” he said.

The CEO also said that Coop would change its practice if it found it to be against the law.

Coop Bank has around 100,000 customers.

Business Minister Morten Bødskov called the policy of refusing accounts to non-Danish speakers “completely crazy”.

“It is very surprising and completely crazy that a bank says a member of the public does not have the right to a basic account because they don’t speak Danish,” Bødskov told Ritzau.

“There is no way of enforcing this demand under the law. What kind of a signal does a bank send to large parts of Danish society where we have lots of foreigners who are doing a great job? This won’t do,” the minister said.

Have you experienced a situation similar to the one described in this article? Or did you have the opposite experience with a bank that helped you when you couldn’t speak Danish? Let us know.

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