You can almost entirely get away with living in Denmark without speaking Danish. Not that it’s easy or painless, but you can. Most Danes do speak English – and some of them speak it really well, and the Danish accent is kind of endearing, at times. But, there are occasions that just have you howling with laughter or banging your head in frustration.
My wife and I went out shopping for the first time in months, as we’re finally able to leave the house with the baby and the dog in tow – and get all the way downtown and back. That may not sound like much, but it’s a 3km round trip, and after giving birth, I’d challenge you do to the same! My wife is a trooper!
Anyhow, at the coffee shop on the way home we had some interesting “Danish Adventures”, as we call them.
My wife walked into the coffee shop and asked if they have decaf coffee, and was greeted with a prompt “Of course!” from the waiter, who then told her to find a table outside and that he’d come to serve us.
When the waiter did show up a few minutes later, my wife ordered a decaf coffee. The waiter said: “A coffee. Ok. but what’s decaf?”
Yes, it was the same waiter.
Whereupon my wife changed her order to a chai late – it doesn’t have caffeine, and we added some food to the order – just a small plate for the two of us to share. 6 minutes later, a waitress shows up with a drink (after asking every one of the other 6 occupied tables if they’d ordered it…) and presents it to my wife, with the comment that her chai late will also be out in a minute.
Needless to say, we clarified that she only wanted the chai late, and made sure that the food was ordered as well. No problems, then – another 10 minutes later the waiter drops off the chai late and one set of silverware.
At this point, the following conversation ensues:
Me: “Could we please have another fork?”
Waitress: “No, I can not get you another fork.”
Me: “But we’d both like to share the food – can we please have a second fork”?
Waitress: “I can not get you another fork. If I get you two forks, then it will cost you 50kr [$10] more.”
Me: “But I just want a fork”
Waitress: “If I get you another fork, I need to change your food for two people. The plate has more meat.”
Me: “I don’t want a bigger plate.. just a fork to share what we ordered”
Waitress: “It is because of my boss. It is his rule.”
Me: “Ok, we’ll share the food with one fork, then.”
Another 10 minutes pass, and the waiter brings by the plate of food.
Me: “Could we have a second fork?”
Waiter: “Yes, I will get one for you.”
One minute later, the waiter reappears with a fork.
So, as an English speaker in Denmark, the most important rule I’ve learned so far is my rule of two: Ask every question twice – and try to ask two different people!