The seventh in a series of light-hearted columns about life as a foreigner living in the Danish capital.
Written for IceNews by Simon Cooper
My office has a love affair with cake. Last week, the amount of time left until the Easter holiday and the quantity of cake-eating – and in this way a general break for banter – were inversely proportionate. It’s a miracle anything got done. Sure, there was the expected final afternoon knees-up, but here they were noticeably winding down well before the curtain call. Like the over-zealous school kid who packs his bag and starts eyeing the clock well before the lesson’s end.
Just what is it with my office and cake? There’s enough dough knocking around to bail out Greece. People seem to interact with cake, and various other (excellent) pastries, as much as they do with any Microsoft software, or even each other. I’ve only been there a few months and already I’ve pigeonholed some of my colleagues in terms of cake: Ben – no nuts except flaked almonds; Lynsey – chocolate or orange, though never the two shall meet. And so on. Me? Well, anything that fits into my cake hole.
The modus operandi for instigating a cake fix begins with a motive. Although that’s usually the domain of birthdays or staff departures (leaving completely or on holiday), reasons seem to stretch beyond to people’s partners rocking up with their young ones or newly-borns (a very Danish practice) or because someone felt like buying some and no one objected. I once got an email entitled ‘Cake, for the sake of cake.’
Secondly an appointment is made and sent to a select few (who will invariably accept), and thirdly, well, the patisserie produce is scavenged upon by whoever’s turned up, before said people head back to the computers to sweat out the calories.
Naturally, as per everyone else, I love it. Although there’s almost a feeling of resignation amongst us prior to a cake feed, as if we all know how restless or despairingly lazy we’re going to feel when we hit our desks again.
Although the company is internationally flavoured (and armed to the teeth with employees: five-odd hundred of them) it certainly has a Danish backbone. To say it’s relaxed is an overstatement; it can be positively dreamy at times. Yet deadlines get met. I often look at the wealth of workplace facilities and benefits in a country with Europe’s shortest working week at 37 hours – hairdresser, masseur, hobbies and sports clubs, gym, showers, flexible working hours to the point someone can clock off at nine in the evening and roll in at 11 the following day – and think that these must play a part. You provide creature comforts and in return you get a living room sort of atmosphere, and enough economic activity to keep business more than afloat. It’s a utilitarian, greater good sort of vibe, without the standout (for better or for worse) personalities I’ve experienced in other nine to five jobs.
And whilst that can be grinding at times, as long as the cake keeps coming then who’s complaining?