Peter H. Fogtdal from Copenhagen, Denmark | Live Work Travel USA
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Peter H. Fogtdal from Copenhagen, Denmark

Peter H. Fogtdal

I reached out to author, speaker and Danish expat Peter H. Fogtdal and invited him to be a part of the Success Stories series. Enjoy!

Where are you from originally?

I’m from Copenhagen and will always be Danish. I don’t really feel I “immigrated” to America. I don’t remember leaving my country on a steamer, waving my bowler hat, knowing I would never see my mother or The Little Mermaid again. Since I’m a writer and a speaker I go back to Denmark a lot. Except for my adorable wife, my whole family is in Europe, so the word immigration doesn’t have the same meaning it used to for a lucky nomad like myself.

Why did you decide to move to America and what do you do?

The Tsar's Dwarf bookIt happened gradually from around 2005. I got a few visas to teach fiction writing and Scandinavian literature at Portland State University in Oregon, even though I’m not an academic. At the same time, an American publisher picked up my novel The Tsar’s Dwarf that was received well over here. But the most important was that I met My Pale Beauty Who Shall Remain Nameless Until She Gets A Tan who later became my wife.

What was the most difficult part of your immigration?

Getting used to peanut butter.

What do you like to write about most?

Spirituality, historical fiction, sex & God, with a tiny dose of humor and satire.

Is there anything that you miss from home other than family?

Better bike lanes, bread without sugar, more equality, no guns, anchors who look human and don’t have perfect teeth.

Have you had a culture shock in the U.S. yet? Please share some examples.

The American puritanism where everybody freaks out when they see a nipple freaks me out. And then there’s American health care. Please don’t get me started on American health care because then I’ll get a migraine and my doctor will tell me that my plan doesn’t cover that.

What are the biggest differences between every day life in Denmark and America?

People are friendlier and more generous here than at home. I probably wouldn’t think so if I lived in Chicago, but in Portland, Oregon most you run into are obscenely nice. Sometimes it’s almost scary how nice they are. Passive-aggressiveness is the leading religion in the Pacific Northwest, by the way.

Have you found a good source (in-store or online) to buy Danish food in America?

The only thing I miss is rye bread and my local supermarket has that. The bread is actually German but since my mouth has no prejudices I can live with that.

Tell me 3-5 things you would take back to Denmark from the USA.

Faith in something larger whether you call that God or the Universe. The multicultural society and the innovative spirit that is so predominant here. Mountains, rivers, warmer weather. I would also like to bring Jon Stewart with me and most of Portland, Oregon. I adore the hipster vibe in this city. Every barista is an author, musician or organic farmer and they all think that riding a bike is a political statement.

And 3-5 things you think the USA should have/implement from Denmark.

A society that’s more fair. I still don’t understand why American voters can live with a country where there is so much poverty. You need more of a social conscious here – and some better soccer teams, even though you definitely are improving.

Please tell us about the day you got your first US driver’s license.

I’ve never driven a car in my life which makes me very exotic to Americans. I’ve never fired a gun, either or said shucks – at least not in public.

You’re blogging at Danish Accent, Fogtdal.blogspot.com. Why did you start your blog and what are your plans with it?

When you’re a novelist there’s something great about “publishing” a piece of writing the same day you write it without laboring too much over it.
I have no plans with Danish Accent. I simply write to keep myself entertained. However, I’m very ambitious with my novels, and after 12 published at home I just finished my first in English which is about a man’s clumsy attempt at reaching enlightenment in an Indian ashram. Yes, it’s a farce.

Any final words or tips that you would like to share with new expats?

Stop using air condition when it’s below 86 degrees.

You can read a little about some of Peter’s novels here. You’re also more than welcome to follow him on Twitter,  and Facebook.

5 Responses to “Peter H. Fogtdal from Copenhagen, Denmark”

  1. I.M.Pistoff says:

    Peter has tweeted something about how Catholic churches improve with the abscence of clergy, and I must admit I sometimes feel that way about the church I was raised in, so at the risk of offending those with a more orthodox orientation toward Christian faith, let me suggest our own do it yourself blessing:”In the name of the Vomit, and of the Racoons, and of the Holy Semicolons, Amen. Those who have no idea what I’m babbling about should follow “Danish Accent”!

  2. I.M. Pistoff says:

    Holy Semicolons! (continued)
    All nonsense aside, it needs to be said that on his good days, Peter Fogtdal at lest endeavors to do the right thing as best as he can by his own lights. His effort on behalf of orphans of India as an adoptive uncle is unquestionably laudable and beyond reproach. (as posted on in Danish Accent). In the Portland city limits his attempt to aid the lady referred to as
    “my beggar” were flawed and clumsy but nevertheless well-meaning. I think the problem there is that Peter has so little experience with poverty, at least as one sees it in the U.S., that he probably had little idea that the people we often refer to as the “working poor” can work full time and still be essentially pretty bad off. “My beggar” was probably not duping Peter but rather attempting to augment an already too scant income. Now, certainly that can be seen as a failure of the American system, and while it’s unfortunate that Peter took it personally, I for one would be willing to give him the benefit of the doubt (this episode is also posted in DA).
    However, Peter can have rather horrendous lapses of conscience for a man who states flatly that “you need more of a social conscious (sic, and maybe just plain sick)here.” Peter may have meant CONSCIOUSNESS, and I agree that’s conversation we should be having more often. Nevertheless, the context indicates that “CONSCIENCE” is what Peter intended, and while that is a worthwhile conversation also, we might examine the conscience of the accuser, especially since the following day he tweets something about how it might help to be a sociopath when you live in the U.S., whether intended humorously or not.
    Peter also states that he wishes there was more of an Amercan-like multiculturalistic spirit in Denmark, but sometimes I get the feeling that Peter isn’t ready for even pan-European multiculturalism amongst the indo Europeans who have lived there since time immemorial. For a long time I grappled with whether Peter was simply NAIVE for his age, or whether there was something more NEFARIOUS and WILLFULLY IGNORANT at work in his CONSCIOUSNESS. With that in mind, I have to say I find the DANISH ACCENT post of Nov. 10, 2011 very troubling. It’s true that Peter begins the post with the words, “Forgive me”, but it’s rather late for that and not just because the post is nearly three years old (more about why, later). True, it’s all just a personal observation and that’s fine except for the fact that it’s so blatantly oblivious to…………, never mind, please readers check out the post for yourselves, and please let me know if I’m the one who’s misunderstanig something.
    Also, please keep in mind that Peter’s personal politics are not the issue here.
    “Humorous Travel Blog”, Peter? I can’t help thinking of one Noel Coward’s last published ditties, “WHY IS IT THAT THE PEOPLE WHO TRAVEL, TRAVEL, TRAVEL, ARE THE ONES WHO SHOULD STAY AT HOME?!”

  3. Rachel says:

    The opposition to air conditioning seems fairly widespread in Europe. Why is that? 86° is NOT comfortable! Why would I choose to marinate in my own sweat all night when I have a lovely machine installed in my house that keeps the interior a pleasant 70°? It makes absolutely no sense!

    • Dan says:

      I agree, 86 degrees is not comfortable in certain situations, but it’s about being more energy conscious. Does it really need to be a pleasant 70 degrees 24/7 or would I be quite as comfortable with a 67, 72 or 75 degrees without a machine forcing the “perfect” temperature on me and everybody else, which usually comes with a fan that blows air at you.

  4. Rachel says:

    P.S. I ask as an American who has lived in Europe, and who has listened to more than one anti-A.C. remark with great puzzlement.

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