Sunday, 4 August 2013

Expectations: part 1 - service

Even before I moved to Denmark, I tried to get actively involved in the online expat community. I distinctly remember an expat here writing "you wait until you get here ... " in response to one of my posts, I imagine with a virtual wagging finger and evil cackle. Apparently I was naive in stating that my experience with Danes had been positive. Apparently that was impossible. Apparently service is just DREADFUL. Apparently this. Apparently that.

To be honest, I'm unsure what people expect. Service wise, the majority of arguments I have read cite the kassedame at Netto/Bilka/Brugsen etc., or people who work in the kommune. Friends wise, I have heard too many arguments on those oh-so-cold Danes. Jobs wise, I should be shocked that I got a job as a foreigner given how workplaces here will never give up a precious job opening to a foreigner. Costs wise, I should probably be surprised that I'm not pleading poverty.

So - I'm going to share my experiences and thoughts. So I'll start with service. My Danish husband and I enjoy good service. Nay, we as the customer deserve good service. But our expectations of what good service actually is differs from place to place. I work in retention marketing (and love it) and it is my job to provide a good user experience and customer service so I have very high standards, depending on the place and what I expect to get from the experience. My husband is just ever so slightly more forgiving than me, but it's a fine line.

Anyway, back to topic, let's talk food shopping. When doing the food shop, I have absolutely no desire to talk to anyone. My goal is to go in, get food, pay, pack, cycle home. I don't go in to make friends. I don't go in for conversation. Am I strange for this? I have read so many people moaning about how the service is bad in supermarkets. But what should we be expecting here? A full on conversation? How's your day going/how are the kids/etc? Don't think so. The cashiers in my local supermarkets (I'm in the Vesterbro district of Copenhagen) will always say "hav en god dag!" with a smile before quickly moving onto the next customer which I think is nice enough - like I say, I'm not in there to make friends and a miserable face at the till will not make me boycott a supermarket.I have to say though - the service in the independent places close to me, such as the greengrocers and smaller delis, tends to be great. Particularly a lovely little French deli near Frederiksberg called Le Gourmand, especially if the older guy is behind the counter.

Now for restaurants/bars/hotels. THIS is where I want good service. I'm not in there to make friends, but I am in there to potentially make a long term relationship with the place. If I get bad service in a bar/restaurant etc., I will and have boycotted places. The only places in terms of this sort of service where I'm more forgiving are the bodegas. You need to be tough to run one of those bad boys and I actually quite like the rough around the edges feel about it. A sweet smile just wouldn't feel right. From a restaurant I expect to be welcomed with a smile, I expect menus to be handed to me - not shoved or thrown - and I expect to have the full attention from whoever is serving. I think that's fair. On my part, I always go in with a smile as well. I pay particular attention to service in these establishments and I always remember good service. Always. It makes me want to go back. Anyway, my experiences here in Copenhagen haven't actually been that bad. I can count on one hand the number of places I have boycotted due to bad service. But, particularly recently, I have had a lot of brilliant service. Maybe it's because I've been paying more attention recently and so I've made more of a mental note, but who cares why. The fact is that good service does exist here. So, I've listed the places at the end of the blog where I have had good service, because 1) I think they deserve to be visited and 2) they do an excellent job of rebutting the broken record of "Denmark = bad service". Copenhagen isn't that bad. Trust me. I do however need to maintain that we as the customer have our part to play in service too, albeit smaller - always go in with a smile and good manners.
With bars my expectations are a little lower than restaurants but still high - I once went to a bar with my friend visiting from the UK and it took approximately three minutes before I was served, even though I was the only one there. One girl was crouching down behind the till, fiddling with the bar's iPod, and the guy standing behind the bar had his back to the beer taps and was chatting away to his co-worker. When I finally got served it was almost with a look of annoyance. Needless to say, we drank our beers and then got the hell out of there. I haven't been back since. (To be fair however I tend to stick with bodegas in terms of bars so I don't have *that* much experience with bars so I hope they're not all like that!)
Hotels ... well, as I live here I haven't had that much need for a hotel. However I did stay in Hotel Kong Arthur in the centre of Copenhagen for my wedding, and we've recently come back from a short trip to Jutland - we stayed in a hotel just outside Horsens for one night. But in both (very different) hotels, the service we received was great. Hotel Kong Arthur were extremely professional and very friendly - my parents stayed at the same hotel for five nights and were very happy with the service there. No rudeness. The hotel in Horsens was a different but just as pleasant experience - the girl on reception when we arrived was genuinely friendly and the guy on reception on checkout was just as friendly. As soon as he learnt that I was from the UK he switched to English but not because he thought I didn't understand Danish (as it was, his accent was quite difficult to understand so I was relieved!) but because he seemed quite proud that he had lived there for a while and just wanted to converse. I was made to feel very welcome in different ways by both hotels.

Service businesses e.g. cycle shops/mechanics. I expect to be treated with respect here - I'm the customer and they are the expert. We don't own a car so we don't use mechanics but we have used three cycle places since moving here. Two out of the three offered professional help, one in particular was very friendly, and the third one were just plain rude (we haven't been back there either).

I could go on, I really could. I've been making a point of paying real attention to the service I get in different places this month - I have to admit that I've had more good than bad. But then again - I research the hell out of pretty much everything, especially restaurants. TripAdvisor is my bible in that regards. If there are too many comments about bad service then I won't risk it.

Anyway, the whole point of this post is to reassure people that it's not all bad here. Good service doesn't lack - you just need to know where to go. To help, here are the eateries where I got good service - and good food.

Spisehuset 56
Les Trois Cochons
Marv & Ben
Peder Oxe
Pintxos Tapas


Let me know what you think.