Photo: Sorensiim

1. Stay out of other people’s business.

Maybe my Colombian roommate would want to hear the details of my latest date, and follow up with a personal anecdote, but that’s not what a Danish roommate does. When I was looking for a way to eat more protein, Sven gave his suggestions (always factually based). When I was curious about how he thought developing world debt might be resolved, he had an opinion based on his personal and academic research.

But deeply personal quandaries didn’t pique his curiosity, not because of a lack of compassion, but because it was out of the sphere of where he felt he should be involved.

2. Be healthy 85% of the time.

Most days of the week, a Danish roommate will stick to a very healthy regimen. He will enjoy light beer during the week, and rise and sleep at the same time. My mornings were filled with the cozy aromas of whole wheat toast, and at dinner roast chicken and vegetables. But on the weekend, Sven was happy to join us for double-cheese pizza and help himself to a second beer while watching mindless comedies.

3. Commercials are garbage designed to rot your brain.

A Danish roommate is not into consumerism. My roommate could happily watch hours of Family Guy on Netflix, or Suits on Hulu, but he never sat in front of the TV because American commercials made his skin crawl. A loud commercial that promised to change family life for the better with cheap and unhealthy food irritated him for days.

4. Rest. Do not apologize for it.

A Danish roommate won’t blow off early morning work to get an extra hour of sleep, or ditch work early to watch a game. He works hard, and when he wants to rest, he does. I never saw Sven come home early from work, but on the weekends he camped out in a hammock in the sun for hours. He never came in and lamented a list of things he should have been doing instead, in faux-apology.

5. Be helpful when you can.

A Danish roommate won’t begrudgingly do tasks he doesn’t want to do, and won’t offer favors he doesn’t wish to. He knows how he’s able to help, and when at all possible, he’ll do it. Lightbulbs needed changing? Dog needed a walk? A bit of cheery conversation? Done, done, and done. I knew Sven would turn me down when he couldn’t do something, which made it easier to ask.

6. The best way to know how people feel about you is to examine the way they treat you.

Knowing how they truly feel is better than imagining how you’d like them to feel. Emotional transparency is the order of the day with a Danish roommate. He has a great set of boundaries for his needs and emotions, and shares them with the most intimate of people. No need to fret that he’s secretly mad (or secretly filled with longing). Nine times out of ten, my roommate said he wasn’t thinking about me at all (in equally blunt terms). So when he said he would miss us, I knew he meant it.

7. Leave room for your own idiosyncrasies.

The only person to define the Danish roommate is the Danish roommate himself. Sven watched the first 15 minutes of Frozen one night and declared it ludicrous. The next day he told me Cinderella was one of his favorite movies. And he said it with a smile and tone so manly it would’ve made Ron Swanson proud.

8. Focus on the immediate 24-hour period.

Most fears or desires are irrational, but the moment is clear. No one is better to come to with inflated fears than a Danish roommate. He is fiercely practical. I once told him I didn’t like driving on the Pacific Coast of Peru because of the tsunami evacuation signs. He said I was silly, that I was far more likely to have my taxi run off the road than to ever be swallowed by a wave.

9. Start the day optimistically, end the day optimistically.

A Danish roommate can be like having a cheery zen monk in the house. He may not be too involved with you, but his warm and stable presence fills the space.

Sven always started the day with a warm, “Have a good day,” and ended it with a soothing, “Have a good night.” His entrances and exits were filled with statements like, “I believe the weather will be better soon,” or, “I’m ill now, but I expect to feel better soon,” because he really believes in stable optimism.

10. Be modest…most of the time.

A Danish roommate doesn’t brag, he lets his actions speak for him. My roommate had a doctorate in politics, but never proclaimed himself an expert. When he was complimented, he demurred that, “Some people seem to think he’s talented.” Sven was quiet about his workout regime, but had a body fat percentage in the single digits.

And, most modestly, he was surprised when I said I learned a few things from him.

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